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I drove one 15 years ago and thought that it handled well, for a FWD. Doesn't compare at all to an Elise. I haven't driven one at speed, so I don't know how it does on a track. Its sorta the read-headed step child of the Lotus family.
 

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Despite being as unLotus on paper as you'd think, despite being directed and mutinized by GM and pretty plainly despite being FWD, it is still consistently ranked among the top front driver's you can possibly own. For what they had to work with, they probably pulled it off as best as they could.
 

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They are great cars in their own way.

Probably the least involving of all Lotus, it feels like a C4 corvette or more similarly an Audi TT. The handling is pretty much vice-less. Good ride, pleasant handling, big trunk, decent heat and A/C. They feel more like a GT than a sports car.

We have put about 70K miles on ours including two cross country trips, one track day, some autocross and two years as a daily driver.

There is an active online community lotuselancentral.
 

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I have one. It was my first Lotus. My opinion is clearly biased.

Collectability - Not particularly sought after, but very very rare, even in Lotus terms. Onlye 545 made and sold in the US.

Styling - Styled by Peter Stevens, who redid the Esprit and is also famous for the McClaren F1. It has a bit of an odd look from some angles, but from others it is very sensuous. Either way it tends to grow on you. Stands out from the crowd unless the crowd is ELises.

Handling - Extremely good. Better than just about everything made before or since. Front wheel drive is not an issue. Not near as good as the Elise, but then again it rides much better.

Reliability - Probably as good as a Lotus can get.

Fun Factor - very high. great handling, good ride, true convertable.

Practicality - comfortable and easy to get in and out of. Very reliable. Can be driven in any condition and surface. Easily usable as a daily driver.

Problems - the convertable top leaks at the seam on the side over the window. The cam angle sensor goes bad, but is easily replaced by an Isuzu (same as Lotus) unit. Gear change mechanism can come undone, but if already happened on a given unit it is fixed, and if it hasn't happened yet it probably won't. Brakes work very well, but have a poor feel. Bib spoiler universally damaged from scraping.

Price - market values vary according to miles and condition. $15-20k should get you a really nice low milage example.
 

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i had one, i liked it, a little "girlie" in that the inputs and feedback are light and a bit numb (for a hard core sports car - which it is not though)

they are quick, and handle the best of any front driver i have driven. turbo lag will get you left foot braking. things like wheel hubs and tail lights can be hard and or expensive to find
 

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I traded "down" from a 2001 Z3 to a 1991 Elan.

The Elan both outhandled and out-comforted the mass-produced, 10 year newer car, by a healthy margin on both counts.

There are a number of standard performance mods that simply MUST be done on the car to free it from that era's punishing emissions controls. Big brake kit is also a MUST. Once that is done, the car is faster than a n/a Elise.
When things get hairy, the fwd is extremely confidence inspiring. Lotus designed a "raft suspension" for the front that makes the car difficult to put on a lift, but light years ahead of any other fwd car.

Why did I sell mine? Can't rightly say. Probably shouldn't have.

Not as cool as Elise, I suppose.
 

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In the October, 2008 issue of Octane, there is a feature that discusses most of the Lotus road cars, going back to the 7 and up through the Evora.

Peter Stevens, as mentioned the designer of the M100 Elan, is quoted in the article:

"With their experience of glassfibre, the guys who did the drawings accounted for shrinkage: when you make the tool it shrinks a bit; when you make a panel out of a tool, it shrinks a bit more. The tools were then made from epoxy with a nickel shell which didn't shrink at all and the new material didn't shrink either. Also, the wheels didn't fit quite right in the wheelarches.

The way those things conspired, it looked too fat-arsed from the back, which is the only part that still bugs me. Nonetheless, considering that we started on it in 1986, I think it's aged well."
 

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A couple come out on our Lotus runs and they are a great looking car - they still look contemporary despite their age!! And as Notorious L.R.G. says the engineering employed to make it handle was brilliant (true Lotus "out of the box" thinking).

It is a true Lotus! Go for it!! :)
 

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A friend had one some years ago. Sweet. Not as hardcore as other Lotus products, there is an element of comfort and accomodation about it that an Elise doesn't have. Lightning quick handling, didn't feel at all like FWD.

Photos don't do the M100 justice. You really have to see one in person to appreciate it. Understated, but quite attractive, the looks grow on you.

As I recall, a Korean manufacturer bought the rights to the design, but nothing really came out of it.
 

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As I recall, a Korean manufacturer bought the rights to the design, but nothing really came out of it.
Kia bought the design and tooling. They produced a version for the Korean Domestic market. It used a Kia rather than Isuzu drivetrain and various trim parts - like the tail lights are different. An alternate, but limited, source for the unobtainium materialed parts needing replaced as the cars age.
 

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Always looked alot like a mercury capri to me. I saw one at an autocross several years ago. I thought it was unusual sombody would autocross a capri until I took a closer look. I am not much of a lotus historian but the whole FWD thing seems a bit weird for me in a lotus..
 

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I love mine, i doubt i'd ever get rid of it, the stock brakes are a bit weak but otherwise its a great car, turbo'd so its easy to add power to it, normally i run mine at about 22PSI, that is when it makes any boost at all !

lotuselancentral.com is the best forum to chat m100 stuff.
 

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I am not much of a lotus historian but the whole FWD thing seems a bit weird for me in a lotus..
At the time Lotus developed the Elan, the front wheel drive layout had become the norm. Also, remember, Lotus get most of their income and cash flow from engineering consultancy. The decision to go Front Wheel Drive was two fold. First, to attract to new buyers to Lotus that were raised on Front drive. Second to a Lotus engineering centerpiece of Front Drive technology. They wanted to make the best Front drive car ever...and they did.

The downfall of the Elan was - It was too expensive to produce, certain parts like the dash were very expensive and many were discarded for quality control problem. The cost to produce put the price in the US at $40k at a time when there was a recession and stock market woes (sound familiar) forcing poeple to tighten their belts. At the same time Mazda was offereing the Miata at 60% of the price, a car that used the original Elan as its inspiation. While the Lotus M100 Elan is a Front Drive masterpiece, it's price relative to the cheaper, more conventionally styled and almost as fun to drive Miata, combined with corporate problems within Group Lotus conspired to prematurely end its life.

But wait, theres more.....Once GM discarded Lotus to Bugatti, the new owners realized that there was enough spare part to make an additional run of 800 car that would be pure profit for Lotus. They took the opportunity to tweak the car a bit and the S2 was born. They were sold out almost immediately. It seems that once it was gone, as is often the case, many realized how good a car it really was and it turns out there was demand for the car afterall.
 

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The U.S. version is slightly longer and sexier than the european version, as the front end was stretched to meet our 5mph bumper standards.

I believe I was able to field test this...not even paint damage under 5mph....buffed right out.
 

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I agree with most everything Kyle says...

I have owned 5 of them. I have been a factor in friends buying at least 4 others.

Know the car pretty good. Great car. but a heavy handling car until you get it up to speed.

One of the best handling cars I have ever owned. Very early Elan like and very Lotus like. My wifes favorite Lotus.

I just found one for a friend and the first thing we did was put in a big brake kit. Front brakes are terrible and in my mind dangerous.

Car in stock form will not lock up the brakes. That is why I sold the 3 that I bought to keep. The big brake kit was not available at a resoanable price at that time. I would still have it if it was.

I almost got killed in it once because of the front brakes. I would love put one question to the guy at Lotus that OK'ed the front brakes...wereyou freaking crazy?!!!!!! WEre you on drugs that day you OK'ed that setup? Well..that is two questions.

A really nice one just sold on the LOONY site for 14.5K. Low miles....great shape.

The one I found for my friend was 11K. 35K miles...some appearance issues with weatherstripping.

What you have to remember with the Elan is that if you wreck it....it is pretty much a throw away. Parts are non exsistant.


I have always felt that GM used the car to develop Front wheel drive technologies, GRP body technologies and convertible top technologies and then wrote the cost off to Lotus. That is why the car was so expensive. You see the same designs now on Corvettes and other GM cars.

I was told the time that the cost to build a 65K Esprit was like 19K. The cost to build the 40K Elan was like 24K. No wonder that they stopped selling it.m But I still think most of those costs if spread out over all the other cars they used it on would have significantly less. GM basically used the development team at Lotus to help with their own lack of imagination.
 
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