S1 "exceptional significance"

I know this post may not be to the liking of all on this list (as it might mean one less exige S1 available), but let me explain.

I am in the USA, and as you know, the exige (both S1 and S2) is/was not available over here. For a while I was holding out hope that we would at least get the S2, but that is not looking promising. So, I have elected to try and get an exige S1 over here using what is known as the “super car law”. This is a law that Bill Gates (and others) pushed through to allow him to import his Porsche 959 (another car not allowed in the USA). The regs allow for cars of significant technology or history to be imported if there were less than 500 produced. If there were more than 500 produced, there is a chance of being allowed if: “The vehicle is of exceptional significance”.

So, here is where I am at. I already have the official documentation from Lotus Cars stating the production total of 609 Exige S1s. This is close to 500, but over, so now I need to prove “exceptional significance”. I would really appreciate some thoughts and comments (or facts) as to what makes the Exige S1 exceptionally significant. I have always loved these cars, and there are a few “race only” exiges in the USA (I believe 10), but they are about impossible to locate. The US Gov’t has a list of cars that do NOT qualify, (The elise S1 is on that list) and a list of ones that have already been approved, and the exige is on neither list, so I have hope/faith that I can succeed.

Any help would be appreciated… there are many mountain roads in Montana that need exploring, and a nice road course not too far from here that needs some lotus love…


Hi Mel,

First off I’m sure the S2 Exige is available in the US… Or it just the 111R (well fed Elise jobbie)?

If not then I guess you could argue that they are a low production car, a super car on a budget and with some of the most advanced chassis / suspension design out there (I’m sure someone will correct me on this ).

Looks, handling, sweat blood and tears is what they’re all bout… That an AA recovery cards


you need to tell us more about what constitutes ‘exceptional significance’

Give us a few of the examples from the cars that are already on that list and also tell us how they measure ‘exceptional significance’

would it be exceptionally significant if an S1 kicked the 959’s ar5e at a race track or is that just par for the course …

give us a clue 'cause it would be if we could brag that our cars are of ‘exceptional significance’

Okay, this is all that I have from the gov’t:

“If you wish to import a vehicle for show or display, you must apply to NHTSA for permission to do so and establish that the vehicle is of such historical or technological significance that it is in the public interest to show or display the vehicle in the United States even though it would be difficult or impossible to bring the vehicle into compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. This provision is intended to facilitate the importation of historically or technologically significant vehicles that were never certified by their manufacturer for sale in the United States.”

Thats about the most detail that is provided.

I’m trying to create that document. Unfortunately, they do not provide you with more details or even an example of one of documentation of one of the vehicles that was approved.

Here is a list of the approved cars as of may 2004.

Aston Martin DB7 Zagato Coupe 2003
Aston Martin Vantage LeMans 1999 - 2000
Audi Sport Quattro 1984
Australian Ford Falcon XC Bathurst Cobra 1978
BMW Z1 1988 - 1991
Bugatti EB110 1992 - 1995
Ford RS200 Evolution 1985 - 1986
Ford Sierra Cosworth RS 500 1986
Italdesign Aztec 1988
Jaguar XJ220 1992 - 1994
Lamborghini Diablo GT 1999
McLaren F-1 1993 - 1998
Mercedes Benz CLK-GTR Coupe 1998 - 1999
Mercedes Benz CLK-GTR Roadster 2002
Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 1984 - 1985
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (last made) 1998
Porsche 959 1987 - 1988
Porsche 993 Carrera RS 1996
Rover Mini Cooper S (last 50 made) 2000

Thats the entire list. I think the exige would make a fine addition.

for those of you that may be interested, all the info can be found here:
Gov’t show or display regulations page


You need a copy of the book: “Lotus Elise, the official story” by Jeremy Walton.
From www.coteriepress.com

Really detailed story there, and BTW, it says that 601 were made.

Well the S1 will NEVER be made again! What we have is what we have!

