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Lotus Elan M100 buying guide (1989-1996)

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. Such critics were quickly silenced though as soon as they got behind the wheel; it may not have rear-wheel drive, but that doesn’t stop the Elan being an absolute blast. The new car, codenamed M100, had been a long time coming.

Although the response was universally positive, the project was beset with problems. While UK sales were reasonably strong, it was much harder to find customers in the US because the car was priced level with the Corvette – V8 power and all. Then Isuzu pulled the plug on its 1.6-litre twin-cam engine, and re-engineering the model with a new powerplant would have been prohibitively expensive. However, when Bugatti bought Lotus in 1993, it put the car back into production before then selling the project on to Kia, which also reintroduced it – with very limited sales success.

Which one to buy?

Just 3855 Series 1 Elans had been built by the time production was wound up, with another 800 Series 2s being constructed. A mere 500 of the first batch went to the US, and while many other cars were exported, most examples built were sold to UK buyers.

Performance and spec

Engine 1588cc, turbocharged in-line four
Power 165bhp @ 6600rpm
Torque 148lb ft @ 4200rpm
Transmission Five-speed manual
Weight 1020kg (2249lb)
0-60mph 6.7sec
Top speed 137mph

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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 bodyshell, which has so far proved itself to be remarkably durable.

• 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 parts aren’t especially expensive, but it can take a long time to fix .

• 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 cabin weren’t really in keeping with the car’s price

• 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.

Useful clubs 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
Last updated: 21st Jul 2015
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Lotus Elan cars for sale

32 Search results
Lotus Elan
4995 60350 GBP
  • JUST IN - Lotus Elan SE Convertible 1.6 Turbo 5 Speed Manual registered March 1992 finished in Blue with Black Roof. Finance available on request - subject to status and terms. Ask about our Company Directors packages. Fully Valeted; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome. Follow us on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

    • Year: 1992

    Last update: 16 Minutes Old
    For sale
  • Targa Florio
    01243 641117
    see details
  • The original Elan was introduced in 1962 as a roadster, although an optional hardtop was offered in 1963 and a coupé version in 1965. The two-seat Lotus Elan replaced the elegant, but unreliable and expensive to produce, Lotus Elite. It was the first Lotus road car to use the, now famous, steel backbone sub-frame with a fibreglass body. The Elan embodied the Colin Chapman minimum weight design philosophy. It was technologically advanced with a Lotus-Ford twin-cam, 1558cc engine, four-wheel disc brakes and four-wheel independent suspension. The Elan +2 was introduced in 1967 with a longer wheelbase and two more rear seats. It was a fast and agile sporting coupé with very elegant lines. It combined the performance and reliability of the Elan Coupé with genuine 2+2 passenger comfort. With less than 1200 of these cars on the roads today, their relative rarity, beautiful lines, impressive performance and practicality are the main factors for the rising interest in these cars among collectors. This particular example was purchased by the vendor from the original owner almost 30 years ago. The vendor informs us that in 1989, he had the chassis replaced with a galvanised one; he also had t

    • Year: 2015

    Last update: 21 Minutes Old
    For sale
  • see details
  • Upon its launch in 1967, the Lotus Elan +2 fitted very snugly between British sports car manufacturers such as Marcos, TVR and major manufacturers such as Triumph and MG. The Elan +2 was a development and evolution from the original Elan of 1962 and saw a totally new closed coupé body designed to accommodate a couple of children or useful storage for shopping. The two Elans; the original still being produced alongside the +2, had many interchangeable parts except for the body; this was a benefit to the +2 as the mechanical parts had proven very reliable. The Lotus Elan +2 - as with the original - was also sold in kit form, but to get away from the heritage of kit cars, Lotus introduced an improved Elan a year later which was only available to buy factory built. The improvements were a more luxurious interior and fog lamps fitted under the front bumpers, and the vehicle was designated the Lotus Elan +2S. The next major change was in 1971 when a big valve engine was offered, resulting in the Lotus Elan +2 130S, with another option of a very attractive metal-flake roof paint job. This is probably the best race prepared Lotus Elan on the market. Literally tens of thousands of pounds ha

    • Year: 2015

    Last update: 20 Minutes Old
    For sale
  • see details
  • Features : Car received a complete huge préparation in "26 R" version done in 2008 by the team Equipe Europe. Complete file of invoices provided. New engine. Clutch just changed. Comment : Valid HTP . Eligible for any évents . Car made twice le Mans classic in 2008/2010.

