The original Elan was introduced in 1962 as a roadster, although an optional hardtop was offered in 1963 and a coupé version in 1965. It was the first Lotus road car to use the now famous steel backbone chassis with a fibreglass body. At 1500 lb (680 kg), the Elan embodied the Colin Chapman minimum weight design philosophy. Initial versions of the Elan were also available as a kit to be assembled by the customer. The Elan was technologically advanced with a twin-cam 1558 cc engine, 4-wheel disc brakes, and 4-wheel independent suspension. The Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine was based on Ford’s Kent, with a Lotus-inspired Cosworth alloy twin-cam head. This Lotus-Ford 4-cylinder engine would go on to be used in a number of Lotus production and racing models. An Elan +2 was introduced in 1967 with a longer wheelbase and two more rear seats. The Elan ceased production in 1973 and the Elan +2 in 1975. An estimated total of 17,000 original Elans and Elan +2’s were built. Because of its successful design and technological sophistication, the Elan went on to become Lotus’ first commercial success, reviving a company stretched thin by the more exotic and less commercially successful Elite, and enabling funding of the Lotus success in racing over the next ten years.
This generation of the two seater Elan was famously driven by the character Emma Peel on the British television series The Avengers. In 2004, Sports Car International named the Elan number six on the list of Top Sports Cars of the 1960s. The original version of the car was designed by Ron Hickman, who also designed the first Lotus Europa as part of Lotus’ GT40 project bid and made his fortune having designed the Black & Decker WorkMate.