Elan Experimental Rally Car
A UNIQUE WORKS RALLY ELAN
It's certainly been fun. I've knocked on many an interesting door in the last twelve months researching my recently acquired Elan. It is now time to give you all the chance to discover what I have found. I think you will find the history rather interesting.
I acquired the little coupe S3 Elan from Ray Wilkinson in early February 1996. It arrived back in Meadowbank looking rather sorry on the back of a rented trailer. My new pride and joy needed a little TLC. I was glad Ray didn't live in Avondale as the collection of spiders within the car frightened the hell out of Cerise my wife. For the next two months the car was pushed back and forth out of my garage mainly I suspect to impress the neighbors. I had convinced myself that the first six months were to be spent researching the cars history. It has actually taken twelve months and I now feel that I have finally reached some light at the end of the long tunnel. Clear and Telecom must have loved me. I called the most amazing collection of interesting telephone numbers. I can still remember phoning the only number for Friswell in London. A dear old lady of at least 105 answered. She really did think it was her maker and had never heard of Auckland. Letters were also sent far and wide. I would send out 10 letters at a time and average a fair 20% response. "If you are still alive please answer" seemed to create the best response. So, to all you doubting Thomas's out there in Lotus land here goes. I will be working backwards through the years.
New Zealand History...the last of the story
The car was exported to New Zealand from England on 4th December 1978. It was imported by a Mr. Barry Freeman who still lives in Birkdale/ Auckland. It had 50,000 miles on its clock when it arrived and was registered JD 1888 on 21st May 1979. Barry had fitted Revolution wheels in England necessitating extra wheel archers. The car was eventually resprayed a bright red after it was landed. A house was on the horizon for Barry in late 1979 and so the Elan was sold to Gayle and Harley Oliver on October 1979 (57,600 miles on the clock). I'm sure a number of the older members of Club Lotus remember it at that stage. Rattle your walkers if you can recollect the red little coupe! It has appeared in a few club magazines including the Taccoc Bespoke (Sept 1981) and LOTUS WORLD (Feb 1989). The car was used a few times in club events and eventually it was sold to Malcolme Campbell and Ray Wilkinson on 17th July 1987 (63,808 miles on the clock). A substantial rebuild of the Twin Cam motor was completed just before this point. Ray took over full ownership of JD 1888 on 11th March 1988 and eventually it gained the personalized plate ELAN 1. Ray completed a total of only 36 miles in the Elan and it was nestled within his other collection of Loti in outback Hunua. The car, as I have already explained came my way in February 1996.
"A letter from Ray Badcock at Lotus dated 20th March 1979 and sent to Barry Freeman stated that this Elan was once a Works Experimental Rally Elan." The hunt was on when I received the vehicle to find out if this 'experimental story' was true....
Great Britain...this is where it gets more interesting.
Barry Freeman was a seaman at the time in the early part of 1975. He would be away from his hometown of Sheffield for months at a time. He always hankered after driving a MGBGT. In looking around for his dream he came across a coupe Elan at A B Gelder Automobiles in Sharrowvale Road Sheffield. It had the registration PEA 479F. It looked good in metallic blue/ white Sprint colors and was purchased for the grand sum of just 745 pounds on 20th October 1975. Before he was due to leave for New Zealand the Elan was involved in an accident with a moving kerb. Two of the original steel wheels were bent and the entire set was replaced with a set of 5.5 inch Revolution Alloys. The body was taken off the chassis at this stage and the engine was also rebored. Barry found written in chalk across the chassis felt the words "Competition Chassis". The car was finally boxed into a container and sent to NZ when he emigrated.
The DVLE information from Swansea was not put onto computer until 1975. Prior to that date all information was lost unless it was kept on hard copy. Fortunately I have the British Motor registration details that go back to 1972. I was contacted by Tony Gelder of A B Gelder Automobiles in Sheffield on 28th August 1996 giving me all the information I required to fill in the spaces between when the car was registered for the road in April 1st 1968 and when Barry bought the car. Tony started off his letter with the phrase' I am not dead'. He very kindly wrote to give me a whole swag of additional information. The car was sold to Barry Freeman by A B Gelder's.
