Those who know me will know that when I start a project I put my absolute all into it. My Lotus is probably the best demonstration of this. I have written about my Exige previously here, this new post is the continuation of the project and, hopefully, the near completion.
When you have a project car, I think you need to identify what you don’t like about the car, then find a solution which solves these problems. An Exige is first and foremost about the driving experience, and as I’ve stated previously, there’s nothing wrong with the driving experience of a standard Exige V6. In the previous blog entry, I felt that the experience could be enhanced though with the addition of the power, then upgrading the brakes and suspension to Nitron 1 way dampers.
I loved the car with these changes, but there were a few more mechanical things which I fancied changing. The first change was to sell my Nitron 1 way dampers and buy Nitron 3 way dampers instead. The reason for this was that the 3 way dampers have more control and offer a much more refined ride which means you can carry more speed down a road without the fear that a bump could throw you off.
I then added a 60l Pro Alloy fuel tank, replacing the 38l tank which came as standard which had a quite laughable range. Jim, who works at my local Shell, has noticed I don’t visit quite as often now.
A lot of people are surprised by this, but no Exige comes with an Limited Slip Differential. In fairness to Lotus, the traction control means most owners will never even realise, but as I’m sure some of you know, I rather like driving with traction control off, so the addition of a Quaiffe LSD was very welcome. My reason for going for Quaiffe was that they do an Automatic Torque Biasing LSD, which means that it’s smooth in normal driving and doesn’t need any maintenance. I don’t race the car, so I don’t feel that a plated diff would have been worth the extra money and maintenance for me.
An added benefit of adding an LSD is that the car will now DRIFT!
So with the mechanical bits of the car all addressed, it was time to start the next part of the project which has been very rewarding. This part of the project didn’t cost huge amounts of money, but it did take a huge amount of time.
I’d never been happy with the horrible plastic clad interior. There are a few nice bits, like the door cards and the gear shift surround, but the rest of it didn’t make the car feel very special. So I had to address every part of what I didn’t like and come up with a solution. Here is the starting point, I’ll then go through all the “problems” and explain how I “fixed” them.
The starting point was the idea to get rid of the silver visible inside the car, and the solution to this was a nice solution for a few reasons. I decided to fully carpet the interior, and this allowed me the opportunity to add a bit of sound proofing while I was at it. I know it’s sacrilege to add weight in an Exige, but overall the weight is down, and due to a little hearing damage, a bit of sound proofing is a good idea I think.
For the steering wheel, I decided to keep the factory steering wheel as I like the OEM look of it, but get it painted black, then get it re trimmed in alcantara with a yellow line in the top which ties into the back and yellow theme in the car. For the gear knob, handbrake and footrest they were anodised in black, then I added yellow paint to the script on the gear knob so you can clearly see them.
My approach was that I wanted every single detail to be perfect, so for the heater controls I addressed a fundamental flaw that always used to annoy me, and it had quite a simple solution. The heater controls had a very small dot to signify the direction they’re pointing in, and it wasn’t even illuminated. At night it was pure guess work which direction they were pointing, so a friend kindly machined the side edges off them, which meant you could feel which direction they’re pointing. To match the no silver theme, I then got them painted black. The reason I got them painted instead of anodised is that it meant that the edges were a bit more rounded and wouldn’t show any filing marks. The surround was then painted in liquid yellow to match the exterior of the car.
Next up was the air vents. Oh, the air vents… This part of the project took me enough time that my girlfriend nearly screamed whenever I mentioned the air vents. Having said that, I feel it was worth it!
I always felt that the air vents from Lotus looked awful, more like something you’d get in a 1990 Fiat Punto, then in a lovely sports car. I decided to find a new air vent to replace them and set my heart on Mercedes A-Class air vents. I ordered one off eBay, then set about working out if it would work. What was immediately obvious was that the A-Class vent was quite a lot larger than the Lotus one, which meant cutting would be required.
I took some brave pills and then started cutting up the vent. it was still too big, so then I had to cut the dash. Eventually I managed to make it fit in a place which worked, although the vents stuck out about 7mm from the dash. The only solution to this which kept the full functionality of the air vents was to extend the dash to meet the vents, so I added some car body filler and attempted to mould it to shape. The vents were working and there were no gaps, but my work wasn’t the neatest and I decided it was time to get the professionals to finish it!
D:Class Trimming were called in! I couldn’t be happier with the job they did, they smoothed all the filler perfectly, then trimmed the whole dash in Alcantara with beautiful yellow stitching.
Following on from the air vent mission, I then added some carbon sills, a carbon airbag cover, and carbon switch panel. I didn’t want to go too mad with carbon, but it seemed the nicest solution, and I didn’t want to have everything in alcantara.
An unplanned purchase while the car was all in pieces was a really nice bonus. I added a digital dashboard from Garw.co. I really love this, it really makes the car feel a lot more premium and up to date!
Here you can see the full (I think) list of everything which was changed:
With everything addressed, I decided that a set of the new Tillett Carbon Fibre B6 Screamer seats, with quilted stitching on the pads would be the perfect finishing touch.
That’s the interior done for this year. I plan on doing a few small finishing touches next winter but for now I’m very happy indeed.
So what’s next?
The first photo of this blog gave it away a little, but I decided I wanted a bit more of a race car look. Everything is reversible on this which is nice as it means I can switch back to the car looking stock if I want to, but I thought it would be fun to have a bit of a new look for Summer. The first stage of this was adding a Lotus Cup R front splitter. I then added some side skirts too, which have the added bonus of protecting the side of the car from stones flying up which is nice!
Of course, with an increase in front downforce, you need to balance it at the rear of the car. This means a larger rear wing was needed. I bought a wing second hand, but it needed a refurb and I have high standards, so I ordered a new wing from DJ Racecars instead, with the intention of refurbishing the old wing later this year to then sell. You may also notice that I replaced the engine lid window with a louvred carbon composite panel which should help cooling a little, which is useful as the car will now be living in Marbella!
On the note of Marbella, here are some photos of the finished car looking out to see at the top of the mountain overlooking Estepona in Spain! A beautiful area of the world with some brilliant driving roads. I can’t wait to take more photos there over the next few months of summer.
Thank you for reading about my project, it’s now nearing the completion stage of the modifications which means my focus is now just on enjoying it and driving it!