Lotus Elise: Real Owner Comments:

From: Dr Geoff Martin <geoff.martin@racgp.org.au>
Subject: Elise update (longish)
Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998 23:44:06 -1000

G'day all

I've just spent some time catching up on the last couple of months of the list, having been through an electronically-challenged phase. I thought it might be of interest to some to share a few bits of the first year of Elise ownership and use as a daily driver.

Noises - there was a long thread about the multitude of noises in the Elise; in general you just learn to ignore them, since most are pretty harmless. Mine certainly has the petrol pump noise, but it hasn't got any louder.

Exhaust system. There are a variety of claims floating around about the benefits of after-market or Lotus exhausts. The Lotus (Janspeed) sports exhaust costs nearly A$2000 in Oz. I managed to borrow one that had been removed from an early car that was being re-sold, fitted it and put it on the dyno: result exactly zero improvement in power at the wheels, but significant weight loss and improved sound. Finding this fascinating, we then started experimenting, with the aid of the dyno, leaving the cat in place. A straight through pipe gives you about 1kw at the wheels. After various combinations, I now have a 2" pipe from cat to a dual chamber cone type box of Flowmaster pattern, then single 2" pipe to exhaust, terminally split to retain the dual pipe effect at the back. Sounds better than the Janspeed and gives about 3kw at the wheels. Net cost about A$1200, weight saving about 10kg.

Chip. The Rover Mems chip is, as we all know, difficult to fiddle with, so you either look at replacing the entire management system or using an icon chip. I'm still playing with the latter; waiting for a chip from Florida at present (I gather they had a minor production interruption by a tornado), but the indications from what we've done so far are that we'll get another 10 or so kw at the wheels with the new exhaust in place. That brings up a total of around 13kw at the wheels, which translates back to roughly 24bhp at the flywheel. Not far off what Bell & Colville or Motobuild claim for a similar combination.

Air intake. Haven't started on this yet, but read the translated stuff from Germany with interest (Thank you). Planning to use a Pipercross cone filter in the first instance.

Roof. Leaks, but not badly. Cloth has stretched a little and the strip of retaining plastic at the front has split just to one side of the centre, but functions fine. I can get both bows into the holes about one time in three, but they retain OK anyway. There should be a prize for anyone who hasn't lost one of those silly bloody soft washers by 10,000km. Strongly recommend re-making the Allen key into a T-bar shape - still fits in the grommet and makes that operation much easier.

Problems. One warranty claim - the gizmo that holds the door open on a slope is a steel plate that nudges a nylon ridge - mine simply broke off along the bolt-hole line. The car has been mechanically AND electrically (despite the persistent involvement of Lucas, Prince of Darkness) totally reliable.

Performance/handling. Remains stunning. I read with interest Mike Causer's comments about the mangled Elise at Daytune - he is exactly right. Having just completed 2,000km of road rally, I got an attack of the divine invulnerability going into a chicane at Mangalore airport at a ridiculous speed and spun off at about 140kph. Moderate damage to a door sill by a (fortunately) frangible landing light which got in the way. Careful post-accident check of chassis/alignment/wheels showed that my running out of skill had not altered a single factory setting. A testament to the tub, I think - certainly not to the driver!

Tyres. Is anybody able to respond to Rhys Williams' question about tyres? I'll shortly be in a similar position, partly due to the fact that the Elise is about the easiest car to flick around a motorkhana pole with a handbrake that I've ever driven.

Summary. I enjoy this magic little car every day. It has faults, but you don't care. It is the best embodiment of what I believe Chapman would have built if he could in over 25 years.

I'll shut up for a while now.

Happy Lotusing

Dr Geoff Martin

'69 Elan +2
'97 Elise