Wanderings

Christian Philippsen is getting acquainted with his Lotus Elan (He's all smiles!)

One month after taking delivery of his Lotus Elan, Christian Philippsen updates Charlie and invites her to share a sunny ride on the country roads of the Monegasque hinterland.

Hello Christian.

Hello Charlie.

We are here today in front of your new Lotus Elan after about a month of use.

Yes.

So what can you tell us about it?

Charlie, I'm going to tell you about the Lotus, but first I'd like to compliment you on your outfit, because I think you've got a lovely polo shirt and I think it is remarkably well worn...

Thank you, that's very kind.

So, the Lotus! The last time we saw each other was on the way back from Marseille. The car had the top up, remember, and still had American plates.

Right.

And I told you I wasn't sure Monaco would give me temporary plates, and here they are! In fact, they did and they did it very easily, and they're valid for two months whereas I thought that if they gave them to me, they would be valid for one month, so they were very generous. That was the first good news. The second good news, of course, is that I removed the top. I should have read the manual before I did, because I have really removed it. The frame is still there, but the canvas is no longer there. I could have left it because there is a system to fold it.

And leave it underneath?

And leave it under the cover. But now it's off, there is only the frame left.

So here it's empty, there's nothing underneath?

It's empty, there's nothing. Anyway, the idea is to use the car when the weather is good. Apart from that, I have become familiar with the car. It is extraordinary to drive, the pleasure of driving is fabulous! It drives like a go-kart, it's so light... Compared to modern cars, there is absolutely no assistance, neither for the steering nor the braking. The steering is extremely direct, you feel like you're in a go-kart. It's a lot of fun. Moreover, the car is very small, it doesn't take up any space on the road, so the road is that much wider. You can take trajectories on small winding roads, a real treat! Shall we have a word about the car's specifications, do you mind if I open the bonnet?

Go ahead.

The bonnet release is hidden in the glove box. You pull the lever and you help the bonnet a bit and you hold it open because, as Lotus was always saving money, there's no system that holds the bonnet up. You can see that it's a beautiful engine to look at.

It is!

This is the valve cover. There is a double overhead camshaft, two Weber double-throat carburetors and the base of the engine is a mass-produced Ford engine. What Lotus did was to fit a cylinder head of their design with these twin camshafts. It's one of the few engines in the world, maybe the only one, that has three camshafts in total, because there's a side camshaft that's left in the block that controls the ignition timing, whereas the two camshafts on top only operate the valves.

Is this unique?

It's a unique feature that few people know about. And then there is the manufacturer's plate. I mention this because it obviously shows the car's serial number, which is 45/7551. It turns out that in the computer systems, the slash does not exist. So, the Americans have replaced the slash with a 1. On the import documents that I have, it says 4517551.

And that didn't cause you any problems?

It might! In the meantime, I have received the FFVE certificate which will allow me to register it as a collector's car, and the FFVE certificate is issued with the real chassis number. The certificate of origin of the car issued by Lotus is established with the real chassis number. Without the 1 added by the Americans? Without the 1 and with the slash. But... The Fédération Française des Véhicules d'Epoque told me: "We issue the certificate with the slash, but in the computer system, the slash will not appear".

So what do they put?

They would like us to remove the slash and not to replace it.

A space?

Not even a space! Then it would become 457551.

It's a headache!

We'll see what the Monegasque authorities say next week. So, to be continued! I'll have more information for you the next time we meet.

There will surely be a third way of doing things, otherwise it would be too simple.

We'll see with them.

Have you made any changes to the engine? I haven't touched the engine at all. I looked for a long time for the oil dipstick that is hidden somewhere around here. I also searched for a long time for the chassis number which is stamped under the carburetors and which is in very small digits. Finally, I found it, because at the M0T, they want to check, so I was prepared, but I didn't touch anything.

And the mechanical condition is as good as you expected?

The mechanical condition is good. It smokes a little bit from time to time, but I asked around and I heard that it is normal. That's because when Lotus designed the cylinder head, they didn't provide an oil return to the crankcase. So there's oil that stagnates when you switch the engine off.

And burns when you start it?

Yes. I don't seem to have to worry about it, it seems to be normal.

So, for the mechanical part, no bad surprises.

No bad surprises, it is ready to go. Will you come with me?

Let's go!

Here we go!

Let's go! Thank you very much. The position inside is very low.

We are very low.

It feels like you're on the road.

Come on, let's try it!

Let's start.

It's been almost a month since we picked it up in Fos sur Mer.

Yes, it must be a month ago, I don't remember the exact date.

Did you have the opportunity to drive it a bit?

