The Lotus Elite name has been used for two production vehicles and one concept vehicle developed and manufactured by British automobile manufacturer Lotus Cars. The first generation Elite Type 14 was produced from 1957 to 1963 and the second generation model (Type 75 and later Type 83) from 1974 to 1982.

The Elite name was also applied to a concept vehicle unveiled in 2010.

The first generation of the Elite or Lotus Type 14 was a light weight two-seater coupé produced from 1957 to 1963.

The car debuted at the 1957 London Motor Car Show, Earls Court bearing chassis number #1008. The Elite had spent a year in development, aided by "carefully selected racing customers" before going on sale.

The Elite's most distinctive feature was its highly innovative fibreglass monocoque construction, in which a stressed-skin Glass reinforced plastic unibody replaced the previously separate chassis and body components. Unlike the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette, which used fibreglass for only exterior bodywork, the Elite used glass-reinforced plastic for the entire load-bearing structure of the car.

A steel subframe for supporting the engine and front suspension was bonded into the front of the monocoque, as was a square-section windscreen-hoop that provided mounting points for door hinges, a jacking point for lifting the car and roll-over protection components.

The first 250 body units were made by Maximar Mouldings at Pulborough, Sussex.[6] The body construction caused numerous early problems, until manufacture was handed over to Bristol Aeroplane Company.

The resultant body was lighter, stiffer, and provided better driver protection in the event of a crash. Still, a full understanding of the engineering qualities of fibreglass-reinforced plastic was still several years off and the suspension attachment points were regularly observed to pull out of the fibreglass structure.

The weight savings allowed the Elite to achieve sports car like performance from a 75 hp (56 kW) 1,216 cc (1.2 L) Coventry Climax FWE all-aluminium Inline-four engine while returning a fuel consumption of 35 mpg‑imp (8.1 L/100 km; 29 mpg‑US).

All production Elites were powered by the FWE engine, except for one that was fitted with the newly developed Lotus-Ford Twin Cam engine. The FWE engine, derived from a water pump engine usually found bolted to a fire truck,[7] was used by Lucas Electric for electrical component life testing in the presence of intense vibration.

The car had independent suspension all round with transverse wishbones at the front and Chapman struts at the rear. The rear struts were so long, that they poked up in the back and the tops could be seen through the rear window.

The Series 2 cars, with Bristol-built bodies, had triangulated trailing radius arms for improved toe-in control. Girling disc brakes, usually without servo assistance, of 9.5 in (241 mm) diameter were used, inboard at the rear. When leaving the factory the Elite was originally fitted with Pirelli Cinturato 155HR15 tyres.

Advanced aerodynamics also contributed to the car's low drag coefficient of Cd=0.29 considering the engineers did not enjoy the benefits of computer-aided design or wind tunnel testing.

The original Elite drawings were by Peter Kirwan-Taylor. Frank Costin (brother of Mike, one of the co founders of Cosworth), at that time Chief Aerodynamic Engineer for the de Havilland Aircraft Company, contributed to the final design.

The SE was introduced in 1960 as a higher-performance variant, featuring twin SU carburettors and fabricated exhaust manifold resulting in engine power output increasing to 85 hp (63 kW), ZF gearboxes in place of the standard "cheap and nasty" MG ones, Lucas PL700 headlamps, and a silver coloured roof.

The Super 95 model had a more powerful engine with raised compression ratio and a stronger camshaft with five bearings.

A limited number of Super 100 and Super 105 cars were made with Weber carburettors, for racing use.

Among the Elite's few faults was a resonant vibration at 4,000 rpm (where few drivers remained, on either street or track) and poor quality control, handicapped by an overly low price (resulting in Lotus losing money on every car produced) and, "perhaps the greatest mistake of all", offering it as a kit (with a substantial reduction in price and VAT), exactly the opposite of the ideal for a quality manufacturer.[4] Many drive-train parts were highly stressed and required re-greasing at frequent intervals.

When production ended in 1963, 1,030 cars had been built. Other sources indicate that 1,047 were produced.

A road car tested by The Motor magazine in 1960 resulted in a top speed of 111.8 mph (179.9 km/h) and a 0–60 mph (97 km/h) acceleration time of 11.4 seconds. A fuel consumption of 40.5 mpg‑imp (6.97 L/100 km; 33.7 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £1,966 including taxes.

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