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“The Lotus Elan is a car for the enthusiast’s enthusiast. In many ways it’s a very expensive toy … a toy to be enjoyed by very knowledgeable drivers.” Sports Car Graphic
The Series 3 is considered by many Elan aficionados to be the ‘cream of the crop’ with the slim wheel arched delicacy, dainty rear lights and toggle dash switches of the early cars but the benefit of five years of development and improved refinement. OK, so S3 it is but open or closed? We wouldn’t deny top down motoring has its pleasures but let’s be honest, how often do you see a drop head with its roof actually dropped? This is the UK for goodness sake. Add in the fact that coupes are almost always better looking (not only in the case of the Elan but E-Type Jaguar and even arguably the MGB GT) along with providing a considerable upgrade in civilisation levels and a fixed roof variant looks pretty appealing. Fixed Head it is then but as far as Series 3 Elans go, there are a couple of configurations; the later ‘airflow’ or the original ‘pre-airflow’. The latter having no air vents aft of the side windows score desirability points for their purer looks and a little less wind-generated cabin noise. Case made for the Pre-airflow S3 FHC we’d say.
It is always nice to acquire a machine from a good home and EVV 1D couldn’t have been better sourced. Owned since the turn of the millennium and rebuilt by Lotus Elan guru Mr Brian Buckland, you can be assured his years of experience with these jewel-like sports cars will have benefitted this Elan considerably. Having written the bible of Elan maintenance, “The rebuilding of a Lotus Elan, Addendum engineering workshop manual”, what he doesn’t know about Elans could be written on a postage stamp – folded in half several times. Better still, as maintenance tends to be an ongoing joy rather than a box you tick just once, a copy of his magnum opus, signed and annotated by him “Happy Elan Motoring in EVV 1D”, is with the car.
A lengthy telephone conversation we had with the ever helpful Mr Buckland confirmed that he acquired the Elan from Paul Matty Sports Cars in July 2000 (invoice on file) in a somewhat challenged state both mechanically and cosmetically and that he quickly set to, getting it running and driving really just to fully assess exactly what he had got. The answer was a slightly tired Elan with a shoddy bodywork repair on an otherwise pretty good shell. On the move it was more than happy (overly perhaps) to turn right but reluctant to make a left. Elan specialists Spydercars’ alignment jig revealed not all the wheels were pointing where they should and despite a chassis repair being viable, one of their beautifully engineered spaceframe units was acquired. Over a considerable period of time Mr Buckland rebuilt EVV from the ground up (as he points out, there was a certain book to write as well…), handling the engine and most of the other mechanical work himself but entrusting the gearbox rebuild to Nick Callaghan, then owner of renowned specialists Bristol Transmissions who was instructed to replace any parts as required. Mechanical components were inspected and either refurbished or replaced, new suspension bushes were fitted along with brake and clutch lines (Aeroquip for the flexibles) and the brake callipers were rebuilt by Classicar Automotive. A new wiring loom was also installed along with a conversion to alternator charging.
Though the Elan’s fibreglass body is hugely attractive from an immunity to ferrous oxide perspective, it can be either very difficult or eye wateringly expensive (and quite often both) to get right. ‘Option 1’ are renowned for the excellence of their fibreglass and paint work and perhaps not surprisingly Mr Buckland decided to farm out this specialist task to them once he had made good the previous poorly executed repair. With the bodywork completed to their exacting standards, they resprayed the car in beautiful Wedgewood Blue, a shade that suits the Series 3 Elan wonderfully well. The knock-on wheels were refurbished and clad in a set of quality Uniroyal tyres – in correct 145/80 R 13 size and profile of course.
The interior of the Elan was treated to a new dashboard, carpets and headlining while the seats were re-trimmed to the correct Factory pattern in beautifully soft black leather.
In June 2015 Mr Buckland was persuaded to sell the finished Elan to a friend, something the car clearly did not approve of and the engine started to play up so the deal was reversed a few months later. A rarely encountered issue with the jackshaft bearings resulted in a second engine rebuild which Mr Buckland has just completed.