A B Gelder's also sold this Elan to its previous owner a Howard Jones in March 1972. The Elan was eventually traded on a Ford Escort Sport as the insurance has become horrific when Howard became a student. While Howard owned the car, he had it painted not only a Lotus yellow but also the Sprint colors of Blue and White. The rear lights were also changed to the square Hillman Hunter type. To quote Tony in his letter "would you believe Andy (his foreman) still has the original lights in our workshop!" Not bad, after a period of 25 years! Four large holes at the front of the car between the pop up lights were also refibreglassed up by Andy. He apologized as he felt some of the webbing must have dropped down! These holes were supposed to have been where a set of spotlights were placed earlier in the cars life. Amazingly I was able to contact Howard at the same address in Sheffield that was listed in 1972. He has told me that the chap that had the car before him had rallied the car in an RAC rally. He still has some photos of the car and they should be arriving shortly. Tony told me the name of the owner prior to Howard. This has been confirmed by Howard and is being investigated. The important thing is that the owner prior to Howard had the car since it was first registered on 1st April 1968 (April Fools). But the car has the VIN number of 36/6086 which means it was manufactured in August 1966. What was it doing prior to April 1968?
The hunt was on.....
As I have said I have contacted a whole swag of people in my pursuit for the correct history. Clive Chapman/ Ian Walker/ Graham Arnold/ Brian Culcheth/ Peter Warr/ Malcolm Rickitts Mike Pomfret (at Lotus) and Peter Harper to name a few. Some could help. Others just scratched their heads and very kindly informed me to look elsewhere. I got one hell of a kick contacting some of these famous names. Ian Walker was a delight. I always seem to catch him when he was tending his roses! Finally I contacted the Sportscar and Classic magazine in London and they placed a small article about this Elan in their June 1996 edition (page 24). As you know, it takes almost three months to see the European magazines in New Zealand. I heard nothing. Out of frustration one night I rang Mike Walsh (their editor). He said he that he had thought there had been no reply to the article in the June edition. For some reason I rang Lotus that evening. I mentioned that I wanted to talk to someone from the old days of Lotus Components.
I was given the name of Gordon Palmer in Windsor. I rang Gordon immediately. Gordon wanted to know if I had received his letter! "What letter I gasped." He explained that he had seen the article in the Sportscar and Classic and had replied. His letter was published in the July edition. He had been employed at L/C between 65 to 69.
In August 1966 he remembers that Roy Badcock and Peter Warr started a project that was very hush hush. It was so secret that my usual Lotus history sources were totally unaware of the existence of the project. It was to be an experimental Rally Elan to be run in the November 1966 RAC Rally under the sponsorship of a London newspaper. Gordon helped with the pre-production work on the car. It was BRG in color (can be seen under the layers of paint ICI/ LO1), had four Cibie Oscar spotlights (you can now see the original marks between the lights), balance bar on the brakes (yes), C/R gearbox (yes) and other various racing additional features (many). Apparently Colin Chapman discovered the project, was not impressed with a rally car and so the project was promptly halted. As has been mentioned to me many times in my research 'Colin was not a rally man'. It is hoped that in the near future additional information will clarify more about this project with I hope some photos. The car was kept at Lotus for a period of 18 months. It was then sold on to the public and registered for the road on 1st April 1968.
You have now a brief outline of the last 30 years of the life of Lotus Elan 36/ 6086. A unique vehicle designed to do something that its master wouldn't allow.
I have since started the restoration of this 'experimental rally car'.
Up until then I will just sand on.
This shot was taken in my garage as I was slowly rubbing the beast down to just above the gel. In completing the task I found the four large round holes at the front of the car where the cibie oscar lights were placed. A replacement set was found and they fitted a treat. The front of the car was a real mess, with hundreds of cracks throughout. In typical kiwi fashion I have spent months slowly repairing the entire body back to new.