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My Owners Diary November 1999

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4th November 1999

I've never liked driving the Elise with a roof on compared to the open air experience, it was designed as an open air car but, now that the clocks have gone forward I find myself experiencing the car in a whole new light (dark!). I used to love driving at night in the summer with the roof off and the cool air blowing over the top of you but, rarely found the opportunity to experience it. Now it's winter and dark when I leave work, and it's great fun to be cocooned in this little bubble of speed. The hard top's low roof line emphasises the confinement and the warmth of the heater is echoed in the warm glow of the stack dials. Being the only source of light in the car turning the heater down can be tricky, because its hard to find. The hard top makes the car a more raucous driving experience since it captures the engine noise the cabin but it's eight months now and I'm still addicted to this car.

I swear that if you drive for more than 10 miles with the heater full on you could cook an egg on the floor pan. Another thing I've noticed is that even with the new tilted rear screen, if you pull up behind someone at a juction it looks like you about to be rammed from behind due to the reflections in the car.

5th November 1999

This Rain-X stuff is good. Did another 80+ miles in the drizzle this evening and hardly needed to use the wipers. The rain and dirt just runs off which is very handy in the dark. The rest of the car is filthy.

7th November 1999

Managed to get a fair few miles in this weekend, out and around Orford and Aldeburgh. Depressingly, I also managed to do some more damage to my car though. I spotted a pheasant in the road about 100 yards ahead, going left to right. I slowed down to give it time to cross but just as I got level with it another one stepped out from the left and I must have hit it at about 50mph. By the time I'd got to the brakes I think I'd already hit it. I couldn't find any sign of the poor pheasant. The laquer has a some radial cracks eminating away from the impact point which has some 'scaling' of the paintwork. The little 'ear' spoiler also has a few cracks at each end. What can you do when a suicidal pheasant decides that enough is enough?

The damage
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Close up on the air deflector edge
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8th November 1999

The 'over the phone' repair quotation is depressing news, it's likely to be around £350 + VAT. Had to go for a spin this lunchtime to cheer me up. I'll have to put this one down to experience, an occupational hazard of driving for fun. Off to see my dealer tomorrow morning to get a more accurate quote. Not what I call ideal timing with the baby due in the next few days.

9th November 1999

Nice drive up to Long Stratton this morning before work to get a repair estimate. 6am and a clear A140 in the low light of dawn, great fun. Got up there in record time and back to work for 8am. They also had the Lotus ELise 49 in the showroom window. All I can say is that whoever designed this paint scheme has never had to clean an Elise. White front end and sills, stone chip city. Nice inside but looked a bit too plush to be a real Elise. Less is more.

Now I'm really depressed. Got the fax through with the estimate and it's £465 (£275 labour, £120 paint and materials + VAT)! It's fair to say that today is another low point in my period of Elise ownership. I phoned up the factory to see if they could shed some light on the high cost of repair but they only recommended that I spoke to an independent repair centre to get a quotation. It's days like these that you really start to wonder whether it's all worth it but, fortunately the car is hardly damaged so at least I can cheer myself up with the odd drive. Not so sure if this will work when my next insurance renewal comes through. If it was the right side of £350 I would just pay for it but at £465, it's going to be another insurance claim.

If I do buy another Lotus it's going to have to have smaller and cheaper body panels than this. Lotus, how about a small, separate, body coloured, plastic nose-cone on the next Elise that only costs £150 to replace? Please. Otherwise I may have to buy something else, like a Caterham. It looks like my passenger door is going to require some warranty work on it as well. The small crack I noticed whilst cleaning the car turns out to be a separation of the passenger door panels. This leaves a big gap down between the glass and the outside door panel. To cap it all, the body shop is very busy at Long Stratton and it may be three weeks or more before they can fit my car in. My wife is taking this all very well but then maybe she's secretly pleased that my 'other marriage' is going through a rocky patch.

10th November 1999

It gets worse. Although I've got protected no-claims, if I make more than two claims in three years or more than one in a calendar year, I lose two years no-claims bonus. This will be my second in one year following my accident in May. It is not going to be worth making a claim either way and I'm going to have to stump up the cash myself. I also found out that the bill for my last accident was (takes a deep breath), £11,369. No, you did not mis-read it.

14th November 1999

Cleaned the car and cheered myself up with a long drive today. Bright sunshine in the morning, which almost tempted me to take off the hardtop but it was clouding over as I got into the car.

17th November 1999

Winter has set in with a vengence. Sub-zero temperatures last night, sleet and possibly some snow forecast for later this week. Had a great trip up to Framlingham in the icy drizzle this lunchtime, my nice clean car now looks like Robert Burns has completed a Welsh forest stage in it. The effects of the Rain-X are starting to wear off a little bit but, it still makes a significant improvement. Will have to re-apply it at the weekend. Earlier this week I had the opportunity (not on a public road) to get to 5300rpm in 5th, an indicated 126mph (into a fair headwind), and that's about all it will manage with the hard-top on. It was quite noisy. The one plus side with the crap weather is that it improves radio reception. I've also revised the life expectancy of my rear tyres. I'm now not expecting much over 5000 miles.

23rd November 1999

Missed my chance to call my next daughter Elise, we had a boy this time round. Discovered that the headlights being on improves radio reception which leads me to think there's a poor earth somewhere. I'm not trying to compare my Elise to a Ford Fiesta but, driving up to my dealers in the rain was still an enjoyable experience, whereas coming back again in a Fiesta was anything but. Whoever thinks the Elise is a fair weather car is seriously mistaken, with the hardtop on it is still great fun to drive in any weather. Whilst in their care Stratton also looked at a few noises for me with out appointment which was good. Something under the dash has been squeeking for the last few days and getting louder each day. Although they couldn't find an obvious cause the smell of WD40 and lack of squeek leads me to think they found it. The other noise was a bit more worrying. I think a stone had got stuck between the brake disk and the splash guard. I reversed hard and braked which seemed to cure it but they checked the brakes anyway.

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