Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Most Under-valued Classic"

Classic Cars Magazine article Thanks to McReis, a chap from the Ultimate Car Page where I occasionally irritate others with my opinions, for re-surfacing an old article from Classic Cars Magazine (in this thread on their forum) regarding under-valued classics. And what was number 1? Why the Lotus Elan +2 of course!

I haven't really told you much about the cars themselves yet apart from the problems! This isn't entirely fair, so I figured it's high time I extolled some of the great virtues they possess which make up the reason for us to remain in the honey trap of maintaining them. Starting with "the green one" ...

The Lotus Elan +2S 130/5 is enormous fun. It is fast, it sounds great, it handles like a dream, it looks great, it's (reasonably) economical and it's amazingly comfortable.

That's right. I said comfortable. So comfortable my girlfriend actually falls asleep in it every time we go anywhere! Believe it or not, Colin Chapman's theories on car suspension meant he didn't subscribe to the idea of racing cars being skittery surface-skaters on suspension with about as much give as an orthopaedic mattress. He believed good racing suspension was about perfect balance rather than a hard ride, and he proved it with the Elan (amongst other cars) and with the development of the famous Chapman Strut. They are actually surprisingly softly sprung.

Indeed, when climbing in to the cockpit of what is essentially a walnut-lined go-kart, passengers often expect their bones to be shattered by the first unfortunately placed pebble in the road. They visibly flinch as you hit a speed hump and then remark with surprise when it handles afforementioned hump better than their BMW 318. And then the real clincher. As you accelerate out of town, tailed by the magical boom of the exhaust note, and hurl the car in to the first corner, you realise this vehicle simply redefines the term "cornering on rails". The grip is just amazing and the confidence this entails in the driver is second to none.

It is also fair to say the 130/5 model (with the "big valve" engine and 5-speed box - early ones were all 4-speed) is perfectly at home in the modern world. It is comfortable and relaxing during a long run down the M1, with its electric windows, original radio (albeit restricting you to long wave) and comfortable seats. Yet if you discard 5th gear and thrash the (slightly clumsy) gearbox it out-performs the S1, S2 and S3 coupés in the country lanes. According to Classic Cars Magazine's monthly price guide, it has the same top speed as the Sprint coupé too, though I'm not so sure about that. Sounds dubious to me, as the +2S definitely carries more weight.

The only place I wouldn't recommend an Elan is in the city. The heavy clutch soon causes you to become rather tired of changing gear in slow-moving traffic. It's definitely a car for the open road (while we still have some!) and is much happier at 3,500 RPM than when sat idling in a queue.

Finally, I am pleased to report (though marginally disappointed as an owner) the perceived value of this particular model of Lotus remains the same. Despite all the hype from the various magazines in the classic car genre about the Lotus coupé's poorer cousin, they're still an absolute bargain! Bear this in mind next time you're poking around Autotrader thinking of replacing your classic, adding to your collection or even starting from scratch as a classic car virgin. I can tell you from personal experience that you won't go far wrong if you buy a well looked after +2S 130/5.

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