OPINIONS after 12000 miles (March 2000)
I have had little blasts in my friends motorsport 190 car. That vhpd
engine has grown on me even more... its just so satisfying in every
way. For the Trackday season this year I desperately want some upgraded
suspension (preferably the Leda kit) and some better supporting seats
and a performance exhaust for more audio entertainment (after all -
the radio doesn't work). Trouble is, that's over 2 grand already and
I am buying a new home and having lots of thoughts of putting money
elsewhere other than in a depreciating car.
In December 1999 I investigate a black 190 for sale with just 2000 miles on it. Its up for £33,000 but I get a big shock when I am told that my 111s with 10K miles on it and 10 months old is worth just £20K or so (versus the 28500 I paid for it). I remember that the black 190 has actually been in the dealers for almost a year as well but that hasn't depreciated one pound. How can I win ?
In February, continuing my search for a decent deal on a 190, I miss a fine mustard yellow example (3K miles, £28000) by just 24 hours.. someone beats me to it. I see an ex-750MC 190 car, 2 years old with over 30 grand extra spent on it in the form of engine tuning, telemetry, rose-jointed wishbones, WP dampers etc.. Its probably a dream on track but the vhpd is bolted firm to the chassis (this car doesn't sound like a Kenwood chef, it feels like being in one) , the new rear clam is a poor fit and generally, its had a hard life and its just not for the road for any length of time. At around £26000 its the perfect bargain for an all out track car but people close to me really will do their nut on this one - if I get a 190 I decide that I want a fresh and fine example.
My search continues in February but all I can seem to dig up is ex-raced cars which are very similar in condition. Then one day I walk into a dealers and for the first time run my eyes over the mad 340R. Well theres my answer, surely: its pretty much a 190, its exclusive, looks mad and may well hold its value, its new and I dont have to shelve out for another warranty, AA cover, tax and new rear brakes and tyres. But no.... there aren't any for sale, I will once again be offered a soul-destroying trade in on my 111s and the finance will be ludicrously high. And to top it all, where will I keep it... parked on the Strand every night ?
That day it seemed luck was on my side. £24000 for my 111s and just £50 off for each rear tyre (which are almost illegal depth) - thats a private sale price. I check Autocar: 1999 111s for private sale with hardtop and only 6K miles going for 23750.. wait a sec, Ive been offered a dealers' forecourt price ! That pretty much sealed it for me. That and the fact that nearly all my 12K 111s miles last year were proper driving either on track or out in the countryside and only 3 days in the rain. I know that it will get the proper use alright and I can hire a garage. Suddenly it all made sense (sort of).
With the elise being quite old now and also very very popular its time to get into something a little bit more exclusive, a car which will almost certainly hold its value well and something that will definitely give fellow road users and passers-by a big big shock ! Jump to my 340R pages here.
Other than the fact that its just nice to have a change, the moral of this story is 'dont test drive a 190'.
OPINIONS after 9000 miles (Nov 1999)
After 9000 miles it is clear that this car has become a very serious toy for me. I rarely use it for travelling - almost every excursion is either a midweek track event or a w/e 2/300 mile blast into southern England or the West country or into France (often with fellow elise owners). Whilst my other 2 Lotus's were also everyday cars, the elise is now just for serious driving and indeed, my plans for it reflect that. After trying various other elise configurations I intend to keep this model and upgrade it gradually, biasing more toward the track. At the time of writing a few minor modifications have been made (air filter, cat pipe) but the next step will most certainly be adjustable suspension followed by race seats/harnesses/roll cage and tyres, brakes. Only then will I start thinking about how to upgrade the vvc (which aint that easy). The only thing which will deter me is if Lotus make a sensible and affordable version of the motorsport coupe when they announce their plans in Jan 2000. If I can switch to that car with a better engine at a reasonable price then so be it.
After a large amount of hard driving my car does feels very free. Along with the breathing mods it is clear from driving with fellow elise's that it is a pretty quick car, quite the opposite from some of the lukewarm press reports when the car was launched. It is interesting now that vvc cars are going over the magic 10k mark and some are producing some very surprising dyno figures - I always felt that this engine suffers more during its early life and needs a lot of running in before it starts to show its best. Only now am I convinced that I made the right decision in chosing this model over the standard car - for me, the generous power up to the 7200 mark and the CR box are qualities that have become essential.
After 8 months of ownership, the elise really makes so much sense. It is relatively cheap to buy and own, it has the looks, it has extensive anorak-esque upgradability, a big helpful user base and community to share info. and go driving with, it has the handling and driver involvement by the bucket load, it loves the race circuit even straight out of the box, but above all, it has the low weight. My only quibble is once again the engine. Whilst I find the vvc pretty satisfying toward the redline and it improves its tone a bit once the air filter and exhaust are sorted out, it is totally upstaged by the VHPD in every respect.