Club Lotus Avon

8 Years with a Lotus Elise (A life sentence?)

Approaching fifty - were life and cars passing me by? My first love was a 1500 MGA - the block cracked, but luckily only after I sold it to a friend. The second was a Frogeye Sprite - the driver's seat managed to remove itself from the rusted floor during a heavy braking session to avoid hitting a dog. The third was a 1275 Sprite, but soon my love affair with cars ended and was replaced by a wife and minivan - let's not discuss the cars after that, suffice it to say it was all downhill...

Years passed... I'd got used to reading Autocar in the shed; 'Just cleaning the garden fork dear...'. Then one day I read about this new Lotus: "Hugely involving experience", "Tremendous to drive", "As a road car it's still a formidable toy and more affordable than most'... I wasn't over the hill was I? Definitely not, because this car was worth a serious look.

At this point I have to admit to having a wife who has no interest in cars whatsoever, so getting her to think about driving 100 miles round-trip to have a test drive that needed booking three weeks in advance was nigh on impossible. But someone up there must have been smiling on me because a dealership opened in Cheltenham. I phoned one Saturday morning to book a drive - "Just come over this afternoon" was the response. So off we went. Once there I suggested 'ladies first' for the test drive, as surely this was going to get her interested; I could just ogle the other Elise in the showroom. She came back looking mildly enthused. Then it was my turn.

Pure magic - it went like a dream and was like putting on a glove. Obviously I did not want to overdo things, but I found obeying the salesman's cries of "Why are you slowing down for this bend - accelerate! accelerate!" were more testing of my capabilities than the car's. I was seriously impressed! I was even more seriously impressed when I got back to the showroom to find that my wife has been taken with the Lotus enough to order me a green one with magnolia interior! Even better was the fact that being a new dealership, they had an allocation that meant that there would only be a two month wait, while the traditional main dealers were quoting six to eight months.

Two months later the car arrived and the magic continued. It was and is such a lovely car to drive, although my first question was 'Um... how do you stop in the rain?'. "Ah" said the man, "they have brought out a retro fit of spray guards for the discs - the ceramic brakes don't work if they are wet". OK, so now I didn't have to run with my foot dabbing the brakes in the rain to try to dry them off.

It was also a shame that the windscreen wiper failed to do anything else but smear the screen - rain repellent turned out to be a better solution, then I didn't bother to use the wiper at all.

Now, you know how people can't help pointing out the downside of something they are jealous of? So a work colleague took great delight in telling me: "Ah yes, LOTUS; that stands for 'Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious'...

Yes well - here's my little list of (not inexpensive) trouble:
11,000 miles - New anti-roll bar mounts.
11,000 miles - Free and lubricate throttle body to get revs to drop below 2000.
13,500 miles - Replace head gasket.
14,500 miles - Replace battery (typical - the design has changed so the clamp does not retain new shape - battery shifts and knocks a terminal off - hello Mr. RAC).
18,000 miles - Exhaust rots away.
18,500 miles - Alternator belt shreds (hello Mr. RAC again).
18,600 miles - Engine cover release cable breaks, front offside headlight reflector rusted & replaced, plus front wheel bearing replaced.
21,000 miles - Nearside headlight reflector rusted & replaced, Mk2 wiper arm and blade fitted (totally new experience - I can now see where I'm going in the rain). Metal throttle body from the variable valve version of the K-series fitted (no sticky throttle anymore).
22,000 miles - Fitted Mk2 seats (well, a man needs a bit of comfort doesn't he?).
24,000 miles - Yokohama Advan Neovas fitted - what an improvement on road holding.
28,000 miles - Front wishbone rose joint.
28,500 miles - Front shock absorber dumps its fluid on the way back from a Club Lotus meeting.

The shock absorber failure prodded me into having the Mk2 upgraded suspension fitted, new springs and shockers all round. Result? A somewhat more sophisticated ride without any detriment to the handling (I've not tested the twitchy rear end yet).

In spite of everything, I'm still having a love affair with my little green car, which I love driving, feels part of me, and makes me smile. Then there's the fun of being in a convoy of Elises from the '50 years of Lotus' celebration at Hethel, meeting friendly people, and listening to great speakers at the Avon Club Lotus group. Last but not least, there's the great service from Simon Scott-Russell at Brooke Kensington in Bicester who cares for the car.

When I take the Elise out I just have to remember my mobile in case there is another 'troublesome episode' and I need my Mr. RAC friend.

Footnote: I recently test drove the Honda engined Elise prepared by Brooke Kensington. With well over 200bhp on tap and a six speed gearbox it is quite unbelievable - may just have to go on my 60th birthday present list...

Jim Viney
The Vineyard,
Barton Lane,

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