12 Dec 2016

Lotus-lost and found.

Back in April 2015 I wrote a story for the blog titled The Lotus Position. Here is an extract;
Over the weekend I came across this photo I took of a Lotus Elan being worked on in the paddock at the Phillip Island historic races a few years ago and it reminded me of a friend who had a Lotus Elan Coupe given to him by his parents as a 21st birthday present in 1968. Yes really.It came in kit form on a trailer and he and his father assembled it. I lost contact with the friend a year or so later and I did not make contact again for 20 years and when we met for dinner I enquired what happened to that beautiful Elan. He said that it was in his parent's garage where it had been for the past 18 years. He then went on to explain that the car was so troublesome that after driving it for two painful years one day it stopped on a roundabout at Aylesbury when the gearbox broke so he had it towed to his parent's house and it was put in the very small garage and the doors were shut and he had not looked at it since ! He assured me that was a true story. I subsequently lost contact with him again and I cannot find him now so I will never know what finally happened to that Elan. A future barn find maybe.

Well about two weeks ago the friend, Arthur, found me and he gave me an update on the Lotus in the garage. I will let him tell his own story.

"I was surfing the ‘net for some information for a monthly column I (still) write for a motoring magazine when, quite by chance, I came across ‘The Rolling Road’. This looked so interesting and was so well written with superb pictures that I lingered awhile (anything rather than the task at hand, especially one involved in generating copy) and, blow me, I soon realised that it was the mouthpiece of my old friend from Reading University days.
As a Lotus aficionado, I looked at the Lotus entries and two in particular triggered the realisation that it was you.
The first was the picture (posted on 17/10/15) of Jo Siffert winning the 1968 British Grand Prix. I remember we were on South Bank Bend for that meeting and I must have been within feet of you when you activated the shutter.
The second was the ‘Lotus Position’ item which you posted on 7/4/15 when you mentioned a friend who owned an Elan Coupe and was so exasperated by its lack of reliability that it was banished to a garage. I’m assuming this friend was me. You got most of the details right, although the car was NOT given to me by my parents as a 21st birthday present. It came into my possession in 1972 after four years’ hard graft at GKN.
I remember well the lunch we had after about 20 years of lost contact. We met at a delightful pub quite near Oxford and we had a bottle of Australian white wine, having rejected a French alternative due to the French having recently detonated an H-bomb in the South Pacific.
Contrary to your speculation, the car will not resurface as a barn find, but is now up and running again with just over 30,000 miles on the clock. Around 2004 I thought it would be good to give it another chance, so I took it to Paul Matty – an independent Lotus specialist based in Bromsgrove. After about a year of on-and-off work it arrived back in pristine condition and has gone well (mostly) ever since. In fact it has become rather famous, if I say so myself. It has featured in the Regent Street Motor Show and Salon Prive at Blenheim Palace, and has made three appearances at the Concours of Elegance at Windsor Castle, Hampton Court and Marlborough House in London. Also it was on display for a week in the RAC’s Pall Mall Clubhouse in October 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Elan’s launch at the 1962 Earls Court Motor Show.

On happier matters, just as you are (sensibly) a Porsche aficionado, I am a Lotus fanatic – despite the earlier angst with the Elan. I bought Lotus shares when it was a public company and used to go to the AGMs which alternated between Hethel and London. On one occasion I has a chat with Chapman – at the Lotus AGM in London, shortly after Emerson had cooked his clutch on the startline of the non-championship F1 race which was held at Silverstone in April. We discussed his chances of winning the world championship for the second successive year in 1973. I well remember going with you to Crystal Palace and Brands Hatch to various meetings, including the 1968 British Grand Prix.

Like you I have tired of F1, but enjoy historic motor racing. I have been a member of the Goodwood Road Racing Club since it started about 15 or so years ago and go to the Members’ Meeting and, of course, the Revival. Also like you I read Motor Sport, along with Evo and the glossy classic car mags.

In addition to the Elan I have an Elise which I bought from Paul Matty about six years ago on the basis that if I didn’t get one soon I wouldn’t be able to get in and out of it. And just over a year ago I bought an Elan +2S/130. This is a car that I have always drooled over and I thought ‘if not now, when?’ My classic collection is completed with a Capri which was my father’s last car and has great sentimental value."

So a very unexpected postscript to the lost Lotus story. Many thanks Arthur for contacting me and my apologies for getting the rather important detail of how you acquired the car so wrong.
To cap it off above and below are photos Arthur sent of the car as it is now. It  looks superb and Arthur's email has reminded me that I must get over to the UK in 2017 to catch up with so many people face to face again. Maybe he will even let me drive the Elan.

1 comment: