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Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 12:19 a.m.

I bought a Lotus Elise in February and I think it's about time I make a build thread for the car. It'll hopefully only see mild mods, but I'd like to showcase some of the day to day maintenance, repairs, and common issues that pop up as well. This will hopefully help those in the market for an Elise get a better idea of the ownership experience.

Some details on the car itself. It's a clean title accident free one-owner 41k mile 2006 Elise in Chrome Orange with the hardtop and touring pack as options. I wasn't too picky about the year, mileage, or options, but I wanted it to be a loud color (preferably chrome orange or krypton green) with a hardtop. I wasn't interested in a car that had been in an accident or one with a rebuilt title. After a few months of searching, I saw this one listed on Wirewheel for a decent price and picked up the phone.

Hayes at Wirewheel is an expert in all things Elise and was super easy to work with. I took a day to think it over, then decided to buy the car sight unseen. I wired the money, he set up the shipping arrangements, and within 30 hours the car was delivered from Florida to Massachusetts. For anyone interested - shipping in an enclosed trailer ran $1050.

I'll be honest - I was pretty bummed about the purchase for a while. The car had many unexpected issues which soured the initial ownership experience. A few months and several thousand dollars later - everything is sorted and the car is a total joy to drive. I'll go into the issues and fixes in this thread. I'll jump ahead and say that there is a happy ending and that I'm thrilled with the car now.

I'll end this post with the first picture I took of my car on the night it was delivered on 2/27/17.

Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 12:45 a.m.

February and March in Massachusetts were awful this year. Snowstorm after snowstorm in a never-ending winter. I didn't drive the car at all until April. This was my view of the Elise for the first few months:

I started to look the car over and tried to figure out what needed attention. The car had zero maintenance history so I knew I wanted to replace all of the fluids at a minimum. You then had a few small things - rotten wiper blade, stripped hard top bolts, and other random odds and ends. I was also concerned by the state of the brakes and tires.

The pads had been replaced, but the rotors (which looked to be the original ones from 2006) were still on there. They were pretty beat and had deep grooves which which got rusty since the new pad wasn't touching them.

One of my goals for the car was to autocross it in Super Street class, so I couldn't upgrade the brakes. I then learned that OEM rotors were a minimum of $250 each. Nope. After doing some digging, I found that Centric makes an identical to OEM cross drilled replacement rotor for WAY cheaper. I ended up getting four of them online for $220 shipped.

The second issue that jumped out at me... While the tires had OK tread left on them (~4/32nds) - they were seven years old and rock hard. These need to go ASAP.

Well, the plan is to autocross the car anyways so no big deal; the hunt was on for a 2nd set of wheels and tires. Now before anyone calls me out on it - Yes, I bought sport pack sized wheels for a non sport pack car. I wasn't planning on being serious enough with it for anyone to care, and decided that if I was going to be competitive enough - I'd do the mods needed (It's only the 2nd oil cooler and stiffer springs) to get it legal.

I came across a set of used SSR competitions in the stock (sport pack) sizes of 16x6.5 fronts and 17x7.5 rears. These things weigh 11 lbs for the fronts and 13 lbs for the rears which is pretty wild. They were also stupid expensive when new (Like $550ea), but thankfully they aren't too bad in the used market. While I was at it - I got a set of stock-class-legal 5mm spacers and a wheel stud conversion kit as well. I picked up some 205 wide front and 245 wide rear RE71Rs during the spring Bridgestone rebate promotion and threw them on the car. I'm jumping ahead a few months with this photo, but here's how they look on the car:

So a running tally at this point... Before even driving the car I have gotten: New hard top bolts, wiper blade, wheel stud conversion, spacers, new Elise-frienly jack stands, a jack helper, vinyl autocross numbers, brake rotors, wheels, and tires. Grand total for all of that is around $2500.

