When Colin Chapman famously said “Adding power makes you faster on the straights. Subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere”, he was racing 400 horsepower, 1000lb F1 cars, in 1963. (Similar power-to-weight as the 2013 Arial Atom V8.) In this context his statement can be understood as a strategy for winning through faster cornering. Based on the cars he built, we can also say he was not calling for less power.
The come-back car for Lotus—the Elise/Exige—undoubtedly achieved the main goal of subtracting weight. Yet, like one’s first lower-powered motorcycle, its limits are soon reached, leaving that sense of what remains, what’s lacking. What’s next.
After driving a well supercharged Elise the common refrain is, “That’s how it should come from the factory.” (E.g. the Exige.) I’m here to say they both should have come as early turbocharged Lotuses, such as the Lotus 99T, did: powered by Honda. Not the eager, reliable, yet less robust and extensible Toyota power plant.
A well built naturally aspirated Honda K-series engine will give most of what most should want from their Lotus. Certainly as much or more than the supercharged Toy(ota) engine. And more reliably. To want more than either of these two prime-movers can provide is probably the sign of a problem… of a different kind.
Call it a personal problem, an illness, genius, or plain evil. Call it all the above. I’ll call it destiny. Rather, it called to me. A call known to those with a dis-ease in the marrow of our bones: the knell to be slung out of corners and down the straights. Not just swung around corners, however nimbly.
Those who’ve run an Elise or Exige with the more muscular spate of contemporary performance cars knows that, for all of Lotus’s agility and unequaled cornering ability, straigt-line speed is often its Achilles’ heel (a weakness in spite of overall strength). Supercharged or not. Even after factoring in the heftier weights of Porsches, Corvettes, GTRs, BMWs, or so many super cars, their horsepower often still sets Lotus behind in power-to-weight. The Honda/turbo recipe changes that.
Could it be too much power for such a light-weight chassis? Ask Hennessy. Regardless, what proves too much can be easily curtailed. What’s proved too little has already failed.
Thanks to Innovative Mounts, the K-series Honda-powered Elise or Exige is affordable and feasible. Yet there is no mass market manufacture of turbo “kits” for the K20 Elise. This is the land of hand fabrication. You have to love this stuff. Or it doesn’t get started, never mind done.
Ladies and gentlemen, we have manifold!