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1959 Elva Mark IV news, pictures, specifications, and information

After World War II, Europe was ready to get back to auto racing. Many of the buildings and factories that had produced the engines and chassis before the War had been ruined or transformed into making military vehicles.

Club racing offered a competitive means for individuals to enter the racing scene and prove there skills while maintaining a level of affordability. Specialty vehicles were built that offered performance at a competitive price. Examples include Lola and Lotus.

In 1947, Frank G. Nichols left the Army with nothing more than mechanical skills and enough money to begin a business in a garage fixing vehicles. This proved to be a successful endeavor so he moved to larger facilities located in London Road, Bexhill. While there he became interested in racing. At first he only followed the sport, and then he began racing using a Lotus VI and later a 'CSM'. His success in racing stimulated others to mimic his racing style and his machinery. To stay competitive and as a business opportunity, Nichols decided to create his own chassis.

The name 'elle Va' means 'she goes'. Nichols began producing formula junior cars and sports racers. The vehicles he produced were not confined to one city, or continent, but rather many were exported to the United States where they proved to be very competitive and captured many victories.

The Elva 100 series was powered by a BMC A-Series (Sprite or Mini) engine or a two-stroke DKW engine tuned by Mitter in Germany. The Elva became the first mass-produced British Formula Junior car.

The success of the vehicles on the race tracks and as a business prompted Nichols to expand Elva Engineering to another level. In 1958 the Elva Courier prototype was produced. It featured a ladder frame type chassis with aluminum bodywork. This vehicle was a car that could be driven on the road, compete at the race track, and be driven back home. Even though these were hand-built vehicles, it was easy to manufacturer, maintain and repair.

A 1500 CC. MGA engine and gearbox were used to power the vehicles. With this configuration, the vehicle was capable of achieving a top speed of 100 miles-per-hour and a zero-to-sixty time of 11.2 seconds.

With the success of the vehicle brought an increase in demand. A larger factory was built in Hastings and the staff of builders had grown to over sixty individuals. Assembly of a Courier took eighteen hours and approximately three vehicles per week were produced.

An unfortunate incident occurred when a shipment of cars were sent to the United States only to encounter problems. The distributor had financial difficulties so the shipment sat dockside in New York. The vehicles were unable to be recovered by Elva Cars and they were forced into voluntary liquidation. In 1961, Trojan Limited acquired the rights to the Courier and assumed production.

Trojan Limited revised the chassis, implemented a production line, and began mass-producing the Couriers. In place of the previous tubular chassis, a stiffer square section frame was used to make the cars more practical. A MGA 1622 cc engine now powered the vehicle; disc brakes were incorporated to add extra stopping power and the front suspension was supplied by Triumph. In an attempt to create more interior room, the engine was moved forward in the chassis. This caused handling problems and the vehicle suffered from poor balance. The Courier was loosing its sports-car roots.

In 1963, the MK. IV entered the scene. Power was provided by an MGB 1798 cc or Ford 1500 GT engines. The suspension was enhanced by incorporating an independent 'Tru-Track' suspension. For the price, the performance was unmatched.

Trojan Limited began turning their attentions to other endeavors and the Elva name was eventually dropped. Nichols continued to produce sports cars and was involved in projects with Carrol Shelby and Len Terry. Later he produced boats for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.

Ken Sheppard took over production of the Courier and produced an additional thirty-eight cars on-top of the 210 couriers produced by Trojan. Sheppard had a passion for motor racing and the improvements made to the Courier were evident of a true sports car. The build quality and service was enhanced.

In an attempt to create the most versatile Courier and to revitalize sales, prototypes were created using a Ford V6 engine. They were successful at creating a vehicle that had excellent handling and ample power but they were unable to acquire necessary funding to sponsor their endeavor. This would be the final attempt at creating Couriers in the sixties.

Today, Elva vehicles can be found at many historic and vintage racing scenes. Their agility and performance are still being experienced by drivers and admired by fans.

By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2006
Sports Racer
 
ELVA began in 1955 with Frank Nichols in a small garage in Bexhill, Sussex, England. Lotus, Cooper and Lola had similar starts. Frank took the name ELVA from a corruption of the French 'elle va' meaning 'she goes' and began building the MK I, a sports racing car.

