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Hey all. I’ve been bitten by the Lotus bug and am giving serious consideration to the purchase of a Lotus Elise. I am located in the USA so I’ve got a much smaller pool of options to pick from. I currently have a 2016 Shelby GT350R which is an absolute weapon on the track, and a remarkably practical car to drive distances with the family (I added a rear seat), but after 4 years I’m considering something different. Very different.

Let me start by saying that I’m 6’4” and 220lbs with a 35” waist and 34” inseam. I have sat in an Elise and I fit. I suspect that I’ll need tall guy seat rails or maybe aftermarket seats to fit with a helmet. Yes, I intend to track an Elise for HPDE and open lapping. Maybe some autocross events as well.

I’m giving serious consideration to trading my GT350R for an Elise for simplicity and tax purposes. This has caused me to look at Elises for sale at specialty car dealers across the USA. There are some fantastic, low mile cars for sale which might be too low mileage and pretty to track. Or maybe not. In my eye these were meant to be driven, not showpieces. What I don’t want to do is overpay for something that doesn’t meet my needs and wants. Here’s what I’m looking at:

VIN TRIM MILES ASK $ SPORT? TOURING? SC?
2008 SCCZC11188HL31951 60th Anniversary 2,741 $48,995 Yes Yes Yes
2008 SCCPC11158HL30313 California Edition 2,757 $47,900 ? ? No
2008 SCCPC11188HL30287 California Edition 13,554 $44,900 ? Yes Yes
2011 SCCLHCPC8BHA11874 Elise R 3,052 $50,000 No Yes. No

Questions, comments, and ponderings that I’d love your help with:

I live in Colorado at 5200ft, and regularly take canyon roads to 7000ft. I can easily see myself heading to the western slope of the Rockies and cresting over 9000ft. My naturally aspirated 526hp GT350R feels the altitude so I’m leaning towards a supercharged model. I’d love some direction here, with any anecdotes and advice you might have.

How can I tell if the car comes with the Sport Pack? I think the paired 7 spokes are one giveaway, right? Do all Elises with seats with harness holes have the Sport Pack? That is, does a California Edition with seat holes have the Sport Pack despite not having the Sport Pack wheels?

I understand that only 50 California Edition models sold in the USA, 25 in yellow, and 25 in red. Is it correct that some California Editions were naturally aspirated, and some were supercharged? It seems the yellow one above is, but I'm not certain it's a factory supercharger.

I think I want the Sport Pack given its oil coolers, my intent to track it, etc. I'm less inclined to get the Touring Pack, but they all seem to have it from what I can tell. Would love some thoughts on pros/cons.

I’ve got my eye on low mileage cars with asking prices in the high $40Ks. That’s not a small amount of money. There are some available nearer to me in the $30Ks but they look like basket cases. There’s a 2006 in Colorado with a $34K asking price that looks like it’s being sold by a corner lot used car dealer that specialized in 20-year-old heaps. This 2005 is very highly (and not tastefully) modified with an asking price of $42K. I watch Bring a Trailer auctions and have a general idea that I'm looking at $40K +/- a few thousand for what I want. Does that sound right?

Many, many thanks in advance!
 

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2005 Lotus Elise
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With toyota engine and transmission, even 100k mi isn’t that high. There are lots of examples in the 30k-60k mi range, and last year when i was looking, plenty of nice-looking SC Elises in the 30s. Upper 40s seems very high, and unless you feel very particular about what you’re looking for (special editions, ultra pristine, ultra low miles, dealers asking ridiculous prices, etc.), you can get a clean SC for less. Super low miles (<10k on a ~15 year old car) could cause issues if not driven for long periods.

They all have at least one oil cooler, which is sufficient for track use.
 

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The good news is you’ve set a good and healthy budget! The touring pack is on most cars and really only equates to the electric windows, leather seats and a better lined soft top. Don’t get caught up on wanting a car without it as it really doesn’t make a difference in real world terms. The easiest way to tell if it has the sport pack is the lss wheels but they were a stand alone option on early cars (albeit the fronts were slightly narrower) - I think after 07 they only came with the sport pack.

