From The Driving Seat header car on road

We left the 1999 Sport 135 Elise with a long list of mechanical work completed in the expenditure of £2700 over the previous 21 months of ownership. Now at 39 months and with a successful MoT behind us, more than 60,000 miles have flicked up on the Stack digital readouts.

Our Elise settled to regular weekly use making most trips memorable as my Summer 2017 wedding appointment loomed. As any married knows, weddings demand payments on a scale that make classic car costs look cheap. Something had to go and for a few months it looked like the Lotus would depart, especially as a trusted local garage owner had a far cheaper BMW Z3 for sale in my fiancée’s favourite colour! That did not happen, but my months of attempting to sell the Lotus taught me lessons that are worth sharing…

High level view of Lotus elise with engine compartment lid open


Sad sales talk, but 3-year love thrives

Ready for Sunday punter inspection: No sale

When I bought the Lotus, I thought the external appearance was exceptional, a credit to the previous lady owner. The wheels had been properly refurbished, the Kumho tyres were fresh and the silver paint (one of five factory shades) was 95% pristine. I remained happy with the appearance until the attempted sale, when the Elise had been with me just over two years and 6000 of the looming 60,000-mile milestone.

By then I had a Club Lotus Valuation of £15,500, which seemed about right in the light of maximum dealer prices then in the £20,000 zone for low mileage examples of the basic 118 bhp model. I could not find a 135 Sport on sale for comparison (the factory made just over 80 at £29,850 retail, mine from a 30-strong second batch).

Closest in values appeared to be contemporary Elise 111S of 145 bhp. I tried for a commission sale in the £14,000 bracket, which would have returned me no more than £13,000 after commission/sale fees. I also investigated the next major auction at Silverstone and the figures were similar in their polite and prompt pre-auction valuation and estimates.

All pretty mild so far, the shock came when I explored prominent Lotus dealers. The proprietor of one just laughed at me and said they would never get £14,000 never mind £15,000 themselves. Their contemporary dealer advertisement had no Elise S1 under £18,000.

Multi-franchise Bell & Colvill are establishment royalty amongst Lotus dealerships and were as prompt and courteous as ever in dealing with Elise S1 for sale enquiry. “Sadly, we don’t take in S1 anymore” said a senior sales executive. “They all need too much work to prepare to our showroom standards,” he explained. Somewhat deflated, I decided to go back to basics.

Will Blackman in Buckinghamshire is an independent Lotus specialist who had sold my Lotus to the previous owner and has dealt with hundreds of Elises over the years. Will proved amiable, knowledgeable in depth and full of practical advice. Most expensive change recommended for use or sale was to fit S1 Elise seats in place of the S2s that the previous owner had installed when the original red-trimmed Corbeaus were too frayed to use anymore. She did offer them to me for another £500, but I declined; now I kick myself as I could have had the originals re-trimmed. I will probably have to pay over £650 to buy new Corbeaus to the same spec.

There were other original detail deviations that helpful Will picked out as non-essentials to value, but one bonus was his observation that the Momo detachable steering wheel was an original factory option. Never knew that.

I investigated four deals where I would chop my 2007 BMW and Elise on a single BMW (Z3) or Audi (original TT) purchase. Most helpful in this convenient, but low value, area were Epping Motor Company.

Will Blackman’s advice to sell it privately came with so much valuable information that I paid PistonHeads (£11.66 for 3 weeks) and placed free ads in one classic print weekly as well as two leading classic car online sites. Online PistonHeads produced most response, including a viewing and more detailed enquiries than the rest put together. Sensible offers were scarce, true of dealers too.

So I bit the bullet and sold some non-automotive assets to meet the wedding day demands.

I have not mentioned bills since December 2016. What’s occurred? In stark contrast to 2015-16 there is only one for non-routine repairs at £319.36, which covered a Bosch battery (the AA replacement died in 1 year 10 months), annual service, and the reality that specialist oils and brake fluids are expensive now, accounting for over £130. MoT allowed a pass first time, one advisory to cover ‘slight movement at a wishbone pin or bush’ – no cash surprises.

Time to listen to those dealers, especially Blackman, in order to preserve value and improve appearance. So Elise is booked in with Unicorn – Brian (DVCA Auctions) Chant’s established Dorset body shop – for cosmetics. That means trickily replacing tattered tape headlight surrounds, remedy awful owner touch up paint splodges and re-paint most wire mesh grilles that show surface rust. Next, Elise S1 Corbeau Sport seats, and then a hardtop.

See you next time to see how much of this I managed to do when faced by post-wedding needs, including a replacement 4x4.

Jeremy Walton

Click HERE for Part 6