A chance contact with Chuck Deitrich, an American car racer, in 1956 led to growing sales in the United States. Consequently, many more Elvas are found in the U.S. than in Europe.

The early sports racers evolved during the late-1950's from the MK 1 through the MK 5 - ever more advanced variations on the front-engined race car theme also found in the Lotus 11 and Lola MK 1. During this time Elva remained a small company, producing between 5 and 30 of the various models.

In the early-1960's rear-engine designs were in the ascendancy and Elva produced the MK 6, MK 7 and MK 7S. The MK 7 Series was very similar to, and competed with, the Lotus 23. A total of 72 Elva MK 7 variants were built by 1964 powered by a variety of engines including Porsche, Climax, Lotus Twin Can and BMW.

An Elva 7-Porsche showed up at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin in 1963 for the inaugural USRRC race, the Road America 500. With Augie Pabst and Bill Wuesthoff driving, it won, leaving Cobras, Ferrrari's and assorted other 'big iron' behind.

The MK 8 & 8S followed for the new two liter BMW engine. Bruce McLaren also worked with Elva to build a sports racer designed to handle American V8's resulting in the McLaren MK 1 cars.

During this decade of sports racers, Frank also built two Formula Junior models and a road-going sports car, the Courier, most of which were exported to the U.S.

By the mid-60's Frank Nichols left Elva to the Trojan Car Company which carried on production of the Courier and McLaren designs, eventually dropping the Elva name.
In the year 1955, Frank G. Nichols founded the Elva sports car manufacturing company. Based in Hastings, United Kingdom, the name Elva comes from the French phrase ‘ella va' which means ‘she goes'. Unfortunately financial problems that were caused by the failure of the U.S. distributor the Elva Company was sold to Trojan in 1961. Production was relocated to Rye, Sussex, and again in 1966 to the main Trojan factory in Croydon. In 1965 Ken Sheppard from Customized Sports Cars of Shenley, Hertfordshire purchased Elva from Trojan, but unfortunately production ended in 1968.

In 1954, Frank Nichols built his first sports racers. They was designed by Mick Chapman and created specifically for competition. Upon completion, they were taken to the track and competed with similar small displacement Lotus sports-races from Colin Chapman. With the car showing tremendous promise, Nicholes decided to emulate its design with the first few Elva live rear axle sports-racers.

MK II featured a deDion rear axle. The MK IV had fully independent suspension and was the first Elva with a tubular space frame.

The ultimate front-engined, drum-brake Elva sports racer was the small displacement sports-racer MK V. Only thirteen examples were produced. Power was from the Coventry-Climax FWB single overhead camshaft engine, and they were competitive (perhaps better), than Chapman's Lotus 11 in England, Europe and the United States.

Twenty-eight Elva MKVI models were produced with production beginning in December of 1961 and lasting until October of 1962. Most were powered by the Coventry Climax FWA 1100cc engine, although a few were given Ford push-rod power and other engines. Drum brakes were standard as their low weight and small displacement engines did not necessitate a need for discs.

The MK VI were the first of the modern ultra low 'lay down' sports racers. They made their debut at the Brands Hatch Boxing day race in England on December of 1961. They were popular in the US as a club racer in the G-Modified class. They enjoyed much success through the 1962 season but were soon eclipsed by the Lotus 23 and its successor, the Elva MK VII.

There were a total of around 69-72 examples of the MKVII produced between 1963 through 1965. Engine options varied, some were fitted with Lotus/Ford 1600cc, Ford Cosworth 1100cc, (Porsche, Climax, Lotus Twin Cam, and BMW) and various other units.

The last Elva Sports Racers were the Mark VIII. They were based on the highly successful MK VII and VIIS, and fitted with the most state-of-the-art-technology of the era. They were sold without engines and never officially used as factory competition cars; they were raced with much success by privateers, such as Carl Haas. The MKVIII had rocker arm front suspension, a rigid chassis design, aerodynamic body, and a number of other innovations making them formidable competition against the Lotus 23s and other '2-liter and Under' competitors.

By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2010
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