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Lotus Elan M100: Buying guide and review (1989-1996)

Lotus Elan M100 Lotus Elan M100
A front-wheel drive Lotus? Sacrilege! Whatever next; a diesel engine? That was the verdict of many Lotus traditionalists when the covers were pulled off an all-new Elan in 1989 – one propelled by a Japanese engine that fed power to the wrong set of tyres. 
 
While the new front-wheel drive Elan didn't win everyone over, most critics changed their tune quickly after the first test drives thanks to a one of the finest front-driving chassis ever developed. Could we expect any less from Lotus? Codenamed M100, the new Elan went about things very differently from Lotuses of old, but despite such a critically-acclaimed driving experience it wasn't a commercial success for the company. 
 
Thanks to its rave reviews, the M100 Elan initially sold in reasonably big numbers in the UK and Europe. This was never going to be enough for the Lotus and parent company General Motors however, and the big market to crack was the USA. Sadly, due to the relatively low volumes and high production costs, the little Elan ended up costing around the same as a full-fat Corvette in the States, which pretty much killed it stone dead. 
 
Soon after Isuzu decided to stop production of the 1.6-litre twin cam engine that was used in the Elan, GM decided to kill the two-seater roaster due to the uneconomical cost of engineering a new power plant into the car towards the end of 1992. Things were to change however with the purchase of Lotus by Bugatti, who decided to once again start up production. After a limited run of cars, the tooling and licence to build the Elan was sold to Kia, who also built a version for local markets.

Which one to buy?
 
A total of 3855 Series 1 Elans were built before General Motors finally pulled the plug in 1992. Although these were reasonable sales figures as far as Lotus was concerned, GM was not happy and stopped all development of potential future models, stopping all production of the car at the same time. Of these series 1 cars, you have a choice between the 130bhp naturally aspirated Elan, or the more lively 162bhp Turbo SE model – capable of a sub-7.0second 0-62mph time. 
 
It’s the series 1 cars that are the cheapest and easiest to find, and the later Bugatti-built S2 models (1994 onwards) carry a premium due to the much lower numbers produced. A total of just 800 were produced, and although the Turbo’s max power was slightly down at 155bhp, the car was mildly updated with nicer wheels and a few minor styling tweaks making it a desirable option. 
 
A slightly more exotic choice, and something that very rarely turns up in the UK, is the Kia Elan. When Lotus stopped building the Elan in 1996, the tooling for the car was sold to Korean the manufacturer, which started building the Elan for local markets. Different rear lights, and Kia’s own 1.8-litre engine differentiate the model from the Lotus models.
 
Performance and specs
 
Engine 1588cc, turbocharged in-line four
Power 165bhp @ 6600rpm
Torque 148lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
0-60mph 6.7sec
Top speed 137mph 
Insurance group 16
 
Dimensions and weight
 
Wheelbase 2250mm
Length 3802mm
Width 1735mm
Height 1229mm
Weight 997kg
 
Common problems 
 
• The 1.6-litre engine will just keep going as long as it’s properly serviced. One owner has even covered around a quarter of a million miles without the motor needing a rebuild. As with any engine – and especially a turbocharged one – the secret is regular oil changes. A refresh every 5000 miles is ideal, and even better if a fully synthetic lubricant is used. 
 
• Many owners have chosen to upgrade their engine by having the ECU remapped, to take power up to anywhere between 175bhp and 210bhp or so, with no ill-effects. You should watch out for badly installed manual boost controllers and dump valves though, as they can cause running problems and the potential for dangerous boost spikes if not carried out professionally. 
 
• There’s just one weak spot with the Isuzu unit, the Cam Angle Sensor, which fails and causes the fuel-injection system to malfunction. Sometimes the engine warning light illuminates when this happens, but not always. 
 
