A really nice review, and I'm glad to see an Elise entertaining its owner as it should. It's true that the impracticalities are irrelevant when you get a drive like this, but I am personally disgusted with the build quality of my late series 1.
At four years and just 22,000 miles old, it leaks to the extent that it's hardly worth putting the roof on (despite the hood being treated and "adjusted" no fewer than four times, the headlamp brackets had to be replaced when they corroded and broke, up, the fuel filler neck leaks if you fill the tank too quickly, the alarm siren has been replaced three times, the drivers window mechanism fell off the door, the door itself has dropped and scuffed the B-pillar near the catch, the battery has never held a charge for more than three days of inactivity, the gear linkage came adrift leaving the car stuck in 4th, and the dampers needed replacing at just 20k. Pretty appalling really.
I wouldn't mind if the car has been abused, but it lives in a dry, heated garage most of the time, and is used as a toy, with a couple of track days a year thrown in) It's also been maintained regardless of cost by an official Lotus agent, and as an engineer myself, I'm not exactly mechanically unsympathetic or ignorant.
I wonder if the S2 is any better built?
That review was great because you actually sounded like you knew what you were talking about. I totally believe you have one. That is a great car for its price. I would definitely consider getting one in the long future because I'm only 13.
Some useful reviews, and ones that are gradually convincing me to get one of these cars. I have a Z3 2.0 6cyl, and am trying to convince myself that the performance and handling of the Elise would out weigh the refinement of the BM. Fantastic lines on the elise 111s, and difficult to get in and out of.
I will do some more searching on engine problems, as the one I am looking at has the Rover 1.8 VVC (badged lotus) engine. I know this engine has had problems in the Rover and Land-Rover range of cars; need to search now and see if Lotus owners have had their heads off?
The K-series engine is prone to head gasket failure whatever car it is installed in. The problem is worst in big, heavy cars like the Freelander, but it happens in Elises and Sevens as well.
Light, compact and powerful as it might be, the design of this engine is deeply flawed in several key areas. The design of the seal between the top of the liners and the head/gasket places too much strain on the gasket and causes premature failure. Not helped by the metal of the liners expanding at a different rate to the surrounding block and head.
The second problem is that the standard of casting on these engines is crude, and varies dramatically. If you get a bad one it seems to pop gaskets until you give up and chuck it in a skip. Others are better. It's pot luck what you get.
The third problem is that the thermostat is placed on the return from the radiator rather than the outlet. A ludicrous design which relies on heat soak from the head side of the 'stat to "overcome" the cold water in the radiator before the thermostat opens. This holds the thermostat closed for too long, causing head temperatures to rise excessively. When the thermostat does eventually open, this (too) hot cylinder head is suddenly subjected to thermal shock from the cold radiator water hitting it. It's a comically bad design.
The thermostats have also been observed to "bounce" several times before they open. As soon as the cold water rushes through, it closes the 'stat again, causing head temperatures to rise again. Repeat two or three times for each engine warm up cycle. The only surprise of K-series head gaskets is that they last as long as they do.
Far better to get a later one with the bombproof Toyota engine. The company who designed the K-series went bust and if half its problems had been formally acknowledged, it would have probably taken a few of the smaller customer manufacturers with it. It's a dreadful engine and should be avoided like the plague.