1957 Lotus Elite

Always the innovator, Lotus introduced the 1957 Lotus Elite as the first car ever to be built to have a fiberglass monocoque. It contributed greatly to the car’s low weight, which partly explains its success. Light, agile and fast, it handled incredibly well, further reinforcing Lotus‘ reputation for making cars with that characteristic. Unfortunately, the little GT didn’t only have qualities; it was beset with quality issues, including annoying vibrations from the monocoque body, and even worse, customers and potential buyers complained that the car actually looked cheap! It’s one thing to have poor build quality, but when it shows, you’re in trouble. Not only that, but because of the window and door profile, it was impossible to roll down the windows. The car was thus incredibly poorly ventilated, and got stuffy real fast. Not fun.

1957 Lotus Elite
1957 Lotus Elite

The Elite was powered by the Coventry Climax, a 1.2-liter engine that produced anywhere from 71 to 105 horsepower, depending on whether the model year. More powerful models came later, with an available five-speed transmission. Top speed 130 miles per hour, and acceleration to 60, 11 seconds, none of which are embarrassing numbers by the standards of the day.

What helped get the top speed so high, in contrast to the relatively low horsepower rating, was the Elite’s drag coefficient, which at 0.29Cd, was spectacular, even by today’s standards. The company pulled the plug on the Lotus Elite in 1963, preferring to concentrate their efforts on the new Elan.

Update: Alert reader Kevin M. brought to my attention the fact that the windows could be removed and stored in a pocket designed to that effect behind the seat. It is also apparent that the front part of the window could be opened, providing a modicum of ventilation. Still a poor solution, but better than suffer permanent poor ventilation!

3 thoughts on “1957 Lotus Elite”

  1. The first year of the Elite was 1959, not 1957. Additionally, you are correct in that the windows did not roll down – however, you suggest they may not open at all, which is incorrect. The windows were easily removed and stored in a fitted pocket behind the seats.

    I don’t know where you got your information from, but it seems a little off.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    Thank you for your comment; I have updated my article to reflect this new information about the windows, which I was not aware off.

    Concerning the first year, the Elite was introduced in 1957, and production started in 1958, probably on the 1959 model year, as far as I can gather.

    Once again thank you, and don’t hesitate to mention anything else that may be off.

    Best regards,


  3. Here’s a link to my restoration of a one of a kind rare Lotus Elite Type 14. You’ll find many odd things about the car and learn about some of the history of Lotus and the men behind Lotus that made it all happen during that Era. You’ll also find other links to LeMans races, etc. and many of the drivers. Feel free to check it out if you’re interested in these magnificent cars by Colin Chapman. You’ll not be dissapointed. There are extra photo’s at the end of the article so feel free to bookmark the page and check back from time to time as I add to it and check out the site and others postings you’ll love it!!!
    Best Regards,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *