Vintage R&T Review: 1972 Lotus Elan Sprint – The Best Elan Yet, And The Last One

We’ve yet to do a proper CC on the Elan, but this review by R&T goes some distance to help put the Elan in perspective. This Sprint version was the final development of the Elan, which came out in 1962, and would be gone in another year, “replaced” by the Esprit, which was quite a jump. As such, the Elan was as mature as it ever was going to be, which still meant that it was a typical Lotus. Meaning sheer brilliance but with certain frustrating aspects.

Although Emma Peel’s Elan was an earlier one, we would be remiss in not paying a brief tribute two of the more seductive shapes and personalities of the ’60s, especially since Diana Rigg passed away just last month.


The Sprint version had what became known as the Big Valve version of the 1558cc Ford-Lotus twin cam four. That boosted power to 126hp outside the US, and 113 in de-smogged form. Enough to give the Elan brisk performance for the times, especially when so many other US-certified cars were losing power precipitously. It meant that despite weighing some 200lbs more, it performed on par with the earlier versions tested by R&T.

Not only did it scoot pretty well, but the four wheel disc brakes resulted in the shortest stopping distance from 80mph that R&T had ever tested. And handling was just about equally good.

It wasn’t so much that its ultimate lateral grip was all that great; it was just so controllable, under any and all circumstances. It was this quality that the Mazda engineers were most eager to replicate in their Miata. But unlike the Miata, there were a number of compromises in the Elan, including its tight cabin. The fact that the window frames were fixed wasn’t mentioned, but they sure look a bit outdated for 1972.