Honestly, not much. It's the holiday season and I spent time with the family, without the Lotus.

Shame because the weather is really ideal!

The weather is perfect. But I was in Belgium, Charlie, and I can tell you that in Belgium it was nowhere near as nice as it is here.

I can imagine.

Belgium lived up to its rainy reputation.

You're back, now is the time to enjoy the roads.

Yes, now is the time.

You passed the MOT a few days ago, didn't you?

It passed the test yesterday!

Yesterday?

Just yesterday, yes.

Did everything go well?

I was well prepared because I know that the MOT staff want to check the chassis number, they want to make sure that the car is the one they issue the papers for, and it went very well. There are absolutely no observations, so everything is good.

Great!

The brakes are good, the lights - they had the patience to wait until they popped out of their retracted position - they're good. Everything is fine, everything works, they were happy.

It is a good buy, there were no hidden problems?

No, no hidden problems. I am bringing in a travelling mechanic next week, an English mechanic who happens to be in the area, who travels with a van in which he has his tools and who owns Lotus. He knows these cars by heart and I'm going to ask him to check mine out and give me some more explanations. I think we might tune the suspension. I have got adjustable Spax shock absorbers, so we'll take advantage of that.

Are they too hard or too soft for your taste?

I'd prefer them to be a bit firmer probably.

Let’s enjoy the small winding roads and see how it goes.

Yes, let’s have some fun, the car is quite easy to drive. The clutch is easy, it is very smooth, even an uphill start is no problem. The engine responds well throughout the rev range.

How is the fuel consumption?

It is very reasonable. These are very light cars. It's a car that weighs less than 700 kilos.

It doesn't take much energy to propel it.

That's half of what cars in this range, in a comparable range, weigh today. The gearbox is very good, it is very precise, it is direct, and the steering, again - I've said it before -, it's a go-kart! Gordon Murray, the great automotive engineer, always takes the Elan as a reference for its ground connections when he designs a car: steering and suspension, and he sometimes says to me: "I find it difficult to match the Elan". So, that's the kind of road that suits the Elan, here is a beautiful string of curves.

Do you already know this road?

I have travelled it a few times, but not very often. I don't know it by heart. It's good that there's not too much traffic. The conditions are ideal. I can see that the oil pressure is good, the water temperature is stabilizing... But you also notice, when you drive cars like this, the considerable progress that has been made in 50 years. When you drive a modern car and you drive on hilly roads for example, nothing moves. The temperatures are stable, the water stays at 90 degrees. In a car like this, as soon as you climb a bit and ask the engine for extra effort, the water temperature rises. These cars are much more lively than modern cars.

You have to be a little bit watchful I suppose?

You have to be watchful. That's part of what I like about these cars. They are cars that you drive, they are cars that you look after, they are cars that live, that you take care of. 50 km/h, we shall respect the speed limits. The speedometer is still in miles since the car came from the United States, so I make conversions. We are at about 30 mph, roughly 48 km/h, so we are good.

Are the meters really reliable?

I calibrated the speedometer, this one is pretty accurate.

Same for the fuel gauge?

The fuel gauge, I didn't take the risk until now: as soon as it goes below half, I refill. This was not a strong point of the Lotus either. On the Elite I had before, the gauge was useless. I always had to look at the mileage I had done. The tanks are small. This one, I would have to check, I don't even know what the capacity is. The Elite was 25 litres.

That's not huge.

No, it's not huge. I think there must be about 30 liters in this one. These are small cars, so there's not much room for a big tank.

Yes, you have to be ready.

It picks up. Even at low revs, the engine picks up well. Here we are in third gear, quietly, at 3000 rpm. It can take 6,000. The red zone starts at 6500 rpm. The pedals are well placed for the heel and toe.

Could you explain to me what the heel and toe is?

The heel and toe is when the tip of your right foot is on the brake pedal and the heel is on the accelerator, and this allows you to slow down when entering a bend for example, while changing gear and synchronizing the rpm. So, you slow down, you know you have to change gear, and while braking, you give a little blip on the gas pedal with your heel when in neutral, before downshifting, and this allows a smoother drive. This was essential on non-synchro gearboxes because otherwise the gears simply didn't shift. On synchronized gearboxes, it is not necessary, but I would say that it takes the strain off the mechanicals and allows a smoother, more flowing drive. Ah, the echo of the engine music in a tunnel...

What a beautiful road!

What a beautiful road and what a beautiful landscape! Wonderful. Double declutch.

So, here we are in the village of Peille. Maybe we could stop on the side and have a little debriefing of this test. Maybe we could try to put the headlights on, we have a few minutes.

We can try. We can time it. You give me the top.

