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1965 Lotus Elan S2

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1965 Lotus Elan S2


To say that the original Lotus Elan redefined the genre is something of an understatement. Sure, we’d had small sporty convertibles before it but the Elan demonstrated that a sports car could be more than the sum of its parts - and that power could take second place to handling.

Built between 1962 and 1975, it spanned six generations plus the four-seater Elan +2. Available as a coupe and a convertible, all were fitted with the Ford-sourced Kent crossflow engine, albeit heavily revised and tweaked into the iconic Lotus TwinCam. Power outputs varied but to focus on that would be to miss the point completely.

Because the little Lotus handled like nothing before and, many would argue, since: the Elan was the world’s first production car to feature a steel backbone chassis and a fibreglass body, which made for a beautifully stiff chassis. This allowed the suspension to be soft, to have a relatively long travel, and to be perfectly damped – and all this at a time when marketing departments were still insisting that a ‘sporty’ car must be stiffly sprung.

The steering was also light and precise, the diametric opposite of more traditional car manufacturers for whom heavy steering used to - and for some insecure souls, still does – equal manliness.

And the steering wasn’t the only thing that is light; the Elan weighed in at under 700kgs, which allowed Colin Chapman’s team to enter into something of a virtuous circle, fitting smaller wheels and tyres and brakes, all of which reduced the weight still further.

The result is the sweetest handling car of a generation; no wonder the Mazda MX-5, closely modelled on the Elan, went on to become the world’s best-selling sportscar…


The Vehicle

In the owner’s hands since the 1980s and in storage for the past fifteen, this wonderful Lotus Elan has lying unused until a couple of years ago. Freshly recommissioned and said to be in “good driving order”, it would benefit from further cosmetic refurbishment to allow it to shine.

And shine it could: fitted with the famed Lotus TwinCam engine, this 1588cc convertible is finished in metallic green with a black interior. It’s an unusual colour but one that suits its period lines perfectly.

Having spent time in Ireland, this well-travelled Lotus is crying out for some TLC. Offered with a very sensible reserve price, this might your key to unlocking the Elan of your dreams you’ve been thinking about for years…

On the Outside

Previously red and then yellow (or vice versa, it’s hard to tell…) it has been resprayed a lovely dark metallic green. (We’d call it British Racing Green if we didn’t know better.) Clearly an older job, it looks good from a few feet away and is easily good enough to live with for a while as you undertake a rolling refurbishment.

The underlying panels are good, and the way they fit and align is not bad at all. The bumpers are excellent, and the whole thing hangs together very convincingly.

The wing-mounted mirrors (a location that all but eliminates the blindspot we’ve all learned to put up with following the move to mount them on the doors) are in good order, as is the rest of the chromework.

The 13-inch steel wheels are serviceable and perfectly usable. The four chrome hubcaps, on the other hand, are in great shape – and the wheels themselves are shod with matching – but tiny; they’re only 145mm wide - Uniroyal Rallye tyres, all of which look nearly new.

As we will never tire of explaining, our experience shows that matching high-quality tyres are an infallible sign of a caring and mechanically sympathetic owner who is prepared to spend the appropriate amount in maintaining their car properly. Their presence does not, of course, preclude the need for a thorough inspection - something the vendor would welcome, by the way – but it does perhaps give you a shortcut into their attitude towards maintenance.

The black fabric roof is in great shape. While no Elan roof can hope to match the MX-5’s for ease of use or efficacy in sealing out the elements, this one is as good as they get – and because the Elan is the car it is, you’re only ever going to use the roof in emergencies anyway, aren’t you?

Engineering aside, there are no rips, tears or other damage and it rises and falls easily. The interior is clean too, and the hood frame is solid and straight, although it would benefit from a coat of paint.

Speaking of work to keep you busy over the coming winter, the boot lid and passenger door could both do with massaging into place as neither fits terribly well, and we can see that the owner will eventually want to splash out on a full respray as there are plenty of stonechips, marks  and touched-in areas as well as some paint cracks across the whole car.

On the Inside

The interior looks to be largely original, and it’s not in bad shape at all. The seats, for example, are in a good condition. Free of damage, they’re very supportive, even if the emphasis was clearly on weight-saving and lateral support rather than comfort and a wide range of adjustability.

While their coverings are in good shape, some of the details are a little jaded, so we can see that the new owner might like to freshen them up as and when money and motivation collide.

It’s the same story with the dashboard, carpets, door cards, and minor controls; you could live with them all but you will inevitably find yourself refurbishing them as the months and years roll by.

A new Blaupunkt radio has been fitted, and it plays through door-mounted Panasonic speakers. The electric aerial works, rising and falling promptly.

