The other day it was brought to my attention that it’s the Lotus Elise’s birthday.
It’s no longer a teenager, apparently - and neither am I. Twenty years ago, before they went on sale, I drove one back to Lotus headquarters - one of the occasional perks of the job. It left something of an impression, because not only was there no radio, but the driver’s window was also stuck in the down position. In winter.
The Elise was pretty much a rebooted Seven and an example of Lotus getting back to its basic driver’s car roots. In used car terms, it has been something of an object lesson in the trajectory of the appreciating modern classic. It bumped around the £6000 mark for a while, and that included some pretty ropey examples.
From there, though, the only way was up. So should we be looking more closely at the Elise Series 2?
Launched in 2001, the Elise S2, with its distinctive lizard-eye headlights, was a leap forward for Lotus. It still had MG’s 1.8 K-series engine, which many forget was re-engineered by Lotus to make it better (although it’s still worth checking for head gasket issues), and there was also the more potent 111S version.
Early cars are referred to by the Loturati as ‘long roofs’ because of their pinned-back, fiddly-to-fit roof, which was replaced by the poppered ‘short roof’ in 2002. You can pay a solid £11,000-plus if there’s a wad of history, while the best cars cost from £12,000.
The Toyota-powered 111R version arrived in 2004, but it’s important to remember that the 111S K-series was still around. From 2006, the Elise switched totally to Toyota power. Indeed, 2006 is the watershed date for the Elise, with plenty of changes taking place.
Check the VIN, because a ‘6’ before the ‘H’ denotes the ‘06’ model year. This is the date when ProBax seats, LED rear lights and Yokohama ADO7 tyres were fitted, plus a load of new option packs were made available. These 111Ss are £15,000 all day long.
We could get bogged down in option pack OCD here, but suffice to say that, at the very least, buyers like to see a Touring Pack. That means front foglights, luggage nets, full carpets, sound deadening, leather seat centres, door cards and an upgraded Blaupunkt stereo.
I must point out that there is also a Touring Plus, a Sport Pack and a Super Sport Pack. Buyers could mix and match between different packs, so a standard Elise is unlikely to exist. As a result, there isn’t a standard price, either. So my advice is to buy the best car you can afford, since any combination of the above will leave a lasting impression.