Convertible Classic: Lotus Elan

Lotus ElanYou might think there was no possible way to link the Black & Decker Workmate with the Lotus Elan. One is an ugly but practical workbench; the other is a classic sports car with speed and thrills, not dull functionality, at its heart.

They are connected though, and what joins them together is that one man, Ron Hickman, designed them both.

The discovery of that fact came as quite a surprise. It's a little like someone telling you that, right after he finished the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci's next project was painting his neighbour's shed.

The Elan - which takes its name from a French word meaning flair or vigour - began life in 1962, as the technologically-superior and more-efficient-to-build sibling to the Lotus Elite. 

It was astoundingly light, but despite it's featherweight ranking, it drove like it was glued to the road, and roared round corners like little else on the road.  What else would you expect from the Norfolk’s famous Lotus formula one team?

It was, at the time of production, laden with cutting-edge tech, from a DOHC 1557 cc engine and 4-wheel disc brakes, to rack and pinion steering, and 4-wheel independent suspension. 

A host of famous faces of have driven it - Formula 1 world champion Jim Clark, actor Peter Sellers, super model Brigitte Bardot and Emma Peel in the original series of 'The Avengers’. 

But cars like the Elan are about so much more than stats and measurements and stories. To really understand their appeal, you have to get behind the wheel of one.

So we did. We took one - sadly not our own, not yet anyway - out around the streets of Bath, on a recent trip out west. 

For one thing, the engine spits and growls so beautifully, you'd think a group of sound engineers had spent hours designing the most pitch-perfect engine sound imaginable.

It turns out that every plaudit the Elan ever received for its legendary handling around corners is thoroughly deserved too. We roared through country roads around Wiltshire with an ease that was astounding.

And aesthetically-speaking, the Elan remains a complete and utter head-turner. In fact, the only negative of being behind the wheel was that we weren't able to watch as the smooth lines and classic styling of the Elan zipping about the West Country.

There are more famous cars, more expensive cars, more popular cars even: but the Elan is a fun and memorable drive. If you can get your hands on one - temporarily or better yet, permanently - we would highly recommend it. 

Just be sure to give us a call and invite us over for a test drive or two. If you find yourself in possession of Ron Hickman's other great design piece, however, there is no need to call.