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Car Tales: Mind-blowing, The Lotus Elan

“He blew his mind out in a car/He didn’t notice that the lights had changed.”
‘These famous lyrics, from the Beatles’ A Day in the Life, immortalize the sad end of 1960s’ socialite Tara Browne. ‘I was writing “A Day In The Life” with the Daily Mail propped in front of me on the piano,’ said John Lennon.
1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe for sale
‘I had it open at their News in Brief, or Far and Near, whatever they call it. I noticed two stories. One was about the Guinness heir who killed himself in a car. That was the main headline story. He died in London in a car crash.’
‘Late on December 18 1966, Browne had left the apartment of Anita Pallenberg, the girlfriend of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, in London’s South Kensington. The heir to the Guinness brewery fortune, handsome Tara Browne was the quintessential Swinging London groover, reportedly having given his friend Paul McCartney his first acid trip.

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‘Driving his turquoise Lotus Elan, which he had previously entered in the Irish Grand Prix, Browne swerved to avoid a passing vehicle and crashed the iconic car into a parked truck: he had spun his driving-wheel to save his passenger, his then girlfriend, the model Suki Poitier, later a paramour of Brian Jones. Browne died in hospital the next day.
1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe side view
‘If anything, the fatal accident only added to the mystery and mystique of the Lotus Elan, a car that was as quintessentially of its era in the UK as the Jaguar XKE.
‘The first series of the Lotus Elan was produced by Lotus Cars between 1962 and 1975 as a rear-wheel drive vehicle. With its sexy, rolling lines and fabulous performance the Lotus Elan was an immediate hit. ‘The Elan,’ assessed Car and Driver, ‘very simply represents the sports car developed in tune with the state of the art. It comes closer than anything else on the market to providing a Formula car for ordinary street use. And it fits like a Sprite, goes like a Corvette, and handles like a Formula Junior. Driving it is very simply another sort of automotive experience altogether. Most people tend to come back from their first ride a little bit glassy-eyed…’
‘At the moment we have just such a car at Beverly Hills Car Club, a charming 1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe that is finished in a beautiful British Racing Green with a yellow stripe decal combined with a black interior.
‘Equipped with a manual transmission, disc brakes, Weber dual carburetors, single exhaust, pop-up headlights, black soft top, side windows, Smiths gauges, roll bar, toggle switches, three-spoke steering wheel, five pin ‘knock-off’ wheels with Kumho Power Star 758 tires, and a full-size spare. This British sports car is eye-catching and is mechanically sound.
1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe rear view
‘The Lotus Elan engine, gearbox and differential were all sourced from components from Ford UK. The gearbox was a high volume unit used widely across the Ford range in both the Anglia and Cortina. Lotus offered regular and close ratio versions.
‘In the UK the Lotus Elan would be sold in kit-form: the car would arrive at your home in pieces, to be assembled at your leisure. You would thereby be exempt from purchase tax, and save about a third on the car’s showroom price.
1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe interior
‘With – by contemporary measurements – a powerful engine and its light weight, the Elan had a remarkable performance. The Lotus Elan would do 0-60 mph in 9.2 seconds and had a top speed of 108 mph. It was also extremely agile at high speed cornering.
‘Famously the car was driven by the actress Diana Rigg in her character of Emma Peel in the legendary 1960s’ British television series The Avengers. Other celebrity Lotus Elan owners included the actors Peter Sellers and Paul Newman, and the celebrity American TV personality Jay Leno, not to mention Noel Redding, the bass-player with The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
‘In the balance of fairness, if we have a John Lennon quote (see above), then don’t we also require one from his songwriting partner Paul McCartney?
“The verse about the politician blowing his mind out in a car we wrote together,’ McCartney considered in his authorized biography, Many Years From Now by Barry Miles.”
1966 Lotus Elan Series II Drop Head Coupe engine
“It has been attributed to Tara Browne, the Guinness heir, which I don’t believe is the case, certainly as we were writing it, I was not attributing it to Tara in my head. In John’s head it might have been. In my head I was imagining a politician bombed out on drugs who’d stopped at some traffic lights and didn’t notice that the lights had changed. The ‘blew his mind’ was purely a drugs reference, nothing to do with a car crash.”
‘Whatever, the controversy over the song, and Tara Browne’s alleged appearance in it, only enhanced fascination with the tune.
‘And with the Lotus Elan.
-Alex Manos, Owner
1966 Lotus Elan buyer Alex Manos

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