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2,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Lots of reading, but worth it. These threads come from the SELOC board in the UK ( ). You have to register to read any of the posts, but there's lots of good info there, in fact, I'm only posting a small piece of a big thread that contains lots of pics and step by step headaches. ;)

Quick setup: This conversion was done by Ian Wilson who is not a professional mechanic. He did the entire conversion with normal tools in the carport of his apartment complex (in the Netherlands). The conversion is provided by Prototype Racing ( ) which is located in Torrance, CA (just south of L.A.).

Where to begin…

Well it’s hard to believe looking at the car now what a state it was in two weeks ago.

I made a promise all those weeks ago to make a report of my experience, warts and all of the build and the performance. I can tell you there were a few occasions I almost regretted making that promise as I sat down to report it wouldn’t start, the gearbox was locked up, or the drive shaft’s wouldn’t go in. But here I am today with a complete running car. My aim was to document in an unbiased fashion the whole process from start to finish so that fellow SELOC members would be able to make there own decision as to whether or not the conversion is for them.

I've spent the last six years waiting for something to come along that would make the Elise a complete package. I’ve never gone in for cosmetic upgrades so the car remained stock standard except for a set of second hand nitrons (thanks Carsten) and a 3 x stiffer ARB. I had looked at TT and Dave Andrews but as I have previously mentioned in this thread, neither quite offered what I was looking for. I wanted a quantum improvement in performance together with reliability. My conclusion was that it’s virtually impossible to achieve both these aims and retain the Rover powerplant.

Everything changed when I came across the Prototype Racing website this had real potential. Honda power and the Elise chasiss are match made in heaven. Honda are reknown for their high output engines that are almost boring in their reliability. One year later I was ready to order.

The plan was to have the car ready in time for Folembray on the 6th of July. PJ the Dutch distributor offered to give me a hand with the conversion and we had the option of using one of two workshops. Maarten van Sten (Van Sten engineering - Lotus garage) was interested in the conversion so it made sense to use his workshop so he could get an idea of what was involved. Unfortunately as many of you know Maarten has terminal cancer and his condition worsened significantly shortly after my conversation with him. The other workshop was some distance away so I decided to do it myself in my car parking spot in the basement of my apartment.

The next problem was shipping delays, Prototype Racing is essentially a one man operation run by Joe McCarthy. Joe unfortunately doesn’t live in the same space-time continuum as the rest of us. The good part of this is you can call him at literally any time of the day or night and be reasonability certain he’ll answer the phone. The bad part is shipping dates are fairly meaningless to him. Bear in mind this was a rush job and his Exige is looking the worse for wear as parts were stripped of his car to go into mine. Additionally Joe did a lot of work preparing the Honda that would normally be done at the customer end. The plan had been for PJ and myself to remove the engine and subframe from my car when Joe shipped the kit. Having received an assurance from Joe the kit would ship, PJ and I removed the engine and subframe from my car. Unfortunately for me the kit didn’t ship for another two weeks. If this wasn’t bad enough PJ went on holiday to New Zealand and Australia for 3 weeks. He did do one thing before he left for which I am eternally grateful to him for, he lent me his pride and joy, his own Honda powered Elise to take down to Folembray. Bearing in mind his car has the wrong 02 sensor (ECU in error mode) and a standard header I was very impressed with the car as were those who had a chance to come out for a few laps with me. Poor PJ was in bits most of the weekend, and required frequent phonecalls to reassure him the car was still in running order. I have no idea how many laps I did that day, but I did manage to get through a tank and a half of gas. The engine never missed a beat the whole day.

The kit arrived a week or so after Folembray, no thanks to FedEx who decided to hang on to it for a few days in Paris, by which time I had already received the first of two registered letters from the apartment building committee demanding that I stop work. The kit includes a comprehensive manual, but access to the Lotus service manual is also required. Work began immediately and with the help of Kyle (Doc); we got the engine in without any problems. Progress was slow and steady from this point on – my previous mechanical experience was limited to fitting Nitrons and an ARB. The minor hiccups are documented throughout the thread and were in most cases caused by a failure to read the *%#@ manual.

