Sunday Drive: 1980 Lotus Eclat

Today’s Sunday Drive is a 1980 Lotus Eclat. The Eclat is the fastback cousin to the hatchback Lotus Elite. The Eclat (like the Elite and the Esprit) has a 2.0 liter engine and five-speed transmission. Unlike the Esprit, the Eclat uses a front-engine/rear-drive layout. It has a unitized body/chassis made entirely of fiberglass. But instead of painting the body after it came off the mold, Lotus sprayed paint into the molds before the liquid fiberglass was poured. The paint was thus impregnated into the fiberglass. That meant that with a little polish, most minor scratches could be rubbed out without having to use touch-up paint.

The Eclat/Elite weigh in at 2400 pounds, are 179 inches long with wheelbases of 98 inches. Like the Esprit, the Eclat/Elite aren’t very fast (you’d want the Elan for that — another Sunday maybe!), but they do have creature comforts the Esprit doesn’t, like air conditioning. And at the time (1980), the sticker price for an Elan was $29,000 — roughly the price of a Mercedes-Benz 450SL or a Porsche 928. Hmm. What would you rather spend your 29 grand on?

Lotus suffered back then from poor quality control. In fact, Car and Driver once wrote that “Lotuses shed parts like Alsatians shed hair.” And I’m sure Lotus owners were less kind than that. The thing Lotus had going for it was handling. Almost any Lotus was more fun to drive on winding roads than just about any other car. But they weren’t practical for everyday use. And it seems like $29,000 was a lot of money then — and now, for that matter — to plunk down on a second car. A toy, if you will.

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