    • Year: 2008

    Last update: 9 Days Old
    For sale
  • MMC Paris
    (+33)1 46 47 29 29
    see details
  • This lovely Elan has benefitted from a great deal of recent expenditure and is the desirable Special Equipment version. The car was owned by a classic car mechanic from 1982 to 2014. Three years ago he fully rebuilt the engine and fitted a new clutch, brake hoses, alloy petrol tank, stainless back box, brakes and master cylinders. Two years ago the car was retrimmed in leather and new carpets fitted. The galvanised chassis appears to be in excellent condition, and the car also benefits from a Webasto sunroof. The car has just received a high quality respray in pale blue. There is a full photographic record of this work on the detailed history file. It has also been fitted with solid driveshafts, new brake calipers, pads, kenlowe fan and K&N air filters. A great driving investment...

    • Year: 1968

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 80000 mi

    For sale
  • Cheshire Classic Cars
    01244 529500
    see details
  • Rare 1973 Genuine Lotus Elan Sprint Convertible . Finished in original yellow over white Sprint colours Last owner for 22 years Good supporting history file with 29 MOT certificates supporting the recorded mileage of 83k miles Lotus Heritage Certificate Motorola radio Superb original condition including original Lotus fitted rust free chassis

    • Year: 1973

    Last update: 20 Days Old
    For sale
  • Sussex Sports Cars
    01273 477 778
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  • LOW MILES, MOT TILL JAN 2016, LOTS OF EXTRAS., Alloy Wheels - Brand new 5 Spoke, Remote Central Locking, 2 Tone Leather Upholstery, Leather Sports Steering Wheel, AM/FM Radio/ CD Player/MP3 and Bluetooth Feature, Electric Door Mirrors, Electric Windows, Manual 5 Speed Gearbox, Power Steering, Rear Spoiler. Black,

    Last update: 24 Days Old

    • Mileage: 88775 mi

    • Engine size: 1.588

    For sale
  • Sell us the Car
    0161 654 9065
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  • 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

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 72000 mi

    For sale
  • Hilton & Moss
    01279 813907
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  • This fantastic Elan was the second S4 FHC produced and comes complete with confirmation letter from Lotus Cars and Heritage Certificate too. Not only that but has had just four owners from new and was supplied by London Sports Car Centre in Edgware to a J W Sutcliffe. We purchased the car from one of our existing clients who has owned Elans in various iterations for 30 years or so and was a running and usable car that was just starting to look a little bit tired. Currently undergoing restoration by ourselves, having undergone a total bare body restoration at a cost of over £16,000 (thus far) and is currently undergoing final prep. *Viewing strictly by appointment only*

    • Year: 1970

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 88000 mi

    For sale
  • Hilton & Moss
    01279 813907
    see details
  • 1970 LOTUS ELAN TYPE 45 DHC. Lotus Yellow with Black Trim. Ground Up Restoration and Upgrade carried out. Less than 6,000 Miles since. New Chassis, Solid Drive Shafts, Adjustable Suspension, Kenlow Fan, Free Flow Exhaust, 117 BHP, Etc Etc. Equipped with Centre Lock wheels, Electric Windows, Period Radio, Tonneau Cover, Etc. I have just driven 30 miles in it and what fun ! An exceptional example, sensibly priced.

