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Elise S2The Elise mk II bodywork is made from a slightly different type of GRP by Sotira, a French company. A greater number of smaller panels are made in chromed steel moulds and injection moulded. This allows thinner panels to be produced with localised bonded panels attached later to strengthen particular areas. The use of closed moulds means that the panel shape must be such that it can be extracted once formed, i.e. no re-entrant features. In fact some small re-entrant features exist using sliders within the mould. Both the front and rear clamshells are made from two main pieces which are bonded together at Hethel in special jigs to make a complete clamshell. This new process does not require a gelcoat so gelcracks are a thing of the past.
The doors are little changed form the S1, though they are deeper to accomodate the lower sill (by 40mm). The interior of the door is simpified and the door pull has moved to the top of the door (picture). This is a less elegant but more usable solution, though the execution in black plastic lloks cheap. Expect aftermarket replacement parts for this to appear soon. The door has less exposed paintwork and is less susceptable to scratches from large feet on entry/exit.
The front bonnet on the S1 has been replaced by two separate panels on the S2, each held down with 3 allen-key fixings. These panels are linked into the alarm system and one of them needs to be removed to fill the windscreen washer bottle. The panels existence is down to the designer of the car wanting to carry the bonnet strake over from the S1. To save weight the hinged bonnet was dropped in favour of light-weight fixed panels. These were never intended to be fixed with allen-key bolts. Lotus had identified a supplier of quality, user-friendly fixings but, they went into receivership before production started, leaving few options to hold them down in a secure manner. This is one thing that is likely to be improved later in production so don't despair if you have these on an early S2 car.
The Elise S2 has stainless-steel and aluminium fixings throughout to reduce the problems with corrosion, sometimes found on the S1.
The new gull-wing style hardtop was designed to provide a light-weight, stowable hard roof, offering improved access to the car. A rear cover and central T-bar replaces the rool-bar cover and remains fixed to the car with lift-out panels either side. These panels can also be tilted to improve access to the car, hence the term gull-wing. The production hard-top is yet to be shown to customers but expect a number of third-party alternatives to appear now that the fixing points are designed into the car to support alternative solutions. There is not much information about the S2 hardtop and it is not due to appear until about June/July 2001.
The S1 and S2 Elise share the same Cd of 0.46 with the roof off and 0.43 with the roof on.
ExigeThe Exige bodywork is susceptable to stone damage on the leading edge of the rear clamshell, where it wraps under the vehicle. THe bodywork actually gets worn away by stones in a very short time. The clamshells were designed for track use where this would not normally be a problem but Lotus are working on a protective moulding for road cars which should be available soon.
Elise S1The Elise bodywork is in two major parts called, clamshells. These are made from Glass Re-inforced Plastic (GRP) (frequently called fibreglass) in a 'hand laid' process, at the Hethel factory. This process was used for because of the cheaper tooling costs associated with the limited production run (originally estimated at 700 cars per annum). The tooling was actually being used to produce 3000 cars per annum and was becoming very worn towards the end of mk I production. This process is manually intensive and relies on hand laying of fibre glass pieces into the mould with a 'gelcoat' used to stop the fibreglass sticking to the mould. This gelcoat is not completely removed however and a minor impact can cause it to crack into a spiders web of cracks under the paint finish. A lot of hand finishing was then required to remove the majority of the gelcoat and clean up the produced panels, ready for painting. This results in a panel with a rough mat finish on the inside. This was a fascinating process to watch in action on the factory tour. A very high pressure water cutter is used to cut the apertures in the clamshells and to do some of the edges. The doors skins, boot, bonnet and boot lining are also produced in this way, though on early cars a boot bag and an aluminium boot lid were used.
The downside with using GRP and this process to produce such large panels is that a minor accident can prove expensive to fix. GRP is also not a good medium to paint and a softer paint is required than would be found on an equivalent steel panel. The paint finish is easy to scratch and the innevitable stone chips picked up on the leading edge of the bonnet can be costly to repair, requiring removal and respray of the front clamshell. The benefits are obviously lower production costs and little variation in panel sizes and panel gaps. Having said this a lot of the squeaks associated with the car are often down to the clamshell rubbing on another part of the car, e.g the door skin. The rollbar cover and sills are also GRP. The sills are bonded to the chassis and his makes replacement a time consuming and expensive process. Repair and respray is often the cheapest and easiest approach.
The doors are a simple two piece design with GRP panels mounted on the aluminium door bar. Frequent slamming of the doors can cause mis-alignment and you should never lean on the doors to gain access to teh car. Most passengers forget that there is no air resistance to door closure and slam the doors shut, so remind them before the close the door. Early cars had problems with the door retaining plates breaking, resulting in a piece of aluminium falling into the footwell. Later cars can stronger retaining plates fitted.
Hard tops and soft tops have their own page.
The boot on early cars was made of aluminium (which helped with radio reception). This was later replaced with a GRP bootlid to reduce costs. The aluminium bootlid is easily dented by careless owners trying to push it shut too hard. With the arrival of the 111S model the boot lid design was changed on all cars to incorporate a new 'hump'. This was to provide extra space for the VVC mechanism. The boot cable release mechanism on the car is prone to water entry and subsequent corrosion.
The Elise features a flat underside to improve airflow, thanks to a front and rear undertray (the central section is the chassis which already has a flat floor). These aluminium panels are bolted to the underside of the car and easily removed for servicing.
Some of the bodywork fixings used on the Elise are prone to corrosion. A lot of owners have replaced them to resolve this.
CreditsSome of the Elise S2 information was originally posted by Nick Adams on the Lotus Life BBS.
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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 28 Mar 2002