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My Lotus Diary March 2002

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4th March 2002

Kacey Ainsworth, now there's a name that won't mean much to a lot of people. Perhaps better known as Little Mo from Eastenders, her current choice of transport is now a Gunmetal Elise S2. I will never be able to watch her character in the same way again.

18th March 2002

Lotus have announced two new paint colours for the Elise, Starlight Black and Ardent Red. The latter sounds like quite an interesting option but obviously you have to see these things for real to make any real opinion. The former is a metallic black with a degree of pearlescence.

19th March 2002

Depressingly, it looks like another summer without an Elise for me. Made some good gains through share dealing but I've yet to recoup my huge losses from a few years ago. I've saved nearly two thirds of what I need to buy another Elise and if it wasn't for some major house repairs/upgrades I'd probably be picking one up from the dealer in time for summer. At this rate my next Elise will be arriving about June 2003. It was about this time three years ago that I picked up my first Elise.

There is an article in EVO magazineRemote site featuring the Noble M12 and the latest Lotus Esprit. An interesting statement from David Noon, of Nick Whale SportscarsRemote site caught my attention. Talking about the sorts of people who buy Noble and Lotus cars, David Noon goes on to say that although both are bought by enthusiasts, Lotus customers buy into the brand as much as the car itself. I think this is definately true. There is something about the Lotus brand and ownership experience. Some might call it badge snobbery, but it isn't that simple. It's something that is hard to define, that adds to the whole ownership experience. You feel it when you go to the factory and when you visit a local track. It's a combination of history and reputation, a community atmosphere, like you've bought a piece of that history with your new car. It's something that adds to the experience of owning an Elise, something that a car like the Vauxhall VX220 will never have, despite them being technically similarly. I guess it's partly this that keeps me longing for another Elise, when there are plenty of other good cars out there, often for a lot less money.

Talking of which, a friend at work is importing a Mazda MX5 1.8 and it's going to cost him 12,500 on the road! Whilst it's no Elise, the MX5 is a very good car and at this kind of money, an absolute bargain. I'm almost tempted to run around in one of these for the summer myself but it would distract me from my ultimate goal, another Elise.

20th March 2002

Not made the press much, but all new European cars must now come with a minimum 2 year warranty. This comes into effect from 1st April 2002 and is good news for Elise owners.

21st March 2002

Found an import company that offers very good prices on the Elise. Don't know anything about them so I can't make any judgement on service and quality but, Micronet ShowroomRemote site sell a basic Elise S2 for 20,297. I would be very interested in hearing from anyone that has used them. I've found some initial views on the site newsgroup (not good!) and European Car ImportRemote site web site (even worse). Personally, I'd import directly myself if I was going to go down this route again. Anyway, add a 2-speaker radio fitting kit (135), body coloured door mirrors (54), front mud flaps (36), driver lumbar support (27) and 250 for delivery to a UK port. You now get a basic UK specification Elise (non metallic, immobiliser only, no driving lights) for 20,805 on the road, including 1 year warranty, road tax, number plates and documentation. That's a good deal. They also sell the S2 Sport 135 (basic price 21,797) and Type 72. Lead time is estimated at 20-22 weeks, which is a long wait even if they do deliver on time.

22nd March 2002

This weeks Autocar restates the rumour that a US Elise will be powered by the 190bhp. 1.8 litre Toyota VVTL-i engine. Apparently this was chosen from one of five contenders. This rumour has been around for months now and a base level Elise is more likely to have a smaller version of this engine to reduce base model costs. The K-series will be around for a while yet though (until late 2003), with a VVC Sport 160 (or maybe 165) Elise (based on the MGF Trophy engine) appearing later this year.

The concept of a 'World car' Elise is a dangerous one for Lotus as the American market will require considerable changes to the Elise concept. The brief of the original Elise was to produce the perfect track and road car compromise. Filling it with goodies and electronic safety aids moves away from this brief. The more the Elise moves towards being a road car, the more competition is faces, some of which it simply can't compete with on price. Similarly, it is never going to reach the cost/performance balance of a Caterham 7. It was a very fine line that the original Elise walked so well and Lotus should realise that future Elise development needs to focus on this the same brief. The Elise is incredibly successful in this market but it is a niche one, with fairly low volumes. Lotus needs to accept this and use the technologies to expand into other, larger markets, not the Elise itself. The Strathcarron is also a good example of what may happen if the Elise was to stray too far in the track orientated direction.

If Lotus want to increase sales then they need a new car that works outside of this brief, and produce a more road orientated convertable, with more luxurious interior and more safety devices. Such a car needs to be slightly larger, more powerful and more practical, yet must retain the Lotus core attributes in ride and handling. It could be considered an Elise variant to some but from a marketing perspective, it needs to be a new model. Lotus have the production capacity to do it but, do they have the required management direction and funds to develop a new model? If Lotus needed a benchmark car to work against, they couldn't do much worse than look at the Noble M12. By sharing technology and components between this new car and the Elise, Lotus could produce a very nice competitor for the Noble with a price tag around the 28k mark. This would storm the Boxster and Honda S2000 market segment and provide the volumes that Lotus need so badly.

25th March 2002

This moring was the first of the year that really lent itself to Elise driving. Cool, dense air, dry roads and bright sunshine. It's going to be a long summer.

Lots of well sourced rumours that Rover is about to launch a turbo-charged K-series engine for possible use in the MGTF and Caterham. It will probably take a while but it may make it into an Elise eventually.

Power Train Projects (suppliers to Lotus of the Elise S1 Sport 135 kit) now offer a PTP140 upgrade package for the Elise S2 which includes a ported cyclinder head, air box and filter and a sports exhaust. More details in the S2 engine section. What I'd like to know is, how the performance and the power delivery compares to the official Lotus Sport 135 upgrade as this is more expensive but includes a new inlet manifold and reprogrammed ECU. This is the question I have set myself to answer this week.

28th March 2002

Ran a few web development tools against last night and they came back with some interesting results. The Easyspace banner, though failry unobtrusive, pretty much doubles the download time of each page, so I've had to pay for this to go. Loads of HTML compatability issues fixed, so hopefully the majority of people can see the site as I intended now. All these reported errors have meant I've had to correct pretty much all of the 220+ pages.

Made the mistake of popping into my local Lotus dealership this afternoon to see if they have a Sport 135 demonstrator yet. Big mistake, it simply reminded me how much I desire another Elise. Turns out my visit was quite timely though, as Edmondson Lotus was packing up and moving to new premises today, in North Ipswich. Plenty of S2's around in various colours. Still prefer the darker colours but the Silver S2 looked good. On closer inspection I noticed it was covered from front to back with protective film. Impossible to see unless you look carefully but this was a two-year old car without a single paint chip in sight. If I placed an order today I could have an Elise delivered in six weeks apparently.

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