23rd Jan 2023
Friends Reunited: One Man And His Elan
by Collecting Cars
There are cars you buy with your head, and cars you buy with your heart. Among those machines where emotion takes control over a purchase, rediscovering a cherished car from your past surely ranks near the very top of the list. This is the story of a memorable auction for Collecting Cars: reuniting a classic Lotus Elan with its second owner, after more than 45 years apart.
Consigned to the marketplace in early 2021, this 1970 Lotus Elan S4 appeared to be a largely original car, featuring the correct S4 flared wheel arches, rear lights as found on the Jaguar E-Type, wider tyres, and dashboard rocker switches. Its 1.6-litre twin-cam engine was also equipped with the period-correct Stromberg carburettors.
A UK-delivered car; it was known that the original factory colour was Cirrus White, and the respray to the blue colour as auctioned was thought to have taken place in the 1990s. In 2007, this Elan was acquired by former racing driver Marcel Petitjean, whereafter it became part of his significant collection of road and race cars in France for the next 13 years. It was purchased from this collection and brought back to the UK, where it was still registered, having never been driven while in Petitjean’s ownership. The latter of course meant that some recommissioning had been needed, and it was offered for sale with further jobs still to do.
As part of the listing preparation, a member of the Collecting Cars team ran searches on the registration plate, and was very surprised at what they found. Yielding a result was not uncommon, but the single entry on Google was a forum post from 2010, from the second owner of the car, who was trying to hunt the car down so they could buy it back.
While it had been more than 10 years since the post was made, our team managed to find a way to message the user, alerting them to the forthcoming auction of their previously cherished sports car.
We were delighted when, within 24 hours of the message being sent, a reply came back via WhatsApp: “That is my old Lotus Elan that you have spotted”. The previous owner in question turned out to be classic car collector and racing driver, David Porter, who now resided in the US.
A veteran of 1980s Formula Ford and Formula 3, and of the SCCA during the 1990s; in more recent years David had notched up multiple championship wins in modern endurance racing and Historic Indy Lights. Racing in the 2011 Sebring-winning Peugeot 908 HDI FAP LMP1 car for the HSR and Masters Endurance Legends series, he had claimed further victories, not to mention the outright lap record for the Watkins Glen Short Course.
Furthermore, David had carried out a total restoration of a Lotus Elan S4 Sprint DHC in recent years, producing a near-perfect example that had claimed multiple concours wins. There could hardly be a more well-suited prospective buyer for our seller’s Lotus Elan S4 FHC.
As our team talked about the auction with David, he explained that he was the second owner of the car back in 1973, and that it was only due to financial burdens at the time that it needed to be sold on in 1974. He had regretted it ever since, and having received no earlier response to the 2010 forum post, had resigned himself to never seeing the car again.
Sensibly, David wanted to arrange for an inspection of the car during the auction, but unfortunately his go-to Lotus specialist was still under Covid lockdown restrictions. Fortunately, he found another contact who could inspect the car. They conferred their view that it did appear very original, and that the indicated low mileage was probably correct.
In the end, after what David describes as “some very spirited bidding”, the car sold with a hammer price of £20,500. In David’s own words: “I paid far too much, but who cares! I was hoping for £17k, which is what it is worth, but you can’t put a price on getting revenge for having to sell it for financial reasons in 1974!”
The auction was in February 2021, and by April, the car had landed in Florida, and David set about taking a closer look at its condition. While the car remained on its original chassis, unfortunately this was in a worse state than anticipated, so the decision was made to install a replacement frame. In line with his plan to buy back ‘his Elan’ as driven in 1973, a total restoration back to its factory appearance was to take place.
His decision proved judicious as, like many classic cars, there were some unexpected gremlins that the complete restoration would rectify, even though they would prolong the work. The body was stripped and repainted in the original Cirrus White; the engine and gearbox were rebuilt, along with the driveline and suspension; and the cabin was re-trimmed with the dashboard refurbished.
Less than a year later, the restoration was completed, and the Lotus Elan that emerged from David’s workshop was a perfect match for the photo he had kept from 1973 showing him (aged 21) perched on the front wing of his pride and joy. After some shakedown drives, there was some final tinkering of exterior trim and tuning of the Stromberg carburettors to get the idle and throttle response just right.
“It is an emotional experience indeed,” says David. “It doesn't seem as fast as it did in 1973, but that’s not really surprising as any family saloon is faster than an Elan these days”. Shortly after the restoration was completed, the car made its show debut at Lakewood Ranch Florida.
After more than 45 years apart, this charming Lotus Elan S4 FHC is now back with its second owner, and has been completely returned to its original specification – and almost certainly running better than ever.
This wonderful story reflects both the emotional connection that true enthusiasts often have with their cars, as well as the global nature of the car collecting hobby. Originally delivered to the UK, but more recently having spent some 13 years static in France, this classic British sports car is now living its best life on the other side of the Atlantic, no doubt being enjoyed with true ‘élan’ from which it got its name.