SOLD for £21,000
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“It is not cheap, but to anyone contemplating buying a cheaper two-seater sports car, I would sell the television set, the washing machine, give up smoking, even give up drinking, but scrimp and save and buy an Elan and you won't be disappointed.” Denis Jenkinson
OK, steady on DJS, we love an Elan more than most (in fact they might well be in our ‘Top 1’ list) but there are some things... Have you seen what laundrettes charge these days? In production since 1962, Lotus’ policy of continual development (even if this was sometimes carried out by their customers) paid dividends and by the time the Sprint arrived in January 1971, many of the early car’s “idiosyncrasies” had been consigned to history. Minimal weight gain due to a better understanding of where the fiberglass body could be made lighter and significantly increased power from the now ‘Big Valve’ and racier cams equipped Twin Cam engine plus stronger running gear and more luxurious trim all meant the Sprint was comfortably the cream of the Elan crop and today it is very much the one to have. At the time Lotus claimed the 0 to 60 dash could be achieved in under six seconds and the Press were generally able to get within a few tenths of that; quick today but supercar-esc back in 1971.
Key with any Elan Sprint, is it actually a Sprint? With no official factory chassis number record of the 1st Sprint produced, date of production becomes the only really reliable indicator. Even then the line is blurred somewhat by some earlier Series 4 Elans being ‘Sprint-ised’ as they were being bolted together in the Factory (or even after they had left) but it is generally accepted by model aficionados that the earliest ‘genuine’ Sprint was produced in January 1971. With this particular car’s build date of May and registration date of 1st June it clears that authenticity hurdle comfortably though it is early enough to still have a dashboard mounted ignition switch, pre-dating the steering column versions.
Overall, cosmetically this Elan Sprint is definitely in the ‘use, enjoy and improve’ rather than Salon Prive category - thank goodness. Structurally the bodywork is really in pretty good, straight, ripple free condition with the boot and bonnet fitting quite well by fibreglass car standards. However, the passenger door displays the traditional Elan poor fit along its lower trailing edge though we (and the owner) are the first to admit it is particularly poor. The driver’s side is better but that is a relative term. The bane of so many fibreglass cars, namely crazing of the sub-paint layers is also evident in a number of areas. The paintwork is best described as bright and shiny though it has a number of chips and imperfections, a selection of which are shown in the photo gallery.
So what do we think of this less than glowing start to the Lotus’ end of term report? ‘Could do better’ or ‘Must try harder’ would not be unkind but on the other, more forgiving hand, ‘An honest, hard-working effort with the potential to improve next term’. Stick with us and we think you’ll agree that while Head Boy or even Prefect may not be possible just yet, expulsion would be wholly unjust.
First apple for the teacher, the chrome-work is for the most part pretty acceptable as far as the wheel spinners, door handles, boot hinges and fuel cap go. The rear light plinths are a bit mixed, one being acceptable the other poor. We must give a black mark and detention for the window frames though as these are somewhat uneven and really in need of some TLC.
Inside the car the trim is more than presentable but with potential for some cost effective improvement. The seats and doors trims are excellent having recently been re-trimmed in the correct basket weave material and Elan specialist Sue Miller has refurbished the seat belts. The rather nice wood rim steering wheel is close in design to those fitted to earlier Elans though perhaps a bit more robust and a pear-shaped gear knob with Lotus logo also features. The varnished wood dashboard is in fairly good shape with no additional holes cut in it for extra dials but its finish might look a bit dull against some of the (to our eyes) overly-shiny replacements that are available. The instruments are a mix of some correct Smiths versions plus various others such as a rather hansom Eliot tachometer whose dial orientation allows the business end of the rev. range to be seen easily through the spokes of the steering wheel. The carpets are in pretty good condition and fit well enough though they could benefit from re-fixing in places while the plastics are in reasonable condition with no major splits or cracks though there is a little unevenness to the dashboard top. The headlining has had a repair though this involved letting in a new panel rather than a patch so there is an additional seam in the fabric and the passenger side A-Post trim is missing. The boot carpeting is present along with a boot board though this needs fixing more securely. A spare alloy wheel is present but has no tyre and requires refurbishment.
