View Full Version : Early Elans as daily drivers?

Joel Simmons
05-02-2004, 05:34 AM

Just wondering if anyone has ever used an early Elan as a daily driver. I think I read in Classic Motorsports that the motors for the headlight housings run off of the engine vacuum. That must make for some interesting driving at night if you lug the engine!

Also, what is the going price for a "driver" Elan? I was looking at some of the links at lotuselan.net and a fully restored car seems to be going for around $25K. Is this correct?

Mahalos for any replies.

Super 7
05-02-2004, 07:03 AM
Back in the late 80's I used a '67 Plus 2 for a daily driver.

It was a great car.

05-02-2004, 08:15 AM
Can't really comment on mechanical issues on Elan's...

Pricewise though, it will depend on which one you buy and depending on what kind of budget you have for buying it. I think the roadster version is getting a little pricier now, but I think the Elan +2 generally has lower values and a decent one could probably be found for a fairly low price.

Joel Simmons
05-02-2004, 09:36 PM

Thanks for the replies. I suppose I'm not too worried about the whole price thing. More interested in the possible quirkiness that could be encountered. images/icons/smile.gif


05-02-2004, 10:32 PM
<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by Joel Simmons:

Just wondering if anyone has ever used an early Elan as a daily driver...<hr></blockquote>
Decent early Elans can be had for $15000 and up. Coupe, which I think are better looking than the roadsters, are a bit cheaper. They get hot in the summer, though.

The headlights on the earliest cars used vacuum to raise them. The later cars used vacuum to keep them down. If the vacuum reservoir and piping is in good shape, they work ok although some tend to bounce a little vertically. The tubular front crossmember serves as the vacuum reservoir.

I wouldn't use one as a daily driver unless I had another car to fall back on. They're a bit fragile in some areas.

Performance and brakes are good enough to deal with modern traffic. I used mine frequently in good weather but simple things like parking were always a concern. I always worried that some SUV wouldn't see it and would back into it. Even a minor tap in a parking lot could do lots of damage.

Joel Simmons
05-03-2004, 05:22 AM

I think the coupes are nice looking too. My uncle has one, but I'm not sure of the year. Its in about 10,000 pieces in his garage and its been that way for 25 years. I've been bugging him about restoring it.

I understand the SUV worries. When I was in high school, my VW Bug got smashed from behind by someone pulling into a parking stall that they thought was empty, yet it was occupied by my Bug.

Thanks for the info on the headlights.


Bruce Bowker
05-03-2004, 09:10 PM
Most any car can be a daily driver if you put the time and effort ($$$) into keeping it in good shape. And of course use a great deal of discretion driving.

I have heard that the Elan can be fragile as already was said here. Still a great car. My wife loves them but not enough to allow me to buy one for her (me).

Bob Claffie
05-03-2004, 10:58 PM
I drove one as a third car for a couple years. My experience was that it was a very high maintenance auto. Had more electrical gremlins than any other LBC I have owned before or since. I would not expect one to be a suitable daily driver unless you live on a bus line. Bob

05-04-2004, 07:27 AM
My neighbor has an Elan that he drives about 2-3 days per week to work, weather permitting. He's a pretty good mechanic and does most work himself, except engine rebuilding. He drives it fairly hard and doesn't baby it.

His Elan seems as reliable as any LBC I've seen from the 60's era, however, he's been over every nut and bolt on it over a three year period so everything's basically new or rebuilt on it. He's had a recurring problem with the gearbox, but nothing too expensive. Synchonizers, I think.

It's a wonderful car to drive and ride. Handles like a dream, turns a lot of heads. The interior is gorgeous, very comfortable.

I don't worry about the SUVs whacking my Triumph too much any more since most of them would pass right over me! I do stay away from Interstate highways as much as poss, though. Even with my new overdrive gearbox, I just don't feel great with all the big trucks flying around.

Super 7
05-04-2004, 10:36 AM
I certainly have not heard of any recurring gearbox problems in an Elan gearbox. It is made by Ford, of course. As is the short block of the motor (although the crank rods and pistons are not used in non lotos applications, and the block is Lotus only from 1967. The differential internals are Ford.

English Fords are reliable.

Things like suspension bushings have a pretty short life in a Lotus. They are small and highly loaded. The rotoflex couplings are notorious, but I never had to change one, except in my BMW 2002.

The water pump is hard to change(like pull the engine hard to change), and is known to fail. I had a spare, but never needed it. All the elans I have had had at least 1 slow to nearly dead electric window, but they never stopped working. The instruments are Smiths, so we know that they are inaccurate when they work at all, but that doesn't slow you down.

Chassis rust is the biggest problem with them, then chassis damage. Rear wheel bearings are known to be a pain, but again, I never had a problem with it.

I drove mine all over Alaska, but not in the real cold winter. I did get cought out and had to drive it in snow a bunch of times though.

The +2 is very comfey and refined. The roadster is, too. Excellent suspension compliance. I would rather have one than my Lotus 7.

They are still quicker and better handling than a Miata. Chriss Beebe bought my last one, he flew out to Oregon, then drove it back to Madison. He ranit between 70 and 80, and averaged over 30 MPG. It suffer a seized brake calliper on the trip, but that is not unusual in an old car which has fallen into disuse.

With new bushings in the suspension, including the diff mounts, new motor mounts, and a new water pump, it should be good for lots of miles.

If you expect it to work like a modern appliance, you will be disappointed. If you expect to do some maintenance and use the car, it should be suitable. If you buy one with a bunch of needs, and expect to drive it every day, it probably won't work out well either. You need to start with a solid well maintained not worn out car if you expect to use it for regular transportation.