• Because it’s so strong, there’s little chance of the five-speed manual transmission causing problems, even if the engine has been chipped to give more power. Although the box itself is tough, the gear linkage is not, with failures all too common. The ball link on the end of the cable will break away, leading to difficulty in getting some of the gears. 
 
• Hard-driven cars may be suffering from a clutch that’s past its best, but you simply need to feel for slipping as you accelerate hard through the gears. A biting point near the top of the pedal also gives an indication of a worn clutch. 
 
• The Elan’s suspension is as tough as the rest of the car, with springs and dampers generally not causing any problems. However, the latter can leak, but a swift visual check will soon establish whether replacements are due or not. 
 
• Some cars will show signs of corrosion on the rear suspension wishbones, and because this tends to occur on the top face, it’s difficult to spot as the vehicle sits so low. If the previous owner has fitted uprated-galvanised wishbones, this is good news as they will most likely last the life of the Elan. 
 
• There’s a multitude of suspension bushes that can perish, but unless the car has been driven really hard, it’s unlikely. If any new bits are needed they’re available off the shelf. Of more concern potentially is suspension that’s out of alignment; this is guaranteed to lead to wayward handling and uneven tyre wear. 
 
• The chassis was galvanised when new, and which so far has shown no inclination to corrode. 
 
• It’s a similar story for the glassfibre body pannels and shell, which has so far proved itself to be remarkably durable, meaning full restoration is almost unheard of. Check the underside of the front bumper, as there is a low-hanging rubber strip that is prone to damage. Although replacement is relatively straight forward, a larger impact might have caused damage to the bumper, which is much more serious to fix.
 
• Unfortunately, the electrics are more likely to cause problems; things aren’t helped by that plastic bodyshell causing poor earths though. 
 
• Motors for the windows and headlamps can also play up. Most replacement spares and parts aren’t especially expensive, but even seemingly small issues can take a long time to fix. The window regulators are a simple DIY job, if you have plenty of time and a modicum of mechanical skill. All of the parts needed are still available to buy new fro Lotus too.
 
• The interior can also give problems, while it also doesn’t take much to start looking tatty. The Vauxhall switchgear seems cheap and the materials used throughout the construction of the dashboard and seats weren’t really in keeping with the car’s price. Cheap 
 
• Look out for a damaged roof. They’re strong, so should only need replacing if vandals have struck. However, the folding roofs never effectively sealed the cabin from the elements so don’t expect any roof to be totally watertight. 
 
Model History 
 
1989: The front-wheel-drive Elan is unveiled in two forms; standard or turbocharged S/E. The former has matt black wing mirrors; the latter carries an SE badge on the bootlid. 
1992: The perspex number plate cover is removed for the last cars, with Elan production ceasing soon after. 
1993: Bugatti buys Lotus. 
1994: The Elan is put back into production, to use up remaining stocks of engines and gearboxes. The power-steering is recalibrated, there’s a new dash and the suspension is stiffened up. There’s also a price hike to £24,500 – which would then increase to beyond £26,000. 
1996: The final Elan is built, after 800 Series 2 editions are made. 
1997: Kia puts the Elan back into production, with a 150bhp 1.8-litre engine. This car is never sold in Europe. 
1999: The final front-wheel-drive Elan is built. 
 
Owners clubs, forums and websites 
 
• www.clublotus.co.uk
• www.lotusdriversclub.org
• www.seloc.org
• www.lotus-on-track.com
 
Summary and prices
 
The front-wheel-drive Elan was so over-engineered that Lotus never really stood a chance of making any money on it. Indeed, just to break even the firm would have needed to sell twice as many cars each year as it actually did. The whole episode was partly responsible for General Motors getting rid of Lotus in 1993 and the restart of production under Bugatti. Such over-engineering is great news if you fancy dipping your toe in the Lotus waters, but don’t want something older and potentially more fragile. 
 