Though refinished some time ago now, the Elan’s paintwork still looks more than presentable; Mr Buckland had intended to apply some good old fashioned elbow grease (and maybe Autoglym - other polishes are available) but time got away from him and a lucky new owner can now have that pleasure. A small area of minor micro-blistering has broken out on the driver’s side of the scuttle as shown in the photo gallery and there are a few nicks to the silver paint of the bumpers which we have also shown as well as we can in the photo gallery. The underlying bodywork is still in very good order indeed with more than respectable panel fits and crucially, absolutely no sign of any crazing – the bane of fibreglass cars. Option 1’s expertise is further demonstrated in not only knowing where body colour should finish and satin black start (in the engine bay, the lower sills etc.) but also how crisply they have executed these transitions.
The chrome-work is excellent, though there is not much of it on an Elan. New spinners from Paul Matty’s spares department have just been fitted (with the use of a wrench and adapter rather than a mallet) and as can be seen in the photographs, items such as the door handles, window frames and fuel cap are virtually like new. Even the notorious ‘Mazak’ rear lights have a very good finish with barely any pitting, while their lenses are un-cracked and have not suffered from undue fading as is often the case. The plasti-chrome (OK we may have made up the name but you know what we mean) around the rear screen has gone a little yellow and cloudy but replacements seem to be readily available for a meagre financial outlay. The pure, uncluttered look of the pre-airflow Elans is accentuated on EVV 1D with Mr Buckland electing not to fit the various wing and B post badges though if you are brave enough to drill into the paintwork, these could be sourced and added at any time.
Given the extensive re-trimming work detailed above it is no surprise that the inside of the Elan is a lovely place to be, totally standard in appearance but with a touch of leather luxury. The seats, normally comfortable in an Elan anyway, seem especially so in this case with possibly a little extra padding (though that may actually be part of your recently overly sedentary correspondent rather than the chairs…) Being critical, the inner sections of the door panels are a little uneven. Plastic trims such as around the dashboard and centre console are un-cracked and a delightful, leather bound Colin Chapman signature steering wheel sets off the interior beautifully. There is a full set of correct Smiths instruments plus a useful ammeter that has been added so neatly it could have been factory fitted. The headlining and carpets are virtually perfect with just a couple of lower dash trim pieces all that would be required to finish the snug but very classy interior. The boot carpeting is missing but the boot board is in place as is a ‘fit and forget’ aluminium fuel tank.
Underneath the Elan is presentable if not ‘box fresh’ though ongoing cosmetic maintenance should amount to little more than WD40 application (other water dispersants are available).
In the engine bay, the S3 radiator (usefully larger than on later cars) is still in place and the engine driven fan has wisely been dispensed with in favour of a more efficient electric version. An alternator has been fitted in the interests of reliability and improved usability while the correct for model pair of Weber 40 DCOE 31s are present, fed via Aeroquip hoses and fittings. A full ‘manifold to tail-pipe’ stainless steel exhaust system is fitted and in good condition. It is also nice to see a rare and sought-after early cylinder head with the additional ‘half-moons’ between the spark plugs and an early cam cover are fitted.
The Elan fires very easily and drives as nicely as you would expect with the freshly rebuilt engine displaying no untoward rattles or nasty noises. ‘Factory Correct’ 45 psi oil pressure at cold idle and on the move once warm is the order of the day and the gear-change has the classic Elan ‘rifle bolt’ feel to it. The super-direct Elan steering is also present and correct.
Having recently completed a 200 mile engine running-in trip, Mr Buckland has just carried out an oil and filter change. With many years and miles of Elan experience under his belt (and a smidge off 1,000,000 miles covered in one example) he is perhaps uniquely qualified to comment on any particular specimen and it is encouraging to know he feels EVV 1D drives and handles particularly well.