Skin Deep: Lotus Elise

The boys at XS are turbocharging a Lotus Elise and asked me to help out on the intercooler design. To investigate the possibilities, we removed the nose to check out some potential locations for heat exchangers and plumbing. It was an absolute bitch to remove the nose. After removing the nose, you could see that the designers designed the chassis, suspension, cooling components and ducts, and then everything else afterwards. In other words everything else was an afterthought. The sucks for maintenance and service, but it is awesome for a production car. What this means is that the car is 100% purpose built for performance. It’s not like some dumb ass would buy the Elise as their only car anyway. The car is designed for ballers with multiple cars and with the Elise likely being a track or very occasional car. The car is so damn impractical that two men sitting in the cockpit would have to be close friends to sit together for more than 5 minutes because you’re rubbing shoulders already.

The nose of the car consists primarily of ducting for the horizontally mounted radiator and two side mounted oil coolers (note the two hoses running the length of the nose compartment on the sides). The nose panels were surprisingly heavy for such a light car, but it probably didn’t hurt that Lotus wanted add some front weight bias. Behind the radiator is one big giant pile of afterthought:

Here you have a brake booster and master cylinder that looks like it is the same one as a 1977 Lotus Esprit, various control units, looms, fresh air ducts for these control units, and an ABS system that is crammed into place. Whoever is servicing this car or replacing parts is FUCKED. Sucks to be him.

Inside the radiator duct: Do those two fans look familiar? Yeah, you can probably buy them at Pep Boys. Is that a rusted tow hook bracket up front? Yeah, Lotus probably doesn’t have an anti-corrosion warranty on this puppy. This car has less than 10,000 miles on it. Remember: performance first, everything else is thought about afterwards.

The rest of the Elise is pretty cool too. The chassis is riveted and bonded aluminum extrusions with no bullshit double A arm suspension both front and rear. I thought the flat bottom was pretty damn cool too. More pics on the rest of the car later; I ran out of time. The shitty part about the Elise? The soulless Toyota 2ZZ-GE engine designed by the modern regime at Toyota that obviously lacks any passion. While Toyota is the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world, their products today truly lack any passion. Don’t even begin to tell me that your buddies new Scion xB is dope. It’s a heavy metal fucking box with a big engine (2.4L) and a soulless commuter car well marketed to the masses. The last fun car Toyota made was probably the MR-2 Spyder (MR-S) and before that the Supra Turbo (JZA80). The 2ZZ-GE was smoked to living hell by the Honda K20A. Shit, the Honda B16A designed 12 years earlier already rocked the 2ZZ. Why does the Elise, a car that is 100% soul, have such a soulless engine you ask? Rumor has it that Honda wouldn’t supply Lotus engines. I think a properly tuned, reliable, wide power band turbo 2ZZ-GE could definitely squeeze out what very little soul the 2ZZ has in it. And make the Elise a whole lot more fun and much faster than an Exige for less money. More to come soon. Stay tuned.

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