You can now pick up a high-mileage Elan (with around 100,000 miles on the clock) for £5000-6000. It’s surprising how many of these cars are around; the front-wheel-drive model is so usable that many owners rack up high annual distances. There aren’t many normally-aspirated examples about, but if you do find one you can expect to pay a little less than for an equivalent turbocharged (SE) edition. Most cars for sale will be priced at £8000-£11,000; the latter figure will net a 50,000-mile example from a specialist. Really exceptional Elans can fetch more though.
Lotus Elan M100 Lotus Elan M100
Last updated: 10th Apr 2016
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Lotus Elan cars for sale

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Lotus Elan
4995 85000 GBP
  • Lotus - Elan 1600 convertible - 1993

    €7,500 - €9,750 est. (£6,687 - £8,693.10 est.) €7,500 - €9,750 est. (£6,687 - £8,693.10 est.)
    Online Auction
    Auction Date: 01 Jan 1970
    RESERVE PRICE
    Catawiki Auctions
  • 1969 Lotus Elan S4 Roadster

    $49,500(£40,456.35) $49,500(£40,456.35)

    1969 Lotus Elan S4 Roadster s/n L69459515 Norfolk Mustard with Black Leather The Lotus Elan first appeared in October 1962 at the British International Motor Show at Earls Court. Jaguar had launched the E-Type the previous year, AC was offering the Cobra, and Ferrari the GTO. Against these big, powerful, and expensive machines, the lightweight and nimble Elan offered something very different, and typically Lotus: ultra modern, simplistic in design, and tremendous fun. Lotus packed the Elan with innovative technical features including a fiberglass body draped over the first backbone chassis of any road car and four-wheel independent suspension. Lotus would later revolutionize racing with their monocoque 25, further enhancing Lotus’ racing lineage. The 1500 lbs (670kg) Elan powered by the new Lotus Twin Cam engine delivered over 100 horsepower, providing endless entertainment for drivers of this featherweight roadster. The new Elan offered a clean body design with balanced proportions, hideaway headlights, and a beguilingly low profile. Customers swarmed for the reasonably priced Elan, proving to be a welcome replacement to the fragile, expensive-to-build Elite, becoming Lotus’s bigg

    • Year: 1969
    • Mileage: 49908 mi
    For sale
  • 1969 Lotus Elan +2

    £9,950 £9,950

    A bereavement sale this 1969 Lotus Elan +2 was lovingly cherished by its last owner for the previous 30 years . Last used in 2008 the engine has been removed and dismantled for reconditioning and is included in the sale. The car is very complete and has been fitted with a replacement chassis at some point . Radiomobile 8 Track player installed . The speedometer is reading 78k miles. We have a V5 plus a sheath of previous MOTs and expect a history file shortly Delivery can be arranged to UK and Europe .

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan

    £84,995 £84,995

    This lovely Lotus Elan S2 was fully rebuilt by specialists to 26R specification in 2012, using a correct 26R chassis and lightweight body, all steel engine, Quaife gearbox and diff. Initially successful in tour and historic events the car was subsequently exported to South Africa, where it raced with some success. Earlier this year the car had a full engine rebuild and has only competed in two short races since. Recent expenditure also includes a gearbox rebuild in 2015 and a new limited slip differential in 2014. It was granted SA HTP papers in 2016 having previously had an MSA HTP Fitted with a large tank and diff cooler the car is set up for endurance racing, but is equally at home in shorter events. It is also UK road registered, with the highly appropriate registration number ELA 100C. Please contact us for a full specification

    • Year: 1965
    For sale
  • 1990 Lotus Elan SE Turbo

    POA POA

    - 14 service stamps up to 73,000 miles - Recent interior and alloy wheel refurbishment with new hood - Supplied with original seats and MOT'd until March 2017

    • Year: 1990
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan Italian Design Concept Car '86

    €6,500(£5,795.40) €6,500(£5,795.40)

