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My Owners Diary 1998

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August 1997

Found out through a friend that a guy at work has got an Elise. I give him a call and ask him if he'll let me have a look at it. Better still, he offers to take me for spin in it. I'm amazed by its handling and ability to stop on a sixpence. I've got to have one of these!

June 1998

Booked my test drive with Charlie Skelton of the Stratton Motor Company, Long Stratton, Norfolk (01508 530491).

11th July 1998

It's 40 minutes up the infamous A140 to Long Stratton Motors where we are going to take our test drive. The first thing my wife says on seeing the car is, 'It's too small, it's like a toy car'. First of all Charlie Skelton showed us around the car. The headlamp covers are no longer an option (Lotus couldn't solve the misting problem), which saves me £195. As are the wider rear tyres, saving me another £65. The metal matrix brake discs have also disappeared due to supplier problems.

My wife went out first in case my daughter wakes up and needs feeding. Twenty minutes later they are back and as she steps out of the car (not an easy thing to do in a dignified fashion), her legs give way. I was hoping Charlie wasn't going to frighten her to death, but at least she's smiling. She was actually too frightened to drive the car herself! She's dead impressed by the handing and the braking though. That's handy!

My turn to go out. First of all Charlie shows me what it can do. This guy is a good driver. I know only one other person who drives like this, that I'd actually get in a car with. Apparently my wife told him I'm a fast driver so he asks me not to try and go at the same speed. I tell him not to worry, I couldn't in an unfamiliar car and on a unfamiliar road. We are hurtling through the corners and the amazing thing is that the car never even lost traction, it just hangs on. Finally, a dream turns to reality and we pull into a layby and it's my turn behind the wheel.

First impressions are one of solidity, it's actually more comfortable and refined than I thought it would be. No body flex or roll at all. I struggle with the gear changes initially, the gearstick movement, like the hand brake, and the steering input required, is minimal and so precise. The pedals are a little too close together for my size 11's, and the brakes feel unassisted, but they are just so progressive and even more effective. Response from the throttle is instantaneous, overtaking a breeze, even in these narrow winding lanes. This cars got a sports exhaust. Sounds good, but would get on your nerves after a while and it doesn't make it go any faster. This is quicker than the Escort Cosworth I've driven and the handing is better. After a few minutes I've got the hang of it and start to push it a little more. We are hitting 70+mph between corners and I'm hooked, I now need a Lotus Elise. The only real substitute could be a motor bike and my wife and I can't agree on the subject so an Elise it will have to be.

Drive back to base and down goes my £1000 deposit. There's a drop out in the queue and I could have one by November, but I won't saved enough by then. Mine is now due in May 1999. I don't think this car needs any more power, but the VVC version will probably be out by then and I may have changed my mind in the mean time. I've been told the VVC version will be nearer to £30K though! Any donations gratefully received.

26th July 1998

I'm gutted. Looks like the VVC Elise will never arrive. Lotus have launched a new car instead, currently called the Elise 340R. It's an track race car with 340bhp/tonne!

28th July 1998

Got my invite to the Lotus 50th Party today via Long Stratton Motors. Can't wait to go. Keep passing a Titanium Elise in Kesgrave, going to and from work. It's more than a man can stand.

17th August 1998

My model Lotus Elise arrived this weekend. This is the only thing to keep me going until May next year! Someone at work has also just taken delivery of a new, Norfolk Mustard Elise. Will have to find out who owns it and get a ride.

12th September 1998

Had to miss the Lotus 50th and my chance to see loads of Elise's in the various colours. The more I read about it, the more convinced I am that New Aluminium is the colour to go for. A light colour is needed to show off the curves of the Elise, but yellow and red make it look like a toy. Titanium is just a little too dark (but not on sunny days) and my only concern is that New Aluminium is too light. For another £1500 Lotus will paint it any colour I want. It would appear that Lotus now offer an engine performance upgrade (135bhp) and have removed the boot cover and that the aluminium engine cover now also doubles as a boot cover. The boot is now a carpet lined box which now replaces the previous bag. It may be heavier but at least the opening is a little bit bigger. I can now carry two tooth brushes in the boot!

28th September 1998

Found out my leased Rover 416i has to go back early, so we will be a one car family until the Elise arrives. Spoke to Charles Skelton at Long Stratton Motors to see if I could move my delivery date forward by two months. Fortunately, I could and it should now arrive about mid-March. Roll on 1999!

7th October 1998

Took my wife up to Norfolk for the factory tour today, left my daughter with her grand parents. The A140 was a nightmare, but the roads off to the factory are great. I can recommend the tour to anyone, even if they don't want to buy a Lotus. The first thing that struck us was the sheer size of the factory, it's huge. Our tour guide was really good and had been told we were soon to take delivery of an Elise. Because of this we got a lot of attention and the focus of the tour was on the Elise. There were only three others in the group. As we entered the site a Calypso red Elise went out onto the test track and my wife fell in love with the colour. It's a bit to 'in your face' for me, but more on colours later.