At this point I think the car should be good to go. Weather is finally getting warmer and it's about time to get it on the road. I call up Aston Martin / Lotus of Waltham and set up an appointment to have a PPI (post purchase inspection in this case) and to have them do the fluids for me. Things take a turn for the worse right around here...

corsepervita HalfDork
7/23/17 1:00 a.m.

I love the elise and exige so much. I just love lotus in general. Can't wait to see this!

Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 1:22 a.m.

Thirty seconds into my first drive I realized there was something wrong with the suspension on this car. I knew the suspension would be stiff, but this was crashing over bumps pretty badly and there was something spooky going on with the back of the car. You'd hit a bump and the back of the car would immediately jolt to the right. I was going to get it up in the air to check it out, but I had the PPI scheduled at the dealership in the next week so I figured they could tell me what was happening.

I had only driven it around the block a couple of times, but I had a Sunday work event in Boston (about an hour away) and decided I would take the Lotus on it's first long-ish voyage. The drive to work was great and I was really looking forward to the drive home.

I hop in the car, get about 50 minutes into the trip, and it all goes wrong. I go over a small bump on the highway, hear a loud thud, and the car instantly jolts three lanes across the highway to the right. Out of absolutely nowhere the car snaps right and I have no idea how I was able to catch the spin and keep the thing on the road. I was thankfully cruising in the left lane and there was no one to my right because it could have been a LOT worse.

I get out of the car to inspect the damage and... everything is fine. Completely fine. I take a minute to calm down, back in the car, start driving slowly, and all is fine. Once I get to about 15mph it starts shaking like crazy. Get back out... Nothing. Repeat a couple of times before I start poking around deeper under the car with a flashlight.

That's not good. I have read about rear toe link failures in the Elise, but thought that was pretty much limited to cars wearing slicks on the track. There are PLENTY of examples of cars that have wrecked on the track because of a toe link failure. I've never hear of one break on the street, but that's exactly what happened to me. I was minutes away from home, so I was able to limp it back at 10mph.

I don't think your back wheel is supposed to do this. https://www.youtube.com/embed/uu_oHk4_t0k

I called AAA to get a tow to the dealer and they want nothing to do with it. The tow driver will tow it, but I need to sign something that pretty much guarantees they'll damage it. I politely decline and buy a new toe link from the dealer ($100ish) and install it myself before limping it over there for the appointment I had made.

I have a bad feeling that this is going to be a common sight:

Here's a better look at this stupid thing:

A link to the lotustalk thread I posted when it happened: http://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f3/new-owner-just-fell-victim-rear-toe-link-407713/.

The deal with the OEM toe link is that they should hold up fine as long as they are torqued correctly. They tend to loosen up on their own and it's something that needs regular attention. I can only assume that the passenger side toe link has been loose for a while and it finally gave up. I checked the drivers side while I was in there and it was torqued to around 25ft/lb. It should be at 45ft/lbs so it is only a matter of time before that one shears off as well.

After nearly dying, I decided to abandon the stock stuff altogether. There are several aftermarket options that would bump me out of stock classing, but with my life on the line - I don't care. I ended up buying a Sector 111 RTD brace and decided to have the dealer inspect the car before driving it again.

T.J. MegaDork
7/23/17 7:36 a.m.

This thread is relevant to my interests. Seems like a rocky start to the relationship, but I'm glad you said it works out in the end. That is a good spoiler alert.

wvumtnbkr UltraDork
7/23/17 7:38 a.m.


DrBoost MegaDork
7/23/17 8:22 a.m.

Lovely car. Keep the updates rolling in please.

Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 10:27 a.m.

Thanks guys! I'll try to catch up on the story a bit more today. At this point I'm exhausted from working 60-70 hour weeks and pretty dejected about the car being as messed up as it is. I paid above market value assuming that a car from a dealer would be mostly issue-free. In a moment of weakness - I decided to have Aston Martin / Lotus of Waltham do way more work than I had originally planned because I just didn't want to deal with it.

