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Thread: Lotus Elan: How Fast Really?

  1. #1
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    Lotus Elan: How Fast Really?

    I met a guy from the British Motoring Club of Arkansas who said that he races his totally stock Lotus Elan S2 in the A-Stock class at SCCA Autocross events. I drive a WRX-STi, and I'm in A-Stock.

    This guy said that he'd never been beat; said his little Elan had outgunned Porsches, Ferraris, Corvettes (of course), and most alarmingly, STis and EVOs.

    I knew that the Elan is has handling that borders on the miraculous, but I just can't imagine a car running on three-inch wide tires and pushing out about 120hp could be that quick, even around something as tight as an autocross course. His entire contact patch for 4 tires might be almost as much as that of one of my tires.

    I believe the guy, but I'd like to hear about some coraborating evidence. That's just incredible.

  2. #2
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    I'm assuming you're meaning the 60s Elan here, not the 90s FWD Elan (which is sometimes referred to as an S2 also), right?

    It doesn't seem that implausible to be honest. Autocross is mainly about a) the car's agility and nimbleness (is that a real word?) and b) driving talent. The old Elan weighed probably less than half of most of the modern day sportscars competing, so it doesn't really need big fat wheels and tyres to get good grip. They'd only increase the unsprung mass and mess with the steering response and wheel control. Plus 120bhp isn't really too shabby for a car that weighs next to nothing, and power isn't the most important factor in autocrossing.

    I don't have corroborating, but I don't think it's too far fetched to imagine a very well driven Elan keeping up with the likes of Ferraris, Porshces and Vettes through the twisties.
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  3. #3
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    Amazing. Yeah, it was the original article, not that wretched front-wheel drive thing. Hate that the Series 2 name is shared.

    Hard to imagine how we, as a species, ever thought we could improve on those great British sports cars. I didn't realize how competitive they've remained. I wouldn't have given one a chance against something like a 911 turbo.

    Of course, an autocrss is the Elan's playground. I guess it's a case of being perfectly adapted to an environment.

    I'd love to drive one. Might consider selling the Subaru for a shitty daily driver and a ratty old Elan.

  4. #4
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    Is an autocross all corners and no straights?

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSXType-R
    Is an autocross all corners and no straights?
    Usually lots of tight corners with short little straights inbetween.

    More info here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autocross
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    I love british sports cars and autocross one myself, but I have to say this guy is on crack or he's competing with losers. An Elan would do well on an auto-x course, and so does a Porsche 914, but because of the totally different driving characteristics than so many other, newer cars out there competing, the Elan just isn't going to steal the show every time. Power oversteer just isn't available to these little cars, and it can come in handy working the course. I auto-x an MGB GT. Its a hog compared to the Elan, less nimble, less powerful. I can beat Neons, Cavaliers, the occasional Celica/Supra. But it really comes down to drivers. I beat an M3 once, but I don't go around saying my car can hang with an M3 because it can't, I just beat that particular driver on that particular day, it was probably his first outing. I love the Elan and itsa great car, still pretty quick today. I say you should meet him on the track some day and have him put his money where his mouth is!

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    Well then the Milan should really hold up to modern cars then, although I doubt it would be able to hold its own against a NSX or an MR2. I guess it does come down to driver skill.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSXType-R
    Well then the Milan should really hold up to modern cars then, although I doubt it would be able to hold its own against a NSX or an MR2. I guess it does come down to driver skill.
    1) It's an Elan
    2) The NSX and MR2 aren't small cars. Personally I think the Elan Sprint could beat them on many of the autocross circuits I have seen because it is so tiny. And surprisingly, the power to weight ratio between them isn't very different. Infact the power/weight of an Elan is marginally higher than that of a Revision 4 MR2 Turbo Jap-spec. Of course, introduce a straight into the equation and the MR2 would easily be the victor.

    I've been in a large variety of Elans and a few MR2s, ranging from N/A standards to Tuned R4 Turbos and I can happily say that the Elan completley blitzes it in the corners and in low-end acceleration.
    Last edited by :Exige:; 08-17-2006 at 12:08 PM.

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    Just to ad my favourite Elan pic of all time...
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    Another thing that can't hurt is that an Elan is about five feet wide. That would have to take the kinks out of a few sections.

    The course I raced on was incredibly tight. I never got out of second gear.

    I don't know whether or not the Elan is the giant killer this guy said it is, but it is an interesting little car. The guy let me get into the driver's seat, and warned me not to put any weight on either the door, or the window frame, as both were fiberglass (even the door hinges.) Colin Chapman was a weight-saving fiend.

