Exiges Photo Shoot


Just thought I’d leave this here. To the best of my knowledge this is the first time anybody has done a proper shoot with all three generations of Exige. The words are for magazine publication in the States - I hope they make sense in the context of a forum post. If not, just ignore them and look at the pictures from Martyn.


‘Discrete’ is one word rarely applied to the Lotus Exige. It becomes a laughable notion when you gather three of them – plus a brand-new Bentley Continental GT and photographer Martyn’s lurid green ‘Elige’ – in one of the less salubrious corners of Leeds for a photo shoot. The results seemed to be worth the jeopardy though as an apparently unremarkable underpass became the stage for what we understand is the first purposeful photo shoot of all three generations of this iconic car in the UK – and probably the world.

The catalyst for this gathering of bewinged racers was the arrival of local dealership JCT600’s new Exige S demonstrator; in glistening pearlescent white. Being blessed with a laser blue S1 Exige myself, all we needed was a red S2 and we had the set – in patriotic livery. Skipton resident and enthusiastic owner Andy Gates generously brought over his stunning ardent red 2005 S2 Exige and so the stage was set for a freezing cold evening of standing around hoping none of the locals decided to relieve us of our precious metal.

The original Exige, now known as the S1, was derived directly from Lotus’s own race car. The Sport Elise had its own domestic racing championship in the early part of the last decade. The racer donated its dramatic Kamm-tailed bodywork and lumpy K-series engine (which had previously seen service in the manic 340R) to a limited run of road cars produced between 2000 and 2001. With UK road registered numbers now dwindling, it seems hard to believe that Lotus actually struggled to shift the Exige in period.

According to its own figures, Lotus produced 604 S1 Exiges and they’re now considered something of a commodity. Rising values are not dissuading owners from using their cars, though, and the Exige is a regular sight at track days and events across the country. It’s a compelling car, which seems only to become more beguiling with time. As mainstream cars seem ever to remove the driver from the driving process, the Exige hardwires you in – it’s like intravenous motoring.

The S1 is not an easy car to live with and it would take a masochistic temperament to use one on a daily basis. The drive train is race car raw with hacking, lumpy low-rev hostility and shrieking violence higher up the rev range. It gets mighty hot in the cabin and on a committed drive you emerge drenched in sweat from the physicality of it all. Subsequent Exiges have been faster, but none has been more intense.

By comparison, Andy Gates’ gorgeous S2 Exige seems civility personified – though compared to just about anything else on the road it’s still as raw as an open wound. The S2 Exige entered production only three years after S1 Production ceased, yet the car seems from a different age. Though now motivated by a serial production Toyota engine, rather than the VHPD Rover unit in the S1, any thoughts that the Exige might have calmed down prove unfounded.

The Toyota 2ZZ-GE may only displace 1.8l but it revs to a giddy 8,500rpm, higher even than the VHPD. With a distinct cam change ‘kick’ at 6,200rpm it creates a usefully schizophrenic character which thrives on hard driving. The moment the engine hits the high-lift cam the induction note hardens and acceleration changes from brisk to rapid. It’s seriously addictive.

Andy has owned his car for three years. Finished in ardent red, he added longitudinal stripes to break up the colour. With black wheels, splitter and diffuser it carries itself with the usual Exige swagger. Andy has been remarkably restrained with the modifications to his car, though a sports exhaust should add to the drama plenty when installed.

The S2 became an instant hit for Lotus. Combining plenty of the visual drama of the S1 but asking for far less commitment from owners, it has gone on to sales success. Successive models have added superchargers offering greater power, bigger brakes and bodywork revisions. The original, naturally aspirated version still hits the spot perfectly though. This model helped opened the door to new generations of Lotus owners with game-changing performance on and off track, combined with remarkable build and reliability. Oh, and beating a helicopter gunship on TV’s Top Gear did it no harm either.

By comparison, the latest V6 Exige S looks an entirely different car. It’s longer and broader with a thicker-set stance which offers greater presence than its forbears. If ever there is a topic to arouse widespread debate in Lotus circles, it is weight – mostly the accusation of too much of it. The new Exige S breaks the sacred 1,000kg barrier for the first time. Perhaps even worse for Exige die-hards, the new car now dispenses with that crowning bastion of Exige-ness – the roof scoop. While the S1 needed all the cool air it could get to prevent untimely detonation and later S2s needed it to feed to hungry intercoolers, the latest S3 Exige didn’t require one so none was fitted. The horror…

Putting aside these preconceptions, take the new Exige S in isolation and it is an amazing achievement from a small company. The drive train is suddenly more characterful than it ever was in the Evora S, with agitated pops and gurgles on the over-run. That engine is simply mighty, with phenomenal acceleration in any gear at any speed. It delivers you deep into licence-losing territory with terrifying ease. That the chassis is the equal of the engine is nothing short of miraculous. It smoothes out bumps, ridges and crests in a way which must have Rolls Royce engineers scratching their heads. As a driving experience it’s hard to think of anything else short of a Ferrari 458 which could touch it.

