Following in the wheel tracks of the radical Elite, Lotus’ equally brilliant Elan proved to be Colin Chapman’s most successful venture to date. The Elite made headlines with its highly advanced fiberglass semi-monocoque body with a steel backbone chassis that gave it superb handling in a featherweight package. While the Elite was highly regarded for its deft handling and brisk performance, it suffered from quality control issues and a high price, which hampered sales. The Elan addressed many of the Elite’s quality issues, and the costs were kept low by replacing the costly Climax engine with a Ford-based four-cylinder topped by a twin-cam head. Lotus retained the rigid and light backbone chassis to ensure precise, balanced handling. The Lotus Elan proved to be a massive success, and Lotus production was booming throughout the 1960s and into the 70s. Very early into the Elan’s development, Colin Chapman ordered the addition of a “family man’s Lotus” to the lineup, returning nearly the same performance as the Elan but with more luxury, sophistication, and a bit of extra space for children or luggage. Chapman asked for a car with “the front of an Elan and the rear of an Elite,” so designers stretched the Elan’s chassis and revised the styling to better suit the longer wheelbase. The result was the Elan +2, introduced in 1967.
Despite the brief for a more luxurious Elan, the +2 continued with Lotus ethos of “simplify, add lightness,” and even with the additional 7 ½ inches of length added to the chassis, the bigger car exhibited superior stability in cornering and at speed. Throughout production, the +2 was continually fettled by the factory, with the renamed Plus 2S arriving in March of 1969 with larger carbs and a host of other refinements. The plucky little Lotus was a direct competitor with the Porsche 911, the Jaguar E-Type 2+2, and the newcomer Datsun 240Z. Despite its comparatively tiny displacement and horsepower deficit, the Elan came in at just 1,975 pounds – that’s nearly 400 pounds lighter than a 911E and a whopping 1,300 pounds shy of an E-type 2+2! The Elan shines when the road gets bendy, proving that horsepower isn’t everything for a truly great driver’s car.
Finished in a period appropriate shade of Jaguar willow green over a freshly restored blue leather cabin, this 1969 Elan +2 is an appealing and usable example of Colin Chapman’s remarkably capable Grand Tourer. It is the subject of a good quality cosmetic restoration, exhibiting attractive paintwork, excellent chrome, and factory-appropriate panel fit of the fiberglass body. On close inspection, some minor paint imperfections are visible, yet the car has a consistent overall finish quality. The clean and uncluttered exterior is finished with a set of period-correct Minilite center-lock alloy wheels fitted with appropriately vintage-looking Vredestein tires.
Under most recent ownership, the four-seat cabin was fully restored using distinctive “cornflower blue” leather upholstery with matching carpet and a custom Alcantara headliner. The trim is beautifully finished, with supple, high-quality materials and excellent detailing. In addition, the wood dash is restored with a high-gloss finish and fitted with the correct instruments and switchgear. The thin-rimmed three-spoke steering wheel is a delight to hold, transmitting the Elan’s precise, almost telepathic steering feel directly to your hands.
Despite its relatively small capacity, the Ford-based, 1,558cc Lotus Twin Cam ‘four packs a healthy punch, giving the feather-light Elan +2 impressive performance. It breathes through a pair of Weber 40 DCOE carburetors, features a tubular exhaust header, and sends power rearward via a four-speed manual gearbox.
As with most Lotus cars, detailed production records are unavailable, though experts estimated that of the approximately 5,200 +2s produced, fewer than 1,200 remain. This rare and appealing Elan +2 is a charming example of the breed, and a ready, willing partner for dancing along your favorite ribbons of tarmac.
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