Lotus Elise Sport 135: PH Fleet


What could be more tragically ironic than spending seven years of Elise ownership yearning for off-street parking outside my front door, only to close in on this goal with the looming prospect of having to sell the Lotus to fund it. First world problems and all that, but I'm sure many of you have been forced to liquidate a pride and joy to make one of life's more responsible upgrades. And it probably hurt.

Oh yes, and the Porsche 911 in question
Oh yes, and the Porsche 911 in question
Fortunately, the sums seem to have worked in my favour, and it looks like the Elise can stay. That said, I came close enough to the classifieds to realise just how much it's got under my skin over the years.

So, if all goes well, the Elise will soon have its own six metres squared of concrete to sit on, which is probably the most significant upgrade I've bestowed on it in my tenure, and while very exciting from my perspective, intensely dull to the rest of you. So I'm going to mention something that's sure to get the pulse racing; Singer. And, no, not the one that can deliver a precision overlock stitch.

A few weeks ago I got to experience the ultimate unicorn. The re-imagined made very real, parked right outside my office, and entrusted to the hands of a very good friend.

Whichever way you slice it, there's no escaping the potent desirability of a Singer. Whether the particular commission you are lucky enough to see and touch in the flesh is to your particular taste is irrelevant; the sheer beauty draws you in like a traction beam. And because the shape is so familiar, so iconic, you can allow yourself to be drawn in by one of the tantalizing details - the machined Perspex engine cover, the brushed aluminium wing mirrors, the beautifully dished Fuchs rims, the... well you get the idea - without feeling like you're losing sight of the outline. And then you slowly shuffle around its perimeter, visually joining the dots between these features, while the owner, or in this case custodian, shoots regular glances at his watch.

Not a Singer, but lovely details abound
Not a Singer, but lovely details abound
Heaven help you if they open the engine bay, because that's another hour gone, and then, if you're lucky enough to be beckoned inside, you descend into the most perfect Recaro buckets, surrounded by upholstery that's somehow both luxurious yet honest. And your eyes sweep across the period radio to the stubby ball-topped gear lever and simple, slim-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel, before descending to the delicate CNC pedals.

To look at it is to nourish the eyes, but to ride in it, even sitting in the wrong seat, is to allow the levels of want to spiral out of control. Sadly my ride was just a brief taster, but what I took away was that air-cooled background thrum, a hint of transmission whine, a responsive, inertia-free flywheel, a lack of mass and a car that demands a certain level of competence from its driver.

All of which is unapologetic indulgence, I grant you, but there is also a point to it. Throughout the experience, I couldn't help drawing parallels with something much closer to home; the humble S1. Yes there are numerous, obvious differences, and I don't mind if you think I've taken leave of my senses here, but metaphorically squint a little and essentially you've got two lightweight, manual, effectively rear-engined sports cars that are unequivocally driver-focused.

For a modern supercar the Singer is modestly powered. Likewise, for a contemporary sports car the Elise is puny. For a good lap time, or a smooth, flowing run down a B-road, both require driver skill and a bond between man, or woman, and machine. You can't rely on your right foot and sophisticated electronics to make up for a deficiency in ability. You need to understand its weight balance, respect its shortcomings and learn how to exploit its advantages. On wet days, in the case of the Elise particularly, you have to constantly read the cambers and assess the road surface, which keeps you alert and involved in the process of driving. Sit in a modern car and distractions are everywhere, but the Elise demands your full engagement.

Tiny dimensions shared too!
Tiny dimensions shared too!
A stationary S1 will never take as long to walk around as a Singer, but there are still plenty of design details to savour: the extrusions; the glimpses of that bonded alloy tub; the minimal driver-focused cabin; the Stack display; the fuel filler cap. For a mass-produced car it elevates itself above the hum-drum in the same way that the Singer does.

I could go on, but you probably get the point. And while I agree that it's not the most convincing argument, my brief encounter has left me both hopelessly smitten with the gorgeous Singer, and considerably more appreciative of my little Lotus. So while the former has cemented its place in my dream garage, I'm happier than ever that the latter resides on my actual drive (subject to contract, of course).


FACT SHEET
Car:
1999 Lotus Elise Sport 135
Run by: Danny Milner
Bought: October 2010
Purchase price: £9,500
This month at a glance: Singing the praises of the little Lotus

Previous reports
For speed add lightness, to wallet in this case
Suspension fettling brings results, just in time for the alternator to go pop
Scottish road trip answers 'should I sell?' dilemma
Is it time for the Elise to go?
A cry of alarm from the Lotus - just drive me!
To Goodwood in the Elise
Why is the Elise slower on its new suspension then?
Nitron suspension upgrade for Danny's Elise
Elise shows its displeasure at winter weather
Pilgrimage to Hethel and a lap with handling guru Matt Becker
New wheels on and roof off; to Spa!
Handling's sorted, now surely it's time to go faster
Welcome back again old friend!
Sitting comfortably? There's a lot to get through!

 

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Comments (32) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Iamnotkloot 26 Nov 2017

    They are both lovely.....

  • G.Fraser 26 Nov 2017

    Indeed. Despite pretending to myself, realistically I think I’m too tall to ever be able to consider owning a Lotus frown

  • 996GT3_Matt 26 Nov 2017

    Couldn’t agree more, I would regularly lose 20 minutes in my garage drinking in my S1. The GT40 inspired bonnet, the swooping bum and mini ducktail.. lovely

    At which point my wife would usually poke her head into the garage and ask if I wanted a cup of tea.. time to re-enter the house!

  • Maldini35 26 Nov 2017

    Cracking car the Sport 135.
    I miss mine. It was just so fun to drive.
    Fun. Now there’s a thing...
    Maybe time to get back into a Lotus.

  • Mikebentley 26 Nov 2017

    I drove an S1 maybe 15 years ago and found it a bit rough on anything other than perfect surfaces. I had a Clio 172 at the time that would leave it for dead on most journeys. The thing is though I am genuinely lusting after one now and the silver one in the article is just stunning. I don't generally like silver cars either so I think it is something about the simplicity of the S1.

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