By: Dennis Ortenburger .
The Lotus Elite was first introduced to a startled public at the Earls Court Motor coupe that no one, outside the tiny Lotus works in north London, knew was Show in October 1957. Show goers were amazed to see a beautiful streamlined coming. The car's fluid and almost delicate shape concealed an all fibreglass monocoque, an all aluminum SOHC engine, four wheel independent suspension, and four-wheel disc brakes. The Elite began design trends visible even today and the car has been listed in every passing decades list of motordom's most significant automobiles. That the car came together as a result of the work of a committee whose chief stylist was an accountant is almost beyond belief. The fact that one of Colin Chapman's design criteria was that the Elite be a road car capable of a class win at the prestigious Le Mans 24-hour race was remarkable. The fact there followed six consecutive class wins and several index victories in this race as well was incredible. The story of how the Elite came to be and how it progressed through its production life was first told in the book entitled, "The Original Lotus Elite, Racing Car for the Road" published by Newport Press in 1977. An attempt was made to unravel the mysteries, and there were plenty of them, and to tell the tale of the Elite's place in motoring history. Unfortunately, no one knew Dennis Ortenburger and therefore many important doors to information were closed. The result was a reasonably accurate story of what the car was all about but woefully inadequate in the "why" and "how" and "by whom". Besides the numerous blind alleys there were also the inevitable errors.
This book is based on that first work but has corrected all of the mistakes. Luckily the author's first attempt gained enough notoriety to encourage those who were there at the beginning to come forward and volunteer (sometimes rather forcefully) their help in getting history right. Besides innumerable factual changes this book contains the reminisces of virtually everyone involved in the design and early production of the Elite. Many of the personalities associated with the car throughout its production life, including racers and Elite dealers in both the UK and America were interviewed in the years following publication of the first book. Although several have since passed away, their recollections are inside to read and enjoy. "Lotus Elite, Racing Car for the Road" is not meant to be a "nuts and bolts" treatment of the car but rather an explanation of what is so fascinating about this automobile above all others. The genius, charisma and talent of the personalities involved with the car are examined as are the intrigues and the mysteries. If the story of the Lotus Elite was told as a novel, readers would believe it to be pure fantasy. Hopefully, this book will convince otherwise.