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S1 ImprovementsLotus have been pretty good at continual improvements and onward development of the Elise but there are some things I'd like them to fix and some that will have to wait until the next version of the car. Some of these changes are quality driven and some are cost driven. I've heard that Lotus are struggling to improve on the Elise and I can see why but, here's my views on what the next Elise should be like.
The ConceptThe basic concept of the Elise is sound. It was the closest thing I could find to the kind of sports car I would like to build myself, so I bought one. The most desirable feature of the Elise is it's light weight. Ideally I'd like to see the next version weighing less at about 600kg (700kg maximum). Another 9" longer to allow more room for a bigger engine and about 2-3" wider to keep it in proportion. This should also help to even the weight distribution a bit and make the car less tail happy. To achieve this increased size and lower weight I'd like it to be even more minimalist but in a smarter way than the 340R, such that it remains a practical every day car. These two ideas do not have to be mutually exclusive.
The Elise is beautiful to look at but I'd like simpler lines and less fussy detailing. The curves have to stay in the next version, the world simply doesn't need another Euro-Jap bland mobile. Shame Lotus didn't listen with the S2. The chassis technology is one of the Elise's defining features and makes the car the superb handling machine that it is, so this has to stay. The struggle to get into the car is an inevitable feature of the chassis design and this should not be compromised to improve accessibility.
The BodyworkA much more modular approach should be taken with the body work. The two piece clamshell approach is not very practical for a sports car which is inevitably going to get damaged on road and track. I'd like to see a cheap plastic nose panel(s) that can easily be repair and replaced quickly and cheaply. I'd also want seperate wings front and rear as well as separate door panels and sill covers. Smaller panels should be cheaper to produce without flaws and easier to repair. Funnily enough the VX220 and M250 took this appraoch.
The spoiler is a design must (if not an aesthetic one) and like the mudguards, should be built into the bodywork from the outset. Rather than actually mould a spoiler into the body work though I'd like the spoiler fittings to be moulded and the actual spoiler to be available in different sizes to suite road or track use. The Elise would look so much better with the rear end that Julian Thompson intended and a Sport 160 spoiler put on that. Spoilers look tacky on road cars but if they can be fused into the overall design so as not to look like an aftermarket add on, you can get away with it.
The RoofThe next Elise should have a two or three piece targa top that can be stored on board. The extra length should provide storage space behind the seats. A targa top could be made stronger, quieter, and lighter than the current soft top if it was designed in from the outset. It would also be fully waterproof. The existing Elise hardtop is outrageously heavy and expensive to produce, being completely over engineered. Added as an afterthought, it is difficult to fit and not always waterproof. The current MR2 is a good example of how this could work (though it uses a T-bar). Ideally this would be a tinted pespex panels. The VX220 offers another view on what can be acheived. Lotus have an opportunity to massivley improve the usability of the car whilst reducing weight and an innovative and good design could also improve the whole perception of Lotus and this car.
Engine & TransmissionThe extra space should allow a light-weight engine (e.g. the Rover KV6) of about 2.0-2.5 litre capacity. In road going form (relatively unstressed) this should give about 175bhp and a nice torque curve. Tuned for track use, 250bhp should not be unreasonable. It has to be rear wheel drive and it's about time a close ratio, 6-speed gearbox became an option. I know the rover gear box cam as is to avoid introducing any resonance but how about a shorter throw gear stick please? This is a sports car afterall. [The K-series just doesn't sound the part and even the S2 Toyota powerplants get criticised for their soundtrack.]
GlassThe rear window should be bolted in place with allen keys so that it will stay in place no matter what roof is on or off the car. It could be perspex for light weight and to allow mounting holes to be easily drilled along the edges. It should be angled at about 80-85° to avoid reflections and should also be overhung by the targa top to keep it clean and frost free. This should also eliminate any rattles.
The side windows could be framed to improve the shutlines, though personally I prefer them as they are. Dump the window winders in favour of a lighter and more radical way of raising and lowering the side windows. A simpler rachet mechanism would also make them much more reliable. They don't have to be wound all the way down. Ideally they should also be removable.
LightingThe headlights should be faired in and enclosed behind a bullet proof, bolt on lexan cover. Like wise the spotlights should be protected behind removable covers. These spotlights should be standard fit. I'd also like to see the high-level brake light removed from the back, to tidy the lines up a bit. It could be moved into the 'new' spoiler or integrated into the roll bar cover. Please give us LEDs instead of a cheap bulb units [duly fitted by Lotus to the later S2 cars].
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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 07 Jun 2007