The Sprint “Elan with more dash”


This article on the Elan Sprint is brief because:-

  1. Due to the enormity of achievement we have covered the Elan with several interpretations and perspectives
  2. Significantly this type has an excellent and comprehensive website; in our estimation pretty definitive and exhaustive .We commend this to subscribers ,inviting them to explore both items in conjunction
  3. There is neither need for repetition or to guild the Lilly

Overall this article is a piece of the jigsaw we are assembling to comprehensibly study and analyse Chapman’s and Lotus contribution to motoring progress and popular Culture.

It also calls to attention the fact Chapman and Lotus were a commercial organisation that responded to market conditions.

See dedicated Elan Sprint website at:

The website records the origins of the Sprint as thus:-

“In the summer of 1970 Graham Arnold, Lotus’ Sales Director, wanted to introduce a gold leaf liveried Elan to enhance the car’s image and reflect the Formula One Team Lotus success and sponsor link. This may have been partially as a result of a group test in Motor magazine, where the testers felt that the S4 Elan was starting to fall behind its competitors. This criticism, allied to falling sales, may have led Arnold to come up with the idea of a Sprint paint job for the S4, which in turn would have given him an excuse for a “launch” and additional test reports.

The Sprint was announced at the Earls Court Motor Show on 14th October 1970 and the right hand drive DHC and FHC concept cars were on the stand. However, the same publicity sheet as above had the Big Valve engine specifications added to it. Lotus World carried the press announcement, which indicated that the Sprint would be sold with three final drive options, thus justifying the Sprint name. It also mentioned the Big Valve engine, of 135bhp, as well as two tone paint finish.”

Figure 1.Editors sketch of Elan Sprint

Specification from Taylor

Specifications Elan Sprint
Engine In-line four
Construction Cast iron block, alloy head
Bore/stroke 82.55 x 72.75 mm
Capacity 1558cc
Valves double ohc
Compression ratio 10.3 to 1
Fuel system Twin Weber 40 DCOE or twin Dell’ Orto DHLA40 carburettors
Power 126 bhp at 6500 rpm
Torque 113lb ft. at 5500 rpm
Transmission four speed manual [ but 5-speed on last few cars]
Final Drive 3.777:1 [3.555 optional]
Brakes Girling discs all round [9.5in front , 10in rear]
Suspension :front independent by double wishbones, coilsprings,telescopic dampers,ant-roll bar
Suspension :rear independent by Chapman strut, triangulated lower wishbones, coilsprings,telescopic dampers,ant-roll bar
Steering rack and pinion
Wheels knock -on 41/2 J steel wheels
Tyres 155 x 13 tyres
Body /chassis Glass fibre reinforced plastic body, steel box section backbone chassis
Length 12ft-1in
width 4ft-8in
Height 3ft-9.5in [3-ft-10.5in on fhc]
Wheelbase 7ft-0in
Unladen weight 1540lb

Figure 2.Focusing on front end treatment and pop up headlamps .Editors sketch of Elan Sprint

Performance figures

S 1 Roadster S2 Coupe Sprint Roadster
Speed in gears mph
1st 46 45 41
2nd 70 70 58
3rd 92 92 86.5
4th 114 110 121
Acceleration [sec.]
0-30 [mph] 3.3 3.4 2.5
0-40 4.7 4.4 3.6
0-50 5.5 5.5 5.4
0-60 8.7 7.6 6.7
0-70 10.4 10.4 9.4
0-80 12.1 12.1 12
Fuel Consumption 27.9 mpg overall 24.6 mpg 22.2 mpg

Figures courtesy of Autocar, august 1964, Car, January 1966, Motor March 1971

C 1971 “Motor “commented on the Elan Sprint:-

“These shattering times re of course attributable to the Elans excellent power to weight ratio. The car weighs a fraction over 14 cwt [ 711kg] ….with this sort of performance on tap we reckon the Elan Sprint is probably one of the quickest ways of getting from A to B in Britain………outstanding road holding is coupled with ride which in our opinion has yet to be bettered in a sports car……..

The Sprint is certainly the best Elan we have tested and retains its position as one of the finest sports cars in the world. We were most impressed by it

They also noted the faults.

