Cale comments from Elise Talk

(printed with permission of the author)

HRM Dialogue

I was there at HRM also, and while Mitch was doing diligent work with photographs, I was listening to Nick Adams and taking notes. I asked questions which were important to me, and I think that the responses will clear up some things:

1. The tach will have the STACK layout (ie. Stacked)!

2. They are working on a U.S. drivers training course with the Elise. Place to be announced.

3.Doc Bundy, one of the pro Porsche hotshoes at Barber was on the phone trying to get a race team together as soon as he got out of the car. He was that impressed.

4. I asked if LSD would be helpful. Nick stated that of all the race courses that he has been on, LSD would not be helpful. But the he added that if the car was on an autocross circuit with slow tight turns, then LSD would definately help.

5. Breaking in: Be respectful but not too respectful. For the first 1000 miles, shift using just 2 fingers. That way one would avoid jamming things into gears until it loosens up a bit. Very important! Here is where he surprised me. I asked about the rev limit and checking on it at the first 1000 mile service. He said do not think of it as big brother. He said let the car warm up, then rev it to 8500 briefly. How else are you going to get to the hot cam. Just don't hold it there. They will be looking at revs but they are more concerned with gathering data about how we Americans drive. He gave an example of someone reving a cold car to over 6000 as being a bad thing. Don't beat on it, but run it occassionally to the max. Let things loosen up before pushing it too hard.

6.He stated that he was the guy who decided where the money was to be spent. His emphasis was on handling and performance. He cared less about squeaks and rattles and more about cornering. He thought that a roof that leaked a little was less important than a good motor. So that is where he put the money to work.

7. The pedals are moved as far apart as the footwell would permit. I noticed a lot more room for my feet versus the 111S that I drove.

8. The engine is the stock Toyota engine without internal changes. The ECU was remapped so that the secondary cam kick-in was at an RPM where the HP and torque curves cross. He gave an example of a Celica mid corner accelerating when the second cam came in. The added power would not unsettle a front wheel drive car, but the Elise would not tolerate that well. The change in cam is more stable if done as above

9. Lotus is considering doing a "build book". You could pay for photographs of your car being built and a special book to put them in. I personally think that is a great idea.

10. Both LSS and standard suspension cars sport rubber that is specific to the Elise and it is labeled so on the tires. The choice to go with Yokos was because they could not use BFGs in the U.S. because of some legal issue. BFGs have a less stiff sidewall so the euro elise has stiffer springs in the rear. I believe that he said the springs were the same in the front. The LSS is not offered in Europe, yet. Since the tires are Lotus exclusives, an agreement has been made with Yoko USA to be able to get a Lotus tire to anywhere in the U.S. in 24 hours. He stated that non-LSS cars and Euro cars are essentially the same feel in the suspension.

11. He stated that they have acheived a suspension in which the suspension roll center and the mass roll center are in the same spot, and that is great for handling. Change springs, shocks, or tires and that dynamic will be altered significantly.

12. Suspension settings are virtually unalterable. But he said why would you want to. The car is perfect the way that it is.

13. If you change the ride height for the LSS cars, you will need to do an alignment. And not just any alignment. The car needs to have its chassis sitting on blocks of specified height while adjustments are made. I take this to be nearly full squat achieved by adding weights to the car. Procedures will be in the dealer's service manual. The car ride height will be adjustable -5mm, +10 mm.

14. They had to crash test 24 cars for U.S. approval. He said that made him sad.

15. Seats can be tilted back by adding washers to the front mounts and getting longer bolts.

16. He drives an Elise and states that he would not have the car without the touring pack. Sound insulation and thermal insulation were the main reasons for this. He also stated that he would not have the car with LSS. Significantly harsher ride.

17. Finally, he stated that the design of the car was to be fun. You need to feel special when you drop into the seat. Someone mentioned Lexus and need for American luxury. He stated that Lotus has tried to go the opposite way. The Lexus makes you feel like you are doing 50 when you are doing 100. Lotus mants you to feel like you are doing 100 when you are doing 50.

These thought are rather disjointed, but I tried to remember from the cues that I wrote. Nick is a racer and you can really see his experience show when you talk to him. He is a real sport for taking all of our questions. I'll try to recall more later.

18. Lotus does not advise allowing children to ride in the Elise, However, that stated, a child sitting in the passengers seat will be OK if seated in a booster seat and uses the conventional restraint system. The air bag and seating position of the passenger are designed to avoid contact with a small person in the passenger side. Any type of added seat with a backing which pushes the child forward will place the occupant at risk of coming into contact with a deploying air bag. Also a child leaning forward will be at risk. Nick recommended children ride in the LSV (Lotus Support Vehicle).

Just an aside, has anyone seen or heard of a person who had their feet resting on the passenger air bag when it deployed? I usually see this behavior in young women on the interstates in socks propping their feet on the dash. The injury pattern must be really bizzare. "Sure Doc, when we got to accident scene it was really weird. Her right foot was on her left shoulder and she said she couldn't move out of that position."

19. Someone asked Nick where his money is best spent in modifying the car for better performance. Nick said "Driving Lessons!"

20. We asked if the license plate attachment point in the front will be an issue with obstructing airflow to the front coolers. He stated that almost all of the North American testing was done using a North American plate attached so that the bottom of the plate came to the bottom of the front lip. This means that the plate top is resting substantially in the airrflow to the front coolers. Nick said no problem.

21. There is a soft black rubber water drainage apparatus at the top of the A-pillar which when to top is off, appears rather like the ear of one of those show modified dobermans but with the ear layed laterally with the opening toward the top. Nick refered to this in typical British fashion as "Prince Charles' Ear."

22. He talked extensively of the work that they had done in trying to perfect gullwing doors on the project. They had built a number of prototypes. They were too much weight, too leaky, too expensive, and too complicated were his conclusions.

23. Finally, an interesting story about the first Toyota powered Elise prototype. I may be getting my dates mixed up, but at the 2002 Geneva auto show, when an non-Lotus crew was removing the new S2 (?) show car they jacked it up with a bottle jack on the undertray and punctured the aluminun frame. The car was a writeoff and should have been scrapped. The engineers kept it in secret in the back of the shop at Hethel away from the bean counters, and when Arnie sent the Celica over to test the feasibility of the Toyota, they cut out the back of the show car, fitted the new engine, and this became the first test mule for the Federal Elise.

It is said of most disasters and accidents that a series of small errors, not just one large error, each contribute to the final result. In the case of the Elise, I believe in speaking with Nick that a series of small accomplishments by a lot of people made the federal Elise come to be. It is a great story. I hope someone is writing it.

Last edited by Cale on 04-05-2004 at 02:03 PM