Generations Timeline, Specs and Pictures
GM bought Lotus in 1986 and provided the necessary funds to the British brand to develop a new sports car, and the result was the 1989 Lotus Elan available as a coupe or a roadster.
Lotus was struggling to survive, and its products were no longer that much demanded on a market that turned its eyes from sporty vehicles to family sedans and hatchbacks. The Elan tried to revive a nameplate that was dropped 14 years ago. It was a long shot, but GM thought it might worth the risk. To make the car even more appealing, it offered it as a roadster as well.
The wedged shape form of the Elan resembled its bigger sibling, the Esprit. Its pop-up headlights made the car looks sharp, and thanks to its smooth lines and the completely retractable roof, it offered a sporty, exquisite image. In the rear, the wide taillights and the integrated wing completed the little British roadster’s cohesive design.
Inside, Lotus installed two bucket seats with integrated headrests. The flowing lines of the dashboard revealed a Japanese style, and some purists felt offended by that. But it was a very functional design where the forms followed the functions with curved surfaces.
Under the hood, Lotus worked with Isuzu in developing the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine. The base-level sported a naturally aspirated version of the same powerplant. Both were paired to a five-speed manual gearbox supplied by the Japanese carmaker. Thanks to its light construction, the Elan was quick on its feet, and thanks to its modern suspension, it was one of the best handling cars with a front-wheel-drive.
The Lotus Elan was a pure sports car and that wasn’t solely based on its power, but mostly for the way the driver felt connected to the car’s every move.
The first generation of the Lotus Elan was released in 1962 and its sexy body was designed by Ron Hickman. The car combined both a well-tuned engine and an incredible handling. At first, the Elan was produced as a convertible top and later in 1963 the hardtop version made its appearance.
While for today’s standards the 13-inch wheels sound a bit too small, along with the car’s steel backbone chassis and the fiberglass body weighing just 1,290 pounds, the car was given an excellently precise handling.
While the Lotus Elan was designed as a touring car, most buyers took them on the track. It might have been because of its shape and its name, however, the car was not intended for track purposes and thus did not face the challenge very well.
Noticing the buyers would enjoy a track version of the Elan, Lotus made the proper changes and developed the Lots Elan Type 26R that featured several reinforcements, bigger anti-roll bars, repositioned pedals, a lighter body sheel, flared wheel arches to allow bigger wheels and tires, dual circuit brakes, light alloy calipers and up to 160 hp to have fun with.