The panel production facility was amazing. Even my wife, who yawns at the first mention of cars or Jeremy Clarkson, was fascinated. She went in with the assumption that she'd be bored to tears but, came out a Lotus enthusiast. Better still, she saw a car with a hardtop and immediately said we've got to have one! And I thought I wouldn't be able to sell the idea of spending £1200 on a couple of bits of glass fibre. We saw panels in just about every colour, which was really useful in narrowing the colours down. I had previously liked Titanium but it was a little too dark for my taste. My wife changed her mind and went for Inferno, but it reminds me of old men in Rover 200's a little too much. Even saw a purple car, but it's just too dark for me. New aluminium was looking favourite.

Had a chance to look over the various panels. The strength and weight is incredible. The new boot box was in production and it looks good. The aluminium engine cover serves as a boot cover now and has a neat little rod to hold it up. Some of the previous fixing straps are missing for odds and ends but, two velcro straps are there to hold the soft top bars. The high power water cutter to edge the panels and cut out the apertures was the only robot we saw. The hard top was on most of the cars we saw and it looked the business. It's double skinned and lined with the same dark grey check cloth as used on the non-leather seats.

We then went on to the production line to see the other components being fitted to the chassis. I knew I was buying my dream sports car but, I hadn't realised it was a hand built and hand finished work of art. I've always fancied designing and building my own car, but this is something else. The manual labour effort involved is huge. The professionalism and the atmosphere hits you, these cars are being put together by fellow enthusiasts, not just factory workers. We saw VIN numbers from about 4720 to about 4750 on the line.

Our tour guide bought his own Calypso Red Elise four months ago, so he knew a lot about the car. He didn't have any information on a VVC version but, thought something would be announced at the motorshow. He thought metal matrix discs would be back in supply before I get my Elise. He was also interested in the Amourfend stuff and Lotus are looking in to this. Headlamp covers will never make a comeback appearance. He was really helpful in trying to decide colours and options and even went and retrieved bits from the production line to show us (e.g. a cloth covered seat).

Got to the end of the line and there it was, my dream car (only it belongs to someone else!). New aluminium Elise with hardtop, from a distance looking like a jewel, glistening in the lights. Closer up, it looked even better. The 'technical' metallic silver shows off the curves and features like no other colour. I spent twenty five minutes walking round it and I could have spent another hour just looking at it. I'm the first to admit it, I'm obsessed. This is the car and colour for me, even though my wife's 200Vi is the same colour and she thinks it's 'a bit boring'.

As far as options go, the driving lights are essential to 'finish' the car. I actually preferred the cloth seats and they are more comfortable since they have slightly more padding. The grey check will not go with all colours though. I'm still undecided on the leather option. We both loved the hard top and this is now a must have. The radio fitting kit and alarm go on the car without a second thought. I've decided against the competition exhaust from day one and will leave the car as standard for the first twelve months to see how I get on.

As we left the production line a Calypso Red Sport Elise, complete with roll cage was pulling out on to the test track. The engine sound is awesome, I had to ask if I could go along as a passenger. No such luck. All in all, a brilliant morning and one that I could recommend to anyone. If you are thinking of buying an Elise then you have to do it. If you aren't thinking of buying an Elise, then why not? My top tip, take the wife, it might just work out in your favour! I will be back when my car is on the line.

8th October 1998

Put my business card under the wiper of the yellow Elise on my work site and got an e-mail from the owner today. Will meet up for a chat next week when I've got a bit more free time and he's offered to take me out for a spin. I might just survive until till my car arrives if I can get a regular fix to keep me going.

20th October 1998

Finally got to meet up with the yellow Elise owner and got another ride. He's had it for about 3 months and commutes to/from London/Ipswich at the weekends.

24th October 1998

Popped up to Birmingham for the weekend and went into the Motorshow at the NEC. I was amazed that we didn't have to queue to get in. The main aims for me were to have a look at the 340R and to check out the competition to confirm the Elise is the right choice. The main contender was the Caterham 21 VVC but, I could barely get into to it. The side supports hugged my hips a little too tightly for my liking and the footwell was just too narrow and dark. I couldn't feel what my feet were doing and I sure as hell couldn't see what they were doing either. The final nail was the overall finish of the car. The advanced vacuum resin injection process that Lotus uses, gives the cars a much better finish on the bodywork and removes the 'kit car' feel. The sevens are great but just too impractical for me and like the 21 and the Westfields also suffered from lack of footwell space. All great toys, but not a car you can use every day. The MX5 had great build quality but, like the MGF it just doesn't excite me with it's performance.

