Elva Engineering Co Ltd U.K.: Elva was a sports and racing car manufacturing company. It was based in Bexhill, then Hastings and Rye, East Sussex, United Kingdom. The company was founded in 1955 by Frank G. Nichols. The name derives from the French phrase elle va (“she goes”).
Bexhill, Sussex, England, UK
Frank G. Nichols
Frank Nichols’s intention was to manufacture a low-cost sports/racing car, and a series of models were manufactured between 1954 and 1959. The original model, based on the CSM car manufactured nearby in Hastings by Mike Chapman, used Standard Ten front suspension rather than Ford swing axles, and a Ford Anglia rear axle with an overhead-valve-conversion of a Ford 10 engine. On 22 May 1955, Robbie Mackenzie-Low climbed Prescott in the sports Elva to set the class record at 51.14 sec. Mackenzie-Low also won the Bodiam Hill Climb outright at the end of the season.
The 1956 Elva MK II works prototype, registered KDY 68, was fitted with a Falcon all-enveloping fibreglass bodyshell. Nichols built the Elva Mk II from lessons learnt in racing the prototype: “That car was driven in 1956 races by Archie Scott Brown, Stuart Lewis-Evans and others.” The Elva Mk II appeared in 1957. Arthur Tweedale and Bob Davis won the Marlboro Six Hour Endurance Race on 21 June 1959 in Maryland driving the No. 37 Elva Mk IV. In 1960, Arthur Tweedale repeated the win in the Marlboro Six Hours.
Elva built a single-seater car for Formula Junior events, the FJ 100, initially delivered with a front-mounted B.M.C. ‘A’ series engine in a tubular steel chassis. “Elva Cars, Ltd., new Formula Junior powered by an untuned BMC ‘A’ Series 948cc engine. At the end of the 1960 season, Elva built a rear-engined FJ car, with B.M.C. engine. Chuck Dietrich finished third at Silverstone in the BRDC British Empire Trophy race on 1 October. In 1961 “an entirely new and rather experimental Elva-Ford” FJ-car unveiled at Goodwood, making fastest lap, driven by Chris Meek.
Around 1964-1966 Elva manufactured a very successful series of Mk8 sports racers mostly with 1.8 litre BMW engines and some with 1.15 litre Holbay-Ford engines. The Mk8 had a longer wheelbase and wider track compared to the Mk7, which was known for difficult handling due to a 70-30 weight bias to the rear. At the 1966 Racing Car Show, held in London in January, Elva exhibited two sports racing cars – the McLaren-Elva Mk.II V8 and the Elva-BMW Mk. VIIIS. The McLaren-Elva was offered with the option of Oldsmobile, Chevrolet or Ford V8 engines. The Elva-BMW Mk. VIIIS was fitted with a rear-mounted BMW two-litre four-cylinder OHC engine.
The main road car, launched in 1958, was called the Courier and went through a series of developments throughout the existence of the company. Mark Donohue had his first racing successes in an Elva Courier. He won the SCCA F Prod Championship in 1960 and the SCCA E Prod Championship in 1961. The Mk 1 used a 1500 cc MGA or Riley 1.5 litre engine in a ladder chassis with Elva designed independent front suspension. The engine was set well back in the chassis to help weight distribution, which made good handling but encroached on the cockpit making the car a little cramped.
After about 50 cars were built it was upgraded to the Mk II which was the same car but fitted with a proprietary curved glass windscreen, replacing the original flat-glass split type, and the larger 1600 cc MGA engine. About 400 of the Mk I and II were built. The rights to the Elva Courier were obtained by Trojan in 1962, and production shifted to the main Trojan factory in Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey. F-Jr Elva and Mark IV sports cars will continue to be manufactured by Frank Nichols as in the past.” With the Trojan takeover the Mk III was launched in 1962 and was sold as a complete car.
In autumn 1962: “Elva Courier Mk IV was demonstrated at London Show. New coupe has all-independent suspension, fiberglass body, MG engine. Mk III Couriers were also demonstrated. New versions will be equipped with 1800cc MG-B engine, though formerly equipped with MG-A engines.”
There was also a GT160 which never got beyond creation of three prototypes. It used a BMW dry sump engine of 2 litre capacity with bodywork styled by Englishman Trevor Frost and built by Fissore of Turin. It weighed 11 long hundredweight (559 kg) and had 185 bhp (138 kW; 188 PS) so would have had very impressive performance but was considered too costly to put into series production. The car was shown at the London Motor Show in 1964.