Lotus “Elanbulance” – the Elan estate
'Elan' isn't the first name you'd think of for a practical estate car...
The words ‘Lotus’ and ‘estate’ don’t really have any business being together in a headline.
Lotus’s famous recipe of ‘simplify and add lightness’ doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of an estate body which encapsulates my own personal dietary motto of ‘complicate and add weight’.
Nevertheless, it really did happen – the Lotus Elan estate was a real car that came about in 1972 based on the S4 Elan. The original Elan was one of those cars that petrolheads and driving enthusiasts just dream of owning. Famed for its remarkable driving characteristics, it punched well above its weight on road and track, being just as successful as taking chequered flags as it was winning over drivers wanting something fun for the weekend.
It’s a Lotus, so you’re expecting it to be light, sure. However, when somebody tells you an original Lotus Elan weighed in at under 700kg, you feel your jaw suffering the effects of gravity quite rapidly. Of course, the engine isn’t all that powerful – a little 1.6-litre Ford unit that just about gets its head over 100bhp, but when your car weighs the same as an origami swan, who needs horsepower?
The remarkably tiny Elan did handling than just about any other car of the time. Some people insist that the Elan is still one of the most perfectly handling cars of all time, one of which is Gordon Murray. Murray designed the McLaren F1, but wasn’t 100% happy with it because he couldn’t get it to steer like the original Elan. That alone should tell you about how highly regarded the Elan is, so why on Earth would anybody want to put an estate body onto a car that’s already so well sorted?
Well, that was an idea born into the world by Hexagon Garages of Highgate. Hexagon presumably thought that customers would like a little more practicality with their Elan, and so the plan was to produce what was dubbed as the “Elanbulance” to show off a potential option on customers buying a new Elan. The option of the estate body would have cost an extra £595 on top of the £1895 price of a new Elan, and two of these “Elanbulance” prototypes were built to show the idea off. One was even sent to Autosport to review back in 1972.
Interest never really grew in the prototype Elans, and the expected market for people who wanted practicality with their Lotus just never appeared. As a result, the entire programme was scrapped and that meant that the only two Elanbulances ever to be produced are about as rare as a car can get. There’s just 2 of them in the world, one of which was put up for sale in 2013 for £51,000.
Due to the rarity and unique back-story to these cars, that might well be the only time we ever see one up for sale.
Perhaps with a little encouragement we might be able to persuade Lotus to do an Elise Concept though…
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