Thursday 24th January 2019,
Inopian

Lotus Elite Type 75 1974 – 1980

Times they were a `changin` at Lotus. Notwithstanding Lotus`s racing successes Colin Chapman still had to sell cars to keep the Hethel factory open. Chapman, as ever, was keeping a weather-eye on the horizon and correctly predicted a coming shift in the market. The baby-boomer sports-car generation had settled down and had taken up procreation as the next logical step.

Car ownership was growing at a rapid rate. Pedestrians had become motorists. If anyone disputes this statement, consider this. In the 1950s everywhere one looked there were mothers pushing lovely coach-built Canterbury prams. By the 1960s the big prams were being replaced by carry-cots. Why? You can`t get a big pram in a car, carry-cots, however were ideal for car travel. The transport revolution had arrived.

Chapman had realised this early on, hence the Elan +2. Beautiful but a little short of rear-seat room, the +2 was getting old and needed replacing. What was needed was a four-seat coupe, a powerful motor, a superb interior, beautiful styling and high performance. Put all those factors in a big bag, shake it up well and what comes out is the Elite Type 75. Cometh the hour… cometh the car!

The production team at Lotus were about to break new ground. The Elite was to be not only a fixed-head coupe, but a true four-seater with a hatch-back! CC redesigned the back-bone chassis, extending the wheel-base for the sake of rear leg-room. He also designed the suspension. Oliver Winterbottom designed and styled the body and then the engineers took over. The new and wonderful 900 series engine was now available.

Lotus had supplied it to Jensen for the Jensen-Healey, at this point Lotus had not used it in a Lotus product. The 907 power unit was the heart of the project. Winterbottom`s design was nicely finished off with a glass hatch-back. The finished product was beautiful. The aero-dynamicists worked their dark arts and came up with a drag co-efficient of 0.3! A razor-blade has more drag!

The market was taken by surprise. Lotus traditionalists were not sure about the change of direction but it quickly grew on most of them. In recent times I have read that some people feel that the Elite did not age well. I do not subscribe to that opinion. The year was 1974 and the Elite was revolutionary. Very soon there were several cars that looked very similar. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Fashions change because they are fickle. Lotus did not slavishly follow fashion, they created it. Elite development continued apace, the superb Excel was one result. The only real problem with the Elite was it`s price, perfection does not come cheap. At it`s launch in 1974 it was the most expensive four-cylinder car in the world. Personally, I think it was worth every penny.

The chassis;

Lotus extended the steel back-bone chassis to increase the wheel-base. Both front and rear independent suspensions used coils & wishbones. This part of the design was attributed to Colin Chapman himself. Rack and pinion steering was an obvious choice. The braking was well served by front discs, rear drums and servo-assistance. The fuel tank held 14.8 gallons.

The body;

Designed by Oliver Winterbottom, the styling was so sleek it looked very Italian. Moulded from GRP (glass-fibre) it was beautifully streamlined. The Elite was a three-door hatch-back coupe with four seats. The retractable headlights were an attractive touch. There was no convertible option.

The power-train;

The superb Lotus 907 engine that served the Jensen-Healey so well, held office under the bonnet. The motor displaced 1973 cc with a compression ratio of 9.5:1. It was mounted longitudinally driving the rear wheels through a five-speed gearbox. The engine was an inline four cylinder DOHC sixteen valve, all-alloy construction with a five main-bearing crankshaft. Twin Dell`Orto DHLA side-draught carburettors supplied the fuel, smoothly and quietly. Power output was excellent, delivering 160 bhp and 140 ft/lbs of torque.

Performance:

As always with Lotus cars the performance figures are not as important as with other cars. The handling was excellent and predictable, the cornering capability was wonderful. Not that the Elite was in any way sluggish. The top speed of 125 mph and the 0 to 60 time of 7.8 seconds was more than adequate. Coupled with it`s extraordinary handling the Elite Type 75 quickly convinced detractors that this was a real Lotus. With a kerb-weight of only 1060 kg, the real bottom line was a power-to-weight ratio of 150 bhp per ton.