In mid-April I take the car there and have them do the following:

-Full PPI
-Replace coolant, transmission fluid, brake/clutch fluid (Wirewheel did an oil change before shipping so I skipped that)
-Bought a Sector 111 RTD brace and had them install it
-Install new brake rotors
-Install new headlight bulb (burned out on the day the toe link broke)
-Install new accessory belt
-Get a second key and key fob and have it programmed

The bill for all of that? $2,700. Again - I realize I could have done the majority of that work myself to save a good $1,500 in labor, but I just didn't have the time or energy to do it.

So the running tally at this point - over $5,000 in parts and labor, a grand for shipping, plus and a couple grand for taxes. I'm into this for over $8,000 not including the price of the car and I've only driven it for 100 miles. My plans for this car being a cheap investment where I'd get my money back when I sell it a few years down the line have gone out the window.

Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 10:40 a.m.

The Lotus dealership gives the car a mostly clean bill of health. All of the weird noises I was hearing were chalked up to being normal for the car. Both rear shocks are a bit worn, passenger rear has no bumpstop left, but should be OK in the meantime. I've missed the first three local SCCA autocross events and I was thrilled to sign up for event #4.

I'm running in the third heat so after what feels like hours - I finally get to go. Launch off the line, shift into second, enter the first corner, floor it coming out of the corner, and... the back of the car is bouncing like CRAZY. Right rear shock blown. Come on, really?

I now limp it through the rest of the event driving gingerly trying to guess how much this is going to cost me. Finally on the last run I decide to go a little harder and I tag a cone near the end.

Come back to the paddock and... There's a small crack in the passenger side rocker panel. I just have to laugh at this point.

Something to note at this point was that Wirewheel told me they had the nose of the car and the passenger rocker repaired/repainted. There was a deep scrape on the nose from entering sloped driveways and there was something else wrong with the rocker. The repairs were very minor and I was told the paint matched so I was OK with it. The orange in the paint does match up 100% but there isn't as much green flake in the repainted parts. You can tell it's wrong in direct sunlight if you know what to look for, but otherwise it was a good job.

The fiberglass repair in the rocker - not so much. You can push the panel where it cracked and get some flex. It's only a very minor crack and will happen again as I keep autocrossing it, so for the time being it'll be left alone. At some point I'm going to get it repaired properly and have the panel repainted.

I also see this in the paddock and wonder what I was thinking getting an Elise instead of one of these:

The ONE highlight of the day was a fellow local Elise driver, Gus Heck, told me that he had all of his OEM shocks sitting in his garage for the last several years and would be happy to just give them to me. I was blown away by the generosity and relieved that I wouldn't have to dump another pile of money into the car.

Bonus content - This might be the coolest Jaguar I've ever seen:

JtspellS SuperDork
7/23/17 12:07 p.m.

I want more story!!!!

Sorry it's been a bit more then expected but some how it will be an amazing journey in the end!

Yavuz Reader
7/23/17 4:15 p.m.

We're now into late May 2017. I picked up the OEM replacement shocks from Gus and got to work.

The good news is - this is the EASIEST shock replacement I've ever done. It took longer to put the car up on stands and get the wheel off than it did to replace the busted shock. Two bolts and you're done.

Side note: I bought a set of Esco 3 ton flat top jack stands and these things are the nicest jack stands I've ever used. The Elise has a flat bottom and sits nicely on these. A bit pricey, but fully satisfied with the purchase: http://www.uniquetruck.com/p-6376-3-ton-jack-stand-flat-top-with-rubber-cushion.aspx. I also picked up jack helper: https://www.jcrtd.com/products/jack-helper-standard-version which lets you lift the rear of the car without having to undo the diffuser first. Well worth the price.

Here's the old shock. Other than being blown, there were only a few chunks of bumpstop floating around in there. That certainly explains the harsh ride. I was a little miffed that this slipped by Wirewheel without notice and that my dealer also wasn't too concerned about it.

