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Lotus Elise 135 Sport

Lotus Elise 135 Sport Published: 30th Jan 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Elise 135 Sport
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
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The inevitable happened… but it took a keen expert eye to spot it

Owner: Jeremy Walton Car: Lotus Elise 135 Sport Year: 1999

The Elise survived my summer wedding bills and remains my favourite drive, but there was a more financial heartache on the post-wedding horizon. Before that long running saga bit, I decided to treat my Elise to detail cosmetic refreshment.

Unicorn Motor is the established repair and classic renovation arm of Brian Chant’s better-known Dorset Vintage & Classic Auctions (DVCA). Brian and his craftsmen Unicorn team had earned official recognition for their workmanship, long before Brian bravely ventured into his own auction business. I met Brian again (we had profiled Unicorn back in the Classic Cars for Sale era-ed) at a local West Country show and remembered that earlier Chant business. I had the Lotus with me that sunlit day and invited Brian to take a professional look around.

A few days later I received an estimate for repainting all rusty grilles, rectifying my clumsy splodge attempts to cover hood and parked scratches and renewing the cowled headlamp surrounds.

Those black lamp oval strips had peeled and faded since it left the factory as one of 83 Hethel-built 135 Sports from Series 1.

In the event the £699.60 bill was £84 over estimate, but Unicorn had discovered some door car park damage that had escaped the initial survey. But it was what Unicorn had decided was out of order and rectified, with no extra charges, that delighted me.

Since I took it on the Elise featured the rear ‘bonnet’ section standing proud an inch and was the hardest to open on the cable and hook release that I have encountered without a cable snapping. Now it operates smoothly and the shut lines are outstanding by Lotus standards, which is faint praise, but 100 per cent better than before.

I was very pleased and almost smug save for the nagging feeling that I really needed to investigate the erratic behaviour of the cooling system before it went near a track again. The problem was persistent (7-8 months’ worth) overheating, triggered when the four or five pressure caps all let pressure out of the plastic expansion tank.

But why? Worst occasion was at Castle Combe, when it suffered a volcanic steam eruption after six wet but committed laps. Elise’s expansion chamber demanded a two-hour cool down and refill, when it behaved normally on the [gentle] drive home. It did not occur so dramatically again, because I drove it in pretty normal road use and up to 5000rpm… However, the digital readouts of 96 oC suddenly appeared when parking as the expansion chamber cap(s) let all the pressure out.

I could switch off in time to save steamy cascades, but did not dare to go back on the track, or use more than 5500rpm briefly.

This turned out to be a cylinder head off job – initial examination at Esprit Engineering showed a watery reflection in cylinder three. But it was not the usual diagnosis of a cracked head, shifted liner, cracked piston ring or even failed head gasket as are bane of K-Series engines. Factually it was something the professionals had not seen for years, and then it was their Esprit experience that probably betrayed the fault.

Microscopic examination revealed a tiny blow-by in that third cylinder multi-layer gasket, consequent on a minute depression in the cylinder liner, upper edge.

Only specialist instrumentation revealed the fault, not visible by eye and possibly caused by corrosion consequent on the use of a common engine rebuild sealant prior to my ownership.

Aside from a new multi-layer gasket, most of the 12-hour investigation and rectification time was expended machining the block face and top ring section of liner to ensure a proper surface-to-surface interface. Esprit Engineering and I have run 90 miles of harsh cross check motoring over three test sessions and this Elise is now fine for road use to the limits the factory intended: expansion chamber water levels now as intended on midway between the Fill and Full markings.

Aided by an Elise 82 degree Water thermostat (the factory item cuts in at 88 oC) the water temperature readouts are now almost conservative, mostly under 80 degrees C unless halted in traffic.

At more than 61,000 miles, the enjoyment I get from steering the Lotus is unrivalled. Failures included, it remains fine value for ultimate driving pleasures. Yes, I loved McLaren’s loaned 570S to conduct on my rewarding home patch, but for me, the Elise is more size-suited to British B-road motoring and is close enough in exhilaration. Naturally, I acknowledge that Wokingham’s Big Mac, BMW or any other reasonably modern roofed saloon/two-seat hardtop would be a much more useful tool for Britain’s weather and longer trips. I even sacrificed my durable modern 120d BMW to keep the Lotus, but I do have access to a pair of indestructible Nissan 4x4s for more mundane motoring that have accrued 200,000 miles between them…Don’t think I’ll see that recorded on the Lotus milometer!

Stop Press

Elise dribbled water again! Thermostat keeps temp well below alarming, but am not happy…

Elise contacts

Esprit Engineering: Downton, Wilts.
Unicorn Motor Company: Stalbridge, Dorset DT10 2RH.
Lotus Elise: the official story and Lotus Elise: the Official story continues, both by Jeremy Walton now on Amazon.

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