‘The finest front wheel drive [car] bar none’.1
Purists suck. They suck because they don’t judge a car on its merits, but on how it conforms to expectations. A purist will only talk well of a car if it’s rear-wheel drive, manual transmission, metal body, and has an engine provenance from the manufacturer.
This means some excellent vehicles are cast aside at launch, only to be rediscovered for their excellence years later when they’re cheap used cars. Some examples of this hypocrisy are:
- Porsche 914
- Porsche 924 / 944
- Dodge Eagle Talon
This Lotus is incredibly under-appreciated because it goes against everything a purist holds dear. Now nearly 30 years after it’s gone out of production the Elan is getting a second look by said purists, and values are beginning to climb. The Elan, like every Lotus, is a master class in automotive engineering. It used all the best practices from the industry; a backbone chassis from racing, a weight-saving composite body from F1, a reliable motor, and front-wheel drive from the mass-market. Coming from a boutique manufacturer it should have been the preferred and more exclusive option to the Miata. But it was a huge, massive, embarrassing flop selling only about 4,600 units worldwide. This was before the rights to the car were sold to Kia (where another 1,000 or so were made for the Japanese market).
How do we judge this car? Because it has excellent engineering, design, and performance? Or do we judge it because it didn’t conform to the purist’s definition, that Lotus’ parent company was GM, that the new car didn’t match the nostalgia of the model’s previous, or that the car was ultimately embarrassed by being sold as a Kia?