    Prototype Italdesign produced One in the world http://www.autoblog.nl/nieuws/dit-lotus-studiemodel-kost-maar-6500-euro-91419 >>>>> Oldtimerfarm specializes in consignment sales of vintage and collection cars and we are proud to present you this car. Oldtimerfarm is located in Belgium, 9880 Aalter, Steenweg op Deinze 51C, where this car is in our showroom. We are open from Tuesday to Saturday 10-17h (also without appointment). We are closed on Sundays and Mondays. Mondays on appointment only. Make sure you scroll down to look at the extensive photo report (100 pictures). Of course, a more detailed description can be obtained by telephone. Contact us: Xavier: 0032 472 40 1338 (NL, FR, DE, EN, IT) info@oldtimerfarm.be Olivier: 0032 473 11 7300 (NL, FR, DE, EN) olivier@oldtimerfarm.be Oldtimerfarm from Aalter would also like to sell your classic car or car collection. For more information, please contact Xavier. Exhibitions where you can find us: 17-18/12/2016 Dreamcar International Kortrijk - Belgium 12-15/01/2017 InterClassics Maastricht - The Netherlands 21-22/01/2017 Auto Retro Roeselare - Belgium 11-12/02/2017 Flanders Collection Car Gent- Belgium 03-05/03/2017 Antwerp Classic Sal

    • Year: 1986
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan

    €24,500(£21,844.20) €24,500(£21,844.20)

    LOTUS ELAN +2s 130/5 French "V5" RHD Very good condition. Spyder chassis. Lot of invoices. Engine and gearbox (5 gears) rebuilt by specialist. Dark red (bordeaux), tan leather. Cab be seen in North of France (Valenciennes not far from Lille)

    • Year: pre 1900
    • Mileage: 98000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.6
    For sale
    Francois Derycke
  • 1968 Lotus Elan 2 – Ex-Graham Hill

    POA POA

    Graham Hill. It is often quoted that Graham Hill was not a naturally talented driver, although with two Grand Prix Championships, an Indianapolis 500 win and victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours, what do you need to do to be talented? In fairness, Hill only learnt to drive when he was twenty four years of age. No matter, by the time he was twenty six, he began his racing career and three years later he was on the grid for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix in a Lotus 12. In fact, Monaco really belonged to Hill with him winning there five times. His first championship win came in 1962 in a BRM with his second following in 1968 whilst with Lotus. Hill was always easily recognised whilst racing, by his distinctive racing helmet that carried the London Rowing Club's cap design - dark blue with oar shaped tabs; a design his son Damon carried into his racing career. Tragically, Graham Hill was killed in his Piper Aztec along with five other members of his Embassy Hill Racing Team in 1975, shortly after retiring from motor racing. Graham Hill will be remembered for many things but perhaps mostly as being a charming, tall, elegant, mustached, witty and well spoken Englishman and the only racing driver

    • Year: 2016
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan Sprint DHC 1971

    £44,950 £44,950

    We are delighted to offer for sale this beautiful Elan Sprint finished in Lotus yellow over white. She has a new Spider chassis and has had thousands of pounds spent. She has recently been re commissioned and serviced in our Maldon workshop, is in immaculate condition and ready to be driven away for the Spring sunshine.

    For sale
  • Lotus Elan SE 1991

    POA POA

    Finished in Pacific blue with grey/red leather upholstery. Only 59,000 miles from new with full Lotus history. Just serviced with new MOT, this Elan is in lovely condition. The hood and seals are very good too.

