So your dream classic which you could almost afford ten years ago was suddenly rather expensive five years ago, and has now well and truly sky-rocketed out of reach? I believe a lot of enthusiasts currently find themselves in this frustrating situation. So what do we do? Just admit defeat and give up on classic cars? I think not, Sir!
We look for other alternatives of course. There are still entertaining cars to be had for reasonable money. Enter the upcoming classic – or ‘youngtimer’ as our German friends have so aptly dubbed them (which really makes a lot of sense when you realize that they don’t use the term ‘classics’, but instead call those fully-fledged classics ‘oldtimers’). So what if they’re not from the Sixties? You probably started dreaming about the classics from the Sixties when they were 30-odd years old, and guess what… The cars from the Eighties are now – yup, 30-odd years old! More importantly, plenty of these youngtimers offer exciting and trend-setting designs of their era, engineering ingenuity, motorsport history, marque credibility, and most importantly a smile-inducing drive.
Actually, sod that. There’s naturally one thing even more important about youngtimers from the eighties – pop-up headlights! Sure they were invented well before the eighties, but automotive design in the eighties was practically defined by these funky pop-up headlights. They are quite frankly übercool, and even more so when combined with plenty of wedge.
Let’s combine all of the above: pop-up headlights, wedge design, entertaining and analogue driving experience, a marque with motorsport roots and loads of history, and not least a market value which won’t require you to remortgage the whole house and still cut into the kids’ university savings. What comes out on the other side? A Lotus Excel of course.
The Lotus Excel (also known as the Type 89) entered production in 1982, but was based on the Eclat which stems back to 1975. It was a classic front-engined, rear-wheel drive sports car with a 2+2 configured interior. While not as light as Lotus’s earlier road cars, its grp bodywork ensured it still wasn’t a heavy car either. More importantly, a perfect 50:50 weight distribution ensured that Lotus’s trademark cornering and handling characteristics were still retained.
At the time Lotus were assisting Toyota develop their second generation Supra. In return, Lotus had access to several mechanical components from Toyota. Thankfully, the classic DOHC 4-cylinder 2.2 liter all-aluminium Lotus engine stayed, but it was mated to a much more sturdy W58 manual gearbox and continued rearward drivetrain from Toyota. This was a major improvement over the predecessor Eclat.
The Excel remained largely unchanged during its lifetime from 1982 to 1992. Of course minor improvements were made along the way, the biggest makeover being in late 1985 for the upcoming ’86 model year. Visually the wheel arches went from being traditional rounded arches to sporting the oh-so-eighties boxed arches similar to the period Audi Quattro and BMW M3, although they were somewhat more subtle on the Lotus. To my eye at least, these later boxed arches really compliment the sharp wedge design of the Excel. Bumpers better integrated into the design and a new interior also featured from the ’86 model. For the same year Lotus also introduced the Excel SE, which gained a power hike from 160hp in the stock Excel, to a healthy 180hp in the SE.
Then in 1989 there was another minor facelift to bring the Excel in line with the recently redesigned Stevens Esprit, which only effected minor details such a vaguely restyled bonnet, different door mirrors and new OZ alloys. Finally, in 1992 the Excel bowed out with only 2,159 examples built. A small enough number to make it a sales failure, but equally a small enough number to make it really interesting as a classic.
The Eclat we’ve found for you here is a 1989 model, thus boasting those last changes to the door mirrors and alloys. The private owner has owned the car for the past ten years and claims the Excel is in very good condition. He adds that it comes with a large documented history file and the original owner’s manual. It’s seen a respray in the original Calypso red and seems to present very well on the pictures. There’s also some recent work by a named Lotus Specialist importantly including a new timing belt. The Lotus currently displays 97,000 miles and the seller promises to include a fresh MOT with the sale.
Here are a few pictures taken from the advert:
At £ 6,995 it’s clear that the Excel too has started to increase in value. Nowadays this is probably the lower end of where you can expect to find clean, tidy and well presented cars which are ready to use and enjoy on the road. I suggest someone makes their way to Berkshire in the UK for a proper pre-purchase inspection, before the cool pop-up lights catapult the Excel into the category of unaffordable classic cars currently populated by that longhood 911, E-type or Pagoda which you had promised yourself some 20 years ago…
Here’s the full advert for those who appreciate some wedge:
ViaRETRO says bring on those youngtimers…
With our Saturday instalment of Prime Find of the Week, we’re offering our services to the classic car community, by passing on our favourite classic car for sale from the week that passed. This top-tip might help a first-time-buyer to own his first classic, or it could even be the perfect motivation for a multiple-classic-car-owner to expand his garage with something different. We’ll let us inspire by anything from a cheap project to a stunning concours exotic, and hope that you will do the same.
Just remember – Any Classic is Better than No Classic! We obviously invite our readers to help prospective buyers with your views and maybe even experiences of any given model we feature. Further to that, if you stumble across a classic which you feel we ought to feature as Prime Find of the Week, then please send us a link to email@example.com