Rubi

The Story…..the kid and the car; then and now

Son of a son of a mechanic and only 12 years old; the memory remains clear as a photograph of those few seconds…………

Living in the foothills of Camarillo, California, 55 miles or so west of Los Angeles, it was still country then, and we waited at the foot of Alosta Drive at East Loop Drive for the big yellow school bus each morning. The intersection was then, and still is but to a lesser degree, a bit of a chicane; quick right then sweeping uphill left……..

I heard it coming and then it popped into view, flashed through the curves and snarled up the hill driven by a blond lady. That was my unforgettable first sighting of a Lotus Elite. The year was 1962. The car was stunning, left hand drive, white…….I guess it made a deep impression. Now some 49 years later I still marvel at the beauty of the white Elite, I’m still dazzled by its foot work and the ripping snort of its exhaust tone. So here I am today, the caretaker of white Lotus Elite 1308 and have been so for almost 43 years.

I grew up in a family Garage, parts store, tow service and gas station in that country town; I was pumping gas and fixing generators at age 10. But when I was 15 or so my Dad and Grandfather sold the business. My Dad went to work for his Uncle becoming the manager of the west coast branch of Nisonger Corp., who imported and repaired Smith Instruments (a few of you may still remember Ernie, my Dad…..I sure do). We moved to West Los Angeles where I also worked for Nisonger repairing all sorts of Smith’s products and at age 15 ½ I purchased my first car; a $300 1959 bug eye Sprite.

Growing up in the country, I learned how to drive at age 12 and at 16, I was gone…….
at least during my waking hours. Who else of you will admit to walking the high school corridors air shifting while making engine noises?

A 1 ½ year later, January 1968, I talked Dad into loaning me the $2500 to buy a 1960 white Lotus Elite; please note that yes, I did pay him back, though it took a while at $3.50/hr. I do believe the connection to that morning at the bus stop years earlier was only subconscious. But what a thing 1308 was, the “Flower Child” as my mother called it.

Ah the stories…..remember in 1968 the Elite was just an older sports car then, but really boss for a high school kid. I dated Debbie, the head cheerleader and thought it was the greatest thing to drive around with her megaphone on the rear parcel tray. Dare I say at 17 she was willing and I was a lot more flexible? I dated Debbie for several years so she my come up in a few Elite adventures. Alas, I’ve lost touch with her, but she became a PHD in Chemistry and moved to the east coast.

I believe that I’m the third owner. I don’t remember the name of the guy I bought 1308 from, but he did keep saying “Toby Anstead owned this car”. Can anyone tell me who that might be? 1308 was a very original early series 2, stage 1 car with the exception of having black loop carpet and an MGB generator and regulator. 1308 was sold by Bob Challman in 1962 with no options. To this day I do not believe she has been out of California, although I’ve driven her to the Bay area at 3 or 4 times; as I said, my back was better then. Bob Challman was a piece of work himself, but that’s another story for another time to be told by others.

To tell all the stories would take the whole issue…….

As a new Lotus owner, I read about Lotus West car club in the Los Angeles Time auto events section, back in the day when the newspaper was the way to learn about such events as well as to buy a used car. I headed from West LA to Glendale via the San Diego Freeway and didn’t get too far before the rear end started making a horrible squeal. Who knew the rear bearing leaked oil or even how to check the level? This was the first of what has been thousands of Elite projects, although that is the only time I had the rear end completely out. Dad called one of his major customers, BMC, who in the end sent a return cabbage head off a Morris Minor. I can’t remember if it’s a 4:11-1 or 4:22-1.

It was later that I joined Lotus West and as number 46; the first non-charter member. In those days there was an active sports car scene in LA and the Lotus West get together, cruses and meeting were something to look forward to and don’t forget “Stress Cracks” their newsletter. At the 1968 Le Circle Concours, one of the first Lotus West events I attended, 1308 won first in the Lotus class. That was a pretty huge thrill for the first time out.

The story is not yet finished in this detail…..but in summary, I have owned 1308 since January 1968. For several years she was my only car and I have driven her to San Francisco at least 4 times. She had 42,000 mile when I bought her and now has 72,000. In 2009 I decided to have her painted since time had shrunken the paint such that she was covered with “chicken feet”. Well dumb me, it didn’t occur to me that with new paint, I couldn’t put back 50 year old rubber, and worn chrome….hence we started a complete refreshment. I call it that, since I never completely tore her down at one time….sort of kept pecking away. Remember I was 17 when I bought her and in those days, “if it didn’t move chrome it”; so she really got almost too shinny in the process (or so think some of the concours judges. The paint work is excellent, the moldings and interior are all new (being an assembled car the rubber is relatively easy to find) but the chrome work is spectacular!

I cannot say enough good about South Bay Chrome!…the work cannot be beat and the friendly personal service is not exceeded anywhere! A special thanks goes to Frank Martin.

Since I finish the Elite in show condition a year and a half ago (is it ever finished?), my wife and I have shown her in seven concours events and brought home five trophies.
A show car is only as good as its weakest point. In our case it works backwards; the chrome work dazzles and sparkles, setting the tone for a lovely car, great design decades ahead of itself and better than new presentation. We are all just custodians of these works of modern mechanical art and for our case, with the commitment of professionals like South Bay Chrome, we will strive to maintain the respectful standard.
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1960 Lotus Elite Bio/Info

Debuting at the 1957 Earls Court Motor Show was Lotus founder, Colin Chapman’s first road car, the type 14 Lotus Elite. Based upon his successful formula of rigid chassis and soft suspension and coupled with his obsession for lightness, the Elite is the world’s first fiberglass monocoque production car. “You could cut though the car and the only metal you’ll hit is the drive shaft.”

988 Elites were produced from 1959 to 1963. Weighing only 1300 pounds and powered by a 85 hp 1216 cc single overhead cam FWE Coventry Climax engine, the Elite is capable of speeds over 120 mph. Originally selling for $4100 in Manhattan Beach, CA, the elite was expensive for it’s day.

While Chapman’s intent was to build a production road car, he also recognized the opportunity for racing in the under 1300 cc GT class. In 1959 early Elites finished 1st and 2nd in class at Le Mans; they continued these winning ways for 6 consecutive years, also winning the overall Index of Thermal Efficiency twice, helped by it’s coefficient of aerodynamics of 0.29, it is still one of the most efficient designs ever.

Generally regarded as one of the most beautiful cars ever, the Elite is truly a unique design of a “racing car for the road”.

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