This, thankfully, is when the story starts to get happier. I put the car on the ground, took the hard top off for the first time, and went for an evening drive. It was a complete night and day difference. The car is just... SO good to drive. It was a beautiful 65 degree night and the car was completely perfect. While I think the car looks better with the hardtop on, it is a completely different experience with the roof off. I came home that night smiling ear to ear and was finally happy with my Elise. Now that everything is sorted - I can finally start driving and enjoying it. Jumping ahead some more - I've driven it about 1,000 miles since then without anything breaking. I realize how silly that sounds, but in a Lotus.. I'll take it.

SkinnyG SuperDork
7/23/17 4:39 p.m.

I'm grinning ear-to-ear just reading about this!

DO keep us abreast of the daily living with an Elise. You are driving one of my dream cars, AND it's in my favourite colour!

NorseDave New Reader
7/23/17 6:16 p.m.

If I had ~$65k burning a hole in my pocket and I was going to use it for only one car, an Exige is pretty much the only car on the list. Can't explain why. If the number was more like ~$40k, it'd be an Elise.

And these things really should be in the absolute brightest paint you can find. Love the chrome orange.

camaroz1985 Reader
7/24/17 1:42 p.m.

I will be following this closely. This has always been a car that I have wanted to own, and having the chance to drive a few at autocrosses has only further cemented that into my mind. I always wondered what the ownership would be like, and have never really looked too far into it, so this thread will be enlightening.

Yavuz Reader
7/24/17 3:59 p.m.
NorseDave wrote: If I had ~$65k burning a hole in my pocket and I was going to use it for only one car, an Exige is pretty much the only car on the list. Can't explain why. If the number was more like ~$40k, it'd be an Elise.

Back in 2010 a local Toyota dealer had a 2007 Exige S with 2,500 miles on the lot for $37k. I was about to buy it but I already had two cars and wanted to unload one first. By the time I sold mine car - I missed the Exige by a week. That is now a $55k+ car all day and I have regretted it ever since. The Elise market has also been creeping up, but nowhere near as fast. I figured I'd jump into an Elise now in case the market keeps trending up and prices me out for good.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
7/24/17 4:28 p.m.

Wow, that's a rocky start! But it sure sucked me into the story.

fjohn624 None
7/25/17 6:59 a.m.

So I lurk on GRM from time to time and this post finally got me to join. I had seen your post on LotusTalk and it was one of the threads that pushed me to immediately install the Sector111 RTD brace kit.

I also recently purchased a chrome orange Elise that I bought from Hayes down at Wire Wheel. Mine is a sport pack but no touring pack (yay for crank windows) but it also has the hard top. Its a 2005 and had less than 17k miles when I bought it in the end of May.

So far the only failure I have had was with the AC system (knock on wood). A 12 year old car with this low of mileage kind of makes sense that the compressor seals must have dried out. You don't want to know what a compressor costs from the lotus dealer. Rather than buying that or a used one, I bought one for an MR2 spyder which is nearly identical but has a 10% larger pulley so it runs a bit slower, but at less than $300 for a new Denso unit from Rock Auto I can live with that.

Try not to be too discouraged, all of these cars have issues no matter where you bought it from. The hope is that you find one that has less issues than average. Plus when they are working perfectly its an amazing experience.

I like the SSR wheels you found. They look great on there. I'll probably stick with the stock sport wheels on mine for a while as they are a forged wheel at least. I'll follow along with your story on this as I hope to do some auto-x with mine too.

Shawnb New Reader
7/25/17 10:43 a.m.

Glad things are looking up.

I've owned a ton of vehicles, and my Elise was by far my favorite. I will own another, or an exige in the future.

I DD mine for 2 years, and the only failure was the now recalled oil lines. Mine sprung a massive leak on the highway, and almost killed me. Absolutely amazed to this day, I never hit the guard rail or any cars.