    • Year: 1970

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 6000 mi

    For sale
  • Sherwood Restorations
    01636 812655
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  • Lotus Elan +2 JPS Ltd Edition. This car has a galvanised Lotus chassis and a comprehensive history of when the car was mechanically rebuilt. The interior is original and we feel in exceptional condition complete with its Philips turn lock radio. This is a good example of appreciating Ltd Edition vehicles

    • Year: 1973

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Paul Matty Sportscars
    01527 835 656
    see details
  • This stunning Lotus Elan Plus 2 has been owned by one of our regular customers, a classic car collector based in Staffordshire. The Lotus has been driven over 175 miles to us performing superbly in poor weather conditions. The car coped with rush hour M1 traffic heading north and has been proven reliable, usable and a true delight to drive. The owner is now only parting with the car due to his plans to concentrate on a mainly Jaguar collection. The Elan was first registered on 29 th November 1968 but we do not have early history. We do know the car was taken off the road in 1996 and was purchased in 2004 needing a full restoration. The Lotus was then subject of a body off restoration that included a new Lotus galvanised chassis that was painted Black during the rebuild programme. The body was professionally re-sprayed in a low bake oven and the engine was stripped and rebuilt with new piston rings, bearings and seals. The cylinder head was treated to new guides and valves and the carburettors were professionally rebuilt. The gearbox and differential were stripped and rebuilt, the brakes were re-commissioned with new pistons and seals and a new servo fitted. New Spyder drive shafts

    • Year: 1968

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 175 mi

    For sale
  • see details
  • Lotus Elan S4/SE DHC, 1970. Last owner for 30 years! During his tenure the Elan has had a replacement galvanised chassis and a fully rebuilt engine by the well-known Miles Wilkins of Fibreglass Services. Miles has written the book on rebuilding the iconic Lotus Twin-Cam engine. Bills for over £12,000 from Fibreglass services for the full chassis and engine rebuild etc. etc.. Lots of MOT certificates going back to 1983 and they seem to point out that the Elan has done about 48,000 in total. The car has just been resprayed in original yellow and has a stunning glass-like finish. The car drives extremely well with a good strong engine and excellent chassis. Fully serviced and MOT’d.

    • Year: 1970

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • UK Sportscars
    01227 728 190
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  • Lotus Elan+2S130/4, 1973 (Built 1971), LEFT HAND DRIVE. Very rare example indeed and the first LHD Plus Two that we have ever stocked. Beautiful in white with original silver roof. Previously owned by a collector of fine Lotus cars and this is the 5th Lotus we have purchased from him. All have been superb and this is no exemption. The car has been meticulously rebuilt from the chassis up and has had a fully rebuilt engine. Upgraded solid drive-shaft conversion, this eliminating the wind-up of the original rotoflex couplings. Superb original dashboard and correct instruments and the interior is original and in lovely condition. Original leather-bound steering wheel. Comes with the Certificate of Provenance to confirm that it was originally built as a L.H.D. car in 1971 was registered in Holland in January 1973 and has remained in The Netherlands all of it’s life. One of the best Plus Two we have driven and thoroughly sorted as a result of the restoration. A prime example. Fully MOT’d and road-tax fee exempt.

    • Year: 1973

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • UK Sportscars
    01227 728 190
    see details
  • Fantastic example with a restored original chassis We are proud to offer this stunning example. Very original spec. Chassis and running gear has been powder coated. NEW hood on order and will be fitted for the new owner along with a fresh MOT and a full service. Loads of old MOT's and history in the file. Really worth a closer look so call James on 01508 530491 to book a viewing

    • Year: 1971

    Last update: 16 Days Old

    • Mileage: 54600 mi

    For sale
  • Stratton Motor Company
    01508 530491
    see details
  • Lotus Elan FHC

    £27,950 £27,950

    Lotus Elan FHC

    Very early S2.5 (no air vents). Attractively finished in dazzling Calypso Red with Minilite Knock-On wheels. Spyder chassis. Very quick, rebuilt engine. Smart interior. Ready for Summer motoring.

    • Year: 1966

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Paul Matty Sportscars
    01527 835 656
    see details
  • Monaco White with black interior. This car has been cherished since 1995, forming part of a large Lotus collection. Sensitively maintained. Obviously, replacement Lotus chassis, rebuilt engine, gorgeous original interior and wonderful paint condition.

