Over the years, car brands have come and gone in their quest to invent the next winning model. Competition has always been fierce in the sports car division, and Bexhill-based company Elva were eager to prove their worth. Founded in 1955 by Frank Nichols, the name came from the French phrase ‘Ella Va’ which means ‘she goes.’ For a while, Elva looked like it had a promising future, but the company went into liquidation. We’re looking into the history of the company.
When Nichols founded Elva he intended to build a low-cost sports vehicle. The first car, based on a CSM, was developed by Mike Chapman. It came with Standard Ten front suspension and a Ford Anglia rear axle with an overhead-valve-conversion of a Ford 10 engine. In 1954, Nichols drove a Lotus in a handicap race at Goodwood, demonstrating his competency as a racer and manufacturer.
This inspired him to create other cars, such as the Elva MK II. The car was fitted with a Falcon fibreglass bodyshell and 1100 cc Coventry-Climax engine. An increase in demand led to a new factory being set up in Hastings, where improvements on the MK II were carried out over time.
Birth of the Courier
The most memorable Elva car was the Courier. Produced in 1958, the Courier used a 1500 cc MGA engine in a ladder chassis. In order to help with weight distribution the engine was set back in the chassis. This produced good handling, though the interior became cramped. The sleek body gave the Courier a luxury appearance. The second version of the car came with a curved glass windscreen and larger 1600 cc MGA engine.
In addition to being used on the road, the Courier was adapted for the track. Mark Donohue won the 1960 SCCA F Prod Championship and 1961 SCCA E Prod Championship in a Courier.
Distribution problems led to financial difficulties overseas. It became hard to ship Elva cars from the US and back, which forced the company into voluntary liquidation. As a result, Trojan Limited bought the rights to the Courier in 1961. Trojan introduced the third version of the Courier in 1962, offering it as a complete vehicle and kit variety.
Image credit: Vintageracingservicescom