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Lotus Elan S2 and Mazda MX-5: spoiled by the wind - roadster of hearts

Rossen Gargolov
Lotus Elan S2 and Mazda MX-5
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Emma Peel is probably the most famous Lotus Elan driver of all time. Of course, men like Jim Clark, Formula 1 world champion from 1963 and 1965, also drove a Lotus Elan - but the little roadster burned itself into memory with images for eternity thanks to the partner of John Steed in the agent television series 'Mit Schirm , Charm and bowler hat '.

The English remains exotic, the Japanese bestseller

Mrs. Peel moved smoothly like a cat in mostly light-colored, tightly cut trouser suits. And she was able to fold up a nasty criminal with short karate strokes. She drove her white, resilient Lotus Elan just as swiftly and wildly.

The cult series was still permeated by the fresh spirit of the Roaring Sixties and shone with bottomless optimism, casual elegance and fresh irony. Until July 3rd, you can admire Emma Peel's Elan and John Steed's pre-war Bentley at Arte TV station - one of the few ways to see the Lotus in action. Although a little more than 17,000 units were produced together with the Lotus Elan Plus 2 Coupé from 1962 to 1974, the small sports car is one of the biggest exotic cars on our roads.

The Mazda MX-5 is very different. From 1989 to 1997, more than 400,000 units of the first generation, called NA, rolled off the production line. At the end of last year, more than 800,000 roadsters were sold together with the current model. He runs and runs and runs. The second generation of almond eyes without folding headlights in particular enlivens the streetscape in Germany's cities. Mazda MX-5 preferred color: British Racing Green. It not only goes well with the compact, long-snouted two-seater, but also signals a bit of the longing for the British way of life - for the Triumph Spitfire and MG B, whose production was already discontinued in 1980 and 1979 respectively.

As the actual model for the Mazda MX-5, however, is the Lotus Elan. In fact, there are many optical similarities: the oval cooling air opening under the bumper, the pop-up headlights and the pleasing proportions of the car body with short overhangs, long bonnet and passengers placed in front of the rear axle.

More than 400 kilos separate the Mazda MX- 5 and Lotus Elan

The character trait of the Mazda MX-5, achieving maximum driving pleasure with as little technical effort as possible - small engine meets low weight - is also in the LotusRealized with vigor: in the English 105 hp at 584 kilograms, in the Japanese 90 hp at 990 kilograms. The anticipation for this driving comparison is therefore great - let's get in. First the yellow Mazda MX Sunracer from 1995, a special model limited to 400 pieces, which should make the introduction of the newly offered small engine with 90 hp from 1.6 liter displacement next to the 1.9 liter with 130 hp palatable. Mazda also donated the soft, strong Nubutex seat fabric, a passenger airbag, power windows and ABS in addition to the rich Speed ​​Yellow, and let the gaudy roadster cocktail cost a tangy 39,190 marks.

We top it with a chrome strip and MX-5 lettering decorated, low sills, land on a comfortable seat and thread our heads under the fabric roof. When you close the Mazda MX-5 door, you get a cozy, chambre separé feeling. The leather steering wheel and the mini gearshift lever, which is not far from it, are precisely within the reach of the hands. Everything fits, nothing pinches, squeezes or causes muscle cramps.

The engine runs humming and loud; you can hear him everywhere under the fabric roof - in front, behind, above and below. Doesn't matter, as long as the roof is still closed, we tick this off as a racing sound, to which the tight, dark interior fits perfectly. The five-speed gearshift with its short distances too.

With little gas, we roll off without any problems, quickly shift into higher gears, swiftly round a few roundabouts - and are the best friends. Still closed on the autobahn with a travel speed of 150, the wind noise is somewhat restrained. The engine hums and roars from all sides, but never has to be turned up to the permitted 6,000 rpm, but shakes its power like an MG B from the speed ground floor. Only the somewhat stubborn gear change around the corner from fifth to fourth disturbs the racing-like driving pleasure, to which the relatively hard-sprung chassis fits perfectly.