Top!

There, they're coming alive.

10 seconds... 15 seconds. That's it!

There, they're out. 15 seconds. So, to flash the lights... You don't have to be in a hurry.

Are you generally happy with the car?

So, Charlie, did you see my smile?

Yes, I think it is unmistakable.

It's really a wonderful little toy. I'm very happy with it. The engine responds very, very well. It's smooth and powerful. The gearbox is perfect. The changes are fast, the lever is precise, the gearbox control is direct. You're in contact with the gears, there are no cables like on more modern cars.

It's really the mechanical elements directly.

You are in direct contact with the mechanicals. And then, of course, I'll come back to this once again, but the real strong point of the car is its ground connections. The combination of suspension, braking and steering is absolutely exemplary.

A real pleasure to drive on all roads.

A real pleasure to drive on all roads, on all roads, but it is on this kind of terrain that the car really expresses itself.

Small winding roads, narrow tunnels...

That's really where it can express itself, it is really made for that. So, it is the perfect car for an outing with friends in the hinterland, on a nice day, like today for example. We could have called a few friends and gone off with four or five cars for a lunch in the countryside.

Enjoy the road on the way up and on the way back. Well, thank you very much Christian for this ride. It was a pleasure.

It doesn't take much to be happy.

Indeed! Let's now take this beautiful road from Peille back to Monaco and let's meet again soon for another test or for another podcast together.

Gladly, Charlie, whenever you want. Goodbye and see you soon.

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

Christian Philippsen

25/08/2021 17:41

Joe, thank you for reaching out. I'll be in touch.
Christian

joepetty

23/08/2021 01:39

Please search "Joe Petty Lotus" on YouTube for some earlier history of this car.
Regards

Christian Philippsen discovers his Lotus Elan (You can trust online auctions)

Hello to all the leBolide community, I am on my way to pick up Christian Philippsen in Monaco. We shall then drive to Fos-sur-Mer, to meet his newly purchased car coming from the United States of America. Let's go!

Hello Christian.

Hello Charlie, may I pass you this jerrycan?

Thank you.

I took a jerrycan because I was informed that the fuel tank had been drained for this long trip. We will go and fill it up, and then we will put some petrol in the car.

Let's go!

Let's go.

Can you explain a little bit about the process, because I believe the car comes from the States? How was it organized in terms of purchase and shipping?

Well, we are going to Marseille to pick up the Lotus Elan I bought on Bring a Trailer. As you know, it was Bring a Trailer that inspired leBolide. That is where I spotted this Lotus Elan.

And why bring a Lotus Elan from the States when there are several over here, some in France, some in Europe?

Because this one has the distinction of still having its original chassis, whereas most Lotus Elans have a replacement chassis. The built quality at the time was so bad that the chassis rotted. Lotus and Colin Chapman never built these cars to last. And so, most of them have a replacement chassis. I thought it was more interesting to have a car with its original chassis and I spotted this one in the States. That's why I bought it there and now we're picking it up in Marseille.

Christian, can you explain to me why we have a jerrycan in the car?

We have a jerrycan because the tank of the Lotus is empty. The shipping company required that the tanks be emptied before loading.

Okay, so now we couldn't even start it?

Right. Apparently, there is not a drop left. I was told that the tank was drained completely and so we’ll put 10 liters in the jerrycan.

Enough to get to the first station.

Exactly, enough to get to the closest petrol station. The car came in a container by sea. The transaction was completed at the beginning of May, and we are now beginning of July. So, it took about two months between the purchase and the arrival and delivery of the car. This includes the preparation for the shipment with, among other things, the emptying of the tank we already talked about. It includes putting the car in a container, transporting it from the East Coast of the United States -the car was in Connecticut, North of New York-, unloading, and then clearing customs. In order to benefit from the reduced VAT rate applicable to classic cars, the Elan also had to be appraised, which added to the delay.

But that's once it arrived in Marseille?

In fact, the car arrived, the boat docked, at Fos-sur-Mer, and I don't know what happened, we're going to pick it up today in Marseille. It is next door, but I don't know what happened between Fos-sur-Mer and Marseille, we'll find out later. The expert came and established that the car was indeed a real Lotus Elan from 1967 and that consequently it could benefit from the reduced VAT rate of 5.5% instead of 20%. All this takes time, in total, about two months.

So now we're going to collect it, is there still a lot of paperwork to deal with?

I believe that today should be quite simple. The paperwork has been done. We'll see if everything is there because, obviously, I’ll need the most important document which is what I think is called the 846 form that will allow the registration. The car still has American plates. I asked the seller to leave them on the car. He was very insistent that I return them to him, because apparently, in the States, you have to return the plates to the administration.

