Lots Of Trouble Usually Serious, so said mechanics across the nation at any suggestion of Lotus ownership. Low, average and high mileage Lotuses were all the same, demanding careful maintenance to ensure they ran as designed. Just ask the owner of PH’s Elan S3 SE; it’s Sheehan senior’s fourth Elan in as many decades, so he’s not short of stories, put it that way. But this S3 does also affirm that a well-kept Lotus need not be any less reliable than comparable sporting alternatives. Far from it, in fact, thanks in part to Colin Chapman’s ethos for simplicity.
With fewer components, less weight and fibreglass panels, many age and mileage-related problems associated with decades old cars simply don’t arise. And while Lotus motors of yesteryear have been temperamental to say the least, with the Elise S1, things did take a decent step forward. So long as the K Series engine was warmed properly before thrashing and maintained correctly, they’ve been known to survive deep into six-figure mileage. But, with used cars there’s no guaranteeing any of that. Old Elise ownership can still be fraught with risk.
What makes this week’s pick for High Mile Club most exciting, then, is that said K Series has been swapped for a K20A, the popular Honda motor that can not only claim to be widely reliable, it can also provide the S1's chassis with more power – and even more revs. The epoxy-bonded anodised aluminium base has been known to take well to the fitment of Honda’s four-pot, a plus-200hp output not causing the S1 and its 2.3-metre wheelbase much trouble. Quite the opposite, actually.
It means that with its 8,400rpm redline, Honda six-speed manual gearbox and a limited-slip differential, this Elise S1 now comes with an enormous jump in excitement factor to go with that underlying Lotus handling. Engine conversions bring with them their own new risks, true, but the seller here backs claims for an excellent build standard with a new MOT bearing no advisories, and a fully refreshed rolling chassis with new brakes, bushes and ball joints, as well as Nitron suspension, Yokohama Advan Neova tyres and more.
The majority of this S1’s six-figure mileage is said to have been accumulated in standard trim, too, so the car you’d be buying now is, we’re assured, much younger in condition than the 103,000 miles on the odometer would suggest. That ought to help add to buyer confidence, given that S1s can be had for more than ten-grand less than the £24k asking price of this car. But anyone familiar with the power, intake noise and revvy character of the K20A will probably understand that comparison with standard S1s is futile.
To some, the fact this one former owner car can’t claim to be original will rule it out from the selection list. Others may simply not want a car that’s been this extensively modified, or had its character so significantly altered by a new powerplant and gearbox. But for those after an exciting back-to-basics sports car, one that can fit into a normal garage and bears all the specialness of the Lotus badge, it’s got to be a tempting proposition. Quite possibly, with the work done to as high a standard as claimed, the use of Honda and refreshed components could make this Elise one of the most mileage ready S1s on the market as well. And yes, that's starting from the 103,000.
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