ThunderFox profile picture ThunderFox 4 years ago

The joys of Lotus ownership

Original photo by Gonçalo Bispo Photography
Original photo by Gonçalo Bispo Photography

Part 1: The dream

For many petrolheads nowadays, at some point in your early petrolhead life, you must have had a dream car or something that you looked up to, and eventually told yourself that some day you would achieve this goal.

Well, for me, this was never the case. I was never much of a petrolhead in my youth. In fact, getting my license was something that was delayed for over a year, because I used to look at cars as if they were a complete burden. It was not until my second car, a blue FIAT Punto, that I felt connected to cars or the surrounding community.

Even so, at some point it must have happened, that I envisioned amongst the vast choice of automobilia that we have nowadays, that some cars perfectly represent what I look up to as the perfect car. You might have guessed from my previous articles here that I do not really care for comfort, or the latest trend in gadgets, or whatever looks good in the eyes of your peers. I care only for the pure excitement of driving. To me, driving per se, is meaningless unless you feel connected to the car you are driving. It is, otherwise, a burden. And this narrows my concept of a car down to a few select models that are usually frowned upon as a choice of car by the general population.

Lotus - The joys of Lotus ownership - General

One of them is obviously the MX5, it’s one of the most affordable back-to-basics sportscars, and I’ve owned four of them in my short-lived petrolhead life. I still own, of course, my prized NA which I’ve modified to suit my objectives and which I use as a track car every so often.

Another one is the Lotus 7, or more objectively, it’s Caterham licensed replica. They are great cars. Any sevenesque model will definitely summarize the pure joy of driving from the moment you sit on it until you’re tired of driving aimlessly. It is not without it’s quirks though: You would not want to daily a car in which it rains inside for half the year.

And finally, one that became my dream car to own in the very early days, was the Elise S1. The Elise S1, when it was designed, was so futuristic in it’s construction and driving concepts, while at the same time being a pure, grassroots, drivers car. Embodied by the organic lines of 70s classic cars, and carrying all the tech where it matters (the engine), being super lightweight and super capable with no driving aids whatsoever. What more can you possibly want of a car?

Original photo by Pedro Lavrador
Original photo by Pedro Lavrador

Part 2: The happening

It was soon to become my halo car. Coming to own an Elise here is not easy. Only a handful are registered, and of course when you own one, it is very hard to part with it. I once read somewhere in the Lotus community that “you never come to own a Lotus. You are merely the caretaker for whoever comes next to look after it.” I understand the nature of this quote, as it is not the car you would treat merely as a tool that you use according to the best practices of Maslow’s hammer theory. But parting with your joy is something most people won’t easily commit to. So, from the very registered few, even if you had the means, finding one for sale is almost impossible.

I made plans. Plans with no due date, as many other petrolheads do, to eventually gather the needed money and import one from the UK. The price would be hefty but it would come around to the same price as buying one locally, if there ever was one for sale. LHD conversion and finding a good specimen all considered, 25k would do the job.

Photo from the moment when it all changed!
Photo from the moment when it all changed!

It all went downward quickly when, by mere accident, I found this purple Elise S1 “abandoned” for sale at a roadside dealership. I could not believe my own eyes when, during one afternoon tuning a friend’s turbo MX5, we make a detour and a glimpse of an Elise inside a dealership was seen…

“Turn around! I want to see that again!”

After a few days negotiating the sale, it happened. I was the owner of an Elise.

Part 3: The Lotus life

Coming to terms with the fact that you finally own your dream car is not easy. I remember the day I bought it, I quickly brought it to my garage, after a quick ride, and let it stay there. I remember getting out of the garage and thinking to myself “do I really own a Lotus”?

I found myself asking this question several times for a few months. It was hard to shake this feeling that the car does not belong to you. How can you own something that is so out of regular people’s standards and objectives? How do you justify trading years of your hard work for something that is hardly any use?

Well, it is true that justifying such a feat, and to yourself mostly, not others, is not easy. You can always tell someone else “because I can” and be done with it. But it’s much harder telling yourself that. Why would you spend so much money on something that you do not need and that is not even good? I mean, nobody wants an old car with no powersteering, no brake booster, no padding on the seats, no soundproofing. You can barely hear the radio inside.

Lotus - The joys of Lotus ownership - General

But then, when you turn the key, it all comes to reason. Why are you here, in this world? Do you just want to survive on a daily basis and abide by social standards? Or do you want to actually experience some joy in your life by making your dreams come true? When you’re sitting inside the car, and you turn that key around, that’s when the machine comes to life and all your problems disappear. It is no longer an expensive object that you keep stashed in the corner of the garage: It becomes part of you.

The Elise is devoid of any creature comforts. However, it is all that you really want in a car. And it’s not even just the car. It’s the whole package. Just living with it is an event, from the complicated routine to get inside the driver’s seat, to the small checklist of steps that you have to take to turn it on, and then just taking it wherever you feel like going… Something sparks in the back of your mind that makes the whole work of simply getting in and out totally worth it.

And it’s not just the driving itself… You would think that you can have all the joy in your car without a care about what other people think. But what if you could share this joy with other people too? Every time I drive this car, I cross paths with people that look at it with surprised looks, and a smile on their faces. Some ask questions. Young kids look at it with a sparkle in their eyes. Being able to transmit some joy to other people really is a good feeling!

When a car does all this, for you and others at the same time, you know you’ve made some right choices in life.

The Elise, together with my friend's Turbo MX5 that initially started this journey!
The Elise, together with my friend's Turbo MX5 that initially started this journey!