The days of raucous Lotus`s was over, at least for the time being. The Elite was an executive luxury car with a lovely dark side to it`s character. Strangely, an Elite Type 75 can be found today at a reasonable price, which is more than you can say for Sevens and Elans, and the original Elite is rarer than hen`s teeth. Total production of the Lotus Elite Type 75 501 was 2398 units.

Lotus Elite Type 75 1974-1980
 
 
Body Type2 door 4 seater coupe/hatchback
Engine PlacementFront
Drive TypeRear wheel drive
Brakes
FrontDiscs
RearDrum
Dimensionsmminches
Length4458175.5
Width181671.5
Height120747.5
Wheelbase248097.6
Cargo Volume311 L11 cu. Ft.
Engine2.0 Lotus 907 DOHC 16V (1974 only few examples made)
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1973 cc120.4 cui
Power106 Kw142 bhp6500 RPM
Torque178 Nm131 ft. lb5000 RPM
Power/weight134 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed190 km/h118 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph8.9 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban15.118.7
Extra-urban7.338.7
Combined9.828.8
Gearbox4 speed manual5 speed manual
Weight1060 kg2337 lb
Engine2.0 Lotus 907 DOHC 16V (1974 and after)
Cylindersstraight 4
Displacement1973 cc120.4 cui
Power119 Kw160 bhp6500 RPM
Torque190 Nm140 ft. lb5000 RPM
Power/weight134 bhp/t
FuelPetrol
Top Speed200 km/h124 mph
Acceleration0-100 km/h - 0-60 mph7.8 s
Fuel consumptionl/100 kmImperial mpg
Urban15.518.2
Extra-urban7.438.2
Combined10.227.7
Gearbox5 speed manual3 seep automatic
Weight1060 kg2337 lb
GD Star Rating
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Lotus Elite Type 75 1974 - 1980, 8.5 out of 10 based on 4 ratings
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About Bev Roberts

Speed, the smell of hot oil, the roar of a straight-through exhaust and the scream of an engine at max revolutions. They have all been a large part of my life for almost 50 years. It is time to share my experiences with you, dear reader. Do you want to know more? Read on through my `Full Bio` and many articles.

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I was born in Hereford UK in 1948 and brought up in Gloucester UK. I played Rugby football internationally as a schoolboy. At the age of 17, a new and wet driving license in my paw, I entered motor racing. I was supported and financed by my parents and so my journey began.

In 1965 I bought a 1293cc Mini-Cooper `S` and campaigned it for a season. Having quickly made some good friends in the racing fraternity, several interesting opportunities came my way. I joined a sports-car team and raced in the Le Mans 24 hours in 1968 and 1969 in a Lola T70. Mechanical failure defeated both efforts. During that period I owned and raced a `D type` Jaguar and an AC Cobra. In those days cars like that were available and not too expensive, now they reside in museums and private collections. I had a chain of interesting cars through my youth including Jaguars, Minis, Mustangs and Lotus-Cortinas.

As a young driver I had my share of accidents too. Often the car would only be worth scrap-metal value by the time I got it home! I worked for an Aston-Martin/Jaguar dealership for a while, which enhanced my experience and gave me the opportunity to sample some very exotic machines, Ferrari, Facel-Vega, Iso and Maserati to recall a few of them.

At the end of 1969 I moved to South Africa to work on my uncle`s farm but the S.A. government had other ideas and drafted me into the army. After five years had passed I was thanked and released from the service. While I was there I bought a beige Cadillac Eldorado, previously the property of Marilyn Monroe. While I was away on a patrol my girlfriend had it re-sprayed pink! I was unimpressed by both the joke and the bill for the work!

When I returned to UK in 1974 I left it behind. On my return I found that the once-mighty British motor industry was in decline and was headed for oblivion. Motor racing was now very expensive so I turned to commercial transport. Driving large trucks gave me freedom and a chance to see some of the world. I don`t remember ever making a career choice but for the next thirty years a truck was my home. For about ten years in that period I owned two trucks of my own.

I also owned a famous MGB-GT, known as `Lucky`. If you`d like to read `The Story of Lucky` there is an article in Inopian`s archive. I finally retired, due to ill-health, in 2008. Since I had varied knowledge and many experiences on our subject I decided to share the stories of the cars I enjoyed (and hated) with the new generation.

Enjoy Inopian… it is constructed and written for you.

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