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Appreciating the simplicity of Lotus

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I've recently acquired a new project, a 1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, with the Cosworth engine. Picked it up for a song (well, USD$1500) because it's previous owner, a fellow interesting car collector, had passed on and his widow needed it gone in it's non running condition. (engine not getting any fuel)

The more I dig into this little jewel, the more I come to appreciate the Lotus philosophy of 'keep it simple'. The Merc has a most interesting FI system on it, a semi-mechanical continuous injection system specific to that engine, but is it ever complicated... same for the self leveling rear suspension, intriguing, but complex. In fact, just about everything about the Merc is complex, and just about every part has to be custom ordered from M-B. Even mundane parts, like the mechanism from floor pedal to throttle body, are complex. This is over-engineering: additional complexity, without a substantial performance gain.

Driving? The Cossie Merc is more like a BMW M3 - fun, toss it around at low speed, razor sharp steering, but not quite the explosive power or ultimate adhesion in high speed turns of the Esprit. It is more forgiving of error in that quick steering movement doesn't translate into understeer, but ultimately, it doesn't have the potential to reward a smart driver that the Esprit has.

It's a fascinating vehicle, but the more I work on it, the more I come to appreciate how Lotus keeps things simple. I'll never complain about Esprit maintenance again. It's parts may be a pain to get to, but most of them are inexpensive, and most of them are remarkably easy to understand and diagnose. For all the complexity of the Bosch K-Jetronic FI system, it's 2.3 engine is still about 100hp less than the Esprit with its simpler and easier to maintain GM system.

Nice to get a reality check, every now and then.

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