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Lotus Elise 135 Sport

Lotus Elise 135 Sport Published: 29th Dec 2016 - 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
Lotus Elise 135 Sport
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CAR: Lotus Elise 135 Sport YEAR: 1999 OWNER: Jeremy Walton

Some 2000 miles have been covered since my last report and I am delighted to say my Lotus has been running reliably and even managed to pass my first experience of Elise MoT first time.

The big change for the better in my Elise experience was to discover and trust Esprit Engineering boss Geoff Downhill, along with ex-dealer technician David Snook. Now I have an Elise that is strong enough to enjoy track days and a twice-weekly, 32-mile commute, over some inviting Wiltshire roads. At worst it asks for 97 octanes at 33.3mpg: legal use with light throttle openings returned a terrific 42.4 mpg.

Yes, I have spent serious money, £2700.37p to be precise, over three major repair sessions and 18 months’ ownership, but this was not the cliché fault of Lotus or Rover manufacturing. The culprits were eventually traced to dodgy uprates of previous owners (some major mods were over 11 years old) and alleged specialists’ shortcomings including careless Elise servicing by ‘one-man’ concerns, that included leaving the bottom crankshaft pulley bolt tightened by a spanner and not factory-set to a torque readout. Failing to register that was the was the most significant error which in the end almost destroyed the engine!

The Bodgers have bolted…

Factually and literally not tightening this bottom pulley bolt was at the bottom of my car’s recurring starting troubles, but an additional problem was that peg drive to secure the inner drives had also been butchered and blanked off…

These negligent moves triggered repair bills of £1661.38p – but I was fortunate in that it was not the end of the precious 135 Sport motor as could have happened!

Not surprisingly, the cam timing had slipped significantly because of the bottom bolt lack of security and caused peripheral cylinder head and combustion chamber damage which included compression readings of 120 psi on both number one and four cylinders, around 80psi when it should have registered 180psi as on the healthy pots. As a result that required another skim – allegedly the third in its short life according to the service history!

However, thanks to locating an ex-Janspeed employee, my original head, with correct 135 Sport numbering was saved. The Salisbury concern hand-modified these heads for Lotus, just as they did for the MG-F one-make race series, and many more BMC to Rover products from the 1960s into the Millennium.

So what cost the major money to put the Elise back to proper performance, with reliable starts and outstanding traffic manners as a bonus? An initial improvement came from a new header tank and cap to control the outlandish at standstill temperatures that beset Elise attending events like Silverstone Classic or mundane traffic holdups.


Another welcome step forward was to replace a collapsed gearshift pin, enabling repeatable first gear selections with an overall gain in shift quality. That is a backhanded compliment, for it is still dangerously easy to miss a shift, especially on the 4-5 plane plus reverse remains hit and miss, especially when cold.

For some reason, my Elise lacked a cam belt cover, but a secondhand one was found for just £15. Another visit saw speedometer spasms overcome with a £29.44 sensor rather than trying to locate the unique and now extinct Stack instrument pack that featured on S1 Elise and which I last saw priced around £2000!

More routine work included a new throttle cable in an effort to overcome the stiff throttle action that seems endemic with the uprated [52mm] throttle body that was probably part of those way back mods. Sadly, I inflated the bill by £164 as I had ordered shiny new wheel nuts and locking counterparts to replace the old gnarled items, before discovering the expensive cause of some erratic starting.

Fundamentally, replacement bottom and cam belt pulleys were replaced, along with the lower cover and the Elise was then ready for collection. But neither Esprit Engineering nor I were satisfied that all the problems were solved in the light of those compression readings.

Esprit investigated further, beginning work that would account for over half the £2700 that I mentioned previously.

When the head was removed, they sent a digital picture over and you could see some worrying grooves, along with uneven burn patterns, in the chambers. Another head skim was a possible answer, but it was a gamble given the history of previous repairs and two recorded skims. Long story short, the head specialist saved us and the £60 gamble paid off, but associated labour and parts still hit me hard as items that needed replacement included big ends, piston rings, head and cam cover gaskets, plus more gaskets for inlet, exhaust and cam seals. Oh valve seals, 16 of them, and a new oil pressure switch were also required, along with a cam belt kit with a new primary tensioner…

Mot time and how to become a bit of a past master

By contrast, the MoT pass was something of a £102 bargain, because it demanded more than the basic fee of £36. Esprit Engineering felt challenged to score a first time pass, a feat the Lotus eg – any Lotus? – had rarely managed in previous ownerships so my records show.

The passenger side seat belt clasp and release mechanism had loosened the plastic covers meaning it could trap a passenger, offering no release action. No hardship with some of the ladies brave enough to master getting in and out of those wide side beams, but potentially dangerous for one track day bloke that we struggled to free. Dave Snook went all out on this one: the passenger seat came out swiftly, another elusive stray bolt was discovered and the safety belt returned to reliable release action. The single wiper was not clearing some 30 per cent of the top screen, so that was legalised for the test with some adept pressure loading of the arm and blade.

At 57,226 miles our Elise thankfully panted through the first MoT in my care. It still suffered bad breath, but not bad enough to fail as the ex-Rover 420i catalytic convertor remained functional – for now. No, unlike many others this Elise is not one that runs for 11 months of the year with no Cat fitted and simply swapped for the fateful day.

Although my car sounds so sharp, it is not surprising de-catting was indeed suspected before we doublechecked underneath. Next time: remote control arrives at planet Elise to keep me poor. Worth it though!

Esprit Engineering: Downton, Wilts. http://www.espritengineering.co. uk. Tel: 01725 514449/Mob: 07973 404930. Unit 21 Parkers Close, Downton Business Centre, Downton, Wilts SP5 3RB.



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