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I picked up my Elise a week ago today and thought I would post a description of my purchase experience and first week as a total Lotus newb in case the info can be of any assistance to anyone.

When I learned back in 2010 that the company I work for was selling and my stock options would be cashed out, I started researching my mid-life crisis car. My first choice was actually a Morgan Plus 4 :UK: but I wasn't sure about the lack of a hard top or wind-up windows since it would have to be a daily driver:


Then I saw a red Elise at the Ikea here in town and fell in love. Of course, like a lot of other people who don't know much about Lotus, I figured I might as well have fallen for a Lambo or Ferrari because I couldn't afford any of them, but I investigated anyway. I was surprised to find them affordable and I immediately began my research.

I found and then missed out on a few cars I while waiting, but I was delighted to see a 2007 yellow Elise show up on Craigslist the Saturday just before my funding came in.


The following Tuesday, after I was sure I had the funds available, I texted the number in the ad and was informed that the seller was on a business trip. She had left the car in the care of an auto broker in Los Altos which made me a bit nervous because I wouldn't be dealing directly with the owner. I called the broker and set up an appointment to view/drive/inspect the car on the following Saturday. The broker was very polite and informative which made me feel somewhat better the situation.

I immediately called Rob over at Dietsch Werks and set up an appointment for a pre-purchase inspection. Rob was awesome and discussed the inspection with me for a while, letting me know exactly what he would be looking for.

I then held my breath and crossed my fingers for the rest of the week :crazyeyes . I emailed the broker on Wednesday afternoon asking him to please let me know if the car sold before Saturday so I could cancel my appointment with Rob. I was then informed that several people had looked at the car and one had made an offer for 4k under the asking price but was rejected. I was getting very nervous that I would miss out on this one, too.

Finally, Saturday came without any bad news, so I headed down to view the car. Again the broker was very polite and informative. He took my deposit and handed me the keys. He seemed a bit surprised (and probably somewhat worried) when I mentioned that I didn't have any behind-the-wheel experience with an Elise. He showed me a few things to watch out for and let me take it away! Robotkid rode with me in case I needed help navigating (I grew up on dirt roads and hate driving in the Bay Area).


My first impressions:
  • I had watched videos for several hours the night before about getting in and out. It wasn't as bad as I'd feared.
  • It was pretty easy to drive. The clutch isn't nearly as finicky as my Honda.
  • It was still dirty and had a funky smell; so much so that I thought maybe I was driving with the e-brake on or burning a clutch.
  • The passenger side door wouldn't close at first. We had to pull over on a side street and try for about 5 minutes to get it to close. I was being VERY gentle with it beacuse I had read the threads about breaking windows by slamming the doors.
  • The passenger side window struggled to roll up the last inch or so.
  • It was SHORT. I pulled up behind my wife at a stop light in her XC90 and she said she completely lost me in the rear view mirror.


We drove the car over to Dietsch Werks with no issue other than a bit of confusion about how to get onto the lot. Rob gave the car a quick look-over and test-drive. He pointed out a few very minor issues and said he'd give it thorough going-over. I mentioned the smell and he said he'd noticed it during the test drive and would check it out. We went to lunch to give Rob time to inspect the car and I worried the entire time that the car would turn out to be a money pit.

After we returned from lunch, Rob was just finishing up and went over what he'd found (nothing unexpected on a 5 yr old car with 16k miles) and told me about some options that might interest me. I didn't get the feeling in any way that he was hard-selling at all, merely giving me the info I would need to take good care of the car in the future. I'll definitely be going back to get some work done. I felt like I'd gotten my money's worth just by talking to him! He also mentioned that the smell wasn't anything mechanical and was probably animal-related.:eek:

After a quick trip to the bank, then back to the broker, I had the title in hand and was the proud owner of an Elise. My wife wanted to drop by to see her sister who lived in Campbell, so we took it over there to show it off a bit. There we removed the hard-top and put it in the back of the SUV so we could head home topless.


I had noticed earlier that the stereo didn't work and several family members and I had attempted to discover the reason to no avail. Then, in the middle of a merge onto a busy freeway, we hit a bump and the stereo came on full blast. If we hadn't had our seatbelts on I think my daughter and I would have jumped all of the way out of the car! It worked intermittently the rest of the way home. The drive was great, even thought I was anxious about driving an unfamiliar car, and when the sun went down and the stars came out, robotkid finally decided that she actually liked convertibles. It got a bit chilly, but the heater was surprisingly good at keeping the chill at bay with the top off and windows down.

The next day I decided to clean it up a bit and washed it inside and out. While cleaning under the floor mats I discovered the source of the smell: there were mouse droppings in the passenger footrest. Time to start worrying about my wiring. I cleaned the inside and mats with some Natures Miracle left over from when my golden lab was a rambunctious puppy and researched how to remove the seats so I could scrub beneath them. It looked like more work than I had time for that day so I added it to the TO-DO list. I also looked up what to do about the passenger side window, but after checking that the window-guide screws were tight and realizing that a full adjustment would also take more work than I had time for, I added that adjustment to the list as well, along with troubleshooting the stereo. Last thing I did that day was purchase a membership to this forum, because whatever the issues/arguments about where the membership money goes, I saved more than the price of membership that day using info from various threads here.

