London

8-9 September 2013

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Lot 232

1964 Lotus Elan 26R Factory Race Car

  • Chassis no. 26R/1/50

Sold for £112,000


160+ bhp, 1,558 cc DOHC four-cylinder engine with dual 40DCOE Weber carburettors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front and rear suspension with sway bars, wishbones and adjustable coil-spring dampers and Chapman struts, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 2,133 mm

  • Original, lightweight 26R; last of the Series I
  • Documented Team Lotus car; driven by Ray Parsons
  • Prototype of S2 model with numerous modifications
  • Comes with two engines, including original with BRM cylinder head
  • Includes current FIA papers; UK taxes have been paid


Lotus hit the big time in 1962 with the introduction of the Model 26 Elan; it was a tiny, lightweight road car that brought all of designer Colin Chapman’s racing lessons to the street, at last. The fibreglass, monocoque Elite Coupé of 1958 had been a successful race car, but it was harsh and uncompromising on the street. Car & Driver described the cockpit as being “as noisy as the boiler room of a tramp steamer”.



By comparison, the Elan Roadster was small and solid. It was only 12-feet long and weighed only 1,485 pounds. The steel backbone frame was bonded to the fibreglass body, the suspension was soft and compliant, and it had disc brakes all round. The 1,558-cubic centimetre Ford twin-cam engine cranked out 115 brake horsepower in Special Equipment form, and 0–60 mph came up in 7.1 seconds, with a top speed of 120 mph. The Elan’s glamour was assured when the Emma Peel character (actress Diana Rigg) drove one in The Avengers spy-spoof TV series.



Chapman wasn’t interested in racing the Elan, as he was in pursuit of his first Formula One Championship with the Lotus 25. But privateers like Ian Walker and Chequered Flag modified the Elan’s steering and brakes, and soon Chapman uprated his own cars in the same manner. The little cars turned out to be giant killers, and Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, and Sir John Whitmore were very successful racing them from 1963–1964. The Lotus Elan was homologated in 1964 as the 26R, and it continued to be competitive for about 10 years, with John Miles winning 15 races and the Autosport championship in 1966. An estimated 97 Elan 26Rs were built, and many of them still dominate vintage racing.



The car on offer is an important part of Lotus Elan history, as it is the last Series I 26R built, and it was used as a development mule for the Series II, which had wider rear wings and many period modifications. It was documented as being supplied to Lotus Developments, and it was driven by Ray Parsons from 1964–1965, with numerous photographs in existence. Gerry Morony worked for Lotus for several years at that time, and he has confirmed its history.



When the car was rebuilt in 1985, it was clear that it had been modified, as it was now fitted with a Borg-Warner gearbox, a Salisbury limited-slip differential, and even a differential oil cooler. The Elan was also fitted with a dry-sump engine, knock-off wheels, and covered headlights instead of the street car’s pop-up lights.



This competitive Elan is still registered in the UK, and it is accompanied by its original engine with the preferred BRM cylinder head, but it is currently powered by another engine with a Cosworth head, in which form it has been raced. Also included are six additional wheels, four of which are fitted with rain tyres. The present owner tested the car at Donington Park, ran the Tour Auto and the Le Mans Classic, and also raced it in the U.S., principally at the Sonoma Historic races. The Cosworth engine was recently rebuilt by Paul Hasselgren, in Berkeley, California, whilst any other necessary work has been attended to by Jim Groom.



The car has full FIA papers, and all of the appropriate taxes have been paid in the U.K. Its provenance is established, and a recent investigation has determined that Team Lotus also road-registered this car as HJH 171C. It was most likely used to promote the road car, though it must have been a startling performer to anybody that was used to a street Elan.



This Lotus Elan 26R was raced for 10 years, and some of that history remains to still be discovered. But enough news and photographs have surfaced to make this Elan a welcome addition to any starting grid for which it is qualified. As an eligible street car as well, it would also make for some hair-raising forays through the tight and twisty country roads.

Addendum

Please note that this vehicle is eligible for import into the UK at a reduced rate of 5% VAT.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

Cameron Smyth

csmyth@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Cameron Smyth joined RM Sotheby’s as a Car Specialist in 2015, working out of our corporate office and providing assistance on c... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more