A winner of 29 championship titles and several Grand Prix worldwide, Elfin was born on Conmurra Avenue Edwardstown in suburban Adelaide by the eccentric Garrie Cooper.
A plaque outside the former Elfin factory in Conmurra Avenue highlights a significant place in Australian motor racing history where the likes of the original Streamliner, Formula Junior, Clubman, Mallala, 600, ME5, MR5, 622, MR6, MS7 and many more were constructed.
Representing nearly every sports car and open-wheeler category, an Elfin was part of many Australian motor racing legend’s careers no matter the timing.
Founded in October 1959 by Cooper, who became just one of many successful designer-drivers during this period of ingenuity. Having grown up around his father’s Cooper Motor Bodies company building buses and trucks in addition to special order conversions turning sedans into wagons or utilities, it was this that sparked Cooper’s intrigue.
Production started with the original Streamline in 1959 as production lasted until 1963 with 23 built after initial run of six for five friends and Cooper himself. Using Ford engines these became successful and Cooper soon ventured into open-wheelers by developing a Formula Juniors of which 20 were built between 1961-1964.
Cooper was forced to adapt to ever changing categories as he followed the Streamliner up with the Clubman and Mallala sports cars.
Australian 1.5-litre Formula racing led to the Type 100 Mono before the American Formula Vee regulations arrived locally as Elfin entered the sleek Type 500.
The brutal Elfin Type 400 followed as the likes of Frank Gardner drove these versions to success as the 1970s beckoned where Australia welcomed Formula Ford and Formula 5000 was beginning to enter its glory years.
Elfin secured four Formula Ford titles including the first two through Richard Knight and racing legend Larry Perkins, while the famous Ansett sponsored Formula 5000s starting with the MR5 in 1971 managed to secure two Australian Drivers’ Championships during the 1970s.
The likes of James Hunt, Didier Pironi, Vern Schuppan, John Bowe, Frank Matich, John McCormack, Bob Jane and Allan Grice all drove Elfins.
In particular Tasmanian McCormack proved the most successful by winning two Australian Drivers’ Championships as Elfin continued to branch off by building chassis for Formula 2, Formula 3, sports cars and Formula 5000 racing many of which were powered by Repco-Holden engines.
During the death rows of Formula 5000 in 1980, Cooper designed and constructed the first open-wheeler in Australia to use ground effect aerodynamics. The MR9 was the only Formula 5000 chassis to use this concept.
On Anzac Day 1982, Cooper suddenly passed away at the age of 46 due to a burst aorta resulting from a weakened vessel from medication taken to thin blood following a heart valve operation some years before.
Initially Cooper’s father Cliff completed the six outstanding orders for Elfin’s latest Formula Vees, as the business was soon sold to Tasmanian motorsport luminary Don Elliott, driver Tony Edmondson and mechanic John Porter.
A new Formula Vee was designed and constructed, as was a chassis for the new Formula Holden category in which Mark McLaughlin drove to a win at Mallala on the way to second in the 1989 Australian Drivers’ Championship.
Various ownership changes during the 1990s it moved to Melbourne as this led to the Walkinshaw Group purchasing Elfin in 2006 after a prior collaboration with GM Holden two years earlier.
A limited run of MR8 Streamliners were built until 2012 and now the company has recently sold to luxury car dealers Young Timers Garage.