    • Year: 1972

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Paul Matty Sportscars
    01527 835 656
    see details
  • Description: We are pleased to offer for sale this gorgeous and very quick RHD Lotus Elan S2 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 dry sump 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 t

    • Year: 1965

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • RMD
    +32 (0) 475 422790
    see details
  • This is the best restored Type 45 Elan Drophead Coupe we've seen this century. Finished in a stunning white. This car boasts a 1,558cc Twincam Crossflow and has covered less than 1000 miles since its 2 year restoration. The full Nut and Bolt professional restoration complete with new chassis took 2 years and had parts supplied by Mick Miller, Paul Matty and Christopher Neil. The striking Black Ambla interior perfectly complements the immaculate full restoration this vehicle has been subject to. The car comes complete with Handbook, Jack and Toolkit. Chassis Number: 45-8741 Upgrades include: Kenlowe fan Stainless steel Exhaust Electronic Ignition

    • Year: 1969

    Last update: 2 Days Old
    For sale
  • Sussex Sports Cars
    01273 477 778
    see details
  • 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

    Last update: About 1 Month Old
    For sale
  • Sussex Sports Cars
    01273 477 778
    see details
  • Lotus Elan S4 1600CC finished in Pistachio Green and Cream with Elan Decals manufactured in 1969, Full Engine Rebuild by Tiger Racing in 2012 and Covered only 1200 Miles Since, Setup and Dyno''d by BD Engineering in 2013 running approx 130BHP, Gearbox Rebuild by Tiger Racing in 2012 with Stainless Steel Manifold and Sports Exhaust Fitted, Spyder Integral Roll Bar Footwell Protection, Tony Thompson Racing Front and Rear Adjustable Suspension, Bushes and Springs, Solid Drive Shafts, Brake Calipers and Pads, Solid Race Mounts with New UJs, New Air Horns, New Walnut Dash and Gauges, New High Flow Enlarged Radiator and Fan, Conversion to Evans Coolant, New Brake and Clutch Master Cylinders, Custom Made Minilite Wheels, Recovered Seats and Centre Console, Headlamps Converted to Halogen, New Carpets, Custom Mota Lita Steering Wheel, Huge History File and Featured on an Album Cover. Finance available on request subject to status. Part Exchange welcome.

    • Year: 1969

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Targa Florio
    01243 641117
    see details
  • Lotus Elan S4 1600CC finished in Lotus Yellow registered March 1971, Featured on the cover of Club Lotus News January 2008, Major Restoration work by Mick Miller Classic Lotus Restoration Suffolk in 2003, Engine Overhauled by Rapier Services Lotus Specialists in 2004 with New Carburettors and Con Rods, MOT until 06/09/14, Huge Detailed History File. Finance available on request subject to status. Part Exchange welcome.

    • Year: 1971

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Targa Florio
    01243 641117
    see details
  • Bourne Bodied. 1 owner from new. Total time warp car. Peter Day fitted galvanized lotus chassis and fully rebuilt suspension and brakes. Minimal use since completion. Totally original interior with ultra rare Black dash. Sadly pre cross-flow engine fitted 30 years ago aprox. Comes with Twin Cam Engine for rebuild.

    • Year: 1964

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Paul Matty Sportscars
    01527 835 656
    see details
  • Lotus Elan S4

    £32,500 £32,500

    Lotus Elan S4

    Lotus Elan S4 1969. This is a very original Elan that we believe was dismantled by its first original owner for possible shipment abroad. This did not happen and the car remained in storage for 20 years. The car was then sold in 1990, finally reassembled and put back on the road in 2001. With the milometer showing 3,628 miles. It now reads 6,608. The car was repainted, due to scratches etc whilst in storage, by the last owner.

    • Year: 1969

    Last update: 16 Days Old
    For sale
  • Paul Matty Sportscars
    01527 835 656
    see details
  • This car is just in at Oldtimerfarm, Aalter Belgium. Steenweg op Deinze 51C. Teusday-Saterday 10-17h (no appointment needed) Sunday: closed. Monday strictly on appointment. We specialize in consignment sales of collection cars. We are proud we can offer this car for sale. A more detailed description will soon follow. In the meantime you can have a look at the very ample photo coverage on the website. Of course Xavier or Olivier will be very happy to give you all possible explanations by phone on +32472401338. Meet us at: Opendeurdagen Fri, September 18, 2015, 9am – Sun, September 20, 2015, 5pm

    • Year: 1971

    Last update: 1 Day Old
    For sale
  • Oldertimerfarm.be
    0032472401338
    see details
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