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My Owners Diary September 1999

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2nd September 1999

Got my car back from the garage on the 20th and the last few bits have been fixed. Stratton have done another excellent job. The day I picked it up, I went on holiday for two weeks so it's been stuck in the garage. Got back home last night and all I wanted to do after a five hour drive from Somerset was get back in my Elise. Coming back to the Elise after a long break, you notice the bad points as well as the good ones. The gear change is not as smooth as my Rover 200vi.

Drove to Northampton this afternoon to test drive the Turbo Technics supercharged Elise. A very hot sunny day for a two hour drive to their factory but it was worth it. Had to drive barefoot to keep cool. Spent about 90 minutes driving and looking over this 190bhp Elise. The first thing that hits you on starting the engine is the whine of the supercharger belt but, this blends into the background noise once underway. There is also a slight hunting at idle.

As soon as you move off it's obvious that there is more than a standard K-series behind you. The car feels more eager, as if it's straining to be unleashed. Out on the open road you really notice the extra power. There's noticably more from 1500rpm but, its at about 3000rpm that the subtleness of the power delivery becomes harder to hide. Basically, it feels like you accelerate in third or fourth quicker than the standard Elise does a gear lower. The basic character of the power delivery has remained intact but it's more intense and very much more addictive. If I had one criticism it would be that engine revs drop off too quickly when changing up at speed (6000rpm+), so that a smooth gear change is slightly harder. The Elise gearbox doesn't help you in this respect. This car is streets ahead of the 111S in terms of performance without having to push anywhere near as hard. You never seem to be in the wrong gear.

Other interesting things I noted on this older car is that it's a lot noisier (suspension, etc.) than my own and doesn't feel as solid. The MMC brakes feel different but not any better. The gearbox is looser than mine and the seat glides on it's runners, unlike mine which is still fairly stiff. Whilst chatting to Rob Yeomans it was obvious that a lot of effort has gone into retaining the basic character and spirit of the car. They've succeeded and in simple terms it feels like a standard Elise with a 3 litre engine. The engineering looks very tidy and professional as well. I was expecting to feel very disappointed with my own car when I got back into it. It's a credit to the standard car that I wasn't but when you get onto those open stretches of road, who doesn't long for more power? If I owned this car I would lose my licence (talking of which I'm sure I got caught on a TruVelo camera near Huntingdon). £5500 + VAT is a lot of money to spend on improving my dream car but if I had it, I'm pretty sure I would do it. For the moment I still plan to keep my car as standard for it's first twelve months until I've improved my driving to match the cars current abilities.

3rd September 1999

Took a detour on my way home from work and found a superb run through the Rendlesham and Tunstall forests (A1152 and B1078) and up to Orford. A beautiful, cool sunny evening on the sort of roads the Elise was designed for. Sunlight streaming through the trees and undulating, twisty roads with excellent visibility and virtually no other cars. This is the main problem I have with my Elise. It took me 70 minutes to get home by Elise, yet I can cycle home in 10 minutes! Next time I'll take my camera to get some shots of the car on the quay at Orford.

13th September 1999

The wet weather has set in with a vengance and it looks like the hard top may have to go on earlier than planned. The car is still great fun to drive in the wet but I've got so used to driving in the sun with with the roof off. I actually think it looks better with the hard top on but it isn't as much fun to drive. My first drive in the wet was a bit of a shock, the Elise is noisier in the wet and gravel gets thrown up more and crashes on the underside of the car. The roof also lightens the rear end at high speed. Water collects in the radiator when it rains and as you drive along it gets thrown up onto the windscreen. That which doesn't blow away gets boiled off as steam and the windscreen steams up on the outside at slow speeds. Fortunately this only lasts for a few minutes. The interior heater vents are incredibly efficient at clearing the inside.

My 13 month old daughter now loves being in the Elise, we are even doing detours on the way to nursery (which is 250 yards from my house). From her child seat she likes to rest her foot on the gear knob, fortunately she hasn't worked out how to change gear yet. It's quite funny watching her peering over the dash, wondering why everyone else is up above us. She's getting addicted to the cars acceleration and soon she'll be hooked like me (it may just end up being her first car!).

With the roof on, the CD unit is more than enough to fill the car with high quality audio and drown out any other noises. It's also loud enough to make your ears bleed but it could do with some more bass though. Why do all audio manufacturers put the main controls on the wrong side of the head unit so that you have to reach across the dash to switch it on or change volume? Haven't these people heard of usability design!

20th September 1999

Hadn't driven my car for six days. Simply due to lack of opportunity. Even after such a short break it's a relief to get back in the car. I am living proof that people can get addicted to cars instead of drugs. The withdrawal symptoms are very similar. Spent most of Saturday morning driving around getting my fix. I bought this car to drive but I've had to go into/through town a few times and it's amazing the response you get from people. Lost track of the number of times people have shouted 'nice car' to me. I was once followed and chatted up by a woman (and yes I did tell my wife). Kids just love the car.

Found a few minutes to get a drive in on Sunday, in between decorating the house. Just as I got the car out it started to rain. Couldn't be bothered to put the roof up in the drizzle so just kept on driving. In light rain you don't get wet, so long as you keep over 40mph. Got some very strange looks from other drivers.

Bit the bullet and put the hard top on this morning. Struggled a bit on my own but it was worth it. It chucked it down on the way to work but the car stayed dry inside. Noticed that the radio reception is now perfect. Not sure if the hard top or the rain is the reason but will investigate.

26th September 1999

A break in the rain and a chance for some sunny driving at last. I took the hard-top off (at 30 seconds, a much quicker job than putting it on) and went out for a drive. The roads were still a bit damp and the back end was squirming around under hard acceleration. You don't get much feedback when this happens on wet roads. The back end is still controllable and predictable and there is a clear connection with the throttle but, the car doesn't speak to you in the same way as in the dry. I can't find the right words to describe it but it's almost as if the rear tyres were under inflated, like a normal car feels after driving the Elise. The front remains as telegraphic as ever and this serves to remind you that you are driving in the wet.

Done a lot of driving in the rain this week and my only gripes with the car are that on opening the door all the rain runs off the hard-top and drips onto the door sill inside the car. The radiator collects water and this gets blown up onto the windscreen for along time. You need to do about a mile at 100+mph to clear it all out (try explainig that one in court!). The A-pillar is now leaking slightly and this is nothing to do with the roof. I will check this out later this week. If you have to turn on the heater to help clear the screen it gets very warm inside the car. You can't open the window because the rain then runs into the car instead of across the side window. Perhaps a drop down rear window would be a good idea. The radio reception is still much better in the wet and I still haven't worked out why, I think it's a ground plane thing.

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