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 enthused.
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
Most race cars were non-competitive after their first campaign — the 1927 Vauxhall was competitive for 23 years (1927–1950) and you can see it in person. Learn more