The Vegantune Evante 140TC Is A Brilliant Sports Car You've Never Heard Of

2022-10-11 12:24:22 By : Mr. Kent Wong

Get Hotcars Premium. Start your free trial today

There are many brilliant sports cars out there that even gearheads have never heard of, and the Vegantune Evante 140TC is a good example.

Have you heard of the Spyker C8? No? How about the Australian Holden Commodore? The BMW Z1? You wouldn't draw a blank if we mentioned Mazda MX-5, the BMW M3, or even the Mustang. The fact that many people, including some gearheads, don’t recognize Gordon Murray’s Light Car Company Rocket, for example, goes to show not every perfectly worthy sports car gains the fame and popularity they so rightly deserve.

The name "Gordon Murray” rings a loud bell in gearhead circles, thanks to products like the T.50 made famous by, among other things, its high revving naturally breathing bespoke V12, and the highest power-to-weight ratios among its class at 672 hp per tonne.

But many people would get surprised to learn that Gordon Murray managed to build one of the least-known sports cars today – the very same Company Rocket we mentioned up there. And there are many more brilliant sports cars so obscure that even gearheads have never even heard of them. A good case in point is the Vegantune Evante 140TC, a very rare sports car for a combination of reasons, including that exactly 101 examples got built. Let’s check it out.

Related: Only Proper Gearheads Know About These 10 Obscure British Cars

The Evante is a sports car so shamelessly based on the 1970s Lotus Elan that the prototype rode on the Elan’s chassis wrapped in fiberglass and carbon fiber. We’ll soon tell you the story about how that happened, but you can imagine how easy it must have been to fall in love with the “best Lotus ever made,” according to Classic Car magazine, especially when you made it your life’s work tuning and meandering around the deep recesses of the car.

But the similarity didn’t progress much further than that, with the 170-hp 1.7-liter twin-cam Vegantune engine as the biggest feature uniting both cars. Unlike similarly obscure British sports cars like the AC 3000ME many of which got re-engineered by a third-party firm, all Evante sports cars were factory-built and finished. But just like the 3000ME got developed to offer the British market an affordable mid-engine sports car, Evante’s founder George Robinson marketed the Evante as a mini Aston Martin.

The Evante, however, didn’t get to have Aston Martin levels of performance, as proven yet again by a dragway test of the standard Evante 140 (without the TC) conducted by a member of the Evante Owners Club in the UK. The car made 60 mph in six seconds, admittedly almost as fast as the 1977 Aston Martin V8 Vantage that covered the distance in 5.3 seconds.

Notably, upgraded versions like the Evante 140TC delivered faster acceleration. Well, Robinson told Motorsport Magazine in 1988, "there weren't any motorways to speak of when it (the car) was designed, and it wasn't anticipated that it would be run at high speeds for very long, so it could be criticized on stability.” It’s not exactly known what the Evante’s top speed is.

Vegantune was the go-to tuning house for racing engines in the 1960s and '70s, especially the Formula B and Formula 3 classes of open-wheel formula racing. Vegantune’s roll call of customers included Chevron, March, and of course, Lotus. There, Robinson prepared engines for famous names like Jean-Pierre Jarier and James Hunt as well as restored and upgraded Lotus Elan cars.

He then founded Evante Cars Ltd in 1987 to pursue a new career direction, building complete new cars instead of just restoring and tuning them. Robinson’s experience working on the Lotus Elan at Vegantune heavily influenced the design and development of the Evante, including the Ford Kent-derived Vegantune VTA 1.6-liter and later 1.7-liter twin OHC engine driving the rear wheels through a gearbox lifted from a Ford Sierra.

The car rode on a space frame chassis with all-around independent suspension and disc brakes on the front and rear wheels. It was available in kit form or as a complete car and produced at the rate of one per week.

Even in kit form, customers got a fully built car complete with leather seats, a walnut dashboard, and electric windows. When Evante Cars Ltd folded up in 1991, a company that built retro-style vans bought the rights to the design and redeveloped the car with a Ford Zetec 1.8-liter engine. Only nine of the new model were made. Spydercars Whittlesey now owns the rights to the name and the fiberglass molds.

Related: 20 Ford Cars From The 90s That Make No Sense

The Type 26 Lotus Elan 1500 is as near-perfect today as it was at its 1962 launch. Not much could get done to make it better without bleeding it over the edges, but George Robinson went ahead to make a career out of making the Elan go faster. And so, Robinson founded Vegantune in Spalding, Lincolnshire, three years after the Lotus Elan was born.

The car left Lotus’ factory looking as astonishingly beautiful as it is lightweight and delivered intoxicating handling. But Robinson admitted the cars into his workshop and proceeded to milk more power out of its 1558cc 4-cylinder twin-cam engine. Vegatune did more than that, though, upgrading, restoring, maintaining, and turning Vegantune into a one-stop shop for Lotus owners.

Robinson only decided to build his own version of the Elan after Lotus withdrew the model in 1973 and the twin-cam engine in 1978. However, Vegantune had built a solid following of enthusiasts with a need for speed, so Robinson had the impetus to develop his own 1598cc version of the Lotus Elan twin-cam engine called Vegantune Type A (or VTA).

Naturally, Robinson’s next move was to build an updated Elan equipped with the VTA mill mated to a ZF 5-speed manual transmission. That’s the car known as Evante, unveiled in October 1982 and hit the market the next spring toting an $11,000 price tag, same price as the Porsche 924.

In 1986, a businessman named Anthony Elmer bought and founded Evante Cars to build an even better Evante called the 140TC. Unfortunately, circumstances delayed production until 1988, by which time the price snowballed to $17,000, making the 140TC even more expensive than the superior Lotus Elan Sprint.

It was a recipe for failure, especially with the Mazda MX-5’s arrival in 1989. Even so, the Evante 140TC’s unfortunate market performance did not subtract from its brilliant performance. After taking the car on a test drive, Mike Cotton of Motor Sport magazine described it as “a wonderful reincarnation of Colin Chapman’s best-loved product, full of all the Elan’s virtues and lacking its readily-forgiven short-comings.”

Philip Uwaoma, this bearded black male from Nigeria, is fast approaching two million words in articles published on various websites, including,, and After not getting credit for his work on Auto Quarterly, Philip is now convinced that ghostwriting sucks. He has no dog, no wife- yet- and he loves Rolls Royce a little too much.