Delivery issues have been well publicised online and probably don’t warrant discussion here. Suffice it to say that the works are selling cars as fast as they can produce them; the problem is they’re struggling to produce them fast enough. Still, if the testimonials from owners are as positive as the road tests then this promises to be a massive success for Lotus – and it deserves to be.

Back at our photo shoot, photographer Martyn displays endless patience in placing the cars millimetre-perfectly. He seems to spend as much time lying on the floor as he does standing up. He uses a technique called ‘light painting’ which seems to involve long exposures and an LED torch. It’s all deeply impressive stuff, though the female members of our party rather prudently take up residence in the Bentley; replete as it is with heated massage seats. I wish I’d thought of that. My toes are stinging from the cold.

The results of the shoot are spectacular and worth braving the freezing temperatures and jeopardy for. Whatever your sporting automotive preference, there is now an Exige for you, and you can guarantee nothing else will match it for dramatic, head-turning looks and ultimate dynamic potency.

My thanks to JCT600 Lotus, martynlewisphotography.com and Andy Gates for their time and effort in making the shoot happen.

Fab :thumbup:

I like the blue one… :smiley:

Thought you might say that, Mike! Will you be down at Donington on Saturday? #447 should be putting in an appearance (me too!).

Brilliant summing up of all three cars, Andy. And the pics are magnificent. thanks for sharing it with us. If the original article is destined for a US mag, I’d clarify the references to Leeds!
You know the Americans and their understanding of geography ( and anything else outside their shores, for that matter!)

Great pics and words Andy, you’re quite the wordsmith!

I particularly enjoyed.

    • the Exige hardwires you in – it’s like intravenous motoring
  • hacking, lumpy low-rev hostility and shrieking violence higher up the rev range : (sounds like someone I work with :laughing:)
  • compared to just about anything else on the road it’s still as raw as an open wound : genius :smiley:

“but asking for far less commitment from owners”

unless you start modifying them then you ought to be ‘committed’ as its the start of a whole host of pain, particularly in the wallet.
Sorry still a little raw regarding the gearbox, and had a few glasses… :wink: I’ll be back.

Any news on that front bud? I’m guessing Rockingham is out of the question…

Got another box. Thanks Ade.

Just got to get the original off and decide what to do. Should know in a couple of weeks. No chance for Rockingham which is a shame. Haven’t been there in ages. This is back in 2006.

Exiges at Rockingham October 2006 - YouTube

Thanks for the feedback, chaps. I was slightly intimidated posting this on exiges.com - talk about walking into the lion’s den!

thommo - very valid point ref. Leeds. Thank goodness there’s a pro journalist here to keep an eye on me! I’ll mention it to the publishers. William Taylor who publishes the mag is a Donington tomorrow so I’ll have a word with him then. I ask them to maintain my English spelling too - I’d feel so fraudulent otherwise!

Benja - very kind indeed - thank you. My usual subject is motor racing so writing about road cars is a bit alien to me. If you’re interested in anything else I’ve done there are loads of articles on my website: www.motorcardiaries.co.uk

evo_ufo - sorry if I hit a nerve! I’m not sure there is a Lotus which doesn’t require maximum commitment from its owner. Good luck with getting your gearbox sorted.

[quote=“evo_ufo”]Got another box. Thanks Ade.

Just got to get the original off and decide what to do. Should know in a couple of weeks. No chance for Rockingham which is a shame. Haven’t been there in ages. This is back in 2006.

Exiges at Rockingham October 2006 - YouTube[/quote]

Was that Neil in front Will? I haven’t seen cones on track for ages, I forgot about them all together tbh.

The red one is not as nice as mine, good shoot tho

That was Jamie in front. Long time ago. Think it was after he had supercharged it.

You never e-mailed me back, Boothy! :laughing:

I thought I did, was just waiting on a date. :question:

Never mind, one of those things. I think the photos are fab but to my eye for what you were trying to achieve the red car needed to be all red without the black, it’s kind of distracting.

Ta for the kind comments on the photos chaps. It was a great night’s shooting - bloody cold though!

Every shoot is a learning experience still, despite having been doing this years. In a way - I agree with Boothy to some extent - the black strip is a little distracting - would have been nice to have a ‘plain’ version available… Still, a great looking car though. Then again - if we were into ‘keeping it factory’, that might have ruled out your 2010 wing and extended scoop Boothy! (unless you’ve gone 2010 front end too, like me?!)

If anybody wants to have their P&J immortalised - drop me an email and we’ll see what we can arrange. Sure I can discount for ‘Exiges’ regulars! (Hope I’m not breaking any forum rules here!)

I’m in the process of arranging a trip ‘back home’ to the Toon, to capture Gav’s new motor sometime in the next few weeks - got some cracking locations lined up - I’m sure he’lll be along to share once we’ve done. Weather, work, and ability to travel up form Leeds all need to fall in place first!


PS - some other Exige/Lotus stuff over in my portfolio/website for those that want to look:

500px (<—.Just be careful further on in the photostream there - the odd, old studio based ‘NSFW’ shot amongst them. watches traffic spike from exiges.com :wink: )