- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 8, 2010

Witnessing a six-foot, two-inch tall man enter a three-foot, 10.5-inch tall Lotus Elite is always interesting. Somehow, man and machine are compatible inside the 12-foot, 2-inch-long sports car.

Rob Parsons is the third owner of the 1961 Lotus Elite, having purchased it in October 2003. Two decades earlier he had owned a used Lotus while a student at the University of Virginia; once bitten by the Lotus bug, there is no recourse but to scratch the itch.

“I was on the periphery of Elite owners,” Mr. Parsons says. He had investigated several Lotus Elites but found them lacking. Finally, a friend steered him to a recently restored Lotus Elite in Ayer, Mass. - a Boston suburb.

He flew to Rhode Island and rented a car for the rest of the journey. There he found the Lotus and its recalcitrant seller. “It was what I was looking for,” Mr. Parsons says. He said the price of the Lotus when new was $4,780.

Eventually, he got a price he could live with, purchased the car and returned to his Springfield home to await the arrival of his 1,110-pound treasure. It arrived on the back of a truck.

He then carefully examined his car. The four knobs in the middle of the fiberglass dashboard, from the left, control lights, wipers, heater fan and choke. On the dash to the left of the three-spoke steering wheel is the turn signal switch. Upon being activated, a timer is set which later cancels the flashing lights. The stalk protruding from the left side of the steering column honks the horn when pushed down. When lifted, the headlights are flashed. Directly in front of the driver is the 140 mph speedometer and an 8,000 rpm tachometer with a redline of 6,500.

Under the package shelf behind the two bucket seats is the horizontally-mounted spare tire. On either side of the spare is a shock tower rising up just inside the rear window.

Both doors have a small wing vent window.

The seats and door panels are covered in black vinyl and the carpet is gray. By the passenger’s knees is a convenient parcel shelf. The hand brake is on the passenger side of the driveshaft hump down the middle of the car. Shifting gears in the Lotus is a treat because of the very short throws between the fully synchromeshed gears in the four speed, ZF transmission. “A twist of the wrist,” Mr. Parsons says is all it takes to shift to the next gear.

“It needed only minor refurbishing,” Mr. Parsons recalls after he carefully examined his Lotus. He says he went through the engine to confirm all was well, changed the camshaft, changed the gearbox and the differential ratio for more relaxed high speed driving, replaced the exhaust system with stainless steel parts and replaced the brake lines with stainless steel pipes and fittings. The original S.U. carburetors on the 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine have been replaced with a pair of Webber carburetors.

At the front of the Lotus, below each headlights are a pair of smaller lights. The two beneath the bumper are the turn signals while the pair above the bumper are the parking lights. “They’re not very demonstrative, are they?” asks Mr. Parsons.

At the other end of the car, on the right rear fender, is the gas cap. The capacity of the gas tank is listed at 6.5 imperial gallons. Mr. Parsons says his car delivers gas mileage of more than 35 mpg.

“It’s not a super power horse,” Mr. Parsons, admits, “but it’ll get you there.” There are four lights on the rear of the car, the outboard lights are the turn signal lights. The inboard lights serve as both taillights and brake lights.

Mr. Parsons believes the original color of his car was sky blue. He prefers the current graphite gray.

There is no power-assisted features on the Lotus. “Everything is mechanical,” Mr. Parsons says.

For a better angle in order to improve leverage, the hand brake is on the far side of the driveshaft hump from the driver.

For trips on the Skyline Drive to enjoy the autumn foliage, Mr. Parsons says, “It’s the perfect car.”

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