As far as the Lotus stand went, the 340R was the main attraction for most. Personally I think it is ill conceived and shows that there was no clear design strategy behind it. Such an out and out race car should have put more emphasis on function and less on design flair. From the front it works, but as you move towards the rear it gets worse and you end up with a car more suited to Brighton seafront than a race track. It should have been as simplistic as the Caterham Suoperlight R. The stand had three Elises on it, all in Titanium. Like all the manufactures, Lotus spotted that silver is the best colour for showing off the curves and features. New Aluminium looks better in daylight but, under the bright stand lights Titanium worked. It also looks like the VVC version will never arrive with the stage II kit being badged as the 'Elise Sport 135'. Doesn't look like you can buy this a new car though. As far as the leather seat option goes, I've reached a decision. I'm going for non-leather seats and will fit the red Corbeau seats from the Sport Elise as soon as I can afford them. They look great. Lotus have their own report on the Motorshow so I won't bother putting my pictures up.

31st October 1998

Got an e-mail and call from Steve Davidson who invited me up to Snetterton race track to watch the Birkett 6 Hour Relay Race (which includes a team of Elises) and have a drive in his own New Aluminium Elise which has a Motorbuild stage II engine tune. What a top bloke! Whizzed up the A14/A1088/A143/B1111 in the 200Vi to Snetterton in rain, to watch the race (well, some of it) and chat about the Elise. Steve's car also features the sports suspension and looks a lot meaner for being much lower to the ground. He's also fitted competition seats retrimmed in leather (Steve knows more about Elise seats than Lotus), roll cage, competition exhaust, and loads of other bits. Unfortunately the weather was just too wet to take it for a spin, since he didn't have a soft top with him (just the cape from the Lotus catalogue). You don't get wet in Elise unless you stop.

It's the first time I've ever been to a race track and it was great to wander around the pits looking at Sport Elises. They sound awesome as they hurtle round the track. I'd love my Elise to sound like that. The track Elises were even lower to the ground and as they pulled into the pits you could see the steam rising from the rear tyres.

Just as we were about to leave, Dave Minter (chief test driver at Lotus) turned up in a new Esprit 350 Sport. Had a chance to quiz him about the Elise development and chat about performance upgrades. Looks like the Elise is going to have a more racing/track bias in the future with the emphasis on reducing weight. Couldn't get him to say anything about the forth coming Elise VVC though, which will be available in April '99. Dave Minter is keen to get his hands on Steve's modified Elise to do a performance comparison between the Lotus Stage II and the Motorbuild Stage II upgrades. I will post the results when it happens.

All in all a great morning and a new experience for me. Can't say I'd fancy racing my own Elise but it was great to watch them hurtling round the track and next time I'll go on a sunny day and take the family. Never found out who won the race.

Steve with his uprated and lowered Elise.
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An Elise Sport hot on the heels of a Seven at the Esses.
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12th November 1998

Well, today's the day. Gave Charlie at Long Stratton my final specification for my Elise. New Aluminium, with cloth seats, matching hardtop, radio fitting kit, alarm, and driving lights. I'm also after the head light covers, alloy window winders, and black floor mats.

Found out that Lotus are doing a special run of 50 Elise Sport 135's in a new colour called, Silver Metallic (slightly blue). For £29k you get a blue soft top, factory fitted 135 stage II kit, close ratio gearbox, cross drilled cast iron brakes, sports exhaust, Corbeau driver and passenger seats, Lotus sports steering wheel, headlamp covers, alarm, radio fitting kit, and unique body graphics. These will be built in December and allocated on a first come first served basis. They have the usual 12 month warranty and are aimed at road drivers who fancy the occasional spin on the track.

17th November 1998

My 'Original Lotus Club' membership stuff came through this morning. Great magazine, average keyring. 10% off of bits from the Lotus 'Original Performance Products' catalogue should come in handy.

21st November 1998

Met up with Paul Jenkinson to take a few pictures for a photo tour around his Azure Elise. Armed with digital camera we went off to Seckford Hall and the Tide Mill at Woodbridge to take a few digital pictures.

In front of Seckford Hall.
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And another one.
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16th December 1998

Found out Lotus announced a 50th celebration of the Elise on the 10th December. Only 50 cars being built with driving lights, radio fitting kit, Raffia/Green leather, hard top, floor mats, gold wheels, and the category 1 alarm system. It is a new colour, Electric Lotus Racing Green and costs £25,850 with a certificate of authenticity.

25th December 1998

Got some great Christmas presents, a pair of Elise carpets from the 'in-laws', and my wife bought me the 'Elise - The Inside Story' video.

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