Tuesday during lunch I took it to DMV to transfer the title and do the license plate shuffle. They said I couldn't swap the plates until after my smog, so I headed to a place a couple blocks away and spent 30 nail-biting minutes wondering where in the heck I could take it if it didn't pass. It did pass though, no problems, but I scraped the chin coming out of the smog shop driveway :( I definitely need the chin guards Rob told me about. The extra ride height from the new tires he suggested should be helpful (my rear ones are at the wear bars, so I need them anyway) . I headed back to the DMV and it was time to swap plates:


Wednesday night I met my wife at a local Japanese restaurant and I parked right in front so I could leave the top off and keep an eye on it. The waiter spent the first 5 minutes asking about the car. At that point I realized "He's going to remember me now." As you can probably tell from the photos, I'm a very unassuming, forgettable-looking guy and I'm always quiet and reserved, so no-one gives me a second glance, but pretty soon I may end up, around town at least, as "that guy with the Lotus." (Or maybe "That other guy with the Lotus" because evidently a 2005 yellow Elise that I was looking at was actually purchased by someone here in little West Sacramento. I haven't seen it yet, but a few friends have mentioned it.)

I have driven it to work (12 miles each way, W. Sacramento to Davis) every day, and I am getting more comfortable in it. On the way home Thursday night I got stuck in traffic caused by an accident and it took 1.25 hours to go about 2 miles. The Elise performed flawlessly, cycling between 204 and 208 degrees in standstill in 90 degree weather, though I didn't dare risk testing the A/C. Luckily after the first drive, I had put sunscreen in the car which saved me from a major sunburn. My clutch leg didn't fare quite as well and I had to keep putting it in neutral and letting a gap open in front of me so I could let my leg rest a bit. Someone even passed on the shoulder and jumped into the resulting gap while I was stretching my leg :no: At another point a lady who came along side yelled over "I have to tell you, that has got to be the cutest thing I've ever seen!"

Last night I pulled out the stereo and found the source of the problem:


A few of the wires (only on the HU side, not the car's harness) had been chewed through. Along with a shop-vac, a bit of jumper wire, solder and heat-shrink I fixed that right up this morning and now I have tunes again, while I wait for a new HU (Pioneer DEH-P9400BH) & the appropriate harness and iPod cable from Amazon.

So, after a week with the car what's the verdict?
  • There's not a lot of room. No problem. 99% of the time I'm in it alone with a single briefcase.
  • It's quirky. I call it interesting. The motto in our family is "Normal people are boring" and that goes for cars too. With help from the forum, I think I can handle the required research and adjustments :tadts:
  • It's tiny. I've always loved tiny, and never thought I could get tiny and sporty at the same time. I've always been a defensive driver, but in this car I have to assume everyone on the road is texting, paying no attention, and wouldn't be able to see me even if they were.
  • It attracts attention. That's not unexpected after the research, but it is probably the thing that bother's me the most (but not nearly enough to consider getting rid of it).
  • Getting in and out got easier, then harder when I started getting more comfortable and less cautious :wallbang: A few head bumps and stuck legs have convinced me to pay attention again.
I can only imagine that if you've read this far, you are either really bored, or researching your own purchase and soaking up every last bit of info possible. If the latter, good luck! If the former, let's take the top off and go for a drive!:shift:

(*Editing services donated by ROBOTKID*)
 

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Robotguy's wall of text hits you for 1827271 (critical)
You die!

OK, in all seriousness, that's a very nice post with pix and everything and I liked it!
Thank you for sharing.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks.

Robotguy's wall of text hits you for 1827271 (critical)
You die!
That reminds me, I was running errands with Robotkid today and discussing whether I needed new sunglasses. I commented that I may be able to get away with trendier glasses while driving the Elise than I could by my nerdy self.

Her reply?

"Yeah, this car is at least a +2 Coolness"
 

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Back to the Future, again
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Nice story and always great to hear about another California Lotus driver. I am in Socal and I gotta do a story sometimes about my experience... which involved sitting at my credit union for a long time while they figured out what kind of car it was and if they could even underwrite the loan... I guess not many people who bank there try to finance exotics beyond something like an Infiniti G37S.
 

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Congradulations and great story! I am in Sac and am planning a local meet and greet sometime next month. There are a bunch of newer owners here (year or less) that are planning to get together. I have to get through another surgery next week and some recovery, but we all are excited to meet soon. Enjoy!!!
 

