In 1959, Colin Chapman showcased his talent for designing production road cars with the Lotus 14, better known as the Elite. Though conceived with competition in mind, aiming for class wins at Le Mans and the Monte Carlo Rally, the Elite featured innovations from Lotus’s single-seaters.

The Elite boasted a fiberglass monocoque body tub—the world’s first—independent suspension all around, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel disc brakes with inboard-mounted rears. It was powered by a lightweight 1,216cc Coventry-Climax FEW engine producing 95bhp and equipped with a modified MGA gearbox from BMC.

Development benefited from the input of top racing drivers, including Jim Clark, who enjoyed driving an Elite around his farm in Scotland. The sleek body, designed by Peter Kirwan-Taylor and aerodynamicist Frank Costin, had a low drag coefficient of 0.29. Bristol Aircraft Academy was contracted for the ‘Series 2’ Elite, which saw improvements in rear suspension and interior design.

On the track, the Elite met Chapman’s expectations, securing its first international class win at the Nürburgring 1,000km in 1959 and winning its class at Le Mans five times. It also twice won the prestigious Index of Thermal Efficiency, with best finishes of 8th overall, and remains active in historic racing events today.

Photos by Jack Passey courtesy of RM Sotheby’s