As far as less than ideal aspects of the Sprint are concerned, that is pretty much it and we can move onto the areas where it really shines, to whit, its mechanical specification and condition.
Jumping right in with the engine, since 2004 the Sprint has sported a QED ‘420’ specification head (ported and fitted with bronze guides plus lightened cam followers and quick cams) which they define as being suitable for ‘Serious road performance’ giving 145 to 150 BHP at 6500 RPM and 120 lbft at 5,500 rpm, both a serious hike over the standard Sprint. Not impressed? In 2005 a super-strong 711M bottom end, bored to give an engine capacity of 1760cc, was fitted and with the substantial 45 DCOE Weber carburettors it sports, an informed estimate of the engine’s current power output would be in excess of 160 BHP.
All this power would not necessarily be such a good idea if the rest of the Elan’s running gear could not cut the mustard. No cause for concern on that front with Tony Thomson’s excellent solid drive shafts, adjustable springs and dampers, some beautiful tubular front wishbones and brand new EBC ventilated discs and pads all hung off a Lotus replacement chassis which is in excellent condition. All in all, running gear which would be ideal for fast road use, track days or even competition work.
A useful safety/security cut off switch has been installed next to the battery and a Facet fuel pump with pressure limiter draws juice from a standard shape aluminium fuel tank sitting under the boot floor. Rounding off the whole ensemble is a smart set of Brand Lotus alloy wheels shod with a combination of Bridgestone front and Yokohama rear tyres.
Underside the Elan is cosmetically pretty presentable being mostly bare fiberglass and smart, well protected chassis. There are odd areas of overspray and a light dusting of surface rust to the track-rod ends as can be appreciated in the photo gallery but for us this is more than compensated for by the mechanical goodies on display. Adjustable coil-over dampers, new drilled and grooved brake discs, smart red finished callipers, Aeroquip brake and clutch lines and a stainless steel exhaust system all count for more than a few aesthetic blips.
Judging by the Elan’s MOT test history the ‘twinc’ was rebuilt less than 1,000 miles ago (check out the amount of adjustment still left on the timing chain tensioner in the photo gallery), so unsurprisingly it has no untoward rattles or nasty noises. It displays ‘Factory Correct’ 35 psi oil pressure at warm idle while the water temperature stays within bounds and despite being just a little fluffy around 2,000 RPM, it pulls exceptionally well. The gear-change has the Elan ‘rifle bolt’ feel to it and the rest of the controls are super-direct; although this is the case with most Elans, this one does feel especially planted and drives really well. The now servo-less uprated brakes have excellent pedal feel and stopping power.
In the documents file is the current V5C showing just three Former Keepers, with the most recent having acquired the Elan in June 2016. The first two owners had been responsible for the car for over 45 years and when the renowned Elan fan third owner took it over, it was in mild race configuration as can be seen in the photo gallery. Plans to hillclimb the car were unfortunately derailed by life in general and he decided to concentrate on his BDG engined Elan (and 271BHP in an Elan requires considerable amounts of concentration). The Sprint was hence surplus to requirements and he passed it on untouched after just three months. The file also contains some 14 MOT test certificates with a virtually uninterrupted run from 1997 to 2009 along with a good library of instructions for the Lumenition electronic ignition, drive shafts, tachometer, Micro Dynamics rev limiter, Facet fuel pump and TIM instruments. A comprehensive Elan 26R specification summary, extracts from a Weber carburettors manual, a QED Q420 camshaft data sheet plus the engine’s specification and set up notes with cylinder head shim data round out a useful amount of paperwork.
As we say - use and improve, this is not a cosmetically perfect machine or ’Trailer Queen’ but it could represent a very cost effective entry into Sprint ownership given its very realistic reserve. Please spend some time in the photo gallery and make your own judgement regarding the body and paintwork but for us the usability this imparts plus its mechanical specification and condition simply enables you to do get on and enjoy the driving experience.