The two biggest dramas were first startup and the gearbox. I wasn’t surprised it didn’t fire up on my first attempt, but the cause was bizarre as it turned out. I still haven’t fully investigated as to why the car was able to start with the Rover engine when it was missing the 40amp maxi fuse at the back of the car – although it is present in the front of the car??? Until I can get a multimeter onto it I can only think that perhaps PJ removed the fuse at some stage and its location is a secret only known to him. The second very serious problem was the gearbox lockup. This frightened me to death. I had installed the gear linkage a week before and had confirmed at the time I could get the car into gear. However after startup I could only move the lever left and right. No way would it go into gear. This had the potential to be a show stopper of epic proportions. If there was something wrong with the gearbox then the car would need to be completely dismantled again – a prospect I couldn’t begin to contemplate. I’d put my heart and soul into the car and to realize it was all for nothing was more than I could deal with. A friend of PJ’s who runs a Honda specialist workshop had dropped around and confirmed the worse, the car wouldn’t go into gear using the selectors on the gearbox itself. At this point I just said fcuk it and arranged for the car to be picked up and taken to his workshop to have the engine and gearbox removed. The following morning I went back down to the basement with a minging headache after drinking myself to sleep the previous night. My intention was to remove the gearbox selector mechanism in the hope the problem lay there (I had been assured it didn’t). There is however one other piece of the puzzle that needs to be mentioned at this point and explains the drinking the night before. The kit comes with another chassis to engine earth strap. The manual states that this lead is to be connected to one of the bell housing bolts on the gearbox. Being smarter than Joe at Prototype I noticed that the existing Lotus earth strap could reach another bolt on the gearbox, so I used that instead. Unfortunately this bolt holds the reverse idler shaft in place – removing this bolt could cause mayhem in the gearbox. Hence the drinking, and why oh why did I not follow the manual….

Anyway back to the following morning, before I began to dismantle the selector mechanism I thought I would give the selector’s one more try and oh what joy coursed through my body when it slipped into gear. It turned out the problem was the linkage itself. I had installed it loosely a week before and had tightened up the bolts a couple of days before. Unbeknown to me I had tightened up one bolt too much and that had locked the linkage. Massive sigh of relief. And a red faced Honda mechanic.

From that point on it was just a matter of putting everything back together and a few days later the car was ready for its first drive around the carpark. The toe at the back was so far out the rear end of the car on several occasions attempted to overtake the front. Once I had set the toe by eye it was time for a proper test drive. At which point I discovered the engine refused to rev over 4,000rpm. For once this wasn’t my fault and turned out to be caused by a missing resistor in the ECU that Hondata in the States had forgotten to solder on. The engine is a Japanese sourced K20A and the ECU is from the States. The ECU was expecting to see a signal from a sensor not present on the Japanese engine and as a result limited the engine to 4,000rpm. Once I had soldered the resistor in place 8,600rpm became available. On Sunday Kyle and I took the car out for a bit of performance testing. A quiet section of a dead end motorway was chosen for a couple of performance runs. Kyle in his own style has written up his own report here, nothing much I can add to his report. The biggest problem I have is the engine revs so freely you find yourself constantly bouncing of the limiter. I prefer not having to look at the rpm gauge so I’ll need to adjust to the engine and with time I’ll get it right. In both the video’s I hit the limiter on several of the changes, something I never did with the Rover engine. I reckon I was hitting 60 in around 4.5 seconds (with two up and a full tank of gas), with practice this could be improved upon but I’m not that bothered about 0 to 60’s. The in gear acceleration is brutal and that’s where it’ll count on the track. As long as you keep the needle above 5,200rpm the acceleration is just phenomenal. Which is not to say there is nothing below 5,200rpm it's just not as brutal.

The second goal I mentioned earlier was reliability only time will tell if the my decision in this regard was correct – at the moment I’m VTEC mad and am hoping this fascination will pass with time…

Looking back over the pass few weeks, I’m amazed the car is actually back together and running, anyone looking to save a few bucks and do it themselves, well as you can see it’s possible.

