TLF member Simon Frost (Frosty) shares what buying his Exige Cup 260 means to him and his experiences with the car and the Lotus brand.
NAME: SIMON FROST
LOCATION: RAF CONINGSBY – LINCOLNSHIRE (FREQUENTLY POSTED)
CAR: 2010 EXIGE CUP 260
THE PURCHASE OF A LOTUS EXIGE CUP 260
I am a 26 year old male serving in the Royal Air Force. I have always enjoyed motorsports and cars. I recently fancied a change from my current car and was looking into something a little more performance focused. One such car I was looking into buying was a Caterham 7, to be more precise I was seriously considering the Caterham R500.
In late 2009 a friend organised a day out at Lotus in Hethel, Norfolk for a group of colleagues who all serve in the Royal Air Force. Our visit included a tour around the Classic Team Lotus workshops and cars, a guide through the production line and trim shop, Lotus Design, Lotus Engineering and Lotus Sport. The highlight of the day for me was several laps around the old test track in three different Lotus models and a passenger ride in the Exige cup 260 driven my Martin Donnelly, former Lotus F1 Driver.
It was a terrific day out where we had all been extremely well hosted. This was a very personal experience that I have never witnessed from any other car manufacturer. The tour flooded my mind with interesting sights, sounds and smells. From historic F1 race cars nearly three times my age to beautiful design features on clay and paper I was unknowingly beginning to form a relationship with a majestic British car manufacturer. It was the cars themselves that were making more of an impact on me as once you drive a Lotus you don’t need a salesman to describe the joys of motoring. It is so very noticeable that you are sat in something different to any other sports cars. The skeleton of the car’s inner structure immediately communicates its intent as you roll away. Even small low speed manoeuvres as I guide a 2009 Lotus Elise S out of the track car park feed the surface of the tarmac into my fingertips, lower back and the balls of my feet. Turning left onto the track itself and gathering speed the car’s nose remains pointing down towards the track ahead of me, as if it’s sniffing out the first corner. Speed has gathered so quickly that I was travelling faster that the law allows in a matter of a few seconds. Applying the brakes and the machine around me is reassuringly composed. Everything seems even as I decelerate, turning the steering wheel into the hairpin bend and the car just follows my thoughts as if it’s telepathic. The front corner points to the apex of the corner, kindly marked by a traffic cone, and I develop a huge grin on my face. As we exit the hairpin bend I slowly increase the pressure on my right foot. Martin Donnelly tells me not to be afraid to rev the car, he putts his hand on the gear stick in order to discourage me to change up early, and the engine sings, right up towards nine thousand RPM. The whole affair is tremendous, the roar of the engine note just inches behind your head, coupled with a progressive supercharger siren winding into a scream then as the engine kicks on to the power cam letting in more air and fuel into the cylinders. I glance down as the first of three progressive shift lights illuminate on the dash. Looking back up to the track ahead of me fast approaching I see the first chicane formed by three walls of tyres across the track. It was at this time I become aware that the three shift lights on the dash all flash simultaneously just before I reach the rev limiter. Clutch in and my hand moves the gear lever up into another gear. Changing gears in this car is addictive. It feels so right, as if the clutch, gearbox, engine and my left arm are all one single component. This is precision engineering at its best. The action is smooth like whipped cream, the guides and stops are deliberate and anticipated.
Now that I have had a chance to take in some of the experience of driving my first Lotus Martin Donnelly begins talking me around the track and explains how to get more speed and performance out of the car. Some basic driving tuition was enough to give me the bug. There is so much more that can be drawn out of these cars than the public roads can offer. After a few more laps Martin took me out for a passenger ride in a 2010 model Exige cup 260, the most track focused Exige available. With Martin at the wheel I was astonished at what the car was capable of. By this time it had started to rain and the track’s surface was what I would describe as greasy but despite these unpalatable surface conditions Martin demonstrated a tight, fast and precise lap which he followed with a bit of fun as he described it. This second lap was just as skill filled, I could have sworn that the Irishman seamlessly drifted the car through every single corner whilst still hitting every apex despite accomplishing remarkable angles which had us looking out of the side windows for the majority of the lap.
That was it, by this point in the day I was completely sold. The idea of buying any other sports car was expelled far out of my mind. The sheer performance on the Exige and the demonstration of the Elise was enough to convince me. These were cars with doors, a windscreen, a roof, and even somewhere to put some luggage. I could buy one of these cars and use it everyday. I had the bug, there was nothing else on my mind as we travelled home. My colleagues all day had been bantering me into making enquiries about ordering a new Lotus but truthfully they didn’t even need to try I was convinced that I would make a Lotus my next car.
The next day I drove to the Stratton Motor Company to see Guy Munday. Guy is renowned as one of the best Lotus dealers in the UK. I had spent several hours researching on the internet and I wanted to make the first step towards submitting an order. I imagine to a lot of dealers, I seemed a little young to be buying this sort of car. Guy didn’t show any of these thoughts. Even when I mentioned a desire for a brand new Exige Cup 260 he didn’t even blink. I felt valued from the minute I walked into the showroom. Nice coffee and biscuits talking for well over 90 minutes about great Lotus cars, it was almost as good as the day before at Hethel. It was to my luck that another Norfolk based customer had ordered a Lotus Exige Cup 260 from Guy before me. During another visit to Stratton Motor Company this Exige was waiting to be collected. I was invited to have a closer look around the model and here Guy explained every possible option I could go for. This made it a lot easier to decide which things to change, such as trim, upholstery, and track additions.
