The name Elva was coined by its builder Frank Nichols from the French “elle va” (“she goes”).
The car was British and used a variety of proprietary engines, Ford and BMW among them. The idea of
fitting a Porsche unit belonged to an American.
The SCCA’s inauguration of the United States Road Racing Championship in 1963 supplied the
impetus. Midwest Porsche distributor Oliver Schmidt thought the marriage of a Fuhrmann four-cam engine
and the ultra-light Elva chassis would make for a strong USRRC competitor. Elva importer Carl Haas
agreed, and contacted Frank Nichols in England. Schmidt got in touch with Porsche. All parties were
In Sussex, Nichols set to work modifying his new Mark VII chassis, widening its tubular frame at
the rear to accept Porsche’s broad-beamed engine. In Stuttgart, Porsche revised the Spyder’s flat four, and
made a few detail updates to its five-speed transmission.
The first Elva-Porsche was tested in England in August 1963, with Stuttgart’s development driver
Herbert Linge on hand to give the Porsche okay. Air-freighted to Chicago, the car was entered in Road
America 500 at Elkhart Lake – the penultimate race on the ’63 USRRC calendar – and, amazingly, won
outright against the fastest cars in America. Fifteen Elva-Porsches at $11,000 per copy had been the planned
production. After Elkhart, the order book was quickly filled.
Early 1964 saw eager U.S. customers receive their new Elva-Porsches. They also received a list of
modifications to be made before proceeding to the racetrack. Even after such modifications, the cars were
notably unstable, especially under braking. Porsche itself took delivery of just one Elva. Despite a victory
his first time out, Edgar Barth declared the car a “death trap” and elected to go back to his “nice fat RS”, the
Grossmütter. Herbert Müller campaigned the Elva-Porsche in three hill climbs, then changed over to a 904
equipped with the flat eight. Barth was hill climb champion again; Müller was second.
In the U.S., Elva-Porsches secured 2nd and 3rd in the 1964 USRRC, behind Jim Hall’s Chevyengined
Chaparral. Another Elva-Porsche raced to the SCCA E Sports Racing Championship. But success
aside, the cars never did handle right.
Photos – Peter Harholdt
Briggs Cunningham imported the first Ferrari to race in the US and you can see it in the museum. Learn more