Siren’s Song: 1976 Lotus Type 75 Elite & ’74 Parts Car – Sold?

Feb 2021 | Craigslist ClassiFINDS, Wagon Wednesday

February 23, 2021 Update – We just confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found we’re assuming this ride “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call Rudy directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.

While most known for its brilliantly light two-seat sports cars, Lotus founder Colin Chapman knew that in order to eschew his company’s kit-car beginnings, he would need to offer larger, upmarket four-seat cars.  Enter the 1974 Elite, a two-door Giugiaro-designed Shooting Brake featuring a glass rear hatch providing access to the boot (luggage compartment).  Despite being a two-door wagon body style, the Elite featured a lightweight steel backbone chassis evolved from the Elan.  Fiberglass-bodied Elites relied on four-wheel independent suspension using coil springs.  The rear suspension was noteworthy in that it utilized half-shafts that acted as the upper suspension link as well as having inboard drum brakes (discs were introduced later). Elites were also the first Lotus automobiles to feature the aluminum-block, four-valve, double overhead cam, four-cylinder, Type 907 engine displacing nearly two liters. With 155 horsepower on tap, lightweight Elites achieved respectable-for-the-period eight-second zero-to-sixty times.

When launched in 1974, the Elite claimed the dubious distinction of being the world’s most expensive, four-cylinder-powered car. It’s also the last Lotus Colin Chapman himself provided significant design input on.  While the automotive press praised the Elite for its unique comfort, handling, and performance, unfortunately, high cost and poor build quality are never a recipe for success, and consequently only 2,820 examples between 1974 and 1982, or roughly 300 units annually.

Here’s a vintage British road test when the Elite launched post is currently posted on YouTube:

Don’t let this Sexy Siren’s beautiful looks fool you.  Lurking underneath are electrics from the Prince of Darkness known as Lucas along with what is likely a vast amount of rare unobtainium parts to source. Candidly, we think converting this car to a readily available NA Miata power train and wiring harness would make a very interesting restomod that would likely prove to be a vast improvement in reliability.  If you are a glutton for punishment, listed on Craigslist in January 2021 in Parkersburg, West Virginia were not one, but two Elites for the pauper’s sum of $3,200.  Comparing that price against the Hagerty Insurance Online Valuation Tool confirms the private seller has both cars priced below this guide’s #4 “Fair” (Daily Driver) estimate of $4,300.  Unfortunately, the seller only provides one exterior picture of each car and reports each have been sitting in a garage under a tarp for the past decade.

Here’s the seller’s brief description accompanying only two pictures.

“Lotus Elites 1976 with 9,800 miles 1974 with 36,000 miles.1976 complete 74 mostly
. Both have been sitting in the garage 10yr pulled out and tarped. 3,200 for both. Clean titles

Show or go: what would you do with these two Elites?  Comment below and let us know!


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