Winning Amount: £ 14,150.00
User ID: m*****b
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“This car simply makes sense of the Plus 2 after all these years.” Classic Cars magazine on the Syder Zetec Elan +2, September 2002.
As Lotus strove to move their range upmarket and their balance sheet out of the red, the Plus 2 version of the Elan became the backbone of that strategy; it extended the Elan ownership demographic by another perhaps ten years with a hopefully associated increase in their customers’ disposable income. The additional two seats helped but an altogether more luxurious machine was required so +2 became lush, plush, +2’S’ and the DIY build option was finally withdrawn in an attempt to improve build quality – putting your wishbones on upside down is apparently a bad thing. A performance hike was provided with the Big-Valve version of the Twin Cam engine giving 125bhp hence the “130” suffix. Obviously. Don’t ask us, we didn’t come up with it.
In the recent past, the market has started to appreciate the qualities the family man’s Elan offers and prices have consequently increased dramatically allowing greater sums of money to be spent on restoring and improving them. Enter Spydercars in Cambridgeshire who for over thirty years have been doing just that, initially with a chassis repair service then complete new Lotus-style chassis, their in-house designed space framed version and finally alternative drive train and running gear packages to bring the darling of the 1970s right up to date. We at Berlinetta have to admit that in the past we have been of the ‘if you want modern running gear, buy an MX5’ school of thought but the recent chance to examine a two seater Elan running the full Spydercars Zetec conversion won us over and this +2 has only served to further our enlightenment.
As the original Elan backbone chassis was conceived as a temporary test bed for the car’s drive train and running gear, the body and mechanical components can easily be separated – the workshop manual pretty much says ‘Undo bolts, remove body’ – into two distinct parts and while restoration of the standard oily bits is hence facilitated, it is just as easy to drop the body onto a brand new rolling chassis, complete with modern drive train and suspension components; hey presto, swinging 60s looks with a 21st century driving experience not to mention Focus rather than Anglia reliability. It is a tribute to the original Elan concept that this can be achieved by simply and cost effectively updating some mechanical components, whereas the substantial re-engineering required to achieve the same result with other classic icons such as the Jaguar E-Type can send costs spiralling beyond the £250,000 mark.
A full Spydercars conversion, it should be stressed, is not just a case of wedging a Zetec lump into a car designed to take little more than half the power and there is a tried and tested package of improvements that combine to produce a well-engineered and very capable machine that successfully addresses some of the weaker areas of the original Elan. Their super-strong spaceframe chassis is the backbone (sorry!) to which tubular wishbones with adjustable springs and dampers are attached. Beefier uprights and hubs that don’t require a visit from Dr Grease Gun every few months are utilised so one might hope to see more than twenty thousand miles out of their bearings. Fourteen inch alloy wheels allow substantial 10” discs, vented at the front, to be fitted and these plus their associated callipers, modern twin master cylinders and servo provide improved safety levels and as a bonus, a functioning handbrake, something foreign to most standard Elans.
Solid drive shafts are paired to a Ford Sierra final drive, generally with a 3.64:1 ratio limited slip differential. Upstream of this, Ford’s five speed MT75 gearbox is employed and this is mated to the same manufacturer’s sixteen valve 2.0 twin cam Zetec engine which, on Spydercars specification Jenvey throttle bodies and Emerald ECU, gives a solid 160 brake horse power with considerable further potential.
That’s the general picture but what of this particular example? Born in the Lotus Hethel Factory in late 1972 as a +2S 130/4, little is known of the Elan until it surfaced at Spydercars’ premises in 2009 requiring full restoration. Enter a Nottinghamshire based surgeon who wanted to have a +2 built to his exact specification, at which point it changed hands for the princely sum of £1,400 and started on the next chapter of its life. Judging by the build sheets and the new owner’s handwritten notes on file, it was to be an ‘all the bells and whistles’ machine to his exacting personal tastes; a pre-1973 machine with no bonnet bulge, engine enhanced to 185/195 BHP specification, bodywork finished in Lotus ‘Storm Grey’ with burgundy leather interior incorporating Mazda MX5 front seats.
With a quotation for the build agreed at over £37,000, in late 2009 Spydercars built up the new spaceframe chassis with new (and one or two reconditioned) parts as required. They acquired a new ‘crate’ Zetec engine from Ford for £1,200 (not bad for a brand new 160-ish BHP lump) which was then rebuilt with high-lift cams, a ported and skimmed cylinder head and ARP heavy duty big end bolts. It was fully balanced and mated to a reconditioned MT75 gearbox via a concentric hydraulically operated clutch (for both improved action and the ability to handle more power) while a new Emerald ECU and Jenvey throttle bodies topped off the whole ensemble. The rest of the Ford based running gear was added along with a new set of black diamond cut Minilite alloy wheels.
