The Lotus Elan, one of the automaker’s most iconic nameplates, turns 50 this year. Lotus will be in attendance at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed to celebrate the Elan’s birthday.
Launched in October 1962, the Lotus Elan was a smaller and lightweight alternative to the bigger British sports cars like the long-hooded Jaguar E-Type. It was the first road car to feature a backbone tube chassis, and also rode on a four-wheel independent suspension, had a fiberglass body, a feathery light curb weight of just 1477 pounds, and was offered in both coupe and roadster configurations. Production may have ended in 1973, but the Elan inspired a long list of successful roadsters including Lotus’ own Elise and the Mazda MX-5.
The Elan was set to make a comeback in 2017, as part of former CEO Dany Bahar’s ambitious plan to introduce six new Lotus vehicles in just a few years. Under the plan, the Elan would replace the Evora, currently a mid-engined, 2+2 coupe powered by a Toyota-sourced V-6. The Elan would be powered by a V-6 version of a V-8 engine reportedly under development in-house at Lotus.
It’sunclear what Bahar’s successor has planned for the Elan (or Lotus in general), although it’s safe to say Lotus purists are hoping for a drastic change in direction. During his short tenure at Lotus, Bahar has made a number of cringe-worthy decisions, including a partnership with rapper Swizz Beatz to refocus the automaker as a lifestyle brand. Lotus also inked a deal with the outlandish German tuning company Mansory Design to be its official customizer provider.
In a nutshell, none of those decisions contributed to the fun factor that drivers expect in a Lotus. With Bahar’s ungraceful exit coinciding with the Elan’s 50th anniversary, perhaps the folks at Lotus can take a second to pause and reflect on company founder Colin Chapman’s mantra: simplify, then add lightness.
Classic Lotus Elan photos are on the top, while the Lotus Elan concept is on the bottom.