Due to my personal and professional circumstances it was nearly a year from my trip to Lotus Hethel that my Exige Cup 260 was built. In fact I understand that due to new emissions laws here in Europe I received the last Exige Cup 260 off of the production line in December 2010.
After returning from working overseas for several months I collected my brand new Lotus in January 2011. I was chuffed to bits. Some hard work from Guy Munday had the car to the specification exactly as I ordered it before going away. It has been a real head turner. Painted in Solar Yellow with the Cup 260 accents revealing various carbon fibre body panels and components it looks completely different to anything else on the roads. Inside I opted to add air conditioning and racing harnesses. The Suedetex trim was finished in yellow stitching and custom embroidery on the lightweight carbon fibre racing seats displaying the Cup 260 badge looks very smart. The panels in the cockpit are matte carbon fibre with some trimmed in the same Suedetex as the seats. This makes the cabin a nice place to be with no cheap plastics present at all. Another option was the removal of the ignition kill switches and fire extinguisher, instead I requested a stereo with iPod/iPhone compatibility with front and rear speakers. Embroidered foot mats complete the cabin and a fitted carpet was fitted to the luggage space after moving the Accusump unit to the side of the compartment allowing for better everyday use. Lastly an intelligent battery maintainer was provided with the car as the little Odyssey Racing battery was very small and should the car be left for a while it would be a good idea to let this little box of wizardry take care of things trouble free, better than a charger it would cycle the battery to preserve live and give optimum performance. I had the car transported to Peterborough to have some clear paint protection film applied to all frontal areas of the car as well as the side sills, and behind the front and rear wheels. This would protect all areas that could be hit by stones and grit flung up from traffic in front or by the Yokohama AO48 semi slick tyres fitted to the Exige.
OWNING A LOTUS EXIGE CUP 260
During the first 1000-1500 miles one is advised to drive the car in a progressive manner for up to that point. This would allow the specialised lubricant to work the engine and drive train components sufficiently before any spirited driving would be done. This is referred to as a run-in period. I was keen to follow this guidance carefully as I understood the theory and wanted to take every measure to ensure the highest upkeep of my new car. The engine was not worked over 4000RPM for the first 500 miles then for every 100 miles after this I lifted this limit by a further 1000RPM until the full range could be used. This left me with at least 300 miles of the full RPM range before the first service. I strictly followed the guidance of no wide open throttle during the entire run-in period as another precaution. After I had completed 1250 miles the car went back to the Long Stratton Motor Company to have fresh oils and filters as well as an all over inspection to make sure everything was as it should be. This first service was included in the sale of the new Lotus.
8000 miles were covered in the first year in varying weather conditions both during the day and at night. I have travelled all of over the UK ranging from London to north of Glasgow and Norwich to Cardiff. The car has spent hours on motorways as well as twisting B roads. Because of the seating position I have never felt uncomfortable during long journeys. Being an agile chap I don’t find it difficult or challenging to get in and out of the car. At 179cm tall I have plenty of headroom in the cockpit and with the wing mirrors correctly positioned I have clear visibility ranging from the rear wheels, up to the rear wing end structures out to the rear quarters as far as the road space allows. The air conditioning keeps the cabin very cool in the summer months. Highly recommended on these Lotus cars as the radiator and twin oil coolers situated at the front of the car coupled with the entire engine, gearbox and superchargers’ intercooler are only inches behind the seats can radiate heat into the middle of the car where you sit. During long journeys where engine speeds are sustained at a lower level the stereo provides adequate entertainment especially was you can take all of your favourite albums with you on your iPod. For the more entertaining blast along A and B roads the tune of the engine complimented with the singing supercharger is a delightful soundtrack. The Schroth Racing 4-point harnesses hold you firmly in the ultra lightweight FIA approved carbon fibre seats.
On average the car’s 9.9 gallon fuel tank has returned 250 miles range, and this average is now rising as advised by Lotus as the engine becomes more efficient up to 10’000miles. On longer motorway cruises the car has achieved 290 miles under normal driving conditions in normal outside lane speeds. This is getting on for 30MPG, in a car that will get from 0-60mph in 4.0 seconds! To get a second year of tax for the Exige is going to cost £245, a lot less than a similar performing V8 sports car. Two new rear tyres for the 17inch wheels will cost £500 fitted. These will be the high performing Yokohama AO48 tyres which the car has been specifically set up to use. The service intervals are at 10’000miles or once a year. All in all I have not had to pour money into my car every month and now it is working out to be cheaper to run than my previous German built sports car.
I have been overjoyed with the purchasing and ownership experiences I have had to date with this amazing little car. It has been a pleasure to meet other Lotus owners and the people who work at the factory at Hethel and the dealership and service department at Stratton Motor Company. I look forward to many years of Lotus motoring to come.
As a serving member of the Armed Forces, Frosty gets a complimentary upgrade to ‘Full Forum Member’ on TLF entitling him to a raft of discounts on parts, servicing and insurance. If you’re in a similar position, please contact us and we’ll sort you out with a free upgrade. You’ll also notice the car and it’s owner are featured on the Group Lotus website, if you’d like to feature yourself or have your story published, again contact us.
Many thanks Simon for the detailed background to your introduction to Lotus ownership and may we wish you many happy years motoring in such a stunning car!