Long and short of it……I sold my 31-year-old Porsche. Served me well for a long time, compiled a lot of memories that will never be forgotten. But it, like it’s owner, was getting creaky and it’s value was pretty much static. Any money put into it would not appreciate its value, and I was getting a little concerned about safety issues in a car this old. So it went for a good price on EBay, and interestingly, is being shipped to its new owner in Norway. I am so very happy its new owner will drive it in such a beautiful place.
So on to the bucket list.
Lotus Elise. I’ve lusted after the Lotus marquee for years. The engineering is born and bred Formula One. A marquee with a history. I scoured the Internet and lucked into the exact one I wanted in Hagerstown, Maryland. It’s a 2006 (all the 2005 upgrades) at a reasonable price. One owner, all service records at authorized Lotus dealer, low mileage (11,300 miles), totally immaculate, can’t be told from new. Beautiful color (metallic blue) and many options I wanted, including air bags, anti-lock brakes, premium stereo system (200 watt Alpine with blaupunkt speakers front and back). Bunches of other stuff as well. Flew down to pick it up and drove it back to Pittsburgh today. Photos enclosed.
Some observations for anyone interested in the marquee.
The workmanship of this car is immaculate, at least as good as any of the German cars nowadays, I think better than BMW. I can find no flaws or sloppy workmanship. Entire interior is leather and the seams are perfect. The front and sides are protected from stone chips by an invisible clear plastic coat over the paint. The engine is basically a Toyota Celica mill that’s hopped up a bit and fitted horizontally amidships. Puts out just a tick under 200 horsepower and the car only weighs 2000 pounds, a thousand pounds lighter than a Porsche Boxter or a Miata. All the scoops on the car are fully functional, and there are two air scoops out the rear that provide some down force, just like Formula One. The design was air tunnel proven.
That said, there are design issues that affect comfort for non-dwarfs, especially entry and exit. There is a large 10-inch high, 6-inch wide horizontal post on the lateral side of the seats, essentially creating a tub the driver and passenger sit in. The car is very small. It’s been described as a very fast go-cart. Getting in and out with the top off is fairly simple and intuitive. When the top’s on, it becomes an ergonomic challenge.
I’m not as flexible as I used to be when I was a younger dog. I’m 6’ 1”, 220 pounds and getting arthritic as a natural consequence of age. Getting in and out of this thing with the top on is a creative Kama Sutra exercise. After some experimentation, I’ve found the most effective entry is to toss my right leg in as far as it’ll go under the steering wheel, then slide my butt into the seat. Unfortunately, that leaves my left leg at about a 90-degree angle. So I have to slide my butt over to the passenger seat (sorry, dear), pick up the leg by the pants, and then lift it over the ten-inch riser. Getting out requires again moving my butt over to the passenger seat and repeating the entry maneuver in reverse. People stop to watch. Needless to say, I’m going to be spending a lot of time in this car with the top off.
But once inside, it all settles down. I have barely enough legroom and 2 inches of headroom. The seats are firm but passable. The six-speed shifter is nicely positioned for comfort and the gear ratios are very effective. Never lugs in any gear.
Like I said previously, this car has been described as an overpowered go-kart. It’s very, very precise in steering, so much so that it tends to be pretty twitchy at speed on the highway. It has huge power-assisted ventilated disk brakes on every wheel and slamming on the brakes (with ABS) is said to be downright scary. The car is very, very fast. Scary fast. It will effortlessly allow a driver to exceed his or her capabilities with no warning. It is not a car for an irresponsible or careless driver. It has the potential to hurt you before you know you’re in danger.
In normal domesticated driving conditions, it drives like a Toyota. Quiet and smooth. When power is poured to it in a more or less safe road environment, the best way to describe the engine song is a “howl” and it doesn’t quit and probably won’t quit till the red line is exceeded and the engine blows up. There is no lag phase.
So the fascination with it is the style, the function and the potential for standing apart from other cars on the road. A guy in a red turbo Porsche gave me the stink-eye on I-76 this afternoon, considered the evidence and backed off with a smile and a wave. This car literally stops traffic wherever it goes. It’s the most beautiful and desirable automobile I have ever seen. In the words of one of the reviewers:
“This may be the best car in the world — if all you need it to do is stay ahead of whatever’s chasing it. If Bonnie and Clyde had a 2006 Lotus Elise they might still be on the run”.
Followup one month of ownership:
Now with some experience with this car under my belt, I can make some clearly hyperbolic statements about it (unlike me, of course).
The Lotus Elise is simply the most incredible vehicle I have ever driven, and that’s compared to all comers, including Porsche. I can’t get over it.
The design and workmanship is just amazing. Every aspect of the design is functional. Flat bottom and ground effects tunnels on the rear, just like a Formula One car. The faster it goes, the more stable it becomes. Paint and trim is immaculate. The front surfaces and backs of rear-view mirrors are coated in clear plastic to stop road pebble dings.
The car is light, a thousand pounds lighter than a Porsche Boxter and to achieve this, there is no rear tire. Snapped to the side of the trunk is a pressurized bottle of latex (or something like it) that, in the event of a flat tire, can be attached to the tire stem to seal the leak and re-inflate the tire.
There is a built-in theft avoidance system beginning with an ignition defeat unless the right button is pushed before attempting to start, and a siren alarm if desired. Gets me a big insurance break. Anti-lock brakes and driver/passenger air bags. The ergonomics of the driver position are well thought out. The shift knob is in perfect position for comfort and function. The close ratio box is a joy in town or on the road.
That doesn’t mean the car is easy to enter or exit for me (6’ 1” and 220 pounds). It’s made for a much smaller person. There are flanges on each sides of the seat that dug into the sides of my widening middle age butt so I had my pal Sonny Palermo (body and fender guy) shave these off and re-pad it using original leather upholstery.
Took me a while to figure out how to get in and out of it with the top on. Most drivers can just put a leg in and then bend to the waist to dip under the roof. That doesn’t work for me. So after some experimentation, I discovered that entering head first all the way into the passenger side as far as I can get (to the door), then pivoting and pulling my legs after me works like a charm. Reverse the procedure to exit. One in, I have two inches of headroom and plenty of legroom. Quite comfortable and plenty of support in the right places from the expertly designed leather seat.
Check out the ride: