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The Lotus Elan M200 Speedster Prototype You Might Have Never Heard Of Before

Based on the front-wheel-drive Lotus Elan M100, this is truly a unique looking car. And it can be yours!

| By Robin Nooy | 5 min read |

In the world of drop-top sports cars, there is a special type of car built for hardcore enthusiasts of the open driving experience; the Speedster. This roofless concept is made famous by cars such as the Porsche 356 and 911 Speedster, the Morgan Speedster and the Auburn Speedster. In more recent times, cars like the Aston Martin V12 Speedster and Mercedes SLR Stirling Moss have all had more than a little nip-and-tuck to lose not only the roof but also the windshield. One such car though, built in the early 1990s, was unbeknownst to me until recently, but could be one of the coolest ever made; the Lotus Elan M200 Speedster. And it can even be yours, as the only prototype ever built is up for sale!

The elan of the Lotus elan

The history of the Lotus Elan goes back to the early 1960s and refers to a typically British-styled lightweight sports car. Built between 1962 and 1975, this small and nimble little car came in both a Fixed Head Coupé (FHC) or Drop Head Coupé (DHC) design. Using a steel chassis, the simple yet elegant body was crafted from fibreglass.

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A pristine 1968 Lotus Elan S2 once owned by Keith Duckworth (Cosworth) – Classic Car Auctions.

It embodied Colin Chapman’s philosophy of low weight, as it tips the scales between 640kgs and 703kgs depending on the exact model. Power came from a 1.5-litre and later a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine with double overhead cams, and ranged between 90bhp and 126bhp, again depending on which exact specification you ran under the bonnet.

The design was fairly simple, with the engine up front and drive to the rear. Styling elements such as pop-up headlights, a cut-off rear section and twin exhaust pipes in the middle gave it plenty of character. The Elan is renowned for its agile handling, both on the road and on the racetrack. However, it was Lotus’ first car not to be designed as a race car at first. Spurred on by customers and racing teams, Lotus eventually built a racing version of it, despite not wanting to. Notable owners included two-time F1 World Champion Jim Clark, actor and racing car driver Paul Newman, all-around Petrolhead Jay Leno, and Cosworth’s Keith Duckworth.

After the Elan went out of production, to be replaced by the edgy Esprit, the name made a surprise comeback in 1989. In a radical departure from Lotus’ legacy, it was the first and remains the only front-wheel drive car to be built by the Hethel-based manufacturer. The design of the Elan M100 series cars was again pretty simple and followed the same principles as the original Elan. Compact dimensions, pop-up headlights, a two-seater open-top body and a cut-off rear section. Up front, a 1.6-litre Isuzu engine, optionally fitted with a turbocharger, provided power. The inline four-cylinder engine, again with double overhead cams, produced 130bhp when normally aspirated, and 162bhp when fitted with the turbo. combined with the low weight of just under 1,000kgs, the reinterpreted Elan proved to be a fun and swift little sports roadster.

The Elan M100 built by Lotus between 1989 and 1995 – Bonhams Cars.

The M100 series of the Elan was in production from 1989 to 1995 under the Lotus name but was also produced as the Kia Elan or Kia Vigato for the South Korean and Japanese markets between 1996 and 1999. The Elan name made one more appearance as the designation of a concept car shown at the 2010 Paris Motor Show with goals to put it in production for 2013. Nothing would come of it though, as the project was cancelled before it could enter production.

No roof, no windshield

Midway through its lifespan, a single Elan M100 was ‘sacrificed’ to build a unique take on the lightweight British roadster, the Elan M200 Speedster. Built upon the underpinnings of a blue car returned to Lotus by its owner, it now has a strikingly bright yellow coat of paint. Underneath the dramatically changed exterior, nothing much has been altered when it comes to the pairing of the engine and gearbox. Power is steel provided by the 1.6-litre turbocharged Isuzu engine and fed to the front wheels through a manual transmission.

But it’s that unique open-top design that really matters. The Lotus engineers decided to mess around with the Elan M100 and turn it into a bonafide Speedster. However, where most Speedsters just do in with the roof and the windshield, the Elan M200 Speedster also splits the cockpit in two, with the driver and passenger separated by a centre spine. The black wrap-around windshields are said to be inspired by the Ferrari 312B F1 car raced in the first half of the 1970s. Just behind the headrests is a massive roll hoop that’s angled forward and features an integrated spoiler. The rear deck has a second spoiler, which looks to be a bit more pronounced than the one found on the standard Elan M100 cars.

In a true statement of early-1990s fashion, the interior is quite outspoken, with multi-coloured purple fabric inserts paired with black leather and Alcantara. Other than that, it seems pretty straightforward and similar to the interior of the ‘donor’ car. It’s also in right-hand-drive configuration, mind you, so navigating your local drive-thru might be challenging beyond just the split-cockpit design of the Elan M200 Speedster.

In this case, only one such car exists and it looks to be in pristine condition and is a working, driving car. There’s also just 100km on the odometer, so it’s basically like a brand-new car! It’s listed at as being for sale through Andreas Wüest AG, a specialist dealer in Hallwill, Switzerland. No price is known though, as it’s listed as “priced upon request”. That leaves one question though; how deep would your pockets need to be to snatch up this unique chapter in Lotus’ rich history? Does anyone dare to have a wild guess?

Editorial Note: The information and images sourced for this article are provided and used with permission of, and unless stated otherwise. More information can also be found on Andreas Wüest AG’s website.

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