At the time when Elva cars came into existence, some of the great brands were being produced by amateur enthusiasts. This was a time when any skilled engineer could apply themselves to produce a racing car or a road going vehicle and the Elva grew from this type of ethos. The company was formed in the mid 1950s by Frank G. Nichols, who had studied the market and decided to build a low cost sports car. The name Elva was derived from the French phrase Elle va, meaning 'she goes'.
Nichols himself was a racing driver and had achieved notable success at Goodwood, where he was based, while driving CSM sports cars, which were also manufactured nearby. He had left the army with a training in engineering and in 1947, he set up his own garage in Westham. His burning desire, however, was to produce and race his own vehicles and therefore, in 1955, Elva was founded. Success was rapid and in 1955, the very first Elvas were winning races and setting records on the Goodwood track itself. Elva's notoriety quickly spread and soon, Nichols was building a range of sports cars for the British and US markets.
Up until 1958, Elva production had been confined solely to the track, but it was being suggested in many quarters that Nichols should turn his attention towards the possibility of building a road going car. In keeping with the speed with which Elva had worked up until know, the very first prototype courier was produced in early 1958. It was initially sold abroad, however, with the first road going Elvas introduced to the UK market in 1960.
The car went through various re-workings, with different engines being tested. Initially, it was supplied with an MGA 1500 cc engine but other cars were issued with a 1.5 litre Riley version. Elva then set up a factory in Hastings to meet with the demands of their full range and the sports car and the Courier co-existed happily for a time. There is one more addition to this range and this came in the shape of the GT160, which was produced in prototype form only, with three versions being made. Sadly, this distinctive looking car didn't progress beyond this point.
In the early 1960s, the boom years for Elva production came to an abrupt end as an expected draft from the US for a large supply of vehicles failed to come to fruition. The company simply couldn't overcome this setback and as result, voluntary liquidation came following on swiftly afterwards in 1961. Elva was acquired by the Trojan racing team in the same year and they continued to race the very successful brand for many years. Car production, however, simply fizzled out and the brand quickly died out altogether.
Unlike many British classics, sales of the Elva were very good overseas and it has therefore retained a global popularity, which can be seen in the US in particular, where the company enjoyed so much of its commercial success. Regular Elva reunions take place and the cars can often be seen at historic race events. Classic car enthusiasts have also helped to keep the name of Elva alive and sales of both the race car and the Courier are brisk, with both models remaining highly sought after among collectors from both sides of the Atlantic.
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