Jim Clark's Lotus Elan – offering its new owner a living link with one of Formula One's most extraordinary drivers and most enigmatic characters. 997 NUR is the earliest surviving Elan, issued to Jim Clark in 1962 as a pre-production factory development car.
This Elan is the very car in which the kilted Clark was photographed for a Lotus advertisement at his family’s sheep farm in the Scottish Borders, Edington Mains, saying “I drive my Lotus Elan for pleasure – not because I have to.”
After a year in Jim Clark’s hands and about 15,000 miles, 997 NUR was returned to Lotus and then very fittingly sold to Ian Scott Watson, the friend and mentor who played the instrumental role propelling the young Clark into Scottish club racing, before Clark’s God-given talents were fully revealed.
During his ownership, Scott Watson loaned the car to Andrew Cowan, a close friend of Clark and subsequently world-famous in rally circles with successes at Rootes and Mitsubishi, for a very wet race at Ingliston where he finished a close second in a field of race-prepared Elans.
After rediscovery in the 1990s, 997 NUR was comprehensively restored, presenting today in its original Carmen Red livery over black interior, with a factory hardtop and a later-fitted 1,558 cc Weber-carburetted twin-cam engine.
Correspondence with Lotus and a certificate of vehicle provenance confirms that this was the pre-production development car issued to Jim Clark, and the final Elan development car before production of the retail cars commenced.
Recently in the appreciative ownership of another Scots racing driver, 997 NUR has been loaned to the Jim Clark Trust for display. She was also present at Loretto School (where Clark was a pupil) for a Jim Clark commemoration service.
A symbol of the racing partnership between Lotus and Clark, the significance of 997 NUR of course lies in the wider history of the huge achievements of Jim Clark behind the wheel of Colin Chapman's Lotus racers. On the road to two Formula One World Championships in 1963 and 1965, Clark took 25 wins in 72 career GP starts in championship races.
With its Lotus twin-cam engine, four-wheel independent suspension, rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes, the Elan is a spirited and enjoyable drive today. Elans are treasured by discerning collectors as great driver’s cars – owners include Gordon Murray, designer of the McLaren F1, and Adrian Newey, the all-time most successful designer in Formula One.
997 NUR offers the guardianship of a superbly drivable living link to one of Formula One’s greatest and best-loved champions. For any fan of Jim Clark, she will make a suitable prize worthy of Scotland’s world champion driver.