Oh, and there’s a concealed switch that acts as a crude but effective anti-theft measure. So, if you’re the winning bidder, please remind us to explain where it is!

The boot is scruffy but solid. There’s a spare wheel in there, plus a jack. A Facet fuel pump too, which should bode well for future reliability.


The owner had his mechanic go through the Elan, a job that took him a couple of years. The recommissioning involved the brakes, which are now nicely fettled bar a sticky handbrake. The carburettor was cleaned too, and he got the engine running sweetly. The electrics were checked too, which helps explain why the wipers, brake lights, and indicators all work as they should. The headlamps pop up and down but they do need bulbs fitting, as do the side and rear lights.

As you’d expect, it needs a little choke to get it started but once it’s running it does so with characteristic Lotus vim; as you can see and hear in the video, it’s a typically willing TwinCam engine and feels and sounds as strong as any we’ve come across. The owner fitted an electric fan too, complete with a manual switch to get it running at the driver’s whim.

The engine bay could do with being tidied up and then cleaned and detailed to suit the owner’s personal preferences.

There is some overspray to a few of the oily bits underneath. This shouldn’t be the end of the world as you’re probably going to pull the subframes off and strip them down to check it all anyway but we wanted to be open and honest about the work you will face if overspray bothers you.

The rest of the underside is scruffy but solid other than for some damage to the floorpan in the vicinity of the driver’s seat. This could be easily repaired, and the follow-up wire brushing and undersealing would be a rewarding job, even if you are going to get filthy doing it. Still, no pain, no gain, eh?

History Highlights

The Elan doesn’t have a current MOT certificate, and while it is exempt by virtue of its age, we would strongly encourage the new owner to have the car re-MOT’d at the earliest. The cost of an MOT is a small investment when offset against the purchase and upkeep of any classic car, and it gives an independent, third-party assessment of the car’s condition, which not only provides reassurance to the owner (and any subsequent purchasers) but might also be invaluable in the event of a bump when negotiating with the police and any interested insurance companies…

Paperwork is restricted to the car’s Irish registration document, so potential bidders will have to set their budget according to its current condition rather than being able to rely on a thick wad of paperwork to help guide them.

The car will also need re-registering in the UK, and the number plate ‘DGB 999C’ you see it wearing in the photos is the original UK number it was issued with when it was first put on the road in 1965.

If you’d like to inspect the car prior to placing a bid – something we would encourage – then please use the Contact Seller button to arrange an appointment.

What We Think

If you want a decently quick, fine handling convertible sports car then the Mazda MX-5, of whatever vintage, would do a very fine job for you. They’re cheap and reliable too, and we love ‘em.

But, there’s no denying that they are a pastiche, and if you enjoy driving - really enjoy driving – then you won’t be satisfied with imitators. You want the real thing.

And this is it. Powered by the famed 1588cc Lotus TwinCam engine, this delightful little Elan S2 needs a sympathetic hand to help it fulfill its considerable potential but it is mechanically robust and running well, which means the work it needs is largely cosmetic.

As for value, there’s no escaping the fact that it is going to cost you more than a MKI Mazda MX-5. Much more. But then the true cost of a car can only be calculated after you’ve sold it on, so while we think you will have to find somewhere between £24,000 and £29,000 to make it yours, who knows how much it’s going to be worth after you’ve finished it?

Viewing is always encouraged, and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.

If needed, please remember we have a network of trusted suppliers we work with regularly and can recommend: Classic & Sportscar Finance for purchase-financing, Footman James for classic car insurance, Classic Concierge for storing your car plus we have a list of contacts who can help with transport and shipping.  

BORING, but IMPORTANT: Please note that whilst we at The Market always aim to offer the most descriptive and transparent auction listings available, we cannot claim they are perfect analyses of any of the vehicles for sale. We offer far greater opportunity for bidders to view, or arrange inspections for each vehicle thoroughly prior to bidding than traditional auctions, and we never stop encouraging bidders to take advantage of this. We do take a good look at the vehicles delivered to our premises for sale, but this only results in our unbiased personal observations, not those of a qualified inspector or other professional, or the result of a long test drive.

Also, localised paint repairs are common with collectable and classic cars and if they have been professionally carried out then they may be impossible to detect, even if we see the car in person. So, unless we state otherwise, please assume that any vehicle could have had remedial bodywork at some point in its life.

Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.

Please note that this is sold as seen and that, as is normal for used goods bought at auction, return policy does not apply. See our FAQs for more info, and feel free to inspect any vehicle as much as you wish.

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vincent mcdonagh

  • Location: Abingdon, Oxfordshire
  • Odometer Reading: 80,000
  • Chassis Number: 264115
  • Engine: 1600
  • Gearbox: Manual
  • Colour: Green
  • Interior: Black

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