1976 Lotus Eclat
4-cyl. 1973cc/160hp 2x1bbl
With an experienced team and a lot of data.
Late 1975 saw new models arriving for Lotus, including the new generation Elite and a wedge-nosed, angular fastback coupe called the Eclat. As the sportier counterpart to the shooting brake design of the Elite, the Eclat was given a slightly hotter engine and a little more in the interior.
Engine power was provided by a carbureted double overhead cam inline four-cylinder engine displacing 1973 cc and delivering 160 hp and 140 lb-ft of torque. This was up 5 hp from the Elite.The bodywork of the Eclat was typical Lotus with all fiberglass panels mounted on a steel backbone frame similar to that used in the prior Europa generation. This gave the Eclat a low floorpan on either side of a large center tunnel used for the driveline.
The suspension design was also typical for Lotus, and of course made the Eclat nimble and smooth-riding. The front suspension was made with an upper A-arm and lower lateral links, with coil springs and dual lower longitudinal links that also served as an anti-sway bar. Steering was rack and pinion. In the rear, the Eclat used both upper and lower lateral links holding a trailing arm and using coil springs. Rear disc brakes were standard equipment.
The Eclat was available in several trim levels, designated by number. The 520 was the basic trim, and offered a four-speed manual gearbox, 13-inch steel wheels, two-piston fixed Ford brake calipers, and front disc brake rotors sourced from a Triumph GT6. The 521 trim added a five-speed manual transmission, alloy wheels, and upgraded brake calipers. The mid-level 522 trim came with the 521 features but added air conditioning, halogen headlamps, and tinted glass. The 523 model had all the 521 and 522 enhancements plus power steering. The 524 model offered a Borg-Warner three speed automatic transmission, plus all the other parts and features from the lower trims.
Pricing ranged from $15,350 for the basic 520 model up to $18,755 for the top 524 trim level. Sports-minded buyers could get the 523 model with the 5-speed for $18,250. Performance was a 0-60 time of about 8.5 seconds and a top speed of about 120 mph. The Eclat was therefore less overtly sporty than some of Lotus’s previous offerings, but for the time and considering the level of practicality and equipment available, the Eclat was still pretty quick. About 1,000 Lotus cars in total were produced per year in this timeframe, and numbers for the Eclat are inexact but somewhere in the range of 1,500 units were built.
Collectors should closely inspect the backbone chassis of any Eclat. The factory used felt for a sound and vibration damper between the chassis and the bodywork, and so rust where the felt has retained water is a frequent problem. Also, the Lotus engines of this era were notably fragile and so a good running example may be hard to find, but worth seeking out. Parts availability is likely to be a problem as well, but the rarity that makes an Eclat challenging also bestows benefits when the car is well-kept and shown.
The Eclat remains one of the more affordable ways to get into Lotus ownership, but it’s not for the faint of heart. They haven’t gotten valuable enough to be worth a full restoration, so almost none of the examples out there are perfect and most will have some significant needs. That said, the Lotus Eclat’s lively performance, rarity and distinctive shape make it a nifty classic.