    For sale
  • Lotus Elan S4 Fhc

    £34,950 £34,950

    Yellow with black interior. Restored by ourselves, this Lotus Elan S4 FHC was first registered in June of 1968 and has had only four owners since. Having undergone a total bare body restoration at a cost of over £16,000 this Elan drives superbly. *Viewing by appointment only*

    • Year: 1968
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan S3

    £24,995 £24,995

    For sale is this fully restored Elan S3. The S3 is said by many to be the best looking of the Elans! It’s fitted with a syder chassis with twin wishbone rear suspension and CV joint driveshaft’s. A fully reconditioned big valve twin cam engine running on brand new Weber carbs and electronic ignition. Side impact bar kit with inertia seatbelts have been fitted for extra safety, along with full retrim, wiring loom, electric motor headlamp conversion. This is a beautiful looking little car for anybody looking for a Lotus Elan. Viewing is highly recommended, for anymore information please call 07754553414 Emails may take longer to respond too.

    • Year: 1969
    • Engine size: 1.6
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan Sprint 1972 Fhc

    £32,450 £32,450

    , This car is in the rare colour of Tawny / White one of only 25 Sprints made by the factory in this colour between September – December 1972. It had like most cars a Lotus factory replacement chassis some 8-10 years ago, it has a very original interior and a correct Big Valve engine fitted with Dellorto carburetors as standard. Four new tires are fitted and the wheels are in good condition. In the history file is a Certificate of vehicle Provenance supplied by the Lotus factory confirming the cars original colour and details. It also comes with a letter by Andy Graham giving the cars history from new via the Lotus archives at Group Lotus PLC in 2014. This rare colour today is now very popular and hard to find a fixed head as many have been turned in to drop heads MOT’d until May 2016 *Viewing By Appointment Only*

    • Year: 1972
    For sale
  • : Lotus Elan S2 / 26R EUR 85000

    €85,000(£75,786) €85,000(£75,786)

    Description: We are pleased to offer for sale this gorgeous and very quick RHD Lotus Elan S2 which was bought by the current owner in 2000 and was subsequently completely build-up to the latest 26R specification. Upon completion, the car has been raced very successfully at both the national and international level up to 2012. The owner then switched to racing a 2 litre prototype which is why the Elan is now up for sale. The engine has been built by John Smirtwait delivering 190 bhp and only has 10 hours of running since its last rebuild. The other specs are as follows: Strengthened chassis Magnesium gearbox and differential casing (with LSD) Magnesium center lock wheels Alu bell-housing New magnesium uprights with original alu calipers Close ratio magnesium gearbox Fuel cell 60 litres (valid until 2016) with separate catch-tank and pumps KONI adjustable shocks all round Renewed electrics Large core alu radiator 1” front anti-roll bar+ 3/4” fr. a-r bar TTR half-shafts Lexan side and rear screens The car comes with extensive spares which include a spare set of wheels and spare diff. with LSD 4.1-ratio. Given that this Elan racer sat idle for a few years, the following would need to b

    • Year: 1965
    For sale
    RMD
    +32 (0) 475 422790 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • 1963 Lotus Elan Series 1

    £53,950 £53,950

    Chassis Number 26-0149 First sold in September 1963 this superb super rare early car has been restored by marque specialist to better than new condition retaining original rubber mats One family owned until 1995 Comprehensive restoration file and supporting invoices Owners handbook

    • Year: 1963
    For sale
  • 1969 Lotus Elan S4 Special Equipment FHC

    £26,950 £26,950

    1969 Lotus Elan S4 Special Equipment FHC with 26R and other modifications An S4 with some provenance in Scottish Motorsports circles, this Elan was supplied new by the Lotus factory to Dicksons of Perth. In the hands of a Dundee based owner the Elan is understood to have had considerable period competition history mostly in hill-climb and sprint events. A complete rebuild of the car was first contemplated around 2002 and many new parts were purchased then but the project never quite got off the ground. The Elan and its new parts were subsequently acquired by motorsports and restorations specialists, Classic Autosports, who undertook a ground up restoration of the car (concluded in the spring of 2009). The principal features of the car and the detail of that restoration (photographic record available) are as follows:- Complete rebuild around new galvanised Spydersport chassis New suspension parts nickle plated Spydersport upper wishbones replacing standard McPherson struts at rear New Elan coil over shocks with adjustable platforms ( spare set of brand new Spydersport springs may be available with the car) Complete bodywork strip-down to repair all glassfibre imperfections followed

