It was after racing a CSM-Ford Special and a Lotus 6, that Sussex garage owner Frank Nichols decided to build his own sports racing car. He chose the name Elva – an abbreviation of Elle Va, French for she goes – for the new machine which he had ready for the 1955 season. Employing Standard Eight/Ten front suspension, a live rear axle and rack and pinion steering, the chassis was completed without the aid of any drawings. Power came from Ford’s four cylinder 1,172 cc engine with an overhead valve conversion devised by one of Nichols’ mechanics which was also sold commercially to raise money for his racing endeavours. It was Brands Hatch after one of the Elva’s first races that Nichols was approached to build another example of his aluminium-bodied sports racer, and he duly set up Elva Engineering to meet further orders for the car.
Following on from this first model, the MK 1b featured improved wishbone front suspension, and during the 1956 season Elvas would be raced to great effect by such legendary names as Archie Scott-Brown, Stuart Lewis Evans, Robbie Mackenzie-Low and Jim Russell. For the Mk II of the 1957 the tubular space frame chassis also had a de Dion rear axle and Coventry-Climax’s potent, 1,100 cc FWA engine, mated to a four speed gearbox, and soon replaced the ford unit. Subsequently the Mk II was raced very successfully in America; from this Elva realised a lucrative export market and by 1957 the majority of its production was crossing the Atlantic. The following year Elva would produce the Courier, its first road car.
The MkIII was an evolution of the MkII and appears to be a more standardized model targeted for the USA with standard equipment roll bar for SCCA. The MkIIB and the MKIII have similar appearances and were reported many times incorrectly because of their similarities.
The Mk III had a lower rear roll centre and the wheels were set at 2 degrees positive camber instead of vertical, as on the Mk II. The suspensions on the Mk III thus differed only in small detail from the Mk II, and were similar in principle. John Bolster, in his Autosport road test, found that he could toss the new car into a corner and dial in either oversteer or understeer, but that it became quite suirrelly near its limits. Coventry Climax was an engine of choice. The Familiar 1.1-litre FWA was the standby, but now the newer 1500cc FWB version was also available for those competing in the larger displacement class. A Gallay-made radiator provided cooling, but there was no longer a header tank installed as there had been on most of the earlier cars.
The power was fed through the stout MHA 4-speed gearbox and then an Elva-made casing for the BMC differential and axle. The car came to a stop with Lockheed drum brakes. Nichols felt there was no need to switch to the more-expensive disc brakes; since the car was so small and light, there was little of an Elva to stop. Girling discs did remain available as an option.
This particular Elva MK III was originally imported to America in 1959 by Continental Motors for Carol Shelby’s chief mechanic, Tom Greatorex, who raced the car and came fourth against the likes of Stirling Moss and others in the ’59 US Formula Libre at the Watkins Glen Grand Prix.
In coming years #100/54was raced extensively by Tom in multiple North American sports car races at various venues before being sold to Ralph A Hoyt on the 12th of November 1962, who continued to race it. Sometime during the ‘80s, the car came to rest in a barn for twenty five years before being repatriated to the UK six years ago, hence its incredible originality.
Since returning to the UK, it has undergone a meticulous restoration by its current owner who has taken extreme precautions and gone to great lengths to maintain the originality of the car, as can clearly be seen in the photos!
Still fitted with the correct type 1450cc Coventry climax OHC FWB engine, 2 x twin choke 40 DCOE Webber Carburettors and racing battery, over the past six years the car has entered in to various club events including brands hatch AMOC meeting, GMCC meeting, Shere Hillclimbs and Crystal Palace where it came first in its class. Additional information regarding the cars lap times at the 2013 AMOC XK Challenge and more can be found in the cars extensive history file.
Very interestingly, what can also be found in the car’s file is it’s original bill of sale to Tom. R Gratorex dated to the 19th of May 1959, something that is very rarely provided with any car, let alone such an interesting example from the late ‘50s. There is also a detailed record of the car’s restoration including invoices and many photos. Also provided with the car is a UK V5 log book and MOT certificate.