Now we are in a parking bay, throwing the roof with both arms in a liberating way Move backwards and take a deep breath full of anticipation: Ahhhh! Air! And continue the journey. Now the engine only roars front and rear. The all-round view is limitless - gentle, cool swirls of air caress our forehead and temples like the cold hands of a shy geisha. This is luxury for everyone, whether they are sitting in an open Ferrari 365 California or a Mazda MX-5: the immense sky above the driver is always the same.

The Lotus Elan is a high-tech athlete

The Lotus Elan has even more sky to offer, as it is preferred to drive it open on public roads. Even the owner Günter Fechner, who bought his red ruby, which was delivered in 1965 exactly 20 years ago, usually leaves the convertible roof, which has to be puzzled out of bows and fabric, at home. After all, Emma Peel only drove openly, andThere's a slippery hardtop for the racetrack. Car change: Now the little Englishman is being tried out.

Ouch, the lotus is flat and tiny. You stand in front of it, look under the steering wheel and look in vain for the pedals: No, this is not a pedal car, but a high-tech sports car that once cost a fortune. With a purchase price of 1,499 pounds, a Lotus Elan S2 from 1965 was higher than a Triumph TR5 or Austin Healey Mk III, which had a six-cylinder, significantly more displacement and stately size. Compared to the already compact Mazda MX-5, the Elan is 3.69 meters long and only 1.42 meters wide, a whopping 30 centimeters shorter and, above all, 25 centimeters narrower than the Japanese.

Down and into the toy roadster. Thanks to the large door opening, only threading the pairs of legs into the dark shaft of the Lotus Elan is a little difficult. Close the door, everything fits. The left arm rests more or less in the bare door, the right on the high central tunnel. For the little pedals, the driver needs narrow Pumas and the feet of Mireille Matthieu, paired with the thigh pressure of weightlifting ace Mathias Steiner: The clutch is rock-hard. The right hand, on the other hand, has easy play with the small, cuddly gear lever of the Lotus Elan. Short distances and playful 'click' and 'clack' engagement of the aisles put you in a good mood. Let's go.

Stalled. Small hop instead of a long journey. Embarrassing. Luckily, Lotus Elan owner Fechner is indulgent in the passenger seat: 'The clutch comes very late and then 100 percent, it takes a bit of getting used to.' With the third attempt, we definitely and emphatically set ourselves in motion, accompanied by the wonderful trumpet sound of the small four-cylinder.

The Lotus sprints three seconds faster to 100 km /h

When shifting the gears, the happy four-cylinder whistling stops for a moment, only to be all the more eager to start again when you accelerate again. The little Lotus Elan playfully follows every movement of the steering wheel, negotiates curves with the ease of a skater and pampers its passengers with an astonishingly high level of driving comfort. The lightweight Elan is much softer than the Mazda MX-5.

Taller drivers protrude far from the plastic flounder and can thus freely choose whether they want to look through or over the windshield. In the Mazda MX-5, on the other hand, you travel much more sheltered from the wind and, of course, a little slower because the snappy Lotus four-cylinder has much less weight to carry. In Elan, 7.5 seconds pass from zero to 100 km /h, the 90-hp Mazda MX-5 takes three seconds more. The 1.8-liter version of the Mazda MX-5 with 130 hp comes pretty close to the Lotus with 8.2 seconds.

Nevertheless, the differences between the Mazda MX-5 and Lotus Elan are greater than whose visual appearance suggests: Here the solidly made,uncomplicated and affordable everyday roadsters for everyone - there the outrageously expensive high-tech sports car equipped with a separate X-frame and, as early as 1962, four disc brakes, independent suspension and a DOHC engine. What they have in common, however, is the fresh, carefree wind of the sixties. Conclusion: Emma Peel would also drive the Mazda MX-5.

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