    • Year: 1969
    For sale
  • LOTUS ELAN Sprint 1972 FHC

    £32,450 £32,450

    This car is in the rare colour of Tawny / White one of only 25 Sprints made by the factory in this colour between September – December 1972. It had like most cars a Lotus factory replacement chassis some 8-10 years ago, it has a very original interior and a correct Big Valve engine fitted with Dellorto carburetors as standard. Four new tires are fitted and the wheels are in good condition. In the history file is a Certificate of vehicle Provenance supplied by the Lotus factory confirming the cars original colour and details. It also comes with a letter by Andy Graham giving the cars history from new via the Lotus archives at Group Lotus PLC in 2014. This rare colour today is now very popular and hard to find a fixed head as many have been turned in to drop heads MOT’d until May 2016

    • Year: 1972
    • Mileage: 72000 mi
    For sale
  • LOTUS ELAN S4 FHC

    £34,950 £34,950

    Yellow with black interior. Currently undergoing restoration by ourselves, this Lotus Elan S4 FHC was first registered in June of 1968 and has had only four owners since. Having undergone a total bare body restoration at a cost of over £16,000 this Elan drives superbly and is ready for this years anniversary of 50 years of the Elan. *Viewing by appointment only*

    • Year: 1968
    • Mileage: 88000 mi
    For sale
  • LOTUS ELAN SE Turbo 1990

    £5,995 £5,995

    1990 Lotus Elan SE Turbo. Calypso Red with Black and Red leather upholstery. Huge history file with a stamped up service book and lots of bills, invoices and old MoT's back to the first in 1993. The cam belt was replaced 7,000 miles ago along with a new water pump. Having been with its last owner for 5 years it has been used sparingly covering very few miles during his ownership. Totally unmolested and original. The oil pressure is very good and the car drives without fault. Everything works as it should with the central locking and electric windows still operating correctly. The original OZ alloy wheels and tyres are in good order. The hood is free from damage with no leaks and a clear rear screen. The Elan is fitted with an alarm and immobiliser. Viewing is highly recommended. Absolutely any inspection is welcome. All major debit and credit cards accepted. Please contact us for any further information. Delivery can be arranged.

    • Mileage: 119000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.6
    For sale
  • Lotus Elan

    £4,995 £4,995

    Lotus Elan 1.6 SE TURBO! Drives well, nice condition throughout, lots of history, Cat D 15 years ago, priced to sell!! Cheapest on the net

    • Mileage: 94000 mi
    • Engine size: 1588
    For sale
  • LOTUS ELAN +2 1967

    £27,995 £27,995

    Lotus Elan + 2 1967 Metalic Blue with black trim. This incredible example has only had 2 Owners from new. The second fastidious owner has cherished this car for the last 30 years and now it is virtually better than when it left the factory. Although only having covered 42,000 miles from new, this car has been totally rebuilt to the highest standard having had a new galvanised chassis, new body, new wiring loom, rebuilt gearbox, rebuilt axle, new adjustable shock absorbers, new fuel tank and complete new interior including wood veneer dash. The Twin Cam engine was completely rebuilt with new head and upgraded to Lotus Ford Twin Cam Sprint Special Plus spec producing 137 BHP by Pat Thomas of Kelvedon Lotus in 2009. The cost of this alone was GBP 4800. Also fitted with a special manifold and stainless steel exhaust. The list just goes on. Still fitted with the original steering wheel engraved with Colin Chapman's signature and original Pye radio. The huge history file contains all the invoices for well in excess of GBP 20,000 for the work listed, plus much more, and a work shop manual. As one would expect this 2 Owner 42,000 miles Lotus is in exceptional condition in every area and is a dream to drive.

    • Mileage: 42000 mi
    For sale
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