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Part 1 - The journey to buying an Exige

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Personally I like forums, prefer them to Facebook because I’m a dinosaur :D as they have more substance and depth, so I make no apologies for my very long post :D

Part 1 - The journey to buying an Exige

I’m no stranger to Lotus type cars, having owned a VX220 Turbo for 13 years. Steering clear of the brand debate, there are so many similarities that switching to a Lotus was comfortable as all the usual buying considerations e.g. plastic radiator end caps, are the same.  So I was prepared to buy sight unseen and not be a newbie.

There’s nuances for sure but fundamentally they share a lot of dna, so it wasn’t a leap into the unknown unlike someone who is a Lotus first time buyer with all the uncertainties of getting in and out, daily driving, long term ownership, what to look out for type questions.

My VX was highly modified gradually over the years; stage 4 tune meaning charge cooler, uprated turbo and airflow etc giving 300bhp and 350 torque. It was quite a car.

It also had AP 4 pot, adjustable arb, nitrons 1 way, racing clutch, so it was a well balanced optimisation. My mods had made it a very raw car. The reason this is important is that my history influenced my next choice. 

It was a great car and I loved it, I also considered a Caterham, which I find simply incredible, even better to drive than a Lotus, but I wanted some more practicality. Only Lotus could offer this balance.

Also, I had an Exige itch to scratch. I always thought they were stunning looking and amazing cars. I can still remember the passenger ride in a silver Exige at a Knockhill track day in 2002.

The only question really was ‘which Exige’ 😄

The challenge was I‘d got used to the power and shove of the VX. Although it was a turbo it was surprisingly smooth in delivery because of the mapping and the special airbox I used, which meant it gave a rapid and continuous shove. A noticeably strong surging push rather that a wallop. I mention this because having years of  torque like that is addictive.

My fear was, could I get over my addiction. An S3 Exige could have done that with similar levels of torque and whilst an early one was in my budget I still had a hankering for an S2. I loved the look of them, their compactness and light weight. Amazing as S3s are, I sensed for me it would have been a different proposition, more grown up, supercar like experience. Longer, wider, beefier. Not quite as lithe as the S2.

I love lightness and in an ideal world I would have gone for a well sorted Honda S1 exige but they we’re just a bit too raw and a bit too old and rudimentary for me with a slight increased risk of ongoing maintenance as a result of the mods and age. This is why I settled on the S2 as the right choice for my taste and particular requirement.

I don’t feel that any one Lotus type is better than the other, or have any snobbism or inferiority complex when comparing across the range. I mean this from an entry level base Elise up to the 430 Exige. They are each just different but still Lotus. In my book, each type is worthy and has full merit. It’s horses for courses and down to personal preference on what the driver is looking for.

I wanted a bit more relative luxury so that I could also tempt my wife back into these cars. She used to drive the VX before my heavy mods, she’d even driven around the Nurburgring. But as I added more rawness it didn’t become fun for her. An S1 would put it in the same category as the VX for my wife. I want her to enjoy my car and to drive it.

My desire turned to decision... I was going to get an S2 Exige!  That moment when you decide your future car is an amazing feeling, isn’t it.

The next thing was to fine tune my requirements and then get shopping 😃.

The spec on my shopping list was very important. I wanted to go high spec and it needed to be;

Newer than my 05 VX, 

likely a late S2, 

with the new dash (noticeably better than the VX),

leather (for some reason never been a fan of alcantara or carbon fibre),

Factory standard car with no mods (I’d had my fill of modding),

260 ecu (I count that as a standard Lotus factory upgrade option rather than a mod). (It needed to be the highest power output option otherwise for me the contrast would be too much coming from the VX and risk feeling a lack of performance. I still wanted the new car to feel fast. A big ask coming from the my previous level of power.)

Seats with harness holes,

Baffled sump (nice to have, otherwise I would fit),

Ally radiator update,

Ally chargecooler update,

Air con was essential as I know just how hot they can get (and preferably with the updated pipes done),

Soft top conversion would be nice, but not essential.

With shopping list in mind, I got my iPad into action.

I got slightly tempted by a two year old Elise 250 Cup that was only a couple of grand more and 9 years younger. They do look very good, (open gearbox) real presence and by all accounts perform brilliantly, probably faster around a track than the S2 Exige. However there was something about the sloped, solid rear of the Exige that spoke to me, it’s presence and was a very different a look compared to my VX and the Elise rear section.

The other factor was that I knew the Elise in the next 5 years would need an alloy rad, the air con pipes would likely need changing, they add up in cost, hassle and time. The Exige I was looking for would have all those little things already sorted which in my head closed the age gap.

Incredibly within 10 minutes I found the car for me!  I could hardly believe it as I knew it might take time to find the right one.

An S2 Sprint sold by Jon Seal (came from a MLOC owner). It had every tick in the box I wanted, coming with all three packs, softtop conversion kit, 260 Lotus ecu with twin oil coolers, TRD airbox, sorted air con, ally inter cooler and rad, harness holes, baffled sump. I had to pinch myself.

I called Jon and after some questions we pretty much agreed the sale there and then over the phone. My search was over. I’d found my perfect Exige!

Just over a year ago, May 2019, I took the plunge and bought the car. Part 2 will follow with my initial reaction to it and views 1 year in.

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Great post, but we need to see some pictures!

I know what you mean about rawness and modding and wives and so on.  For road use they really are better left standard I think.

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Very very nice!

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