The Lotus Elite was Lotus’s first ever GT car and was what really launched Lotus into the forefront of racing. When it debuted in 1958, no one had seen anything like it. The Elite boasted a paltry curb weight, thanks to its unit-body construction that was 100 percent fiberglass, instead of the more typical fiberglass body-on-steel frame construction.
The powerplant was manufactured for Lotus by Coventry Climax, and varied in power, depending on the Elite’s options. This 1,216 cc engine pumped out between 75 and 105 horsepower, and threw power to the rear wheels via an MG -built 4-speed early on or a 4-speed ZF trans in their later years. That may not seem like much by today’s standard, but for a 4-cylinder of the late-50s and early-60s, that was amazing. Plus its lightweight body created a weight ratio ranging from about 10 pounds per horsepower to 20 pounds per horsepower.
The Elite’s body was a thing of beauty, as it looked very quirky, but boasted a 0.29 drag coefficient, which is better than even the 2002 Acura NSX with its 0.30. Its long nose and rounded cabin just added the the car’s character, but its backside just didn’t fit in with the rest of the car.
Regardless of the super-skinny wire wheels and tires, the Elite Series II actually handled pretty well. It can attribute this to its 4-wheel independent suspension, which was unheard of at the time, with dual wishbones upfront and Chapman struts on the rear. These are similar to MacPherson struts in construction, except that they use a drive shaft and light radius rod in place of a lower control arm.
Also revolutionary for the era was its use of 4-wheel disc brakes and inboard brakes on the rear. These inboard brakes help reduce the vehicle’s unsprung weight, keeping the spring and strut movement more stable.
Click past the jump to read about the Elite Series II’s pricing.