First Unit Numbers:
From 1 January 1970 Lotus revised the way in which vehicle unit numbers were allocated. Obviously this affected S4s as the Sprint had not been conceived at this time. The format is as follows:
Breaking the number up gives 70 – Year of manufacture; 02 – Month of manufacture; 03 – Batch number; 0004 – Unit number; G – Letter to denote Elan type, G is UK spec drop head coupe. (A full breakdown of Elan types is on the Number Made page)
From 1 January 1972 the batch number was dropped, so the format became, for example:
The Sprint started to be manufactured at the factory in January 1971 for release in February 1971. However, some S4/Sprints were delivered to their new owners in January 1971.
Earliest VINs for production Sprints (as opposed to S4/Sprints) I am aware of are:
7101 02 0201 E
7101 01 0035 F
7103 05 0299 G
7102 03 0031 H
7112 29 0050 J - I am aware of only 25 Federal FHC Sprints, making them the rarest variant
7104 07 0164 K
Last Unit Numbers:
Graham Arnold maintained that the last Sprints were manufactured in February 1973, 73020899 being the final DHC. By the final quarter of 1972 Elan Sprint sales were poor. The Lotus Europa however was selling well. Lotus dictated that for every Europa a dealer ordered, they had to take 2 Elan Sprints, to help reduce the backlog at Hethel. The decision to cease manufacture of the Elan Sprint was made by the Lotus board in July 1972. The last Sprint was built on Tuesday 6th March 1973 and a party was held at the factory to celebrate. Sprints continued to be listed and available at dealers up to August 1973. Certainly some Sprints carry the M plate in the UK, indicating they were registered after 1 August 1973. I know of two on a N plate too.
I am aware of an 11th May 1973 price list, but of none later than that date. In other words, there continued to be stock of cars available from the dealers for some time after final manufacture. Lotus World of August/September 1973 has a cover with the title “Farewell to the Elan”. It also states “ .. Elan Sprint, of which 1353 were made and sold. ... and the last car was a Maroon Drophead, designated 102H and sold to a Portuguese customer.” In a 1973 article, Autosport also say the last Sprint was maroon and sent to Portugal. Additionaly, they state that the Elan line ended because kit cars were phased out with the introduction of VAT on 1st April 1973, in addition to which the Sprint did not conform to 1974 safety regulations.
For the sake of what I hope is some historical accuracy, these are the final unit numbers for each Sprint type:
7302 0665 E Arnold final E number
7302 0086 F Final F number I am aware of
7302 0899 G Arnold final G number
7303 0103 H Sprint/5 in Denmark, final H number
7112 29 0071 J Final J number I am aware of
7208 0319 K Final K number I am aware of
The Very Last Sprint?
A Danish owner bought a used Sprint in 1973; however, as it was being prepared for delivery at the dealer, the garage burned down and the car was written off. In August 1973 the Danish importer visited the factory and called the owner to tell him that Lotus could provide him with a brand new Sprint, if he ordered it, which he did. He didn’t order a Sprint/5, but that was what was delivered in September 1973. The same owner has kept the car since then. This was 0103, the final H type, though the previous number, 0102H was in fact made a few days later and was indeed the very final Sprint to come off the production line, being exported to Portugal, as above.
For additional information on Sprint VINs and production numbers, please go to the Production Data page