Elan gathering proves that classics are used more than ever

| 31 May 2012

Do you ever look at our big group tests and wonder how difficult it must be to get all those cars together?

I do and I've been doing it for years.

Truth is it can be a nightmare. There are people I consider "specialists" at gathering huge numbers of cars together for a big shoot – Andrew Roberts springs to mind – but for the most part anything more than a handful of classics needs to be a group effort.

There are exceptions, of course, when things just fall into place thanks to generous and amenable owners or dealers.

But nothing in my 16 years on C&SC prepared me for the response we had for a feature in the imminent July issue of the magazine.

After all, I had (over)confidently been saying for months that getting five, maybe even six key Lotus Elans together for a 50th birthday party would be no problem. Just tell me the time and place and I'd sort it.

But as time wore on and the venue was only confirmed less than two weeks before the shoot, even I was starting to wonder if my confidence was misplaced. Not least because we wanted owner cars not dealer cars and they are always that bit more difficult to organise.

Well, not always.

I had been talking to Alan Morgan from Club Lotus about something else and he just mentioned that if I was struggling to find any particular cars I should give him shout and he'd see what he could do to help.

So, thinking I might as well take him up on his offer, I sent him a list of everything I wanted.

On Friday 27 April he sent out an appeal for cars around the club members. And by 11am I had my pick of four genuine 26Rs.

And they just kept coming, more and more Elans of all types and specs, until by Monday afternoon, more than 60 Elans had been volunteered. That's right, 60.

So, far from the usual scrabbling around desperate to find cars, I was instead reluctantly being rude to people by not responding instantly as I worked through my bulging inbox and voicemail messages. Sincere apologies if anyone felt they weren't accorded the attention they should have been.

Worse than that I was having to say "thanks but no thanks" to owners who were prepared to help us out, not because there was anything wrong with their cars, but solely because I had so many options, but only one berth for each model.

Believe me, turning down pukka 26Rs with great history, is no easy task.

Now, being a Lotus man, and an Elan man to boot, I am atrociously biased, so I will not dare to suggest that this gung-ho get-stuck-in attitude is limited to the finest and truest sports car ever made Elan.

Instead I will just mention that, regardless of the make or model, the experience speaks volumes about how instrumental and well connected good classic car clubs still are (in football parlance Club Lotus played a blinder on this one) and also how intrepid classic car enthusiasts have become.

In fact, the latter realisation raised a third, extremely encouraging facet to this. Sure, we were only asking people to turn out on wet spring day in the Midlands, but 60 people were prepared to drop everything on a weekday and do that without a second thought, and that shows how much more willing people are to use their classics nowadays.

To my mind that is probably the greatest and most pleasing recent change in our hobby. Thanks to clubs and all manner of events that have encouraged people to use their cars, the vast majority of owners don't fear any journey in a classic anymore and are ready to take on anything, rain or shine.

That wasn't always the case, and it was certainly wasn't the case for a car with a reputation for fragility such as the Elan.

In my Elan ownership I have always been determined to explode the reliability myths and I am over the moon to see so many others doing the same.

Not just for the profile and reputation of the little Lotus, but as just one small part of a vast hobby that is ever more conspicuous – for all the right reasons – to the general public and the powers that be.