1999 Lotus Elise Sport 190

Colin Chapman would have been very proud. Lotus's Elise only weighed about 1,660 lbs. Chapman's "speed through weight" ideology is still a great engineering principle automakers could learn a thing or two from today, especially as they chase ever more efficient solutions in the face of mounting government regulation against fuel consumption.

Lotus had been all over the map in the late 20th century, coming out with a slew of odd designs that still managed to perform, while never quite being the best or the most up to date. But in 1996, they unveiled the Elise, which intended to change all of that.

The Elise replaced the maligned Elan as their entry-level vehicle. The Elan, while very pretty, was really no better than a Mercury Capri (don't get me wrong, I like the Capri, but...) being front-wheel drive. The Elise, however, featured a rear mid-mounted engine that powered the rear wheels. Thanks to simple construction and light parts, it wasn't heavy. Power was small - only four-cylinders - but it propelled the car from 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds. Handling, braking and fuel economy were excellent.

Styling is superb. The mid-engine placement did not yield any design cliches (as Toyota's MR2 did, for example) but rather a refreshing take that is simple, sexy, sporty and damn near-classic by now. British design in the 1990s really expanded some horizons and seemed to blend the minimalism of 1980s design with the luscious curves of the 1950s and 60s. These were only offered as targas, a slight blow to structural integrity but upping the fun factor.

In a lot of ways, these could be descendants of Porsche's 914, which was essentially the exact same setup, removable hardtop and all. Underneath the hood is a 1.8-liter 4-banger producing a healthy 190 horsepower.

This example looks appropriately wild in racer red with matching red seats and steering wheel. Note the integrity bar above the passenger seat. Not sure if anyone is supposed to fit there.

It features 3,248 kilometers which is only 2,018 miles.

Lotus only made the first-generation Elise from 1996 to 2000, before new regulations forced a new design. They were never offered here, sadly, where they would surely have taken a huge bite out of MR2, Del Sol, Miata, Z3 and Boxster sales. Since 2004, however, we have been allowed the second generation Elise, but it lacks the soft curves and simple shapes of the first series.

This is a rare and desirable vehicle now in the U.S.

Available here on ebay for $29,980.

1 comment:

  1. I love what Lotus did with the Elise, and as a track toy, it's got amazing handling. For regular driving on real US roads - particularly in the Northeast - it's kind of rough. Not much for creature comforts either.

    As with many Elises, it's pretty obvious this one was set up for racing. While it's great that it was used as intended, those 2018 miles are probably equivalent to 20180 or even 201800 that amount in wear-and-tear. OK, the 201800 is an exaggeration, but the point is there are few better ways to accelerate the wear on nearly every part of a car than racing it.

    This one might be best suited for someone looking to get into SCCA racing on the weekends. Due to the combination of size, weight and (relative lack of) power, I've heard the Elise is particularly effective for on small, tight courses.