This 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint FHC is a superb example of one of the all-time great driver’s cars, which retains its numbers-matching engine, as well as the original factory colour scheme. It is powered by the 1.6-litre twin-cam ‘Big Valve’ engine producing 126bhp, fed by Dell'Orto DHLA 40 carburettors, with rear-wheel drive via a four-speed all-synchromesh manual transmission. The odometer indicates 45,377 miles from new.
An original UK market right-hand drive example, the chassis number of this car confirms it was built in December 1972. There is a Certificate of Provenance from the Lotus Owners Club in the history file, which confirms that the car was sold new by Hexagon of Highgate to a Mr. Bennet. Its original factory options included a 3.55:1 differential, a heated rear window, and exterior paintwork in full Lagoon Blue Metallic. While the Sprint model had a two-tone colour scheme as standard, a single solid colour was a cost option, and was specified on this particular car.
With a kerb weight in the region of just 700kg, the Elan Sprint’s power-to-weight ratio means it still delivers an impressive turn of pace on the road, and can keep up with quite a few contemporary hot hatches. It is understood that only around 1,350 Sprints were built, which makes it as rare as modern-day icons like the Porsche 996 GT2 and Ferrari F40. The seller has owned the car for nearly two years, and has driven it sparingly in that time.
The Elan’s fibreglass shell means there is no body rust to worry about, and the shut lines on this car are superb. It has recently been treated to a thorough cosmetic refurbishment, including a seven-coat respray in the original Lagoon Blue. There are a few minor scratches present on the gold bumpers, but the car presents beautifully.
All of the light lenses are the correct items, and remain in good order, with just a few hairline cracks in the tail lamp casings. The pop-up headlights work perfectly. There is some light pitting in the chrome around the rear lights, but the rest of the brightwork appears to be in great shape.
The car rides on a set of 13-inch RO-UK steel wheels, with black painted centres and polished metal outer rings. The wheels are in very good condition, with only a few small paint chips around the rims. They are capped off by three-eared knock-off hubs. Overall, this Elan looks superb, especially so when you remember that it will soon be 50 years old.
Inside, the seats and door panels are trimmed in smart black vinyl upholstery with textured panels, and the upholstery is all in excellent order. The walnut burl veneer dashboard has been renewed, and the perforated headlining presents very well. Ahead of the driver is a three-spoke steering wheel, along with an original-style wooden gear knob.
There is a suite of Smiths instrument gauges, and the dashboard features rocker switches for the lights, fan, windows, and windscreen wipers. An electric aerial is fitted, but there is no radio currently installed. All of the switchgear works perfectly, including the electric windows. At the back of the car, the boot lining is in good order, with a full-size spare wheel under the floor shod with a matching tyre to the road wheels.
The twin-cam engine under the bonnet is number N28657, which is the numbers-matching motor for this particular car. Following eight years in storage, it has recently gone through a comprehensive mechanical recommissioning, with a full engine oil service, a fresh set of spark plugs, oil and air filters, and new brake discs and pads all round. Any worn or damaged items were also renewed, including the front and rear windows, and the rubber ‘doughnut’ drive shaft couplings. Service manuals used during the re-commissioning will be included in the sale.
While the car is exempt from annual MOT testing on the basis of its age, it was put through a test on 19 March 2020 at 45,377 miles, which resulted in a clean pass with no advisories whatsoever. The wheels are fitted with a set of Goodyear GT2 tyres in size 155/80 R13, which are all in great condition with around 6-8mm of tread remaining.
Driving an early example in July 1971, Motor Sport magazine’s Andrew Marriott said that the Elan Sprint was: “the nearest thing to a single-seater racing car one is likely to be able to drive comfortably on the road. To master the car and explore its tremendous handling potential along that delightfully twisty piece of road one knows so well is close on perfection for the sporting motorist.”
Another well-known fan of the model is the designer of the McLaren F1 road car, Gordon Murray. There are two Elans in his personal collection, and he famously said that it was the classic car he most admired, calling it “the ultimate, better than the F1”.
This Lotus Elan Sprint is a highly original car in a rare factory colour scheme, and which is presented in superb mechanical and cosmetic condition. For anyone who has driven one, it goes without saying that this car is remarkably good to drive. For anyone who hasn’t, now is your chance!