Finally some thanks to those who have helped out.

In no particular order,
PJ for helping remove the engine and subframe and then pissing off to NZ.
Bob vanM for lending me lots and lots of tools.
Kyle (Doc) for his help with the install.
Joe McCarthy for customer service second to none – no need to worry about your phone ringing at 4:30am anymore.

Right here’s what you’ve all been waiting for some performance footage, filmed somewhere in Europe…

First 0 - 60

Second 0 -60 slow change into second

Nothing clever here just a change from looking at the dials.

As she is today

(you won't be able to see the image unless you register with SELOC.)

2,566 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
and a quote from someone else who drove the car:
Originally posted by Doc
So what do I say about this;

Well, Disappointing really! Slow off the mark. Annoying Rattles. Serious flat spot around 5200rpm.

I dunno. Not worth the time, money or effort really.


OH Dear ME!

Alright, pickup from 1st is pretty instant. And of course the Stack is not set up to handle 9K rpm, so you have to watch the needle and change around 8k with redline @ 8600rpm.

Hmmmmm! Let me rephrase that. "pickup from 1st is pretty instant." now becomes;

The car lurches forward like it's been hit from behind by an F16 at full tilt.

Watch the dial spin around to 8k and reach for 2nd. Eh???? Where'd 1st go?

You find yourself grabbing for 2nd PDQ. 3rd ain't too far behind that. And before you know what you're doing, you're in 4th pulling about a TON (old language).

if you sit in the passenger seat first and then get into the driver's seat, delivery can feel a little disappointing ............ At First ................ Until you get used to it and realise exactly WTF is going on. But that's only because it's so linear. The F---ing thing just keeps pulling right around the dial.

There's a flutter around 5200 which you only notice on light throttle as VTEC kicks in, but at full boot the only thing you notice is, it moves from a deep-ish ogre-like grumble, then suddenly you're hurtling down the tarmac strapped to the back of a tomahawk guided missile like a wailing fcuking Banshee. And by the time you've redlined 5th (about 12-14 sec.s from start - I'm guessing here.) you're pulling about 130Mph.

Gear change is scary to get used to from the Rover box, cause the gates are all so close to one another. But the throw is short, smooth, and ............ (stiff or solid are not the right words, but........... OH! I know.) deliberate. Very nice indeedy.

The engine is very tractable. Pulls smoothly and consistently in 5th from 3k rpm (didn't get to test any lower) and I don't doubt 6th would do the same. On-Off for traffic driving is also very easy. Not at all jittery like my 160.

Home made 2-Up with a video in cockpit (trained on the dials) 0-60's have been filmed (2 of 'em) and will be posted asap. I'll apologise now for the quality of the filming and the camera regularly going skyward, but you will note from that minor fact, the force of the gear changes. 60 is coming round in ............. about ................. 4 - 4.5 sec's AT A GUESS. I haven't seen the footage yet nor had the time to time it (so-to-speak) and the only thing that makes it slower is the fact that he's needing to grab 3rd right before the 60Mph mark. If second can be made to go all the way to 60, that will shorten the time considerably. Having said that however, the fcuking thing is

Pretty Damn Quick

And the Banshee don't sound too bad either :luv:

P.S. Ian - Password sorted for hosting

Oh, did I mention the (what was it? about a 900cc I think) road racer Green - White livery but I don't think it was a Kwaka, that basically pulled over to let us past, then proceeded to sit about 5 ft of the rear flank. We can only presume he was so impressed because he couldn't pull away from us too fast at all, that he just had to have a look & listen from behind.

There will be some VERY SERIOUSLY DENTED EGO's from any Porsche, Lambo, Ferrari, TVR drivers who try it on with this thing.

Scoobies won't rate a mention and nor will EVO's. And I reckon even some serious Westfields will be crying in their footwells

There ain't much gonna touch this.

P.S.S. Ian, is that enough to get me back in the Driver's seat again some time??? :p Please. Please. Pretty goddamned please!!!
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