Friday, March 28, 2014

1991 Lotus M100 Elan - A Good Car Introduced At A Bad Time...

If timing is everything then Lotus had nothing when they introduced the new Elan in 1989. (Known to Lotus fans as the "M100 Elan" to differentiate it from the original Elan)Lotus had to know that introducing a FWD, Isuzu powered car with the Elan name on it was going to raise a few eyebrows. The original RWD Elan (which went out of production in 1973) was a legendary sports car.

What Lotus may not have known was that Mazda was going to release the Miata just a few months after the M100 Elan. The RWD Miata looked incredibly similar to the original Elan. It drove similar to the original Elan. It reminded everyone of just how great the original Elan was. Worst of all for Lotus, it was considerably cheaper than the M100 Elan and the US - both Lotus' and Mazdas target market - was headed into a recession. The M100 Elan didn't stand a chance.

The M100 Elan is not a bad car. In fact, it's a really good car. The turbocharged 4 cylinder Isuzu engine moved the Elan to 60 MPH in 6.7 seconds. (It's also a reliable engine, something Lotus was never previously known for.) Its handling, although very different from the tail out style of handling the original Elan had, was incredibly good for a FWD car. (Let's face it, Lotus knows how to make cars handle no matter where their engines are or what wheels are driving them.) All-in-all it was a comfortable, well laid out, dependable, but expensive sports car. As good as it was, the Elan wasn't right for the market.

Only 3800 Elans were built. Just 600 or so came to the US. (These figures vary, depending on what source you use - I've averaged the numbers.)
Elan prices have started to creep up over the past few years, but they still remain a relative bargain. Parts are sometimes expensive and not always easy to come by, but the M100 Elan is well built and you're not often buying parts. Common problems include gas tank leaks (a crack develops between the filler neck and the tank) and faulty cam angle sensors (a cheap and easy fix). The timing belt needs to be changed every 50,000 miles.

This is the type of M100 I would buy if I were in the market for one right now. It's in good, but not perfect shape. It's a driver. You would need to replace the tires right away, but its other few flaws (worn weather stripping, an A/C unit that blows warm air, and some scratches and dings) could be repaired after you drove it all summer.
All-in-all, this appears to be an honest old Elan. If you take care of it, you could drive it for many, many years and still get your money back (at least) when you decide to sell it. Me? I'd probably just keep it forever.

Located in Pompano Beach, FL, click here to see the eBay listing.


steve in podunk said...

I think Daewoo made these in Korea for a number of years after Lotus discontinued them. This is one of those lamentable ideas put to metal back when GM owned the company.

Anonymous said...

Kia took over after receiving rights for production, I think in 1998.