The Lotus Elise is widely regarded as one of the best handling, most rewarding cars in existence. It combines reduced weight with sufficient horsepower along with a rigid chassis to create a car that handles more like a go-kart than a regular passenger vehicle.
Using this race-focused machine, tuning choices predictably abundant, allowing the chassis to get further exploited. We’re always able to find a person who got carried away and tackled a project of unfathomable proportions, however. And in this instance, that man is Ken McNeill.
Ken enjoyed Sunday drives and occasional car shows, since the proud owner of a ’95 Porsche 911 Cabriolet. I went to a show where performance driving instructor from Brainerd International Raceway had a display. I discovered these werewith the owner around 17 and 18 SSR wheels
We’ve all gone to track events, and spectating can be frustrating because it encourages the urge to participate. So Ken chose to use his marketing skills to film promotional videos for the Porsche Club at BIR. Once they saw the videos, the school owner explained I could drive one of his spec racers on the track, he recalled. I did a 25min session and the experience was phenomenal. I was hooked! Two weeks later, my Porsche was for sale.
And that’s where our story begins. Ken found a ’99 Lotus Elise Sport 190 on eBay and negotiated an even trade for his 911. I started tracking the Lotus Elise in the summer of ’09, and since I had a fantastic relationship with all the BIR guys, my track time was free! Now I’m a driving instructor, too. It’s funny how things workout, he laughed. But Ken’s fun would stop abruptly.
I was flying down the straight at Road America if the stock Rover engine blew, he remembered. While potent, the British engine was expensive to repair and the availability of easy Honda swaps persuaded Ken to present his Lotus a new heart.
He got a new Honda K24A2 2.4-liter four-cylinder motor from the ’04 Acura TSX. It was recognized for high torque at relatively low revs, which was perfect forsteering wheelthe inner with carbon Tillett seats, custom console and suede trim
The stock motor produced a modest 200hp and 171 lb-ft, which was unremarkable but bear in mind the Elise only weighed about 1700 lb. Power to weight is everything, Ken reminded us.
The motor wouldn’t retain its factory specs; he wanted it to keep reliable but have more power. So, he tore it down and sent the crank, head and block to Endyn Racing in Fort Worth, TX.
Ken wanted the satisfaction of assembling the new Lotus engine himself, without the worry of tolerances and clearances, so Endyn would pre-fit all the parts for him. The balanced rotating assembly, 12.5: 1 Endyn Roller-Wave pistons and custom Crower Rods Maxi-Light billet rods sealed the sale.
The cylinder head was CNC-ported and given upgraded internals in addition to stage 2 Endyn camshafts to finish it internally. While a bigger intake throttle and manifoldmotivated to buy and make his Elise
The engine was prepared with meticulous attention to detail in Ken’s garage, using only the best parts available. It’s safe to say the K24 will most likely never blow and yet, once nestled behind the seats, was dyno-tuned to 264whp, as a result.
Ken would also add a Honda six-speed manual trans and custom axles to ensure there is no weak link in the Lotus drivetrain.
With its extra power, McNeill wanted to increase its footprint from the factory 195/50 and 225/45 tire sizes. He decided to swap the dinky stock wheels to SSR SP1 three-piece, sized 17×8.5 front and a massive 18×11 rear. These will be fitted with a lot more substantial 225/40 and 285/30 Hoosier tires, respectively. But adding an extra 2.5 of tire to every single corner could be impossible without having a widebody conversion. As long as you’re a smart, you can discover almost anything on the internet, Ken assured us. Along with napkin sketches evolving both in detail and style, Ken settled on the look for his Elise GT. It would be wider, more aerodynamic and unlike any other Elise. Everybody said I was crazy to cut-up and ruin the car, but somebody had to get it done!greater than 1000 hours over 18 months to complete the custom fiberglass bodywork. In that time, he enlisted the help of Chris Randall at Hoffman’s Motorsport, a UK-based Lotus race shop, who supplied custom-valved dampers and a matched set of springs specifically for his Elise GT.
He also took time to uprate the braking system, retaining the factory calipers but fitting drilled and slotted rotors on lightweight aluminum bells with Pagid RS-14 pads.
The last step was the interior. The belts, fire and seats suppression systems I had were only beneficial to about five-years before having to be replaced, he explained. Therefore I decided to redo the interior instead, creating a greater portion of a supercar cockpit, rather than theto fit the little Lotus was extremely difficult but the FIA-homologated, carbon fiber/GRP B6F seat from Tillett Racing Seats in England were designed specifically for cars with narrow cockpits. So Ken purchased a pair and place his newfound fiberglass fabrication skills to use creating a new center console. It was actually wrapped in black suede, along with the seat cushions, dashboard, instrument binnacle, steering column and door cards.
I’ve only driven the car on-track four or five times because it was completed, but it’s incredible! Ken proclaimed. The degree of grip is mind-blowing.