Lotus Elite 60th Anniversary


2017 sees the Lotus Elite celebrating its 60th Anniversary. The first Elite or Lotus Type 14 was an ultra light two-seater coupé produced from 1958 to 1963. Weighing around 500kgs with up to 105hp. Considered one of the prettiest cars of all time it went onto win its class 6 times at Le Mans.

The Elite's most distinctive feature was its highly innovative fibreglass monocoque construction, in which a stressed-skin GRP unibody replaced the previously separate chassis and body components.

Unlike the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette, which used fibreglass for only exterior bodywork, the Elite used glass-reinforced plastic for the entire load-bearing structure of the car, although a steel subframe for supporting the engine and front suspension was bonded into the front of the monocoque, as was a square-section windscreen-hoop that provided mounting points for door hinges, jacking point for lifting the car and roll-over protection.

The Elite to achieved sports car performance from a 75 hp (55 kW) 1216 cc Coventry Climax FWE all-aluminium straight-4 engine while returning fuel consumption of 35 mpg‑imp (8.1 L/100 km; 29 mpg‑US).

The car had independent suspension all round with transverse wishbones at the front and Chapman struts at the rear. The rear struts were so long, that they poked up in the back and the tops could be seen through the rear window. The Series 2 cars, with Bristol-built bodies, had triangulated trailing radius arms for improved toe-in control. Girling disc brakes, usually without servo assistance, of 241 mm (9.5 in) diameter were used, inboard at the rear.

Advanced aerodynamics also contributed to the car's very low drag coefficient of 0.29 – quite low even for modern cars. This accomplishment is all the more remarkable considering the engineers did not enjoy the benefits of computer-aided design or wind tunnel testing. The original Elite drawings were by Peter Kirwan-Taylor. Frank Costin (brother of Mike, one of the co founders of Cosworth), at that time Chief Aerodynamic Engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, contributed to the final design.