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The Elise soft-top was added as an after thought and has never claimed to be anything other than a temporary 'get you home' affair. For this reasons it is not particularly waterproof and is complicated to erect. With practice it can be done reasonably quickly but the quality of materials used is not high and you must be careful to avoid damage. The alignment is critical to the rate at which water enters the car. The centre plastic strip has a small lug which must be correctly seated for a perfect fit. The tension bars have small rubber washers to eliminate rattles but these are not stuck on very well and can be easily lost. Be very careful to ensure the rear pins are seated before you use the allen key to tension the roof along the buttresses. If not perfectly seated the metal fixing will take a chuck out of the bodywork as you turn the allen key.

The soft-top was the hardest thing to live with in my Mk I Elise. The soft top roof leaks when it has not been fitted centrally or the instructions have not been carefully followed. Care must be taken to trap the foam seal at the leading edge of the side windows.

Applying Fabsil, an Autoglym equivalent or some other proprietry tent/clothing water repellant will improve its resistance to leaks.


The hard-top is a must if you are an all year round driver. It was introduced part way into the Elise S1 lifetime and modification to the cars cant rails were made from May 98 (VIN 3332 onwards) to accept it. Cars earlier than this will require modification to accept the S1 hard-top. The hard-top transforms the car into and all weather coupe and if correctly fitted is waterproof, under all conditions. It uses the same rear fitting points and the soft top but requires the role bar cover to be removed to fit it. The front is clamped to the screen surround using a separate panel and three allen key bolts. Three plastic lugs clip into the holes to hide the allen key fixings. These are very difficult to get out once pushed into place, without damaging the plastic. New ones can be bought from your dealer for very little money.

The hard-top is heavy and ideally needs two people to fit it. Be very careful when taking it off, as the rear glass has a habit of sticking itself to the hard-top and dropping off just as you are about to put it down. Take time to fit it correctly and it won't leak. As it has no gutter it is a good idea to sweep any standing water off the roof before you enter the car. If you don't it will run down the sides and drip onto the seat.

The hard-top alters the character and sound of the car. As well as trapping the high frequency engine noise, it will also trap low frequency noise, making the car sound a fair bit louder. The hard-top also has negative lift and at speed the car becomes noticeably lighter. It also seems to improve aerodynamics and top speed very slightly.

There are several after-market suppliers of hard-tops for the Elise Mk I:

Jean Pirard RacingRemote siteBased in Belgium and produce two versions. The road version weighs in at 13kg. The race version weighs in at 5kg. The prices for these hardtops are 1115€ for the road version and 545€ for the race version.
Kelvedon LotusNow making a hard-top for the S1 Elise. The cost is only 825 including VAT. It is made from carbon fibre and fibre glass and has rain gutters above the side windows. It is only available in black. You can contact Pat Thomas on 01775 725457 for further info.
MotobuildHave stopped selling their hard-top due to lack of interest.
Middlemoor MouldingsNow produce hard tops for the S1 and S2 Elise.

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Copyright © Rob Collingridge 2009 - Last updated 15 Feb 2003