They are built for tracking but it is best to do some mods like baffled sumps and upgraded toe links. It up to you if you want to take a decent older car with higher mileage or a newer one that is prettier, depreciation is pretty much done on any, although hard tracking may reduce the value of the car a little in the future.

I guess my biggest concern is coming from the gt350, the Elise will be more fun in the twisties but the mustang will leave it for dead in a straight line and out of the bends. The factory sc cars are a little faster than the n/a ones but for me the added torque and power really made the car more drivable rather than outright faster. The budget will be higher but an Exige will get you closer to the outright speed the gt350 will deliver. On the open road the Elise’s smaller size and perfect power ratio will be definitely more usable and fun than the mustang. All eliges like to rev and coupled with their hard core nature, at least they feel a lot faster than they are, just be prepared to have gtrs etc walk away from you on the straights, even though you can catch up to them under breaking and in the bends.

Lastly, size wise you’ll be fine, I was that size when I got mine and even when I got to 260 and 38” waist I still fit. It is tight with a helmet with the stock set up and longer legs are prob better than a long torso - I’m the opposite. One word of caution with the tall rails, they put the seat under the roll bar so the roll bar bodywork becomes your headrest - just something to keep in mind especially on the track as potentially your helmet will be hitting a hard corner. Before I sold mine I used a uk passenger seat rail (since it doesn’t slide) and it straightened the seat back up, making it a bit safer but overall a bit tighter. Definitely try one with your helmet on and sit in the passenger seat also to give you an idea of the room you can gain as it’s fractionally lower rail (as it loses the slider).
 

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2007 Lotus Exige S
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LOCO has a drive coming at the end of this month, might be worth talking with some members with NA cars about how they do in elevation. My SC Exige does just fine but guessing NA struggles and if you think your GT350R is slower at altitude then the Lotus will really feel slow. I think your budget puts you into some nicer cars, but don’t worry too much about packages as most parts can be swapped out easy enough.

I am no familiar with either car you linked to but someone here might be.

Where in Colorado are you and what tracks do you go to? Times/Experience might help me provide some better comparison between the two.
 

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I can answer your California-related questions as I have one. None of them included a supercharger from the factory but a few had them added at the dealer. All were sold with the sport pack and touring pack, although my car is missing a sport pack essential - the second oil cooler. They came with the “Y” wheels instead of LSS, but the width is the same (wider in front).
 

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'Morning Sir...
I can't speak to the California Edition, but I was an original owner of a 60th Anniversary Edition "Bumble Bee." As you may know, it includes every performance upgrade Lotus offered (at the time) in one package -- a virtual street-legal go-cart! I also live in Colorado (Springs) and didn't notice much of a breathing problem... Of course, I never engaged the second cam -- 'cause she was still within her initial break-in period -- even after four years of ownership! Yeah, I spent an inordinate amount of time just admiring her -- 'should've never let her go! Good luck with your search...
 

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One of the advantages of purchasing an Elise with a factory SC, is... if you want to upgrade to an aftermarket SC you can still have it configured to look like an OEM version ;-) The disadvantage though is it will have a M45 SC which is fine and very fun on the street but if you track the car it will get heat soaked quickly (2 laps on a mild day, mid 60's).

My .02
 

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Can I suggest you talk to Hayes at www.wirewheel.com? I have known Hayes for many years, he is a big supporter of Lotus Ltd. but that is not why I am suggesting him. I don't think you will find a guy more knowledgeable about tracking Elises. They guys at BOE Fabrication are great as is Shinoo at Inokinetic. The last two are aftermarket part guys, Hayes probably sells the most used Elises in the USA at the moment and usually has a few Elises for sale. Where ever you buy your car, can I suggest you join Lotus Ltd and the Colorado group?
 
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