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Looking to buy an Elise - good decision?

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Hi Chaps, 

Just joined the forum as i'm after getting an Elise S1 or S2. I am currently an MX5 Mk3 owner (amazing car) and its time to upgrade. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of buying such a good car everything I drive now just isn't good enough.

I have a lot of cars I would love to buy but just aren't practical enough, for example, my dad owns a TVR - great car but bits of trim like to fall off I also have a friend who owns a Westfield - again, great car but with UK weather not ideal.

I was chatting to a guy from the Lotus owners club last weekend at Tatton park who had a burgundy S2 - lovely car, I sat in it and had a good look around it and i'm pretty sure its the car I need next.

Just a some questions really:
1. as far as laving them outside are they ok? - do they leak? - do particular models leak more than others?
2. are the K-series engines any good? - they had head gasket issues on the MG-TF, do they have problems on the early Elises? - if they do have problems is it a big job to replace? - or should I go for the Toyota?
3. are the S2s better quality then the S1s?
4. if I go to look at one is there anything specific to keep an eye out for?

Im sorry if this type of question has been asked before but I keep getting different answers from different people some great reviews some terrible. - I'm a bit confused!

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Welcome to TLF!

I had an MX5 NB (RS) which was a terrific little track car. Laura has an NC 2.0 Sport and although a little gangly on the higher suspension is a fun car. I've got 2 Elise's now (one is for sale, see my sig!) and it's a different league in terms of handling on track. Very different league.

In answer to your questions, some leak, some don't but adjust the windows and it should be fine. I have an Elemental Shower Cap from @Hangar 111 and that's this problem eliminated and to be fair with it on, I very rarely put the roof on, it does it's job very welll. 

K-series suits the car very well. The 111s is a little more powerful and with the Close Ration 'box pulls nicely through the gears. HGF can happen, it's perhaps £500 to get it fixed or you can buy an MGF and use the VVC engine from that and have a spare car minus the engine for that sort of cash! My 118bhp Elise is on the original HG after 72,000 miles, the 111s has had a replacement but it's the multi-layer one so I should be fine.

S2 is a more refined car, but is more prone to understeer and is a little heavier. Choice is down to your taste at the end of the day but I prefer the S1. 

When you look at the cars, have a very good look at the wishbone mounting points on the chassis. They're not delicate but can deform in an accident, and a new chassis isn't something you want to do. Also look under the car and check there's no damage to the chassis visible. Check for corrosion under the floor mats but again it's not a big deal as that area is non-structural so some ACF-50 will deal with this or they can be repaired with replacement plates. The cars often look quite corroded on the suspension but that's the UK for you, it's not the end of the world and some POR15 or powder coating can smarten this up. 

They're amazing on petrol, cheap to service, cheap to insure and a real hoot to drive. I did 6-7 sessions around Goodwood yesterday in my 111s and it was epic, great fun :D

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Ive never owned an Elise....but know many who have.......

I have driven several both on road and on track.....and including the Exige.......

Im sure you will be blown away with the handling......power to weight......acceleration......

look forward to hearing more about your research and experiences




The Faster You Drive...The Slower You Age

(Albert Einstein  14 March 1879 - 18 April 1955)


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The elise is a great drivers car. Go for a regularly driven and well maintained example with a few choice upgrades such as a remote stat, and stainless 421 manifold, a ported and polished head is a good addition to a standard s1 too.

Bibs has said most of it already. 

We did keep ours outside for a few years and its fine leak wise with an elemental or similar cover. It did suffer with cold weather which can cause the paint to bubble. 

There is a good buyers guide around try a search. 

For me the s1 is the purer car, but its a personal choice.  

Warning a lotus is adictive, and you may find yourself doing something daft like buying an esprit as well....

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I got my 2004 S2 back in March, my first Lotus and I have to say I just love it, to me the experience in not like any other car.

The head gaskets can and do fail on the Rover engine, I found that mine had failed soon after I got it but with care and research I was able to replace it myself, in fact if you are happy to do your own repairs I would say they are a great car to work on and refreshing that you don't need a bank of computers to do simple repairs.  I have no experience of the S1 so can't say other than I have read that the quality of the S2 is a better, I would say that mine seem well made, I have an aerospace background so have a good understanding of aluminium structures.

The other big positive is that when you get one, these forums really enhance the experience and make you feel part of a great club, there is so much help and advice available is fantastic.

As for Toyota or Rover, I can't help thinking that the Toyota would be a better built engine (just my gut feeling) but I drove a friends Toyota 2005 111R at the weekend and say that for my style of driving (not too hard) the Rover engine on mine seemed more relaxed and less rev hungry.

As to what to look for I just went through as much as I could, it is worth looking on the various forums for people asking about various failures, this, then would draw up your list of things to check.

Like I say I have only had mine since March and it was off the road for a few weeks when I did the head gasket, but I simply can't go for a drive without smiling ha ha


Good luck with your search - Darren 

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Many thanks for the replies chaps! 

its a hard decision between the S1 and S2 I think! - I love the back of the S1 but i love the front of the S2 - I need to get myself a cut 'n' shut! ;) 

I think you have made my decision for me! - I need an Elise in my life! Im just not sure what to get, currently I think I am leaning towards the 111r or the 111s
If anybody knows of any for sale please let me know! :) 


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I have just parted with an S2 Elise which I had for nearly 14 years - thats how much I loved it.  Only the chance of getting into an Evora has persuaded me to part with it.

Mine was an early S2 car - had 24,000 miles on it and I had no head gasket issues but it is one of those things you should maybe expect from the K series.

Mine didn't leak at all - I was surprised by how good the roof was, even in torrential rain.

Drive both the S1 and S2 and see what yoi think - the S2 looks swung it for me. 

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On ‎07‎/‎06‎/‎2016 at 22:28, clivef38 said:

I had one Lotus for some fun now i have two.:ph34r:

this makes you twice as much fun.......:thumbsup:

The Faster You Drive...The Slower You Age

(Albert Einstein  14 March 1879 - 18 April 1955)


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I got an 99 s1 with 98k miles on the clock

never had a head gasket failure 

92k of those miles were in its first 5 years of use. It was used as a daily driver on a long commute . Service record also good .

maybe that has something todo with the head gasket holding up. Well used and well serviced ? 


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