by Matthew Vale, reviewed by Roger Abbott | Lotus Drivers Club
Matthew Vale has been writing books on classic British motorcycles and cars since 2004. Now retired from day to day work in the IT industry, he now devotes his free time to classic car and bike restoration, writing classic motoring books and articles, and spending time with his family. With a lifelong fascination for glass fibre bodied cars (stemming from early holiday jobs at various glass fibre factories), and ownership of many rusty cars, he is currently carrying out a nut and bolt (and glass fibre) restoration of a Lotus Elan Plus 2, while enjoying driving another Plus 2.
The Elan and +2 were the cars that made Lotus and Colin Chapman a success. They superseded the innovative Elite as Lotus’s road car, whilst the 7 continued mainly as a stripped-out racer. Matthew Vale’s book describes the introduction of the affordable (relative to the Elite) Elan in 1962, which Lotus were able to sell at a profit. This was followed by the 2+2 version in 1967.
For those of us that have a passion for Lotus cars, there is never enough good reading material about them. Much has been written about the Elan since its introduction, but there is an insatiable desire for enthusiasts to want more. Matthew Vale’s “Lotus Elan and +2” was first published in December 2020 by Veloce Publishing. The book’s cover subtitle announces “A comprehensive purchasing, maintenance, and restoration guide“ and I believe that it meets those criteria.
The first chapter introduces us to the Elan, with reference to its importance to Lotus’s financial security after having several years of insecurity producing the (wonderful) Elite and the basic 7. It charts the development of the S1 through to the Sprint, followed with the introduction of the +2, with detail description of chassis, suspension, exterior and interior changes. There is a separate section in the chapter devoted to the twin-cam engine. This introduction to the Elan and +2 is followed by an Chapter 2’s Originality Guide.
Chapter 2 has 42 pages devoted to describing and illustrating the development of the Elan and +2. There are numerous tables and photographs to aid the explanation of engineering details as the two vehicles developed. These include identification codes, part numbers and colour codes. Once again there is an additional section containing further information about the twin-cam engine.
The exterior paint code chart (Photo) illustrates the type of detail to be found. The chapter includes two case studies as a means of illustrating the information available.
The book follows with an Owner’s Guide (Chapter 3), giving an insight, with plenty of illustrations, to running the Elan and +2 with their regular vehicle checks and service schedules. It doesn’t shy away from listing some of the design issues and associated problems. What follows is Chapter 4’s 42 pages of Restoration Guide to assist those intent on a more involved relationship with their car. From glass fibre to chassis and suspension, to drivetrain and electrics, all aspects of the vehicle are discussed to assist the dedicated, enthusiastic Elan owner with keeping their car roadworthy. Chapter 5 explains the varied Modifications that the owner might wish to bestow on his or her treasured vehicle. Originality of a classic vehicle is the goal of many owners, but “upgradeitis” is something many of us are drawn to. Many of the topics discussed in the chapter are modifications designed to help resolve some of the deficiencies in the car’s original design and manufacture. Others are details of potential improvements or changes to the car’s drivability.
Finally, in Chapter 6, is a comprehensive Other Sources and Bibliography section for the reader to glean further information from many other publications and articles about the Lotus Elan and +2 released over the years. One of the sources mentioned in this section is our very own Lotus Drivers Club. We are all aware of the many benefits that can be gained from club membership through meeting fellow members and access to on-line forums. Indeed, the Lotus Drivers Club in its private members platform a section for the Elan.
I enjoyed reading this book and felt that it gave a thorough insight into the purchase, ownership and subsequent servicing and ownership issues with the Elan and +2. The book certainly revived fond memories of my time with an Elan+2 and I wouldn’t dismiss ownership of another in the future. The book was presented in a very accessible way with clear prose, diagrams and photographs, illustrated by reference to several owners’ cars. A hardback book retailing at £45 is probably viewed as more coffee table than oily fingerprints in the garage, but I believe it to be a welcome addition the Elan and/or +2 owner’s library.
First published in Chicane – Lotus Drivers Club UK