My first encounter with Lotus cars was when I was 18 years old and I signed up first my autocross in my 1996 Acura Integra with the Golden Gate Lotus Club (GGLC). I always thought they were “cool” looking and after going on a couple ride-alongs, I could already tell how fun it would be to drive one.
In 2010, I got a job working for a Lotus Specialty shop and my desire to own one has been growing ever since. Lightweight, bonded aluminum tub chassis, all fiberglass body, flat under side, mid-engine, high revving; the Lotus has all the traits of a purpose-built race car. Most people would agree that lightweight is key to any performance vehicle. Horsepower makes it faster in the straights, but making a car lighter makes it faster in the straights, corners, and braking. Consumables cost less because the car doesn’t need massive brakes or tires and you have an extremely exciting car to drive that can get over 30 miles a gallon of fuel economy. At 2000 lbs, you’re basically driving a street legal go-kart. And despite seeing so many in our shop at any given time, the car is very unique. How often do you see one on the road?
In September, a Storm Titanium 2008 Exige S40 was T-boned at Laguna Seca coming down Turn 9 and the car was towed to Trackspec for an assessment. The owner wanted us to create two estimates:
To completely fix the car; and
To fix only the mechanical damage and the car would be the “ugly Betty” of his stable.
Depending on the costs, he would decide on which option to go with, or try to sell it as-is. After discussing his options with him, I entertained the idea of purchasing it from him and in the end, we were able to work out a deal that we were both happy with.
We started off by taking the car apart to get rid of the damaged parts. In the accident, the car sustained damage to the rear clam, all the right rear suspension, right rear CV joint, right rear brake line, wheel, exhaust, tail lights, engine cover, diffuser, and some other miscellaneous parts.
I was lucky enough to find a matching rear Exige clam in Tehachapi, CA (about 5 hours from the shop), so I woke up at 4am on a Tuesday morning, drove down to pick it up, and made it back to the shop by the afternoon. The clam was used to make molds and then stored in a shed for a few years, so it does need some minor repair and a paint job.
I found a shop on the East Coast that was parting out an Exige, so I was able to get a package deal on the rear sub frame and control arms. The rear toe links were replaced with Inokinetic’s RTD Brace.
While the car was apart, I decided to do some extra work to it before it made its way back to the track. I replaced all the ball joints, tie rod ends, and replaced the rubber bushings with spherical bearings. The car already has a quick ratio steering rack and Nitron shocks. However, I do plan on changing out to JRZ Suspension coilovers (more info on that below). I also wanted to start fresh and get the car up to date with maintenance, so I replaced the coolant, engine oil/filter, brake fluid, transmission fluid, drive belt, spark plugs, air filter, supercharger oil and inspected the intake cam for wear.
Later, I found that the A/C system had been removed from the car. I plan to drive the car on the street (for now), so this had to go back in. After replacing the compressor, condenser, receiver dryer, and all the lines, I was able to get it working again. Not a very exciting thing to spend time and money on...
The Exige had a Bride Low Max seat which was a little too narrow for me so I sold it and the stock passenger seat. It also had an Alitech shifter, which felt nice, but took up too much interior space, especially for the seats I wanted to install. I sold the Alitech and replaced it with the Inokinetic ShiftR111. The seats that went in are carbon Tillett B6 Screamer XLs with cut edges. These are probably the largest bucket seats you will be able to fit into this car.
First Shakedown at Laguna Seca
Before the car got a chance to get repainted, I decided to put it together and have some fun with it at the track. The right rear coilover and wheel was damaged in the accident, but two fellow Lotus owners graciously let me borrow a set of wheels and Nitron 3-way coilovers. The car was a blast to drive, but very loose on corner entry and not progressive when it broke away. We should be able to dial that out with some suspension tuning after installing JRZ dampers. Considering I only drove the car for 2 sessions, I was happy to do a 1:46. My good friends Graham and Tom also took the car out for a session. Graham was able to clock a 1:44. Very impressive for the first time ever driving a Lotus- Especially one that's tail happy.
TE37 Sonic 16x8 +25 Diamond Dark Gunmetal
Bridgestone RE71R 205/45/16
TE37 Saga 17x8.5 +40
Bridgestone RE71R 235/45/17
JRZ Coilover Upgrade
The Lotus LSS suspension is known to have a soft spring rate with stiff valving, making the ride harsh on the street. Contrary to belief, you can run a stiffer spring rate with better shocks and the car will be more compliant on the street and handle better on the track. For this reason, coilovers are the the best upgrade for the Lotus Elise & Exige, whether you are using the car for street driving or racing.
Over the years, we’ve worked with JRZ Suspension Engineering for different platforms and have had nothing but great experiences. While they’ve been in business for over 60 years, most people seem to think they are only focused in motorsports. Accordingly, their Motorsport Line has been very popular with serious racers. However, not many people are aware that they have also developed their RS Line, geared for those who don’t necessarily race competitively but still want great coilovers for the street or even the occasional HPDE track day.
Therefore, we’ve teamed up with JRZ to offer our Lotus customers this limited time 20/20 Deal, to really show our customers that JRZ not only has kits for everyone (street driving, HPDE, and racing), but is also about top quality products and excellent customer service.
TS+JRZ Lotus 20/20 Deal
Until the end of the December 2018, JRZ is offering 20% off their RS Line coilovers and Trackspec Autosports is offering 20% of labor to install the kits. All their kits are made to order, so custom valving and spring rates are available to fit your needs. See below for instructions on how to take advantage of this deal.
JRZ RS PRO 3
I chose to trade out the Nitrons on the Exige for JRZ’s RS PRO 3 kit. The main advantage of their RS PRO 3 kit, vs their RS ONE & RS PRO kits, is that the 3-way dampers give you the ability to adjust both high speed damping and low speed damping. Low speed compression controls movement under small bumps, braking, accelerating, and turning. High speed compression controls movement over harsh bumps, like pot holes on the street or berms on the track. Since I plan to track the Exige, and possibly eventually race it, the RS PRO 3 kit was the best choice.
I plan to have the kit installed on our Exige in time for a weekend at Buttonwillow on Dec. 22-23.
Testday at Buttonwillow Raceway - 12/22-23/18
Check back to see how it went!