One of my favourite projects I’ve ever done was the rebuild of my Lotus Exige. I had a clear idea of what I wanted the finished outcome to look like and so the starting point was collecting the parts that would make it possible. The two big parts of this were the new front and rear clams which may look the same as before to many, but are actually the facelift, giving the car a fresh new look.
One of the challenges of this project was taking the car apart in my single garage at home. I wanted to do as much of the work on the car myself, to learn as I go, and also to keep costs vaguely sensible!
It actually turned out to not be too challenging to take the car apart, there were no stuck bolts or any issues like that. The old rear clam was off, and ready to be picked up as I had already sold it.
One of the challenges with taking the clam off was getting all the electrics through a very small hole. I wish Lotus had just used one plug instead!
I love seeing the car apart, it gives you such an appreciation for everything going on with it.
Next up was the front clam removal. The garage was starting to get quite full at this stage with parts everywhere. This stage gave me an opportunity to work out what would be needed for the front facelift clam, and also was the moment that I realised that I was going to need to order a lot of new parts to make it fit!
At this stage, I started packaging lots of parts up, in bubble wrap, that wouldn’t be needed until reassembly.
I had to put the wheels back on and roll it out for a look with the clams off.
Onto the start of making some custom parts. This was the first design of the new wing uprights, bolted into the subframe to test the dimensions of where they would fit relative to the rear clam and boot lid. This worked quite well as I found a couple of issues that were resolved for when the CNC machine was started and they were made out of aluminium.
The car is loaded and taken to the bodyshop. I chose KSD Autobody, located in Kent, as Ken was up for bringing my silly ideas to life and is an incredibly talented painter, which you will see later on in this blog.
More parts arriving… This is the new fully carbon front splitter from Komotec. It benefits from proper CFD designed aerodynamic features, like the diffuser tunnels into the front wheel well and the large fins along the side to control the flow of air down the side of the car.
A rarely seen view of the bottom of the splitter before I scraped it on speed bumps…
The wing uprights were making good progress at this stage, and the “scallop” design of the cutout looked even better than I ever could have hoped for.
The first test fit on the car and I started to realise how ridiculous the wing was going to look. The wing met my criteria perfectly though, I wanted to retain the hinged boot/engine lid, but also wanted a chassis mounted wing, and also a top mounted wing. This wing provided all of these, while also putting the wing in the right position to optimise the CFD figures.
Ken set to work on the prep of the clams, this was a pretty huge job in reality, with lots of cutting, filling, bonding and making perfect. Here you can see him cutting the holes for the new carbon fibre front louvres, which I had had made especially for my car.
These were bonded into place from behind.
They were then blended in perfectly.
This was what I called the ugly stage. Ken expertly reshaped some elements of the front clam, extending some body lines for added aggression, and also filled the badge in.
The first coat of primer went on, then more sanding and smoothing to make sure everything is perfect. No corners were cut in the process and Ken did an incredible job.
Another round of primer, then it was the exciting stage…
Time to mix up the colour! It was a big secret at this stage what colour the car would go which was quite exciting. We mixed up a few varieties of purple as I wanted my own unique shade, but also wanted the colour to be less blue when it’s not sunny. We picked the colour on the left as it felt like a nice balance.
Seeing the purple go on the car was an amazing feeling, it all started to feel real that the car would actually be purple! The funny thing was that the colour phase doesn’t really show the pearl in the paint as it goes matte quite quickly, so I started to be a little nervous.
At this stage, the louvres were just masked loosely, exposing the carbon. These would later be tinted.
When the first round of clear lacquer went on, the colour really came to life, giving the colour the true contrast.
Here you can see a test panel for testing tint levels. It is actually quite hard to decide how much to do!
Back into the booth another day and there were more parts being painted… This is the rear wing getting a few coats of clear lacquer.
The front clam was flattened ready for the next stages.
In the booth, the carbon fibre A-panel from Komotec was painted, exposing some carbon, but also adding a very subtle tint next to it.
The tint goes down on the louvres, no going back!
On the middle of the front clam, Ken had flatted where the old Lotus badge used to go and instead was going to airbrush on the new Lotus logo. The yellow chosen for this was liquid yellow, the old colour of the car, and the accent colour I would use throughout the car.
the front clam is lacquered, bringing the tint to life for the first time!
The A-panel also got lacquered, you can see the exposed carbon and also the tint next to it.
I really love how the logo came out!
Onto the rear clam, and when it went into the booth, the first stage was actually to paint the Lotus text in yellow, then the rest would be built up over the top.
The black rear section was then painted over the top of the yellow, allowing us to later remove the Lotus mask and reveal the yellow text.
Next Ken masked the rear panel, and the rest of the clam was ready to go purple.
Here you can see the finished colour scheme. Ken then lacquered the whole clam, baked it all, then masked it up to do just the rear panel (the black bit) with satin lacquer.
The sills and doors were also painted. Ken was quite clever and suggested using raptor liner for the insides of the arches and also the underside of the sills to reduce stone chips.
It was at this stage that the car was ready to come home. The clams were loosely placed onto the car, and it was transported home.
I immediately started piecing the car back together, wanting a first glimpse of how it would look. I would roll the car out of the garage occasionally, hoping no one would see or take a photo as the colour was still a secret!
More parts added here, the headlights, grills, spoiler and new HRE wheels!
The interior became a bit of a mess, rewiring certain bits…
I was adding new CORE semi-active dampers at the same time. These are amazing dampers which control the damping depending on your inputs. They also have a touch screen where you can change the settings and make the car much smoother with the press of a button, or firm it up for track use!
On the front end, I wanted to add some LED lights, partly because the headlights are awful on an Exige, and partly because I just thought it would look cool. I wanted them to look like they were suppose to be there, so I asked a friend of mine to design some mounts which would hold them in place. He absolutely smashed it, creating these mounts which bond into the grill and hold the Lazerlamps in place.
The interior was starting to come together, I had a few extra bits trimmed in alcantara, and Ken painted any of the yellow bits in purple, and any exposed carbon with a satin clear lacquer which I think looks a lot more premium.
Back at Kens and it was time for some of the most show stopping parts of the cars, the big bits of tinted carbon. First of all, they were prepped, to give the paint a good surface to stick to. When you paint tinted carbon, you can’t use a primer, so this stage is really important.
The engine lid was also prepped, and the holes for the previous wing (which was mounted to it) were removed.
First stages of colour were added. There were certain areas I wanted to have full coverage, then Ken would blend in from there.
Here you can see how the tints come alive. The aim was to make them so you couldn’t see any carbon from a distance, and when you got closer, it was revealed.
I got a little carried away with the tints at this stage… Here are the carbon deflectors for the front clam.
The engine intake was carbon, so I thought while we were at it…
The brake callipers were also changed from black to yellow. Nothing is that simple though, I wanted the new Lotus font, and the callipers had the old font embossed. I therefore got someone to machine the face of the calliper to be flat, then got Ken to paint the new logo on.
To end, here is my favourite part of the car, the front clam, with an exposed carbon edge, then tinted and faded tinted carbon.
That’s it with the build blog, to see the finished car, check out this blog here.