1960 Lotus Elite Coupe

Colin Chapman’s Lotus was less than a decade old when, at the 1957 London Motor Show at Earls Court, it unveiled one of the most innovative road-going sports cars the world had seen. The light, compact, and beautiful Type 14 Elite was Lotus’ first purpose-built production GT car and, more significantly, the world’s first with fiberglass monocoque construction. Fiberglass cars were certainly not new, with the Chevy Corvette and Kaiser Darrin having been in production for several years and countless garage-built specials and kits running about with fiberglass bodies. But those all utilized a separate steel ladder chassis, while the Lotus Elite incorporated bonded sub-frames and integrated suspension pickup points, negating the need for a heavy steel frame. As with any Chapman-era Lotus, lightness is elemental to the design. Chapman mandated the car be suitable for the new sub-1300 cc GT class at Le Mans and would share its front and rear suspension components with the Mk 12 Formula 2 car and utilize the proven, powerful, and light Coventry Climax FWA 1100 cc engine.

In typical Chapman fashion, he fervently studied the properties and variations of fiberglass technology, building several scale models to test his radical theories before committing to putting the Elite on the road. Lotus developed the car in strict secrecy alongside a handful of company insiders, including aerodynamicist Frank Costin and accountant/moonlighting car designer Peter Kirwan-Taylor. Chapman poached three design engineers from Ford to scale up his model, design the interior components, develop the moulds, and make the car production-ready.

When Ian Walker piloted his pre-production Elite to a debut win in an Autosport-sponsored 1600 GT class race at Silverstone, he demonstrated the greatness to come. Proving that wasn’t a one-off, Ian Walker repeated his feat at Mallory Park the very next day, showing how well the light and nimble Elite punched well above its weight. Over the course of production, the Type 14 Elite won its class at Le Mans a remarkable six times, took two Index of Performance victories, and racked up countless individual wins in local and national championships around the world. Despite some production issues related to the newness of fiberglass technology and an insufficient dealer network in the critical US market, the Elite has earned its place among sports car greats, and fine examples are cherished by those enthusiasts ‘in the know.’

This 1960 Elite S2 is a beautiful example of Lotus’ groundbreaking sports car, which spent many years in the care of one passionate enthusiast, Dennis Ortenburger. In 1960, when still just a teenager, Mr. Ortenburger fell in love with the Elite after seeing one parked on Ventura Boulevard in Burbank, California. He vowed to have one someday, and that day finally came in 1966 when he purchased this car, chassis number 146 – an early S2 model – that had been on the road for just four years. Production records show that the factory shipped this car to Jay Chamberlain’s California Lotus distributorship in 1960, and at that time, Lotus struggled with a weak dealer network and warranty claims due to poor finishing of the fiberglass body. Because of that, 1461 was not sold until 1962, when acquired by Jerry Golden.

With his dream realized, Ortenburger became one of the most vocal champions of the Elite, dispelling myths about the model via his definitive book Lotus Elite: Racing Car for the Road. He lovingly tended to chassis 1461 for 47 years, when it was acquired by the most recent owner in 2013. In the new owner’s care, they handed the Lotus to a marque specialist for restoration and preparation for tours and rallies. At that time, it was updated with a larger, more powerful 1,500-cc Climax FWB engine, capable of more than 120hp and 7,000 revs.

Finished in white with a Lotus green stripe and updated with chrome wire wheels, the Elite certainly lives into its racer-for-the-road spirit. The quality of the paint is excellent, with a few minor finish imperfections visible on close inspection, and the panel fit is consistent with the Elite’s fiberglass construction. The interior is trimmed in rich, bright red leather, which is in excellent condition. Once aboard, the cockpit is cozy yet surprisingly accommodating even for taller drivers, and the thin-rimmed leather-wrapped steering wheel feels ideally placed. Smiths instruments and Lucas switchgear are all easily visible in the driver-focused cockpit. This car has sensible safety upgrades, including a well-integrated rollbar and competition-style four-point harnesses.

In current ownership, 1461 has been well maintained and enjoyed to the fullest on rallies and events, including the 2015 South West Passage Rally - a 1,400-mile trek through New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. It has been recently serviced by a specialist and is ready for continued driving enjoyment on a host of prestigious events.

Sublime good looks, advanced aerodynamics, revolutionary construction, and prestigious motorsport success make the Lotus Elite a genuine Racing Car for the Road.

 

Offers welcome and trades considered 

 

$109,500

Stock number 7360

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