1964 Lotus Elan 26R Racing up a Hill Is Automotive Nirvana

1964 Lotus Elan 26R 8 photos
Photo: 19Bozzy92/YouTube
1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R1964 Lotus Elan 26R
Introduced in 1962 as a replacement for the Elite, the Elan was the first Lotus road car to use a steel backbone chassis with a fiberglass body. Yet another embodiment of Colin Chapman's lightweight design philosophy, the Elan tipped the scales at only 680 kg (1,499 pounds) and used a small-displacement Lotus TwinCam inline-four engine.
Even though it wasn't designed with racing in mind, the Elan eventually spawned a race-spec version. As owners insisted on modifying the car for track use, Chapman developed a factory racer for the 1964 season. Called the Elan 26R, it was offered as a kit car for £1,995.

Weighing in at 600 kg (1,323 pounds) and relying on a Cosworth-tuned TwinCam unit good for more than 160 horsepower, the Elan 26R became a successful race car with aces like Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart behind the wheel. And while the Elan remained in production until 1973, the race cars remained competitive until the late 1970s.

There's no info as to how many 26Rs Lotus built in the 1960s, but these race-spec cars are harder to find compared to their road-legal counterparts. Seeing one in the metal is almost impossible if you don't attend historical events like the Bologna-Raticosa hillclimb in Italy, where a white-striped green 26R was captured on camera.

Seeing one of these tiny coupes run at full throttle is a treat for the eyes and ears. Not only fast and extremely nimble, but the Elan 26R also sounds surprisingly aggressive for a four-cylinder racer.

While the regular Elan remained in production from 1962 to 1973, Lotus also offered a slightly longer, 2+2 version from 1967 to 1975. The nameplate returned in 1989 on a front-wheel-driven sports car powered by an Isuzu drivetrain.

The second-gen Elan was phased out in 1995, but Kia purchased the production rights from Lotus and built an almost identical vehicle in South Korea from 1996 to 1999. But, of course, the modern sports car never reached the heights of the 26R, the most track-capable Elan ever built. Check it out in the video below.

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About the author: Ciprian Florea
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Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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