Figure 3.Editors sketch of Lotus twin cam installed in Lotus Elan

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Forensically list faults that are identified with Elan’s in period.What was the source, what was cost of rectification at design and testing stage, what was cost in reputation ? How do these faults compare with current expectation? List car brands by reliability; record how reliability impacts on perception and resale value etc. Generally the Elan was valued by owners for handling, safety and performance is this enough to sell a modern sports car?
  • In period what was the peer competition to the original Elan?
  • What production economies were availability to Lotus through their range in late 1960’s early 70’s?
  • What were the respective advantage and disadvantages of selling cars in kit form?
  • How did Lotus exploit Gold Leaf livery? How successful was the aesthetic-explain why?
  • The Elite Type 14 is considered more aesthetic than the Elan – debate, how does the balance between function and aesthetic get worked out?
  • Examine Elan marketing materials, what audience is being addressed? What is message and symbolism? Is it appropriate for the product?

Figure 4.A&R library collection

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following exhibition titles might be appropriate:-

Lotus Elan Sprint Sprint to the Finnish
Lotus Elan Sprint Sprint Record
Lotus Elan Sprint Quick Dash
Lotus Elan Sprint Sprinter overcomes hurdles
Lotus Elan Sprint Wins Gold in Track events
Lotus Elan Sprint An athletic performance

Figure 5.Lotus sales brochure from A&R collection


We conclude briefly; as we started -bullets suffice:-

  • The Elan conceptually was an excellent holistic proposition overall
  • The Sprint was the last in the series, gained from evolution, improvements etc., but did not sacrifice aesthetic, in fact might have slightly improved
  • The Sprint is now possibly the most sought of the Elan range
  • The Gold Leaf livery was subtle, rather understated by highly communitive –it benefited the appearance of the car, probably assisted sales and rewarded the sponsor
  • The Elan has one of the greatest legacies in motoring history and retains a benchmark to day for performance and packaging
  • Although mid-engine the current Elise might be a true successor of the Elan,with lessons learnt and possibly closer to the car that Chapman strived for ;not always totally successfully


Hot Cars of the 60’s. [Ed. Cheetham] .Grange .2004.

ISBN: 1840136375

Lotus File.Hughes.Temle Press.1987.

ISBN: 0600552071

Lotus Elan 1962-1973.Brooklands.

ISBN: 0906589606

Lotus Elan 1962-72, collection no 1.Brooklands.

ISBN: 0907073220

Lotus Elan, 1963-72, collection no2.Brooklamds.

ISBN: 0907083689

Lotus Elan.Taylor.Crowood.1990.

ISBN: 1861260113

Lotus the Elite, Élan, Europa.Harvey.Oxford.1982.

ISBN: 0902280856

  • Arnold, G. 1981. The Lotus Elan and Plus Two Buyers Guide 1962 – 1975. Club Lotus
  • Clarke, R.M. Lotus Elan Collection No.2 1963–1972. Brooklands Books. ISBN 0-907073-68-9
  • Harvey, C. 1982. Lotus: The Elite, Elan, Europa. Oxford Illustrated Press. ISBN 0-902280-85-6.
  • Hughes, M. 1992. Lotus Elan. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-85532-194-7.
  • Lotus Cars Limited. 1974. Lotus Elan +2 Workshop Manual. Lotus Cars
  • Read, Robin (1989), Colin Chapman’s Lotus (The early years, the Elite, and origins of the Elan). Haynes/Foulis, ISBN 08-542-9703-0.
  • Road & Track Staff (2012). “50 Years of the Lotus Elan”. Road & Track 64 (4): 66-74.
  • Robinshaw, P. and Ross, C. 1995. Authentic Lotus Elan and Plus 2. Motor Racing Publications LTD. ISBN 0-947981-95-0.
  • Robinshaw, Paul & Ross, Christopher (1989), The Original 1962–1973 Lotus Elan (Essential Data and Guidance for Owners, Restorers and Competitors); additional notes by Ron Hickman. Motor Racing Publications Limited, ISBN 0-947981-32-2.
  • Taylor, M. 1990. Lotus Elan, The complete story. The Crowood Press Ltd. ISBN 1-86126-011-3
  • Taylor, W. 1998. The Lotus Book, a complete History of Lotus Cars, 50th Anniversary Special. Coterie Press Limited. ISBN 1-902351-00-2.
  • Wherret, D. 1993. Lotus Elan. Osprey. ISBN 1-85532-377-X
  • Wilkins, Miles (2003), Lotus Twin-Cam Engine. Motorbooks, ISBN 978-0-7603-1692-4.




Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.