PH Fleet: Lotus Elise Sport 135

When I was shopping for my Elise the biggest influence on my decision to hold out for one of the rarest of the breed was a review, written by someone I've never met, printed in ink on paper, perfect bound and placed on a shelf in a newsagent. I'm sure I'm not alone in placing a massive amount of faith in a five-star rating from a magazine with three letters, but what really cemented my decision to buy a Sport 135 was the revelation that it had been awarded second place in that same publication's 1998 car of the year competition (bet you can't guess what won).

OK, so it didn't actually win in the end...
OK, so it didn't actually win in the end...
Yet try as I might, I just couldn't track down the article itself. It seems that this particular issue has become pretty rare over the years - copies are fetching £25 on eBay - and I drew a blank finding any kind reference to it online. So the opportunity to actually getting to read said review only arrived a few weeks ago, thanks to a friend with a copy in the loft.

Tell me I'm right
With any purchase, particularly those as significant as a car, it's human nature to seek vindication. No one wants to feels like they've bought a lemon. So it was comforting to read the praise that was heaped on this little car, so new that it only arrived from the factory on the second day of the test. Phrases such as 'immense fun' and 'a revelation' leapt from the page, but it wasn't until the final spread that I found out just how close to slaying a Goliath the Elise had come, missing out by just one point to the 996 Carrera 2.

Praise heaped on Elise inspired purchase
Praise heaped on Elise inspired purchase
Of course there were criticisms, but these will be familiar to any Elise owner and included a disconcerting vagueness to the front end in the wet, a stringy gear change and a roof of Rubik's cube complexity. Interestingly the article repeatedly talked about changes to the suspension on the Sport 135 over standard S1s, something I've not heard mentioned before.

As a relatively new Elise owner, I've been absorbing information like a sponge ever since I bought it. Even now, my curiosity for what's been written about it remains strong. But I can't help but wonder how the petrolhead of the future will find guidance in their quest for motoring thrills? Will there still be magazines offering extensive archives of knowledge? Will words, represented by characters rather than verbalised, still carry weight? Will journalists and writers find their opinions eclipsed by user reviews?

As close to track comparison as Danny got
As close to track comparison as Danny got
Rise of the armchair expert?
Personally, I think the medium might change, but I firmly believe there will always be people seeking the judgment of an expert. And by that I mean someone who has the experience to be able to contextualise any car among both its forerunners and its contemporaries, and craft an analysis of it in such a way as to entertain and inform. As much as video offers that instant gratification, I can't imagine returning to peruse old Youtube clips in the same way as I can a dusty box of back issues.

And my Elise? Well, I had hoped to be telling you about a little on-track comparison with Caterham's Supersport. And I got as far as Rockingham - the chosen venue - on a day of utterly biblical rain, only to find the circuit literally underwater and the event cancelled. If this rain ever ends, hopefully I'll get a chance to reschedule it in time for the next report.

In the mean time, feel free to mock my efforts to skid the Elise at Abbeville in the videobelow. Ridicule expected; constructive criticism welcomed.

Fact sheet
1998 Lotus Elise Sport 135
Run by: Danny Milner
Bought: October 2010
Purchase price: £9,500
This month at a glance: Aborted attempt to compare against a Caterham, sheltered indoors reading old road tests instead.

Previous Reports
Shiny new dampers and suspension, followed by a shakedown atAbbeville
A Lotus joins the PH Fleet - but will it prove lots of trouble?



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Comments (51) Join the discussion on the forum

  • cmoose 30 Oct 2012

    Bit of a thread resurrection, but this:

    ...has me thinking just how much has changed in the last 10 to 15 years, both re Evo and the performance car market in general. It's probably just rose tinted hindsight, but the 1998 cover feels like a more honest and real-world collection of enthusiast's favourites.

    Fast forward to last year's collection (largely) of trinkets for the super rich:

    OK, the 355 was fairly exotic back in 1998. And the 996 was hardly cheap. Nor was the Jag, for that matter. And yet the 1998 batch somehow seems less cynical. Oh, I dunno...

  • Danny Milner 21 May 2012

    cliffie said:
    Danny, you seriously need to have that car set up properly. I have ragged Abbeville hard a number of times and you are losing grip at much slower speeds and in places you should not be losing grip.

    Decent dampers, decent tyres at sensible pressures and a geo is on the menu for you Dude.
    You do realise i was trying to provoke it/get it to lose grip? Just checking...

  • GTiFrank 18 May 2012

    I agree, mostly. Can spend hours trawling through youtube and magazine websites looking at car reviews for cars i am about to buy or have just bought. But often there is a lack of info and detail on the web, having said that owners forums are usually the best bet for posting pdfs of old mag articles.

    I would never go out any buy any car based on one magazines 5 star review. In fact clio rs' dont hold much appeal to me for this reason, brilliant i am sure. But i am the kind of buyer who would prefer the to buy the oddball and more interesting/ less well known cars and to hell what an journo makes of it as long as i like the way it drives.

    Not that i dont value journos opinions, just prefer to make my own mind up if seriously interested.

  • cliffie 18 May 2012

    Danny, you seriously need to have that car set up properly. I have ragged Abbeville hard a number of times and you are losing grip at much slower speeds and in places you should not be losing grip.

    Decent dampers, decent tyres at sensible pressures and a geo is on the menu for you Dude.

  • s m 18 May 2012

    MiseryStreak said:
    they absolutely slated the MK1 Focus RS
    ...but they did like the one they drove a few years later a bit more

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