1979 Lotus Eclat (Available)
As few as 1500 Eclats left the factory gates during the 7 years of production, and as of April 2016, there were 27 taxed and road registered with a further 108 listed as SORN.
Out of the remaining cars this surely has to be the finest out there.
FEH 919T was first registered 1st May 1979 and former keepers total only 9. In the September 2010 edition of Classic and Sports Car under the heading “Wonder Wedges at War” (Lotus Eclat vs TVR Tamsin) FEH919T was featured representing and fighting the Lotus corner. She still remains true to the car, which was presented and tested that day by Sam Dawson some 7 years ago. She has covered just 4547 miles since then.
The exterior of FEH919T is finished in JPS Black with matching gold stripe and is in near concourse condition. On opening either doors you are presented with an interior the likes of which I would normally expect to find in a contemporary Autobiography Range Rover. Whilst retaining the original beautifully simplistic facia, the other surfaces/door cards and seats have been lavished with the finest red/black leather hides, factory records confirm that FEH919T was supplied with red leather when new.
The day FEH919T arrived at our Chateau Impney showroom, there was a photo shoot involving other historic machinery. One of these freelance Journalists working on that shoot was Paul Hardiman. He was there representing Classis and Sports Car that day. Paul was rather pleased to see the Eclat and to hear about her previous feature car in C&SC. A road test was in order!
Paul pored over paperwork and waxed lyrical about the attention to detail in every aspect of the car as I opened the doors and the bonnet. On sitting in the car it was like a kid in a sweet shop pressing every button in turn as they came to hand. “They all work” he exclaimed, “even the electric door mirrors!” The car performed faultlessly throughout both Paul’s and my test-runs up the course and back again. Each of the 4 gears plus O/D 5th, selecting without issues, along with good brakes. Once parked up back in front of the Chateau we both crawled underneath, confirming it to be as clean as the bodywork. Almost certainly the car has benefited from a new chassis frame at the same point as the rest of the car’s restoration.
The Type 76 Lotus Eclat was introduced in October 1975 and was based on the two seater Elite but with a fastback body styling that gives the addition of rear seats suitable for little rascals, which do appear during a certain time in one’s life. The initial Type 76 cars were powered by 120 bhp Lotus slant four engine. These initial cars had a four-speed transmission with a five speed being introduced a short time later.
Like the Europa before, Colin Chapman chose to utilise a simple steel chassis which was simply painted with little or no corrosive protection. This proved to be car’s Achilles’ heel, when salt water mixed with road dirt would gather quite quickly in pockets both inside and on the chassis, corroding the poor-quality steel of this era. It is important to pay close attention to this aspect when buying any Lotus of this period as chassis replacement is both time consuming and relatively expensive.
From my own personal experience, it’s better to pay good money for the best examples out there than to take on a seemingly more affordable restoration project, as doing so usually works out both costlier in the pocket as well as lost time with family which can never be replaced.