    Also, the car had the most precise, positive shift action of any I've ever seen. Better than a NSX or S2000. It really was just like a rifle bolt, with a throw of four or five inches between the gears.

    The guy said that power oversteer was possible, but only just, and the energy to pitch the car in under braking and brutal power "spike" needed to break the tail loose just lost time. He also said that the car was quiet and "tranquil" through the course, whereas more powerful cars usually can't get through without wheelspin or other "theatrics."

    Dude said that he "ran the competiton off" about three years ago and "killed the class."

    That's A-Stock. There's no ceiling for horsepower or weight, and any unmodified car can run. He did say that he got beaten one time by a Mini Cooper (original) running semi-track tires. (whatever the **** those might be.)

    Oh, and I wouldn't want him to replace his mouth with anything like money if I was around. My autocrossing method is to bludgeon the course to death with my STi. I can't get the car to be as nimble as I'd like, due to understeer. A set of sway bars would help, but right now I don't have the cash.
    Last edited by LandQuail; 08-17-2006 at 01:49 PM.

  11. #11
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    this is a bit off topic, but it came to my mind about the elan, if the door is fiberglass and just leaning on it can break it, what exactly woudl happen in a 60 MPH side impact?
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  12. #12
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    With the backbone chassis, and almost no other steel structure, you'd probably be a goner. But Chapman never really much cared to think about that. His Gran Prix cars were built with such a mind toward weight savings that the fuel tanks were stressed members running on either side of the driver. Sir Stirling Moss crashed one at Silverstone (I think) and it "folded in half," according to Moss.

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    Quote Originally Posted by NSXType-R
    Is an autocross all corners and no straights?
    Its also known as "Solo 2" and in Canada "Auto Slalom"

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    Quote Originally Posted by LandQuail
    With the backbone chassis, and almost no other steel structure, you'd probably be a goner. But Chapman never really much cared to think about that. His Gran Prix cars were built with such a mind toward weight savings that the fuel tanks were stressed members running on either side of the driver. Sir Stirling Moss crashed one at Silverstone (I think) and it "folded in half," according to Moss.
    Well who the hell cares about safety when you're driving a car like that?
    At that time nobody gave a damn about safety. Dan Gurney's All American Racer didn't have seatbelts because he wanted to be thrown out of the car if anything happened because it had a magnesium chassis.
    I'm dropping out to create a company that starts with motorcycles, then cars, and forty years later signs a legendary Brazilian driver who has a public and expensive feud with his French teammate.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by kingofthering
    Well who the hell cares about safety when you're driving a car like that?
    At that time nobody gave a damn about safety. Dan Gurney's All American Racer didn't have seatbelts because he wanted to be thrown out of the car if anything happened because it had a magnesium chassis.
    The old-school thinking concerning motor racing "safety" was that you'd be better off thrown out of the vehicle than going with it wherever it was headed, which was almost always into something hard.

    Of course, they did without rollover protection in those days, preferring to have thier skull crushed and/or be decapitated than have Nuvolari call them a pussy (or something.)

    Those guys in racing during the early 20th century had balls. They survived WWI, and WWII, niether of which has ever been remembered for its excess of joy. After that, the general mindset was that if those damn Germans couldn't kill them, how in the hell could one tiny car deliver their coupé-de-gras? ((sic)and it's a double pun... you didn't think of it!).

    But kill them the tiny cars did. I think that through the 50's into the 60's one driver in seven finished his gran prix season in a box. The press started calling racing a "blood sport," and there was great outcry and wailing from the public. As soon as people took a liking to a driver, he was killed. Except for Stirling Moss, who is either a Highlander or Dracula.

    In the 70's, things started changing. Safety became as important as winning, and team owners didn't want to see their star driver in pieces strewn through the branches of trackside trees. Some of the romance was gone forever, but so was some of the horror. Take your pick, I guess.

    There are still probably ways to off yourself in a F1 car today, but after driving one off the top of a tall building into a volcano, I can't think of any. Senna's death caused a re-design of most circuits so that there's nothing to hit, and chicanes everywhere keep speeds reasonable (not too many super-duper high speed corners anymore.)

    And everybody existed in a safe, cosseting world from 1970 onward.

    Except Colin Chapman, who by that time was clearly as mad as a hatter (in the best way possible.)
    An inexperienced driver will cause major damage just getting into an Elan, and the consequences of even a child on a Vespa colliding with the car in a side impact don't bear thinking about...

    Really, this is only a car in a loose sense. It's more like a shifter cart with bodywork.

    What was the question again?

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