1965 Lotus Elan 26R “Bijou”

Ascott Collection

Ascott Collection is offering this amazing Lotus Elan 26R “Bijou” for sale. A Lotus 26R known and nicknamed “Bijou” by John Sheldon. Numerous victories at the Tour Auto, Modena Cento Ore and on the circuit. Maintained by a renowned French workshop.

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After the Lotus Elite, which was launched at the end of the 1950s and produced just over 1,000 cars, Colin Chapman took a radical turn in 1962. The Elite with its fibreglass monocoque chassis was a success in competition, notably at Le Mans (with six class wins), but it was too expensive to build and too complex to develop.

The Lotus Elite prompted Colin Chapman to go back to basics. The Elan was a model of simplicity. Developed in competition as the 26R, the Elan has enjoyed many successes in competition. Today it is a perfect car for historic competitions thanks to its lightness, playfulness and reliability. Ascott Collection is pleased to offer for sale a Lotus Elan 26R well known to historic racing enthusiasts: the Lots 26R ex John Sheldon and nicknamed “Bijou”.

The birth of the Lotus Elan 26R
When it arrived, the Lotus 26 was a return to Colin Chapman’s roots, a car that reflected his vision that a car should be light, thin and agile. It was the first Lotus not to be specifically designed for racing. Indeed, its predecessor, the Lotus Elite, was designed primarily as a road car for the smaller classes of motor sport from the outset, and in particular was designed to go for the Performance Index win. This was clearly not the ambition of the Elan.

However, the first owners could not help but take the Elan to the track. Unsuited to this environment, not optimised to be pushed to its limits, the Elan was not satisfactory. Lotus resisted the idea of modifying the car to make it more suitable for racing. Chapman left it to private teams to work on the Elan. Ian Walker and Graham Warner both sought to make the Lotus Elan a beast of the track. Their respective teams – Ian Walker Racing and The Chequered Flag – made major advances on the model.

The installation of rear wheel scoops, optimised brake and differential cooling, the replacement of the retractable headlights with fixed units and the installation of an NACA socket were all part of the package. At Graham Warner in particular, the work went further with wider wheel arches to accommodate adequate tyres, while the suspension received better sized anti-roll bars. Jackie Stewart and Mike Spence took the wheel of the Lotus Elan LOV1, a sort of premise of the 26R.

Faced with this success, and while the Elite continued to represent a financial abyss for the British brand, Colin Chapman finally decided to develop a competition version of the Elan. Its mission was to replace the Seven. Much of the work initiated by Ian Walker and Graham Warner was taken up and transposed to the 26R.

Mechanically, the 26R featured lightweight racing wishbones, sliding spline driveshafts instead of rubber seals, larger anti-roll bars and reinforcement around the suspension mounting points. The pedals have been repositioned for easier heel-toeing, dual circuit brakes with twin master cylinders and light alloy calipers are standard.

Suspension is provided by steel wishbones with coil springs/dampers at the front, and a large lower wishbone and spring/damper unit at the rear. The fibreglass bodywork is shaped by Ron Hickman.

The Elan’s 140bhp Cosworth twin-cam four-cylinder engine was designed by Harry Mundy. The former BRM and Coventry Climax man took over the Ford 116E block with displacement increased to 1558cc from 1499cc on the first version.

Lotus Elan 26/4642 26R Bijou
The car offered for sale by Ascott Collection is a Lotus Elan S2, chassis number 26/4642, upgraded to a 26R. Prepared at Ricky Higgs Preparations, it has all the elements of a genuine 26R.

It is regularly entered in rallies with great success. John Sheldon has won the 2004 Tour of Spain, Tour Auto, Rallye de Mallorca and the 2005 Coppa Costa Smerelda and the 2008 Modena Cento Ore. The car also has many category wins and has participated in events in Spain but also in France such as the Rallye National des Vins Mâcon VHC, the Rallye Historique du Var or the Tour de Corse Historique.

Acquired in 2018 by its current French owner, it has been entrusted to a reputable workshop in France – ATS in Le Mans who have carried out extensive work which is documented by the invoices for the work. “BIJOU” is very well prepared for competition: thanks to its light weight (below homologation weight), an engine that delivers 178 hp at 9000 rpm, it is a very fast Lotus 26R on special stages as well as on the circuit.

It has recently been successfully entered in various races in France. Its PTH is valid until 2025. It is ready to be entered for the Tour Auto!

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