Early in 2010 the body was fitted to this rolling chassis and sent to respected fiberglass repair and paint specialists SMS who stripped it of paint and removed previous poorly executed repairs before making good and repainting the shell. The quality and thoroughness of this work is documented in over 140 photographs and a video held on disc in the Elan’s history file – a couple are included in the photo gallery. By April it was back at Spydercars for final fitting-up including the re-trimmed interior courtesy of Sydercars’ interior gurus of choice B W Cates. Wiring looms from B C Auto Electrics incorporated such modern day luxuries as central locking. The Elan was finished and MOT tested in May and given its first 500 mile service in the middle of June.
One can only assume that the build process was the reward for our fastidious owner as a few short months later he sold the immaculate (photographs on file) Elan to its recent long term owner for just £28,000. Having barely been driven, they then rectified that in no uncertain terms, proceeding to use the Lotus as an everyday car for the next ten years, clocking up some 60,000 miles with nigh on 11,000 covered in one particularly good year. Indeed, if you plug ‘usable classic’ into any internet search engine, MLY 406L comes up.
Along with the extensive bills for the Lotus’ build, the large history file also contains what looks to be every invoice for the running of the car from then onwards. These show the Elan was looked after for the most part by Spydercars and Lotus specialists Allon White Sports Cars with the minor services such as fluid checks being taken care of by competent establishments local to the owner. A few of the highlights of the last ten years use include the fitting by Spydercars of uprated Willwood aluminium four pot front brake callipers and aluminium bodied adjustable dampers plus a full engine rebuild by Alon White incorporating forged pistons.
Today, it has to be said the Elan is showing the miles it has covered since its transformation exactly ten years ago. The interior has mellowed very nicely and the leather still smells wonderful though there is a little wear to the outer bolster of the driver’s seat as shown in the photo gallery. The passenger side under-dash trim is loose and needs re-fixing while the lacquer on the walnut dashboard is starting to crack in places though on the upside it does house a good quality Pioneer digital stereo. The carpets are in good condition and the original instruments appear to be functioning correctly, right down to the sometimes temperamental ambient temp gauge. The comfortable front seats look as if they were made for the car and the interior feels just like that of a +2S, with the added touch of luxury leather of course.
Outside the body has a few scars befitting a ‘daily driver’ (Waitrose’s car park is a battleground) with some damage to the off-side front corner where the paintwork has cracked around the headlight aperture while the pod itself has a small chunk out of it and sits a little proud. Generally the panel fit is very good though there are a number of blemishes around the car which we have endeavoured to show in the photo gallery. We would find it hard to settle on the best course of action; leave well alone and enjoy the drive (warts and all), indulge in a few localised repairs and paint touch ups or take advantage of the solid foundations laid by SMS and have the bodywork tidied up and resprayed. Something for the fortunate new owner to wrestle with though the photographs taken of the Elan when just restored in 2010 held on file might push one towards the latter option and there is certainly money in the pot to allow for this, such is the competitive reserve the owner has set.
Staying with the cosmetics, the chrome-work is in very fair condition with just a little light pitting to the rear bumper and light bezels while the exposed alloy areas of the wheels would benefit from a good polish. The rear tyres have a decent amount of tread remaining and the fronts are brand new.
The engine bay could do with a bit of a clean but it has all the right goodies in place from silicone water hoses to a Raceline water rail, a sensible addition to the Zetec instillation. Underneath, the photos speak for themselves really with a little flaking of the finish on the wishbones though these have sensibly been treated with a coating of moisture resistant oil.
Studious maintenance and constant extensive use seems to agree with the Spydercars ‘restomod’ Elan and it appears to be in excellent health mechanically. We found being in a clearly 1970’s environment a little at odds with the first turn starting and rock-steady idle of Noughties electronic wizardry at first but once you snick a gear with the help of the nicely weighted hydraulic clutch (far better than the cable arrangement on other Zetec conversions we have experienced) and pull away fuss-free, the overall package immediately makes perfect sense. Do the same early on a cold and damp February morning with a must attend meeting sixty miles away beckoning and we doubt you would miss Messrs Weber and Lucas for a second.
The thick history file contains not only the comprehensive build and maintenance invoices as mentioned above but also a pair of CDs with extensive photographs covering Spydercars’ chassis build and SMS’s bodywork from 2009/2010. The current V5C is also present along with a Spydercars pricelist and brochure, Practical Classics 6 part project report, road tests, and a number of MOT certificates and tax discs. The receipt from the Elan’s sale in 2010 is also on file along with various instruction books for the alarm/immobiliser and stereo.
Built to a very high standard, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a re-engineered classic car while perhaps attending to its cosmetic issues as you see fit. Factor in the Spydercars ‘list price’ of a freshly completed example at around £47K and at its highly competitive estimate this machine looks very appealing indeed.