When most people think of Lotus in the 70s, the white Esprit that James Bond drove in The Spy Who Loved Me instantly comes to mind. Yet Lotus was offering other intriguing vehicles at the time as well.
After their legendary Elan finally ended production in 1974, Lotus needed a replacement, so they introduced the Elite and sister Eclat. While the Elan featured soft curves and a small jellybean shape, the Elite/Eclat embraced a thoroughly modern “wedge” shape inspired by cutting-edge Italian super cars of the time. It was intended to bring the stodgy car maker up to date.
The Elite was offered as a two-door station wagon. It seated four people. The rear features a large slanted glass window that opens to access rear space. The whole car is rather jarring looking. The tapered front and pop-up headlights no doubt inspired the front of the sleek Esprit which was introduced just a couple years later. But the side windows and tail end look more like an AMC Gremlin than sophisticated British car. You have to give Lotus credit for embracing an unusual design, however. There are also some nice smaller details like “Elite” spelled out on the hood and chrome-covered a-pillars.
Power came from a front-mounted 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine that powered the rear wheels. This example is mated to a manual transmission. Though not a fast car by today’s standards, the fiberglass body helped keep weight at around 2,000 lbs and move the car ably once up to speed.
Inside, the interior is bathed in plastic, wood and furry carpeting. The center console features hazard light switch, rear wiper, defrost, and air conditioning controls.
This immaculate first-year example has been owned by at least two people but has been kept in storage for the last 15 years and features only 35k original miles. The racing green paint looks flawless, and the seats and dashboard seem unusually clean and crisp.
Only 2,535 Lotus Elite were ever made until 1982, making this a very rare car in very rare condition.
It may not have been James Bond’s pick, but it might suit most anyone else just fine.