London

8-9 September 2013

Lot 232

1964 Lotus Elan 26R Factory Race Car

  • Chassis no. 26R/1/50

Sold for £112,000

To be auctioned on Monday, September 9, 2013


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.

Alain Squindo


Detroit, Michigan

Alain Squindo joined RM Sotheby's in 2007, after graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a degree in Histo... read more

Alex Classick

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United Kingdom

Alex Classick joined RM Europe in 2011 as a car specialist, after graduating from Nottingham University with a degree in Business Mana... read more

Alexander Weaver

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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

Annette Abaci

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Germany

With post-secondary degrees in Economic Science and Mechanical Engineering, Annette Abaci initially worked part-time at Mercedes-Benz ... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a senior car specialist, after more than a decade in the collector car hobby... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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California, United States

Barney Ruprecht graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a degree in Hospitality Administration. In ... read more

Dan Warrener

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Ontario, Canada

Possessing a degree in Economics from Brandon University, Dan Warrener spent the initial stages of his career working around the globe... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a car specialist in May 2015. He is a lifelong automobile enthusiast and g... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don Rose joined RM Auctions in 2006, after many years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputatio... read more

Donnie Gould

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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

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Ontario, Canada

Gord joined RM Sotheby's in 1998, initially responsible for the transportation and logistics of the company’s auction and re... read more

Ian Kelleher

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New York, United States

Ian Kelleher began his automotive career immediately following his graduation from Oberlin College, with a B.A. in Politica... read more

Jack Boxstrom

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Ontario, Canada

Jack Boxstrom joined RM Sotheby's in late-1996 to assist with the recently acquired, and subsequently record-breaking, auction in ... read more

Jonathan Sierakowski

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Jonathan Sierakowski developed a passion for classic cars while working at a restoration shop as a teenag... read more

Max Girardo

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United Kingdom

Max Girardo started his career in the vintage automobile industry in 1998, joining Brooks Auctioneers (now Bonhams) as a car specialis... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby's, Mike Fairbairn has a longstanding interest in the classic car industry. Gra... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

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

Peter Wallman

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United Kingdom

Peter Wallman joined RM Europe in 2007, following nearly two decades in the international advertising industry, read more

Rob Myers

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As chairman and founder of the RM Group of Companies, Rob Myers’s entire career has been devoted to the classic car industry. Ro... read more

Shelby Myers

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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