The rusticity was noticed by Lotus's body shop technicians, too, who were smoothing out the chips the bonnet had gained on its landing and repainting the panel to a standard conspicuously better than the rest of the car, as they lacked the technology to make it look bad enough. Meanwhile, the Lotus special projects workshop was sorting out the gearbox, which had seized in gear causing the end of photo shoot play and the termination of my turbulent Elan love affair.
Thing is, I had wanted an Elan for years. Since 1979, actually, when various friends started getting into sports cars. The lightness, the road-holding, the prettiness, the twin-cam engine and the thrill of the Lotus name were what made an Elan so covetable, but I couldn't afford one and bought an MGB instead. Then, in 2008, my chance came when I sold my Lancia Fulvia HF for a good price. I added just £5 and bought my S3 Coupé.
The S3 is the prettiest of all Elans, the Coupé especially so. It has the delicate and subtle wheel-arch shape of the early cars but the flatter, tauter waistline of the later ones. People seem to favour Sprints as the 'best' Elans, the cars that combine the squarer-arched S4 body with an engine fitted with bigger inlet valves and slightly racier camshafts, but there's a bit of an emperor's new outfit going on here. It's easy to uprate an engine to Sprint spec, and the rest of the car is practically the same as a non-Sprint.
My Elan had Sprint inlet valves, bigger-than-Sprint exhaust valves, Cosworth L2 camshafts and went like the wind. On a good-tune day, it felt almost ballistic; it's the quickest car I've ever owned. But I never got its handling and ride to feel quite right, even though that is supposed to be such a central part of an Elan's appeal.