Steal or no steal | Mid-engined maestros


Lotus Elise S1, 1998, 61k miles, £16,500

With all of the discuss of the brand new Emira, we felt we needed to begin our mid-mounted showcase with the final actual ground-breaker for Lotus. The automotive that saved the corporate (once more), no much less. The Elise S1. It’s a really completely different type of automotive, after all. The place the Emira is pushing in direction of the grown-up finish of the market and making an attempt to steal gross sales from the likes of Porsche, you needed to be a maverick to accept the no-nonsense Elise.

As we all know, there aren’t any frills right here. In fact not. You couldn’t have frills if you happen to nonetheless wished thrills from 120hp. However Lotus managed loads of the latter after which some, by maintaining the burden down to only 731kg. That’s all of the little Okay-Collection lump needed to push, so 0-60mph was nonetheless a wholesome six-something seconds. But it surely was the Elise’s steadiness that, nicely, tipped the steadiness within the automotive’s favour. Everybody who drove it fell in love with how composed and related it was, helped by its pedigree double wishbones at every nook.

What drew me to this automotive was that it manages to make the Elise look nearly plush. The color combo of wealthy Azure blue with cream leather-based appears luxurious. I imply, let’s not get carried away: there are nonetheless no carpets and billeted window winders, however that’s the pared-backness that’s merely a part of the enjoyment. And the situation of this one appears faultless. The expertise has been enhanced by additions like Nitron suspension and a Okay&N induction package, though don’t panic about that. The unique elements are additionally included if you happen to would reasonably hold it inventory. So it is one of the best of each worlds. And good. 

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Vauxhall VX220 Turbo, 2005, 55k miles, £19,950

Now, you can argue that not solely is the Vauxhall mainly the identical automotive because the Elise, plus it was constructed by the identical folks and it’s even the identical color. Honest level. But it surely’s not the identical, is it. An Elise S1 is simplicity personified. The VX220, with a fats turbo, is for individuals who yearn for the sense purity however need much more push. And that’s precisely what you may get with this automotive.

Satirically, the existence of the Turbo was right down to slowness. The slowness with which the naturally aspirated 2.2-litre VX220 was leaving Vauxhall sellers. So it constructed a surplus of Astra GSi 2.0-litre turbo lumps and re-engineered the VX220 to take them. This added some weight, after all, what with the intercooler, pipes and the blower itself, however 920kg? Even in 2003 that was nonetheless unfeasibly mild. The output was 200hp, which was round 50hp greater than the usual automotive, and 184lb ft. That meant 0-60mph was boshed in underneath 5 seconds. Might the chassis cope? Positive it may, which is the great thing about having a automotive engineered in Hethel.

Vauxhall took the chance to melt the experience and make the automotive extra interesting to the lots when the Turbo got here out. It wasn’t smooth, although. The non-assisted steering was nonetheless direct and stuffed with fizz, and whereas there was understeer as you gently approached the restrict, there was energy oversteer, too. A lot of it, in reality, that Vauxhall famously misplaced six automobiles on the launch. So deal with the VX220 Turbo with respect, aye. However get pleasure from it, too. It’s all about steadiness.

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Fiat X1/9, 1982, 37k miles, £13,495

Haha, that’s stumped you, hasn’t it? You thought a mid-engined record of automobiles for lower than £20,000 had Porsche Boxster nailed on to it with a nuclear powered nail gun. Effectively, no, right here’s the orange curveball. Okay, so a Boxster could also be significantly extra succesful as a efficiency automotive, sound nicer and be much less susceptible to rust, nevertheless it’s a bit…unusual. So, why not go the basic route with a automotive that’ll have some saying “oh look, a Fiat X1/9!” with the overwhelming majority considering “what on Earth is that?”

Admittedly, that’s doing it a disservice as a result of it’s a correctly intelligent automotive from an period the place Italian carmakers hardly ever shied away from a problem. Its inline four-pot engine was designed by Ferrari engine ace Aurelio Lampredi, whereas the splendidly Seventies styling was dealt with by Bertone’s Marcello Gandini. Positive, it solely produced 73hp, nevertheless it’s mild, with most of its mass within the centre, making it extremely agile. 

Better of all, it’s simply as a lot of a cut price now because it was within the early Seventies. The instance we’ve discovered is immaculate, with solely 32,900 miles coated because it was first registered in 1982. Plus, it pulls off the right child Ferrari look with the basic orangey hue of purple with a cream fabric inside. All for £13,495. Beat that. 


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