At nearly 62,000 miles, the enjoyment I got from steering the Lotus was unrivalled. Failures included, it remained fine value for ultimate driving pleasures, but cost and use issues persisted to the point where I decided to sell. But before we get to that surprisingly rewarding experience, a look through the final bills.
The major expense in the closing months was not the fault of Lotus or anything to do with fabled Rover K-series flaws. Fresh back from detail paintwork and refurbishment of the wire mesh grilles that proliferate and rust, drama awaited. We met a forestry lorry on a narrow, walled, country lane. The muddy drain cover was just there, so to dodge the lorry and at least a full-length scrape, I went for cover as far into the wet grassy edges as feasible. I chose the grassy encounter but the metal drain carved into the slippery bank, punched the outer wheel ledge as the Lotus slowed to a halt.
Lorry went on regardless, I cursed and wriggled the steering hopefully. Didn’t appear to be any pulling left or right, so carried on to where I could stop safely. Looked briefly, saw no damage on brown-slimed wheels and arches. Got to my local sports club feeling smug about using the car in winter conditions. So smug, I decided to take a picture of mud-spattered hero car.
Just a minute, there’s a bright spot amongst the earthy refinish on that fat rear alloy – why’s that?
Because, Mr. Lotus Owner, there are no free crunches!
The previously pristine 7.5 x 16-inch alloy had saved the Kumho and retained tyre pressure, but had a very nasty incision on the outer ledge (see picture). Back in my garage, I had decisions to make.
Remove the wheel; junk the Kumho, although there was no visible damage? Also, pressure was spot on, but for safety have wheel repaired by local specialist. Or make a planned switch to Yokohama AD08Rs?
Long story short, the specialists I talked to naturally wanted to see the wheel without tyre to price any repair. Looking at my photographs both experts added, "IF it can be repaired."
I started looking online at all the wheel and tyre packages on offer, Toyos again-- or Yokohamas. I had bought a cheap non-factory, hardtop on eBay. Cost was £112; I expected to pay £600+ for the proper Lotus item. This from a very honest eBayer who had some delicious Lotus and Caterham road and track weapons at his sparkling modern estate unit. I also had other business with my regular maintenance outfit at Esprit Engineering, including fixing the squeaky mouse that made pressing the clutch an orchestrated and stiff operation. Both sources came up with original, New Old Stock (NoS) ex-Lotus factory wheels in the correct sizes, as shared by 111S and my 135 S.
My hardtop contact had his Elise on sale and was not quite ready to let the rears sell, so I went to Esprit Engineering. Asked if they could get reasonably close to the package prices of a Yokohama set? I would then buy a pair of NoS rear alloys they had acquired from the factory at a very affordable resale price.
The result was a set of brand new Yokies, shiny rear rims and bill a sliver over £800. Sadly I never really felt the benefit of the tyre swap as we covered less than 1000 miles together. I had decided to keep a promise and put the car up for auction through the DVCA (Dorset Vintage & Classic Auctions), a fascinating process that is another story.
Why sell? As so often happens in freelance business life, I lost an important client and did not feel I had that income strand anymore to keep the Lotus up to scratch. I was amazed at the economy (32-33 daily, 40 mpg with any restraint]) and impact of the driving pleasure, outstanding even amongst 50 plus years of performance motor cycles and race/road cars. The improved appearance and dynamics it had now reached were as good as it was going to get in my hands.
Time to move on…
What next? A month after the sale I still miss Hethel’s silver bullet, despite the mechanical heartaches. It had nothing like the adventures I had planned for it, even my 1958 Frogeye had more fun times, but covered less miles. Trouble was, Lotus often sulked when I wanted it Out There.
So, while I log up the miles on a 150k Nissan that owes us nothing, I have only a short list of likely motors that may be more daily use in British weather than an Elise. I have always fancied Series 1 Audi TT, especially the lighter and tauter Sport limited edition. Yet it’s a head-blaster wading through multiple possibilities of the lesser 225hp coupe. Most are well over 100,000 miles and too many have been the subject of violent modifications, some advertised with crash damage!
Second on the list currently is Nissan 350Z, but there’s a danger of owning too many Nissans. After that, usual convertible suspects for shorter non-business use, MX-5 and last edition Toyota MR2. BMW’s Z3 2.8 would make it, but I’m not keen on power roofs on well used motorcars: expensive to repair.
Could just go back to Ford again, but comparatively recent as the old ones are now just rose-tinted dreams when you’ve had financial cramp!
Dorset Vintage & Classic Auctions (DVCA): HQ, Station Rd, Stalbridge, Dorset DT10 2RH, sale days held at Athlehampton House, Dorset. Tel: 01963 363353.
Footman James: Dudley, West Midlands DY1 4TA. Classic car insurance, significant discounts on car club discounts. Prompt refunds of outstanding premium, minus admin fees. Tel: 0333 207 6101.
Automobile Association (AA): Proved essential, appreciated late night assistance to supply and co-fit battery. Not a simple task in low light!
Esprit Engineering: Downton, Wilts. Friendly and efficient service, now Lotus Heritage Official service agents. . Tel: 01725 54449
www.eliseparts.com Supplied most, especially 82degree thermostat at £6.95, vital to reduce normal and traffic running Temps. Tel: 01480 860002
Mud-spattered hero car