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My Owners Diary July 1999

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6th July 1999

I'm not sure which is worse, waiting for the car in the first place or waiting to get it back again. This time round I know what I am missing which probably makes it worse. Only a few more days to go. Been invited up to the Lotus Factory by an employee to have a look round the company and see the bits they don't show you on the factory tour. Also hoping to meet the person responsible for Elise accessory range and talk to him about my targa-top for the Elise.

9th July 1999

Went up to the Lotus factory to get shown around by one of the employees. Had an excellent visit and saw lots of things you don't get to see on the normal tour (sworn to secrecy so won't say any more). Got to see the new motorsport Elise in the flesh and it looks awesome. Didn't realise how much work Lotus did for other manufacturers and there was a heavily disguised protoype going round the test track whilst I was there. All in all, an excellent morning and tour. Also saw several Elises in non-standard colours, one in light metallic green looking particularly good.

The thing I can talk about since they were clearly visible to all who visit the factory were the new limited edition 111S JPS which is a 'standard' 111S in black with gold wheels and grilles. It also has a gold (off yellow) chamois effect seat panel and dash. There didn't appear to be any performance changes and only 100 left-hand drive and 100 right-hand drive cars will be produced. I haven't heard any announcements on this but I expect something will be out soon.

Popped in to my dealer to check on my car and it's just about ready. Waiting for two small brackets before final completion (now expected to be Wednesday). It was looking pretty good despite the clamshells missing. They also did the recall for the steering arms and I was surprised how much of the front and rear suspension had been replaced. The car had already been up to the factory to have the alignment checked and the suspension set up. Everything that had been damaged had been replaced so it looked as good as a car of the factory production line. The paint finish is probably better and the few scratches I did with the soft-top have obviously disappeared.

16th July 1999

Picked up my car this evening, it was almost as exciting as the day I first got it. When I first saw my car it didn't look quite right and it took me a while to work out why. It looked too shiny and too new, I had to look really carefully at the interior to check it was actually my car. Even the tyres had been polished. I remember my car looking slightly 'used', always covered with a thin film of insects and dust. Long Stratton have certainly done an excellent job.

It was with mixed trepidation and excitement that I pulled off of the forecourt, having paid my insurance excess at the desk. The car immediately felt 'right', unlike the mixture of cars I've been driving for the last few months. This is how a car should feel and behave. It took me a few miles to realise that I didn't have to run the car in. The A140 has few overtaking opportunities but the Elise doesn't need much of a gap and on the odd occasion that I did overtake the same familiar rush of acceleration was there.

I've only driven 60 odd miles but some things have definately changed. There is definately less bump steer. I'm sure this is due to the changes in suspension and the revised steering arms fitted. Something I'm not so sure about is that the suspension feels slightly softer and the front end feels like it dives more under heavy braking. The brakes also seem to have lost some of their feedback but I will need more time with the car before I'm confident that its the car and not me. A noticable improvement is the gear shift, which is much more precise and 'gated'. Not sure why but this may be down to the braided steel clutch cable thats now fitted as a service bulletin.

Will give the car a thorough check this coming weekend to see if theres any bits that have been missed or need tidying up. Found a few minor things but these may not have been recognised as damage caused during the accident (e.g. scratched wheel, scuffed leather panel). Anyway, I've finally got my car back after 72 days and it feels good.

18th July 1999

I was away this weekend but managed to squeeze a quick spin in between bathing my daughter and her night time milk! This car is a tonic, all the stresses and anxiety of the last few months just drift away as you ease you throttle to the floor and feel yourself sinking gentle into the seat. This sort of relaxation therapy ought to be available on the NHS.

Most of the changes I thought I'd noticed in the car seem to be down to me. The brakes are definately taking a few miles to come back to full strength but the difference is noticable after only 30 miles, the feel is returning along with a little of my confidence. The steering is as pin sharp and responsive as ever with amazing feedback, but the bump steer has been reduced. I'm sure the cars is louder, it doesn't sound like TVR Griffith, but it does sound like a sports car.

20th July 1999

Had a chance to try my Elise out on the local Police head-quarters skid pan this evening. An experience that I can recommend to anyone. The Police instructors were excellent and I learnt a lot about the car and its handling. It also brought back some uncomfortable memories of my accident as the back end came round and I repeatedly lost complete control of the car. Under these sorts of conditions you've got to react very quickly and stop the rear end coming round, because once it does go, it rotates viciously. Even in these extreme conditions the feedback from the brakes and steering is superb. I found that cadence breaking worked but I could stop more effectively using the feedback from the steering and brakes to determine the point of wheel lock. I'm not sure this would be true whilst trying to turn though.

New aluminium just looks so good in the evening sunset.
Click image for full size, 640 x 480 pixels (57K)

21st July 1999

Did my favourite circuit on my way home from work this evening. Out of a long sweeping left hander onto a nice long, open straight through the country side, 70, 80, 90, then bang! I'd hit a small bird and I didn't see him reappear in my rear-view mirror. I feel a bit guilty since my first thoughts were for my paintwork, the poor little bird coming a close second. Pulled up about a mile later to assess the damage. A chaffinch had hit the front grille, just inside the drivers light and it had stuck! Well, the 80% of him that didn't make it through to the other side did. My only consolation was that its demise was instant (and my paint work was intact). It took a pressure washer and 15 minutes to separate the last few bits of him from my car.

23rd July 1999

Finally fitted the Kenwood CD/tuner head unit in my Elise (installation details). It was a very simple and quick process (less than 15 minutes). The Kenwood KDC-4070RA was an excellent choice, it fills the car with high quality sound (using the standard speakers and 4 x 25Wrms), even at three figure speeds. It also looks good with its white display matching the surrounding aluminium and it has some very useful features like an RDS linked clock. It is also completely immune to skip, even on the worst surfaces I could find.

Had to do a late run just to see what it looked like at night and to fill up the car, well that's my excuse. It only took an hour! I've set myself the goal of one day, just being able to drive from A to B without detours to extend my journey. I'm sure it must be possible, one day. Fuel usage seems to have an inverse linear relationship with the amount of fun you have in your Elise, with <20mpg being 'better than sex' and >45mpg being 'time to buy a caravan'. I haven't reached either of these extremes yet and I'm averaging about 28mpg. The best I've managed is 26mpg (which borders on the 'spare pants required' mark) and the worst is 37mpg.

26th July 1999

Passed two other Elises this weekend and I've come to the conclusion that its an ugly looking car from a distance. There's something about the curves that deceive the eye and accentuate its waisted appearance. As it gets closer you can make out the curves more clearly and it changes into the beautiful car that we all know and love. I've only had the CD/tuner in my Elise for a few days now but, I'm tired of it already. It distracts me from the real driving pleasure that I get from my car so now it spends most of the time off.

29th July 1999

Spent some time working on the car last night to fix a few problems. I've checked the radio and electrical system all over with an oscilloscope and I still can't get decent Radio 1 reception. There is definately some interference coming from somewhere and the Stack dials look the most likely source. The drivers seat had been getting stiffer and stiffer on it's runners and last night finally refused to move. I cleaned the runners which seemed to solve the problem, but it reappeared a few hours later. Will get Stratton Motors to look at it in a few weeks time. I've also had a rattling noise from the interior and I finally found the culprit, a small stone hidden under the drivers seat.

The weather for the last three weeks has been excellent so I've done quite a few miles and the car just seems to be getting quicker and quicker. One downside of the hot weather and all that glass and silver paintwork is that it reflects the sunlight and you end up toasted. After about hour you end up with a wet back stuck to the seat.

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