From Sweden to France in an unfamiliar vintage Lotus

Lotus-Elan-Hamburg

Dave S. Clark

When you’re on the market for rare classic car that only had a few thousand units ever made, the chances of finding one down the street from you is usually pretty slim. If you want a specific car or a specific variation of one and if it has to fit a certain budget, you may have look quite some distance away.

That was exactly the case for Philip Turle, a user at LotusElan.net, who had been on the hunt for the perfect vintage Lotus Elan. Philip’s search led him to a dealer in Helsingborg, Sweden, just north of Malmö – about 1,300 km from his home in Paris. He was looking for a very specific car, a Series 3 in left-hand drive, which wasn’t the easiest to find in his neck of the woods. After looking locally and across the UK, he decided he had to widen his search. And that’s when he came across the 1967 S3 Elan DHC that would soon become his. 

The Elan he found in Sweden was a runner, with a fresh engine rebuild and looked to be in fantastic shape. But Philip, like many other classic car owners who have bought cars in other countries or states, needed to make a decision. He could either pick up the car and make the drive back home in an unfamiliar classic with the risk of many things going wrong – certainly the most romantic option – or the less appealing, but probably safer option – getting the car transported back home. If you know old Lotuses, you know that they don’t have a reputation for being the most reliable methods of transportation.

Ultimately, Philip made the right choice of flying to pick the car up, and making the four-country adventure back home. From Paris, he flew to Copenhagen, Denmark, which is just across the Øresund Straight from Malmö, where the car was located. His journey would take him back into Denmark, followed by a ferry ride into Germany, a train transporter to take him closer to France, before driving the final leg back home to Paris.

Wisely, he made some worthy preparations for the trip. He picked up a disaster kit consisting of a distributor cap, leads and other electrical and mechanical bits from Sue at Mick Miller Lotus. When he arrived to pick up the car, he had an MOT inspection done so he could legally drive the car and also give himself some peace of mind. From there the Elan was sent to Bertil Carlsson, a local Lotus specialist, who adjusted the carbs, connected the horns and gave it a general tune up.

“So finally, the next day, September 11th, it was time to set off for Paris from Helsingborg. It started raining before I reached Malmö. Over the bridge into Denmark and then onto Rodbyhaven for the 45-minute ferry to Puttgarden in Germany. There was quite a lot of rain on the Danish portion of the route, but the roads were mainly clear so it didn’t really matter,” he said.

He then reached Germany and headed for Hamburg.

“The clouds decided to declare war on the Lotus as soon as we arrived in Germany and the rain began to fall in buckets. Coupled with this were repeated roadworks shifting us from one side of the carriageway to the other. There was much more traffic in Germany including dozens of heavy lorries shooting past at 150 km an hour, throwing spray into the windscreen. At times this was quite scary as the heavy rain and spray from other vehicles meant I couldn’t see where I was going, so I pulled off the road to wait for the rain to stop.

“I finally made it to Hamburg at 7 p.m. after driving 450 km from Helsingborg. Here the Lotus was loaded onto an Auto-Train headed to Lörrach close to the border with France and Switzerland, giving me the chance to sleep off the stressful day,” he said.

The weather was a bit better the next day with less rain, but dark clouds still hung on the horizon. After checking the water levels, topping up the oil and getting a small repair to a boot hinge that had come loose, he was on his way, getting close to France.

“I must admit I felt immediate relief to be back in France, even though I still had another 650 km to go. My Google map was working on my mobile phone and my French is certainly better than my German. So onto Besançon, then Dijon, Troyes and finally onto Paris through some rain, and even some sun but by this time I didn’t really mind what the weather did.”

All told, Philip said it was a great experience and was glad he rolled the dice and drove the car back.

“Total distance covered: 1,250km. Total fuel cost: 150 Euros. Total number of extra grey hairs: 0.”

What a great way to get introduced to a very cool car.

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1 thought on “From Sweden to France in an unfamiliar vintage Lotus”

  1. I’m a North American Lotus owner. I’ve done a few multiday trips in my Elise and they have all been adventures.

    Glad that you made the trip and that it all worked out!

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