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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
So I figure its time to unveil what I've been tinkering with lately since its made it to its first local car show.

Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Land vehicle


Can you guess what it is? In the early 80s, Colin Chapman negotiated a deal with Toyota to do consulting engineering work on the Toyota Celica Supra in exchange for access to the Toyota Parts bin which enabled Toyota to give the Supra independent rear suspension and Lotus to redesign their Eclat around a driveline and other parts from the Supra, thus reducing the price by over £1K. The new design needed a new name and unaware of the coming spreadsheet wars, every model starting with the letter E, and likely following Toyota's lead in naming their halo car Supra, it became the Lotus Excel.

This is a 1986 Lotus Excel SE, the SE denoting the highest trim level with a high compression version of the Lotus 912 engine at 2.2L and 185hp in stock form. As you'll note, this little British beast is left-hand drive. Lotus built around 300 total Excel's per year from 1982 to 1992. For 1986 model year, there were 244 built for the domestic market in right-hand drive and only 50 built for the European market in left-hand drive. They were never imported to the United States when new. This one was imported from Switzerland.

Wheel Tire Car Land vehicle Vehicle


It was a lot of fun at a local European car meet as aside from a couple of British Expats, nobody had ever seen one. Check out the taillights. Esprit just turned upside down! o_O If you are from the UK, you might recognize what other manufacturer's parts bin Lotus robbed. Those of you with an 82 or 83 Supra will recognize the door handles.

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Here it is at home with its Japanese "cousin".

Wheel Tire Car Vehicle Land vehicle


Automotive parking light Car Vehicle Motor vehicle Vehicle registration plate


From the back, you can begin to see though that the Lotus is actually a much, much smaller car than the Supra, shorter wheelbase but also shorter height and a little narrower. I must be getting old because its quite a feat to get in and out of.

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They say never take a picture after you wash a car. That's surface tension holding water on the grate of the cowl. I shoulda dried that off. Oh, well. Yes, its missing its timing belt cover. That's one of those "holy grail" parts as apparently its unique to the A/C equipped cars (there's a compressor under the alternator).

This is the Lotus 912 high compression 2.2L engine. There's a ream of paperwork, much of it in German, detailing maintenance back to the early 90s and modifications along with before and after dyno sheets indicating 177 and 204 pferdestarke which I guess would be 201hp. Its quick but I think it needs a clutch. From the flywheel back, all the way to the lug nuts is Toyota Supra. Another Toyota parts bin item I believe is that green vacuum switching valve in the center of the pic, looks familiar. It's going to be fun over the coming year or so discovering what all parts came from the Supra or Toyota.

I've known about these for years, but never imagined that I'd ever get a chance to even see one, let alone own one. After finishing my brother's Corvette, I had room in the shop and started looking for any the next few cars on my wish list and when this popped up in Saint Louis this spring, I made arrangements to go see it and ultimately was able to make a deal. The owner had bought it in Switzerland in 2007, stored it there, then imported it to the US in 2011 soon as it was eligible (I got all the paperwork).

It has about 22,000 kilometers on it, but it had sat for a lot of years. I had to completely rebuild one of the cooling fan motors as the Otter switch directly above had leaked on it and corroded the internals. The Otter switch itself needed to be changed to a lower temperature for Texas. And the engine leaked quite a bit of oil and spent several weekends cleaning the engine bay. It still leaking. I bought a gasket set and will reseal it this winter, but for now, I'm enjoying it. Also will try to get the A/C going again next spring. Cosmetically I had to replace the drivers door rub strip, polish the paint (had lots of little scratches in it like maybe they'd stored boxes on top of the car cover or something) and shampoo the carpet. So that (along with sorting out mouse damage on my old Jaguar sedan) has been my summer and it finally went to its first car show in September.
 

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I have a steering wheel from one of those on my car. Apparently the whole steering system from the inner tie rods to the wheel clockspring is the same. Just different outer tie rods, knuckles, and the steering wheel.
 

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What is the handling like compared to the Mk II? Being smaller and lighter (and a Lotus), I would imagine that the handling is somewhat tighter.

VERY interesting car.

Well done!

1982-1992 Lotus Excel

We need to see more suspension and interior pics too.

Dale
 

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Awesome find! That rear spoiler looks like it was borrowed from a Fox-body Mustang, but I don't recall any stock ones that looked quite like that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
What is the handling like compared to the Mk II? Being smaller and lighter (and a Lotus), I would imagine that the handling is somewhat tighter.
The steering seems to be very precise, tiny inputs making very swift changes of direction and lots of feedback. However, I haven't really had a chance to toss it around yet. From the documentation, it looks like that the second owner in Switzerland must have participated in some kind of motorsport in the 90s and early 2000s, probably autocross. Myself, I'm not really wealthy enough to be in this hobby in the first place so I need to be careful with it, at least for a while until I know what parts are readily available, whats not and that everything I can't replace is in good shape.

We need to see more suspension and interior pics too.
I had in mind that as I do maintenance and refurb work over time, to take pictures of the Lotus parts and Supra parts in place, and from the same angles as much as possible. When I took the wheels off to clean them, I immediately recognized Supra brake calipers but I was in a hurry to finish my day's tasks and didn't stop to take a picture. I figured I'd have plenty more chances.
 

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Very cool car, Phil! Any pics of the interior and are there are any shared pieces with the Supra? What other cars do you have hiding at your house :) ? I see the tail end of a Jaguar in your picture. Looks to be a mid to late 90s XJ? Looking closer at your post you mentioned it toward the end.
 

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That motor is a screamer! Many years ago a customer I visited semi regularly had one. He would always take me to lunch in it although I never drove it myself. It was obvious he just loved driving it any chance he had. Very quick steering and quite tossable. I can't imagine that motor in a Supra unless it had about an 8 speed tranny!
 
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