1962 Lotus Elite

Consider the time, 1957. Colin Chapman's Lotus cars are already a factor in small displacement sports-racing and formula cars. Chapman decides to apply their basic structure to a world-beating GT car, the Lotus Elite. Typically Lotus, Chapman doesn't follow convention. Instead, he designs the first all-fiberglass monocoque two-seat coupe, a concise, sensually beautiful, aerodynamic confection penned by Peter Kirwan-Taylor (an accountant, no less) and vetted by coachwork genius Frank Costin. It's not only pretty, it's also efficient, with a nearly impossible drag coefficient of 0.29 and stability in crosswinds and cornering that defied accepted standards. Power came from Chapman's favorite Coventry Climax fire pump engine, specially tailored to the Elite's needs and called the FWE, "Feather Weight Elite". The only other fiberglass sports car of significance, Chevrolet's Corvette, had a separate body and frame (the latter borrowed from a 1953 production sedan.) Chapman's Elite had 4-wheel independent suspension, weighed close to nothing, was so svelte a lighted match didn't blow out at speed when the windows were removed (they didn't roll down to save weight and give drivers more elbow room) and had 4-wheel disc brakes. The Lotus Elite was, and still is, one of the seminal designs in the automobile's history, something so different, advanced, innovative and visionary that its importance is undeniable. Something like half the Elites built still survive, but few if any of them are as beautifully restored, preserved and maintained as this. Finished in Sixties Orange with Black leather interior and Grey carpets, it has painted wire wheels, Pirelli tires and three binders full of shop manuals, parts books and other reference material. Everything about it is fresh, sharp, crisp and spectacular. Elites won their class at Le Mans six consecutive times. They are driver's cars of the highest order, in performance and importance on a par with Ferrari SWB Berlinettas, Gullwings and Carreras.

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