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S1 Lotus Elise Sport 135

My brother owns the most pivotal car in my automotive history and it's the car that best defines what I think a sports car should be about: pure, undiluted driving pleasure.

The car in question is his S1 Lotus Elise Sport 135. A model that came into being in November 1998 as a special edition that proved popular enough for them to do some more. There were 50 of the original car (as they were put through SVA and you can only put 50 cars a year through that) and an additional 25 at the end of the run called S135 '99s.

What Lotus managed to pull off with this car, and it's something they've never been able to match since, was get the balance of the Elise absolutely right. Well I say Lotus, a lot of the work was carried out by Janspeed. They put a new head on the engine. Lotus asked for 135hp so as not to tread on the toes of the upcoming 111S standard model. They actually tend to be more in the region of 145hp. Not a massive amount, but the delivery is the best of any K Series and 10hp is not insignificant in a car this light. They also fitted their sports exhaust. Which actually gives the K a really sporty bark. Without it they have a tendency to sound like an angry sewing machine.

The next tweak was the close ratio gearbox. This was considered to be one of the best changes made to the Elise and indeed was carried over to the 111S. It just matches with the engine perfectly unlike the standard Rover ratios that were designed for a much heavier and less powerful car.

Moving on, it got stiffer ARBs, Corbeau bucket seats, a few cosmetic tweaks and some other odds and sods. It was finished with Lotus' traditional red interior (steering wheel and seat cushions) with blue hood and silver with blue tint paint. Which matches about as well you'd imagine. But these cars aren't really about aesthetics, they're about driving and it does that very well indeed.

That balance I keep talking about is the one between a road and a track car. It's a very tough nut to crack. Too road oriented and it impacts it on track (my S2 Elise). Too far the other way and it's too uncompromising on the road (Caterfields). The S135 walks that line perfectly. Many people go on to ruin them with aftermarket suspension and other mods, to the point that it's very difficult to find an unmolested S135 these days. As such, when they do come along, they command quite a premium.

That's not to say that it's un-Lotus like. Make no mistake, it bangs, clunks and rattles with the best of them. The window winders will fall off if you don't keep tightening them and the boot release will snap if you don't keep it lubricated. Yet this one has kept on trucking for coming up to 13 years now. It's been all over Europe and around some famous race tracks. Other than the boot catch once falling off (secured with gaffa tape for the trip home and a 10 minute fix when back) it has never missed a beat.

Probably the only things I can level against the car is that the door apertures are even smaller than they were on my S2. So me getting in and out of it isn't pretty. The roof is best discribed as a complete afterthought, it's shit. Finally it's a Lotus, so it will randomly try to disassemble itself.

Yet despite all this, I think that this is possibly the only Lotus to date that I could overlook it's shortcomings on, because it geniunely is that good to drive.

...no, he still won't sell it to me.

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