Project Elise – A Proper Introduction

  Project Lotus Elise Part 1 – A proper introduction to the marque. 

By Wes Dumalski


These letters adorn the hood of every Lotus offered for sale worldwide…. They are an homage to Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman, the British Designer who founded Lotus Cars. Often times when people talk about car design they rarely speak of company ideology as designs of modern day production cars tend to include a series of compromises in performance for the sake of civility and creature comforts. The lack thereof is precisely what drew us to the Lotus marque.  Quite simply the original founder's innovative and influential designs in the motor sports world are still in place on every car Lotus produces.

Enter Project Elise. 

The current Elise platform was introduced  overseas in 1996 and was intended to fulfill the brand's ideals without compromise. With its extruded aluminum chassis, super light weight, mid engine rear wheel drive layout and world class suspension design it would serve to help reform the brand from a financial perspective and prove to be the building block for their modern day success. Overseas they offer different motor options than what we have here in the US from the base 1.8L 1ZZ Toyota motor all the way up to the supercharged 2ZZ 1.8L Toyota built and Yamaha designed motor.


The current U.S. version of the Elise is designated as the S2 111R (federal) platform and was first offered for sale in early 2004 as a 2005 model. The car weighs in at approximately 1,987 lbs. depending on packages. The chassis is comprised of extruded aluminum pieces that are bonded together with a proprietary adhesive. Yes folks the damn thing is glued together. The result is a chassis that is extremely light weight and very rigid. 

Notice the removal of the passenger side trim pieces? Here you can see a portion of the chassis structure as well as how the entire car is built AROUND the chassis. You don't really sit in the Lotus Elise you kinda wear it… Sizing comes in Xtra Small through Smedium….

Despite the fact that the Elise features a removable top the body panels are not structural in the same way as a unibody car. This means you can get the top off experience without any sacrifice in chassis stiffness or suspension performance degradation. Just how stiff is the chassis? 

Yes we were surprised by this…. This was an attempt to use the front passenger side jack point to raise up  both passenger side tires… FAILED AT THAT however we discovered a quick way to do front tire removal…



With the trim removed you can see how the seat belts mount directly to the roll bar for both the device itself and the shoulder belt anchor. 

In addition to the very rigid chassis the Elise also features a roll bar that is triangulated to the rear of the chassis. Additionally the seat belts mount to the factory roll bar. While this is no substitute for a real roll cage it certainly is a step above the typical roll hoops offered in other targa top and convertible cars and offers superior rollover protection for track day events. 



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