Introducing Project Lotus Elise


This is perhaps the most difficult project introduction I have ever written. There is so much emotion wrapped up in this car that no matter what I write it just seems wrong. I want to tell the story of how I came face to face with a pristine Type 72D Lotus Elise that had sat on the dealers lot since 2008. Or that my wife literally made me test drive it because I was being “too responsible.” In my mind I wasn’t being responsible, I was protecting my sanity, for I knew that the second I sat in the car, I would be consumed by the single minded, obsessive focus of owning a Lotus Elise.

But test drive we did!

2006 Aspen White Lotus Elise aka Project Elise
2006 Aspen White Lotus Elise aka Project Elise

I gave the machine the courtesy of a thorough warm up before putting it through its paces. And with each turn I could hear the death knell of Project MR2 Spyder growing louder and louder for everything the Spyder wasn’t was amplified by driving what I wanted it to be. As I pulled back onto the lot I was beyond eager to make a deal for as I suspected, the Elise is my dream car. But as fate would have it, the Type 72D was not the Elise for me as this dealer thought the chassis was made out of gold and not aluminum.

And with that, the obsession began. The ensuing weeks I spent countless hours scouring the internet and calling sellers until I found a mint example Lotus Elise with only 5000 miles on the clock. The price was right, the car checked out and I was soon the owner of a 2006 Aspen White Lotus Elise.

What the Lotus Elise is

The Lotus Elise is a huge middle finger to modern car design. This car is lightweight, nimble and communicative. This is a car with passion. This is a car that screams, “HEY, YOU ARE DRIVING!” In an age where sports cars weigh 3000+ lbs, sport electronic power steering and have all the amenities of your mom’s SUV, the Lotus Elise is a godsend to the enthusiast. With a sub 2000lbs curb weight and a mid engine chassis sporting the Toyota 2zz-ge coupled with manual steering and an aluminium, bonded chassis, the Lotus Elise is the best driving experience short of a full on kit car. I once read that driving the Elise was like putting on a nice suit. You don’t drive it you wear it. But however you hash it, the Elise communicates with the driver better than any production car I have ever driven. (Even better than most racecars I have had the privilege of driving)

What the Lotus Elise isn’t

The Lotus Elise is a car for someone like me. Someone that will forgo comfort for sheer driving bliss. So that brings up an important caveat, the Lotus Elise isn’t a particularly comfortable car. Not only is it difficult (at first) to get into and out of, but due to its single minded focus, you will feel every bump in the road and will be jarred on occasion. If that is too much for you, you would probably be happier in a Porsche. Another common complaint is that the car isn’t practical due to its lack of storage, lackluster a/c, poor stereo and miscellaneous rattles. The Lotus community often refers to these complaints as “features” and it goes with the teritory of owning an Elise. Besides, you own this car for the driving experience alone not the finishes. And as you can see below, you have to be careful with the fragile fiberglass body.

The Future

Project Elise is quite a departure from the old projects on Driftopia. Obviously, I’m not building a drift Elise as that would not only be foolish but would ruin the spirit of the car. What I am doing is enhancing the Elise in a few key areas by adding power, grip and lighness to make a street/track car that will surprise most 6 figure cars. So far those plans include a modest amount of weight reduction, wider and lighter wheels, few choice suspension enhancements, lighter and more aggressive brakes and a nice TVS supercharger to ultimately send the Elise towards a 6 to 1 power to weight ratio.

Lotus Elise (S111) Specs

And for the quantifiable:

  • Curb Weight – 1896lbs
  • Drivetrain – Transverse, Mid Engine, RWD
  • Engine – Toyota 2zzge
  • HP – 189
  • Torque – 133
  • 0-60 – 4.7 sec
  • Skidpad – .98g
  • Weight Dist – 38f/62r
Side view of Project Elise after a few months of ownership.
Side view of Project Elise after a few months of ownership.
The Elise parked in its new drivway sporting a fresh wax with the hardtop on.
The Elise parked in its new drivway sporting a fresh wax with the hardtop on.



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