Joel Simmons
05-04-2004, 02:46 PM

Thanks for all the great advice on Elans. I've always kind of assumed that they were a bit more 'fragile' than other LBC's just because of their featherweight nature.

I consider myself a decent mechanic when it comes to fixing most of the gremlins a classic car owner may encounter, but I wouldn't allow myself to buy a car that needed major restoration. I agree that if anyone is going to use ANY LBC as daily or near daily transportation, the car must be pretty well sorted-out.

Incidentally, I do live on a bus-line (can be a good thing and a bad thing).


PS - Bruce, I love the photo of your stable out for some fresh air!

PPS - Super7 are you out in Oregon? I'm a displaced Oregonian in Hawaii, FYI.

05-05-2004, 11:05 PM
I'll throw my 2 cents worth in here as well. More than any other LBC these cars hate to be left sitting. Moderate everyday use can keep everything moving free on the car, such as bushes and the sort. The motors are hard to break unless you over rev them, which is really easy to do due to their flat torque curve. The transmissions are very tough, and cheap to rebuild.

You have to keep clean fluids in the car, and the headlight droop problem is not a problem unless your resevoir in the frame is holy or your one way vacume valve is shot ( or not there..) On early cars the vacume drops off at higher rpm's, and that's when the lights may droop..( great for blasting down dark country roads..) but I use my Elan in anger and have never had any droop..

Price wise, my 66 S2 was over 30 K US to restore, so expect to pay close to this for one done as completely as mine ( mine has the removable hard top for those who like the closed coupe look as well..)

When I sell mine this summer, I expect I will get quite a bit less than what I have into it, but somewhere around $27,000 seems about the norm..

Too bad you are in Hawaii, you could go for a test blast.. Ha ha..

05-06-2004, 10:13 PM
<blockquote><font size="1" face="Verdana, Arial">quote:</font><hr>Originally posted by TypeRboy:

When I sell mine this summer, I expect I will get quite a bit less than what I have into it, but somewhere around $27,000 seems about the norm..
"Sports Car Market" magazine is probably the best source for US prices. Their 2004 price guide shows a #2 Elan S2 as $21K to $26K US. They show a 31% value increase in the last year although they predict (they're often wrong) that the values will grow with the overall market in the future.

The S1 and S2 Elans seem to be worth more than the later cars. Maybe people like the windows better?

The only Elan that dropped in value last year was the S4 roadster.

05-07-2004, 02:55 AM
Yes those prices seem decent. The car of course is only worth what someone will pay for it. The early cars I think have cleaner lines and fewer do-dads to go wrong. When you are dealing with the same body style, older is always better for collector cars..

05-07-2004, 07:20 AM
Here's a link for a nice Lotus for sale here in my area: https://www.gt-classics.com/forsale.html#anchor229732

He has them regularly.

Pretty close to the $26,000 figure stated earlier here.

Joel Simmons
05-10-2004, 11:05 PM

I would take you up on that offer for a ride if I were nearby! Never ridden in an Elan before...



05-18-2004, 03:32 AM
Ha ha, probably best not to do it, cause then you'll be stuck on one... /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/cool.gif

Joel Simmons
05-18-2004, 04:01 PM
Well...maybe I can arrange a test drive down here somehow. /ubbthreads/images/graemlins/grin.gif I'm not sure when our small but high quality British car show will be held this year...but maybe I can bum a ride or two this time.

An Elan is that addictive, eh?


Joel Simmons
05-18-2004, 06:36 PM
Arrrggh....I just realized that I missed the British Car Club of Hawaii's all BritCar field day.

Son of a ...


05-21-2004, 03:08 AM
Gee our shows are just starting up about now, in fact we have one this weekend. I'll be taking the Cortina as the Lotus has a malady! The clutch is frozen, and my drive today around the block didn't free it. I'll rebleed the system and try again before I pop the body off and pull the motor.

That's what you get for leaving your car sitting all winter.

05-21-2004, 03:15 AM
Well, our all-makes car show this Sunday coming up looks to be a rainout/wet-snowout day. And I don't think there are that many shows of any sort to attend here in Calgary, oh well... Just hope the next car show weekend is half decent, the fun of playing with the weather.

10-13-2005, 04:09 AM
My tuppence worth: I drove my Elan as a daily transporter for over eleven years, doing the "Fix-I-Go" repairs as necessary. When it's been gone through (soon, I hope) I'll start using it again as primary. Too much fun NOT to drive it, and ~yes~ they are that addictive if you like spirited cars instead of the insipid lumps currently being passed off as plebean transport.

As for the "trouble spots" I'd say the water pump is the "usual suspect". Change it every 40K miles. I HAVE done it with engine in situ (once even did a Europa T/C this way... NOT recommended!) without removing the head: pan loose, lots of RTV. Better to pull the engine. Donuts are a challenge, as is the rear suspension/bearing hubs, but not horrible with access to an appropriate spring compressor and good hydraulic press. The reason it sits now in the garage: frame damage (tangental crack) at the lower diff stabilizing points. Body off to commence after first of '06. As stated above, the +2 is a much more civilised daily driver but due to the added mass the driveline seemed to need more attention: never had a catastrophic donut failure in the Elan, but did in the +2. Also snapped a stub axle, so uprated to the more robust units Dave Bean supplies. Front right upright in the +2 has broken due to rust worms, it gets the "treatment" as soon as the Elan is back on its' feet. I ~MISS~ driving the Elans as daily cars. The Alfas are okay... but there's nothing to take the place of an Elan IMHO.