Vintage R&T Road Test: 1967 Lotus Elan S/E – “We’ve Never Driven A Car That Is More Sheer Fun To Drive”

Let’s take a look at a review of Mrs. Peel’s ride in the Avengers, a Lotus Elan, the S/E edition in this case.

R&T notes that “The basic design of the Elan is now five years old…and it still is one of the most advanced cars of our time…the Elan does almost everything most of the world’s car builders cannot quite do yet.” Yes, it was a brilliant design, with its ultra-stiff backbone frame that allowed its four wheel independent suspension to work at its maximum potential. It was the closest thing to a Formula 2 race car from a few years back, but with nice accommodations, a good ride, and it even runs rather quietly.

The S/E version got a bump to 115 hp form its Cosworth DOHC head Ford 116E 1558 cc four. It also got stiffer rear shocks, a numerically lower final drive ratio, power brakes, knock off alloy wheels, radial tries and a few other minor goodies. It was essentially the definitive Elan.

The rear suspension is an adaptation of the MacPherson strut, now called the Chapman Strut. No anti-roll bars, front or rear. “Chapman’s race-car philosophy—soft springing, good damping and precise geometry—prevails to combine a remarkable ride with equally remarkable roadholding”

This was a total repudiation of the traditional British approach to sports car design, as typified by MG, Triumph and Austin-Healey, with their flexible frames, stiff springs, not-very-precise geometry and lever shocks. And this applied to Detroit too, whose approach to making their cars handle better was with stiff springs and wide tires, which worked reasonably well on a skid pad or race track, but fell apart on rougher roads. Chapman’s approach was the template for all suspension design to come, although one should note that this had generally been employed by Porsche from day one; Chapman just took the principle to the next level.


The remarkable good ride of the Elan “lends further credence to the growing belief among the R&T staff that car weight has little to do with ride, provided the designers are given enough latitude with the suspension”. Don’t tell Detroit that…

The interior was praised for being “simple, beautiful, and well detailed”; walnut had replaced the teak on the previous version for the dash. “The best way to describe the appearance is that it makes most American cars look Victorian”.

Of course, there were reliability issues with the test car, and apparently “tuning and electrical problems are common”.

In summation, “the Elan still stands in a class by itself”.