The Mazda MX-5 Miata is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, but there wouldn't be a Miata without the Lotus Elan.
Jay Leno and fabricator Jim Hall set out to build the ultimate version of Lotus' quintessential sports car, and the finished product is the subject of the latest Jay Leno's Garage episode.
Jay and Jim started with an original Elan 26R body and went from there. Nearly every part of the car--right down to the oil tank and brake lines--is customized. A rapid-prototyping machines was used to mock up certain parts, like the shifter for the Quaife six-speed sequential transmission.
Since this is a Lotus, lightness was also an important consideration. The 13-inch wheels weigh a scant 7 pounds each, and Jay can lift the hood with his pinky. That yields a curb weight of just 1,358 pounds--with fuel and fluids. Colin Chapman would likely approve.
A 2.0-liter aluminum-block four-cylinder engine provides motivation, to the tune of about 220 horsepower. The look of the car, meanwhile, is modeled on an Elan that appeared on the cover of the December 1965 issue of Road & Track alongside Scottish Formula One legend Jim Clark.
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"There aren't many cars that are communicative as this," Jay says. There aren't many that as small as the Elan, either. The little roadster looks quite comical cruising in modern traffic, yet cool at the same time.
The demands of safety and refinement mean we'll probably never see a car like the Elan again, but for those who place the driving experience above all else, it will always remain a favorite.