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“LOTUS +2S 130 has great reserves of performance and safety combined with luxury and head-turning style. LOTUS expertise ensures perfectly balanced handling and superb road holding which, with powerful non-fade braking and vivid performance, give the car primary safety - the ability when in capable hands to avoid accidents caused by other people's mistakes or the driver's own errors of judgment.”, Lotus Cars Ltd Elan +2S 130 Sales Brochure.
So it seems even Lotus owners could be subject to ‘errors of judgement’. That is telling it like it is... 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an altogether more luxurious machine was required so +2 became lush, plush, +2’S’ and the DIY build option was finally withdrawn in an attempt to improve build quality – putting your wishbones on upside down is apparently a bad thing.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. Questionable nomenclature aside, the +2S 130 was an appreciable step up in quality with a raft of ‘luxury’ fittings from Quartz Halogen fog lights to burr walnut facia and electric windows. The sales brochure of the time boasted, “Standard equipment includes leather-rim wheel, steering lock, cigar (note, not cigarette) lighter, dipping mirror, air horns, electric washers and two-speed wipers.” Mechanically, the Big-Valve engine sported twin Weber or Dell’Orto carburettors and was mated to a semi-close ratio version of the impeccably changing Ford sourced four-speed gearbox. A 3.77:1 differential kept engine revolutions within an acceptable range when cruising without the need for five ratios.
Recommission or restoration, let’s call the whole thing a great opportunity to acquire a terrific Lotus Elan at a potentially bargain price; we have certainly seen worse cars offered for ‘light recommissioning’ and while we think there is a good chance you could do just that with this car, it probably deserves restoring even if it maybe doesn’t need it in all areas.
In the recent past when Plus 2 Elan values were on the floor, many cars were broken for the components they had in common with their more valuable two-seater brethren and consequently the supply of good restorable cars has dwindled considerably. Coupled with this, the market has started to appreciate the qualities the family man’s Elan offers and prices have consequently increased dramatically. To come across such an eminently refurbishable machine is an increasingly rare occurrence and the icing on this particular cake is that the +2 is not only untouched but virtually complete.
While the Lotus is currently ‘running and driving’ as they say, a couple of issues are immediately apparent; the engine is sweet enough and a compression test revealed all cylinders are in the ‘green zone’ at 150, 160, 130 and 155 PSI, with fast idle oil pressure showing 40 PSI. Having said that, there is some smoke emanating from the exhaust though given the results of the compression test, we suspect this is perhaps down to oil getting past the valve guides rather than piston rings. We also noted a slight weep from the water pump so it looks as though an engine refresh is on the cards but at least you are starting with a known quantity. Having established that the Elan goes, the next issue is that it doesn’t stop! Or more accurately it probably does but as it has been standing for some time, the owner thought it wise to ‘crack’ a bleed nipple to ensure the brakes don’t stick on. You may find the callipers are in fact free and all that is needed is a change of fluid but in our opinion, a more thorough refurbishment of the system would be wise. Given any test drive would be short and not very sweet, being likely to end against a hard object of some description, an assessment of the rest of the mechanical state of the car is limited to a visual inspection. That said, things appear to be in very fair condition with just some light surface rusting to brake components and suspension arms while their associated bushes look to be in good shape. Multiple new nuts and bolts are present and well-greased while adjustable shock absorbers and spring seats are a bonus. Rear wishbone splash guards are an item we have not seen before but we understand they were a factory fitment for a period. We could not detect any cracks in the driveshaft donuts, though putting the suspension onto full droop might reveal some deterioration. The engine, ‘box and differential housing are all fairly oil tight and though it has a few chips in its original red finish which have led to some spots of surface rust, the Spydercars spaceframe chassis looks to be absolutely solid, so that should be a couple of thousand pounds off the renovation bill in parts alone. As far as can be seen, the +2 also sports really solid sills and associated jacking points. The factory steel wheels have a bit of distortion to the rims in places and are shod with a mix of aged Uniroyal and Goodyear tyres.
Moving on to the body, it is really pretty good with an acceptable fit of the closing panels and no visible crazing. Straight and true, if one decided to repaint the car there should be a minimal amount of repair work to do, if any at all. Speaking of which, though there are only a couple of marks to the red paint it has seen better days, probably when it was still in the tin. There is a fair bit of micro-blistering on many of the panels as shown in the photo gallery and though some might appreciate the ‘rat rod’ look, others would argue in favour of a full strip and repaint. The metal-flake roof looks original and in this instance gentle flatting and re-lacquering might be the best solution.
The chrome shows some dulling and surface corrosion but with the exception of the sill trim strips, radiator air intake surround and a few badges, it is all there and structurally in good condition with, for example, no major hammer marks to the wheel spinners. The ultra-rare rear bumper is present and in pretty good shape; good news as reproductions are not exactly correct in profile. The plasti-chrome (OK that may be a made up name but you know what we mean) needs replacing as it has ‘clouded’ and the screen rubbers are perished as shown in the photo gallery. The Lucas fog lights and their covers which were one of the defining features of this variant of the +2 are present and correct.
The ‘S’ specification interior is in presumed original black, with three of the four ‘basket weave’ seats nigh on perfect and just a few splits in the driver’s seat which are shown in the photo gallery. The carpets are all there (or in the boot) and eminently serviceable. The comprehensive dash is in better condition than many we have seen with minimal cracking to the varnish and there are no additional dials or switches fitted; encouragingly the ambient temperature gauge is registering correctly. The correct +2S steering wheel and horn push are in place though the wheel’s leather rim probably needs recovering and an incorrect gear knob is fitted. The correct articulated map light is also in place and the headlining is free of rips or tears, though it does have some staining evident.
In the engine bay nestles the +2’s ‘Big Valve’ engine with correct black wrinkle finished cam cover. Hard to find items such as the carburettor air-box are in place, as are the Dell’Orto carburettors, standard for a post May 1972 +2S 130.
The Elan’s history file includes the current V5C showing a registration date of 7th June 1972 and just four owners, three up until a few months ago. A receipt in the file shows a Mr Bamford, possibly the first owner, sold it in 1976 for the sum of £1,625. MOT certificates reveal that the Lotus covered an impressive 80,096 miles in the first six years of its life – 13,000 a year, that’s serious everyday car usage – and by 1985 it had been round the clock and back up to 23,070. After this it clearly entered well-earned semi-retirement and by 2002 a mere 3,526 more miles had been added with just 6 more since then.
Bills on file show that the engine was rebuilt in 1978 and in 1991 the Lotus was treated to a new Spydercars chassis by Excalibre Engineering in the West Midlands. Amongst a range of other bills there is one from Paul Matty Sports Cars dating from 1998 attesting to a comprehensive cylinder head rebuild which included new valves, guides and seats.
So, a more than worthwhile project as the nights draw in and something that could be undertaken by the competent amateur. If we didn’t already have a shed-load of projects and a slight time shortage…