Elan Sprint: By 1970 the Elan was becoming jaded compared to some of its rivals, at least in the eyes of contemporary road testers. Graham Arnold realised something had to be done to maintain sales.
Tony Rudd, newly arrived at Hethel, breathed some of his BRM magic on the twin cam to produce the 125 bhp Big Valve version. This was to be fitted into what would be known as the Elan Sprint.
Announced at the 1970 Motor Show, the Sprint did not go on sale until March 1971. To add to its zest, Arnold devised a colour scheme to reflect the Team Lotus sponsor John Player Gold Leaf brand. Red over white with gold side decals remains a popular Sprint colour combination.
The road testers loved the extra power available and the cars received excellent reports in the press. 79 S4 Elans, sitting at Hethel awaiting dealer orders, were refreshed at the factory to Sprint specification and are now referred to as S4/Sprints. During May 1972 Webers were replaced by the capable Dell’Orto carburettors and, towards the end of its production run, a small number, perhaps as many as ten, Sprints were fitted with the new 5 speed gearbox by the service garage at Hethel; these are known as Sprint/5. In all 1,409 Sprints were produced by the time the last one rolled off the production line on 6 March 1973.
Through my research a total of 9,081 Type 26, 36 & 45 Elans were built between 1963 and 1973. That is an average of 77 cars per month. Perhaps as much as 40% of this production is estimated to still exist, in various states of completion! This has been a swift look at the Elan over its production life. A large amount of detail has been excluded and no mention has been made of some of the intriguing specials built, such as the Shapecraft Elan, the unofficial works rally car and the Sprint Estate, commonly known as the Elanbulance. More particularly, we have not touched on the superb dynamic driving qualities of these cars, carried over in their make-up from the earlier wonderful cars of Chapman and Lotus.
For more details on Elan Sprints please visit www.lotuselansprint.com