Have yours fixed if they've never been touched!

Yavuz Reader
7/25/17 12:00 p.m.

I certainly don't want to sound like I'm knocking Wirewheel. I think they run a great operation and were super easy to work with. I don't think they purposely sold me a car with issues, but more likely missed a few things in their inspection.

I guess this is more of a lesson on not buying a car sight unseen. In retrospect I wish I took a flight down there to check it out first. I wouldn't have known about the toe links that were about to fail, but would have noticed something off about the suspension, the old tires, bad brakes, misc broken parts, etc.

I'm absolutely thrilled with the car now, but if I could go back - I would have passed on this one and bought something that didn't require as much work. Shawnb - they did do the oil line recall before shipping it up so I'm good to go there.

The one last thing I'm worried about, and I'm too scared to look, is wiped cams. I see thread after thread about cam failures on the lotus forums and Wirewheel noted that they don't open the valve covers to check. The car runs fine so ignorance is bliss for right now.

SkinnyG SuperDork
7/25/17 7:33 p.m.

I'd bet a set of aftermarket cams would ease that fear pretty substantially :)

Yavuz Reader
7/25/17 7:48 p.m.

Onwards with the story - We're now into June 2017. The car has gone a few weeks without breaking anything and I'm feeling pretty good. It's now time to tackle a project I have been putting off since day 1: Peeling off the clearbra.

The car came with the "Starshield" option and after sitting on the car for 10 years in the Florida sun, it was beginning to look pretty bad. On top of that - it had completely shattered the day after the car was delivered. It was about 10 degrees out and the clearbra cracked into about a million pieces. I'm not kidding - the car looked like this:

It looked okay in photos, but once you got close to the car it looked pretty busted. There is unfortunately no easy way to do this. After experimenting a bit, I found the easiest method was to use a heat gun to get the film sticky, scrape off with a plastic razor blade, and then go to town with goo gone, then buff like crazy afterwards.

I literally went through about 150 of these: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0165N8JLC/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_dp_T1_uv-DzbPK7KPY1. They were only good for a few passes before you had to toss them and get a fresh blade. Since the nose and rocker had been repainted - those were shield-free. The "hood" area, mirrors, one rocker, and both sides of the back bumper were unfortunately still intact. I'm not exaggerating when I say that it took about 25-30 hours in total to get all this crap off.

The car looks so much better without the clearbra and I vowed to never put one on again.... but both rockers are already peppered with rock chips so I'm either going to live with the patina or I'm going to get it redone. A local shop quoted $400 for just the rockers. I'm still on the fence about it.

Here's a shot of the car after peeling it all off. I took it to the 2017 Larz Anderson Museum British Car Day and parked next to a Range Rover. This is a good perspective of just how small the car is.

There was some seriously cool stuff at British Car Day, but this was the star of the show for me. I NEEDa Caterham as my next car.

N7Prime Reader
7/25/17 9:12 p.m.

The only thing I could afford close to this is a Corolla XRS 2ZZ. Basically the same car :p.

fjohn624 New Reader
7/26/17 6:13 a.m.

This is a great thread for me to watch. I also have been too scared to pop the valve cover off but I will in the near future. If the cam is showing signs of being wiped I'll put an aftermarket one in. I am not as worried about that as I am about having to peel the old starshield as well. Mine doesn't look quite as bad as yours but it needs to be replaced. I am going to peel it all and I see it taking as long as you say it does. I have done small sections on cars before and it sucks. I will be adding it all back too. Its necessary.

mbruneaux Reader
7/27/17 10:11 p.m.

We will be looking for you at the next NER SCCA event! My boys run Karts.

Yavuz Reader
7/28/17 7:08 p.m.
mbruneaux wrote: We will be looking for you at the next NER SCCA event! My boys run Karts.

I'm sure we've bumped into each other at some point. I was running my Mazda2 at pretty much every event for the last three years:

I should be at the next NER event in August!

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