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Having just sold my 1990 "Lotus Racing Green" Lotus Elan S1, I thought I'd share my experience of owing this ground-breaking car.
The Lotus brief was a two-seater roadster that would appeal to the American market. With this in mind, it's easy to see why the cabin appears so spacious - American's don't like to be cramped!
The windscreen is shallow-angled and you get the feeling of being in a much larger car as the dashboard stetches away in front of you. The driving position is "proper sportscar", low slung but extremely comfortable - the drivers seat on some examples can benefit from minor TLC having been subjected to ten years or more of use.
The comforting smell of fibreglass as you enter the cabin is one common to all Lotus', but on particularly damp days, can be overridden by the gentle waft of damp carpet!
I've never met another Elan owner who didn't experience a leaky hood - be it a few drops or the need to drive with a towel draped elegantly across their right thigh! They ALL leak, some more than others, but this in no way decreases the joy of owning an Elan - you get used to it, work around it or bankrupt yourself trying to eliminate it!
When the Elan had been standing - especially outside - I found the turbo waste-gate (if that's how you spell it!) would stick and prevent the engine revving over 4,000rpm. That famous cure-all: WD40 seemed to do the trick though!
The cam-angle sensor is a notorious cause of the "check-engine" light appearing on the dash and this is an important question to ask any seller when looking to purchase an Elan of your own.
Prior to owning the Elan, my vehicle history consisted of a beaten-up Ford Fiesta and my mum's old Saab 900. Driving the Elan took some getting used to - at first, every creak and rattle alarmed me, convinced some vital component was about to fall off!
After a while, you get used to the unique sounds your car makes. When up, I found the hood secure at speed with no flapping.
The Elan provides a real "wind in your hair" ride - it drives me crazy when I see people out in convertibles, roof down, wind deflector up, windows up, baseball cap pulled firmly down! "What's the point"? I want to scream at them! "If you don't like your hair getting tangled, buy a Mondeo"!
The handling is fabulous - often lauded as among the best work Lotus ever did, the Elan is a sheer pleasure to drive. And so began my love affair with "B" roads!
There is nothing like punting it off a roundabaout onto a stretch of twisties to make you grin like a simpleton. The Elan is forgiving, making even the clumsiest corner-taker look good.
My Elan was the turbo variety - really the non-turbo's aren't worth any savings they may appear to give you at the time of purchase. I drove a friends non-turbo on a few occasions and did feel it lacking, but then maybe that's because I'd got so used to my own car by that point.
Cost of ownership - thanks to a boyfriend who knows Lotus like the back of his hand - was nominal. Obviously there are things you can do to lessen the blows like regular maintenance of the soft top - fixing any nicks or tears straight away, ensuring the plastic rear window is kept clear by use of a good cleaner specifically made for such purposes and making sure that whenever the little "check engine" light appears, it's not ignored!
My Elan gave me very few problems - at the outset, a faulty engine immobiliser saw me stranded roadside on a couple of occasions and the only time I ever swore I would sell it came on a particuarly wet day as water literally poured through the passenger footwell. I hadn't realised until then that, for some odd reason, my Elan was missing the front wheel arch liners. A pair was sourced from a breakers yard and the problem never occured again.
The engine, a Lotus-tuned 1600cc Isuzu lump, never gave me any problems at all. They're virtually bomb-proof (as the saying goes).
The boot is roomy for such a small car - easily able to carry a week's worth of supermarket shopping!
The Elan is easy to get in and out of and, some might say, a bit of a "girl's car". The funny thing is there are just as many (if not more) men that love the Elan as much as us girls.
It's a roadster with attitude - a car born of a great little British company with an honest-to-goodness racing heritage and some of the best engineers in the world.
it's also (dare I say it)..... practical. Easy to drive, easy to park and yet still perfectly capable of surprising the M3 owner who thinks a girl in an old "H" reg plastic car can't make him look a bit stupid at the next set of lights!
Okay that last comment wasn't serious (I wasn't even trying), but suffice to say that the fact an Elan won't break the bank when compared to any other like-for-like roadster is the last reason in the world to buy one..... buy one because they're a little oddity in a world of MX5's, MR2's and MGF's, because people will still ask "what is that"? and because once you drive it, you'll realise the importance of how a car handles and what it feels like to actually be a part of the experience, rather than simply be getting from A to B.
I'm not mechanically minded (you don't say!) but personally, my Elan taught me also to respect my driving abilities, it helped me understand how to react to certain situations - when to slow and when to go. It gave me an appreciation of driving that I never would have got from sputtering around in a euro-box.
Smashing review of a smashing car! Yeh baby. If it's any consolation, the Elise leaks, too. Not on your thigh but enough to make the car a bit um... moist when you first get into it. Absolutely true, too about appreciating driving, loving b roads and grinning like a big gumbee when you drive one. Cheers Sweary.
purplelynne 18.08.2004 14:07
It sounds like a great car to drive. Brilliant first review. Lynne x
MAFARRIMOND 16.08.2004 22:59
Enjoyed reading this. A super first review. Maureen