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Ticket Magnet
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Hey welcome to Lotusland! Congratulations on your purchase.
I am in Oregon but actually came from your neck of the woods. Went to UC Davis and also lived in Sac for awhile. Hope you get to meet both Bay Area and Sac owners. They're all a nice bunch. I am putting my Elise into the shop but if I have it out in time, I am going to try and make Sturgeon's meat and greet.
Enjoy!
 

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Gamera The Atomic Turtle
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the radio pic is great - same thing happened in my Miata. Welcome to the asylum. :)
 

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"I can only imagine that if you've read this far, you are either really bored, or researching your own purchase and soaking up every last bit of info possible."

I just like a good story! Congratulations!
 

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I always like reading postings like this. It is kinda like reading how someone else got their "first kiss"; it reminds you of your own first experiences with the car. Then you get to read about someone elses first supercharger experiences (Yes, I am talking about YOU Komiko), and it reminds you of the amazing feel the car had (again) after that change. It is too easy to get comfortable with just how amazing these little cars are, and to grow complacent about the extraordanary way they handle and feel. We all need a reminder from a new owner (still in the first blush of love) to remind us of that feeling.
 

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Im not sure if your car has any modifications or improvements done to it, but you should read through the uberthread if you haven't, for more details on those.

I too have an NA Elise and some of my favorite low-cost mods are:
desnorkel,
stan's shifter reinforcement,
stans clutch stop mod,
new toe links from BOE,
paint the rear diffuser black and reapply new black edging,
remove LOTUS letters and replace with center badge,
my custom flipbfob,
heatshield/rear grille removal,
remove edging around head lights (see thechazz thread)
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Ah! I know something that I forgot to add...

When I went down to pick up the car I was wearing my loafers. I have since discovered that they are the only pair of shoes that I own that will fit in between the brake pedal and the center support. I wear a 10.5 (not even wides) but even my tennis shoes have trouble reaching the gas pedal without catching the brake. I have had to drive in my socks several times because I was in a hurry and didn't have time to change out of my steel-toes after work.
 

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$3(uR3 u$3r
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Hi.

Nice Sunday morning read. Thanks for posting and congratulations on the purchase. This forum has lots of helpful posts and members. I don't post very often, but I am entertained and learn a lot here.

Have fun.

Alex
 

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Ah! I know something that I forgot to add...

When I went down to pick up the car I was wearing my loafers. I have since discovered that they are the only pair of shoes that I own that will fit in between the brake pedal and the center support. I wear a 10.5 (not even wides) but even my tennis shoes have trouble reaching the gas pedal without catching the brake. I have had to drive in my socks several times because I was in a hurry and didn't have time to change out of my steel-toes after work.
Yes, I found that out when trying to wear my ****-kicker boots (Size US10, regular, not wide)... and realized I cannot get my feet to step on the gas without engaging the brakes.

Now I can only wear my Vans, dress shoes or the thin Engineer boots, and even those aren't so easy to drive in.

My buddy with the size 11.5 foot cannot drive the car, period. His feet are just too wide.
 

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great story, makes me want to go out and get a lotus that much more.....is that your daughter in the passenger seat? is she married ;D j/k
 

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Too funny! I would hate to think how many times I have been met at the front door of a restaurant by the staff wanting to know about the Elise. Your story does remind me why I have so much fun with this car. The only thing that you havent done is take a drive on the Dragon.
 

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great story, makes me want to go out and get a lotus that much more.....is that your daughter in the passenger seat? is she married ;D j/k
Dude... she looks 14 and is dressed like she's on the way to little league soccer or something... I know you engineers get lonely sometimes but c'mon....:no:-eek-:confused::mad::shrug::sad:poke-:wallbang::thwack:
 

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Ah! I know something that I forgot to add...

When I went down to pick up the car I was wearing my loafers. I have since discovered that they are the only pair of shoes that I own that will fit in between the brake pedal and the center support. I wear a 10.5 (not even wides) but even my tennis shoes have trouble reaching the gas pedal without catching the brake. I have had to drive in my socks several times because I was in a hurry and didn't have time to change out of my steel-toes after work.
You may want to invest into a pair of Van's. I only wear my checkers and despite the size 11, I have no trouble with the pedals at all. Sometimes I do when I wear my other Van's which are larger because they are more like tennis shoes with laces (I know, heresy!) and all, but somehow it's only when I just get in the car. After a few seconds it's all good.
 

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Congratulations. welcome to the life of owning a lotus. It'll take some time initially for the minor tweaks to get it just right. But once you do, you'll be able to sit back and really enjoy it. My lotus had tiny issues when I first bought it too. blinker relay and alarm went bad, so I got stuck at the store and had to tow it to the dealer. But all is good now.

May want to look into setting the cobra alarm up so that you can manually choose when to turn the immobilizer and alarm on (search on the threads here, simple to do). Otherwise the immobilizer activates automatically and can drain your battery with time if you're not driving it and lock you out of your car. I trickle charge my lotus when it sits at home for some time.

Glad you found the culprit of the smell. Feels good to find the problem on these cars and remedy it
 
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