Matt Prior: Falling in love with the Lotus Elise S1

I’ve felt firmly that way on everything I write about… except for my own weakness on this front, the Elise. Later models, fabulous though they still were, advanced the Lotus game only a little from the purity, simplicity and, above all, driver enjoyment of the original. As a used car, it has everything of a new one.

Much of that is down to the fact that, made from bonded and extruded aluminium and with plastic bodywork, it doesn’t rot, it doesn’t sag and it doesn’t flex. The torsional rigidity of an Elise was claimed at 11,000Nm/deg when it was new and, from a chassis perspective, this one still feels like it could have only recently rolled out of a showroom.

Everything that hangs from it is basically a consumable, so in good mechanical nick, as this one is, it’s like going back a quarter of a century and being blown away just like we were in 1996, when we were presciently confident in calling the Lotus “a reference point in the history of the motor car” (even if it was “more difficult to climb aboard than a Caterham”).

It cost £18,990 then, made just 118bhp and 122lb ft of torque and weighed a mere 723kg on our scales, and its performance numbers (0-60mph in about 6sec) were irrelevant to the fun it provided on the road, where it was – and remains – a total joy.


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