Exactly, in many countries it's like that, in Italy it's the same thing.

Yes, and in Monaco too, so I can understand, but I asked him to leave them because Monaco has suspended the allocation of temporary numbers pending registration, and as I wanted to drive the car back by road, I will now be able to do it.

Otherwise, you would have had to put it on a trailer, right?

Otherwise, I would have had to put it on a flatbed or on a trailer. But now I'm going to be able to bring it back by road and I hope that everything will go well. I'm just discovering it, so I hope we won't break down!

We're following you anyway!

Yes, yes, I have my guardian angel.

You have an escort with you. Is it carrying the original colour?

It is the original colour, yellow. It's been resprayed, it's been restored, but it is carrying its original colour, a quite bright yellow.

And is it 'matching numbers'?

It is 'matching numbers'!

So, chassis and engine?

Chassis and engine: it has its original chassis, it has its original engine.

Why does it matter?

For me, the original chassis is more important than the original engine because it's a car I'm going to drive on the road, it's not a car I'm going to show in concours of elegance. As long as it had a correct-type engine, corresponding to the original specifications at the time, I would have taken it.

So this is a bonus.

I was more interested in the authenticity of the chassis than in the authenticity of the engine. It happens to have both, so it's perfect. I bought it sight unseen, which is against all the advice I normally give to my friends. But the documentation on Bring a Trailer, the description of the car, the number of photos that also show all the details, the comments from the community... all of that makes me feel like I've seen the car, and it made me feel confident. That is what we try to do on leBolide as well: we ask sellers to send us a very detailed photographic report so that buyers, potential buyers, feel confident and don't have any unpleasant surprises when they receive the car.

Yes, to be able to get a really good idea of the car.

And I don't expect to be disappointed, I feel like I know my Elan.

Because you had all the details you needed to make an opinion.

Exactly, I also asked one or two questions to the seller, which he answered, and I do feel confident.

So Christian, what are your first impressions now that we've started the Elan? What do you think?

It started, on the button, I'm delighted! We put some petrol in, of course. I'm delighted. It's exactly as I thought it would be.

Like you thought it would be?

Absolutely. There's nothing wrong with it. Now I have to learn to live with it, because I am a bit lost with the controls, the switches. I'll have to read the manuals and get used to the environment again. I knew the Elan was small, but it's true that, surrounded by these modern cars, it really is very small...

It looks very small, true.

It's really small, but that's what contributes to the pleasure of driving, because the road is wider, all the small country roads, the small mountain roads, become wider.

And this lightness...

Yes, I will discover it. I will learn to drive it well, but it is exactly as it was described. The photos have given a picture of it that is very true to reality.

Very true to what you see?

Yes, yes, very true to reality, so ... I am all smiles!

Great!

And in this beautiful sunshine... The only thing that is a bit of a pity is that, despite this beautiful sunshine, I'm still going to drive with the top up because, in my opinion, it is not easy to put down. I think it comes off the frame and we'll probably mess up. So, Charlie, we'll go for lunch instead.

We'll try the top in Monaco.

We'll try that in Monaco when we get there, absolutely.

Come on, let's go, en route!

Let's go!

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
Waiting for the next Historic Grand Prix of Monaco

The 12th Historic Grand Prix of Monaco should have taken place last weekend. It has of course been cancelled. To fill the gap, the Automobile Club has produced a nice film that we are happy to share with you.

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
Looking for a puzzle?

I owe Zoé, ten years old, the joy of having rediscovered puzzles. She receives boxes from her mum and patiently assembles them in real size; I googled and found a few sites, often a bit messy, that offer a wide range of them online. The choice is yours! The one I have picked illustrates a Ferrari in the Monaco decor.

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
Derek Hill takes you for a ride in a Ferrari 250 GTO

Derek Hill is the son of Phil Hill, Formula 1 World Champion in 1961. He is a driver himself and invites you to be his passenger for a musical 12-cylinder ride... Action!

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
Since you are temporarily unable to travel, we offer you a virtual tour of some exceptional car museums in the USA. Let's start with:

The museum of the Simeone Fondation in Philadelphia

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
let’s continue with

The museum of Miles Collier’s REVS Institute

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
and lets’s end with

The Petersen Museum in Los Angeles All of them are private museums run by enlightened enthusiasts. Have a good trip!

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.

lot description
Report on Rétromobile by Nicolas Jeannier from Arthomobiles.fr

Here's an excellent report on Retromobile, the kind of report that deserves a link on leBolide!

Comments

To comment, log in or become a member.

Click here to log in or register.