But I guess as long as chassis and all the bits are being made more could made as a “kit” car, never will Lotus make this limited run, essentailly special edition Motorsport Elise if you will, ever again


i note that both the S1 elise AND the 340R are on the forbidden list… my guess is that this will give you an uphill struggle …

but there is lots of stuff on Sands museum web page that you should read. It gives lots of info and in particular you could major on the technological innovations seen first in the car industry on the elise/exige - bonded chassis, MMC discs etc… (well okay the exige never had these but… you know… poetic licence and all that… )

Ok, let’s see what we can come up with:

  • Based on one make race series, Lotus’ first in years
  • I expect less than 500 were ever made for the road, I believe quite a lot were Motorsport Elise chassis for the track
  • JUST LOOK AT THE THING! Send them a picture! If that’s not ‘exceptionally significance’ I don’t know what is!
  • Last of a breed before Euro regulations forced restrictive measures on cars over driver aids (eg. ABS), engine emissions (okay perhaps don’t mention that) and bodywork (that spoiler wouldn’t pass production car regs now)
  • Very special tyres
  • Proper downforce
  • James Dean died in one [re-write history, it’s amazing what you can do in Photoshop…okay, sorry, thought I’d throw in some humour]

I’m sure some more will come to me. Come everybody, let’s see if we can get President Bush (or however wins!) to do something good and get the world’s biggest super to recognise our cars have ‘exceptional significance’!


Oh, the fact that the 340R is not allowed really doesn’t bode well… That was only 340 made and I think just that bit more mad than the Exige… I mean no roof or anything like that! Loopy!

One day

Ok, let’s see what we can come up with:

  • JUST LOOK AT THE THING! Send them a picture! If that’s not ‘exceptionally significance’ I don’t know what is!



i knew we could depend on you IDG…

in all seriousness tho’ I reckon you came up with some good stuff… it might be a bit bold, but it might be argued that this is the very last lotus ever to be built in the tradition of lighter, lighter, lighter… and no servo’s…

…it might be argued that this is the very last lotus ever to be built in the tradition of lighter, lighter, lighter… and no servo’s…

I’m with you on that Rox!

Also, what about this forum? This is a car that has built a community of ‘exceptionally significance’ - global, meets, group purchases, advice, sales, debate, etc. It’s become more than just a car.

That said, I do agree with Mark if the 340R failed (do we know why? If they ever say) the Exige has an uphill struggle (lack of torque tee hee).


That said, I do agree with Mark if the 340R failed (do we know why? If they ever say) the Exige has an uphill struggle (lack of torque tee hee).

Hey… is there an echo in here ??

Thanks for the start everyone! I appreciate it.

I would have to agree, the looks alone should be enough!!

The S1 elise is pretty obvious why it wouldn’t qualify, far too many were built. The 340R is another story though. Perhaps the paperwork was poorly presented, or??? Either way, the exige has not been atempted as of yet, and I think there is a strong case, and by golly, there is no way to know for sure, unless you try!

If this doesn’t work… I might have to settle for an Esprit or S2 Elise, Sport, with hard top… but I just hate settling for 2nd best…

Thanks again everyone, if you come up with anything else, let me know!

oh, one other question. Can the bits and pieces be purchased for an S2 elise (fed version in my case) to build a S2 exige? (clone?)


Don’t see why not, I think it’s just the bodywork and shocks/springs, plus perhaps wheels. Then it would just be a case of setting them up like an Exige (S2). It’d probably add about a third again to the cost of the car though for not too much extra.


C’mon Guys…

It’s staring us in the face.

Open the S1 car manual and the first sentence says something like: "Thank you for buying the Lotus Exige. This car is a replica of the Motorsport Elise car that officially raced in…

Surely if a car has been manufactured in limited numbers to celebrate a highly successful motorsport series then it is “significant”.

This car maximises on the performance through lightweight concept, where cars 300% more expensive and with 300% engine capacities can be ousted on the track.

Other little things like international tyre manufacturer Yokohama has designed a SPECIFIC tyre for the Exige is also exceptional. How many cars have this type of specialised preparation?

Just my thoughts…



I too am in the USA and here’s what you have to do. You need to import a vehicle with no motor in it. This may seem like a pain in the ass but it’s the only practical way of doing this and you might as well drop a Honda lump in it or something that makes a bit more ass without the pain. Anyway, register with your DMV as a kit car. It’s a rolling chassis, no motor…so, you prove that you’ll be building the car and you’ll be able to drive it on the road so long as it’s not your daily transportation.



Another thought.

Wasn’t the Exige the last car developed (and I’m intentionally over selling this) by Lotus legends such as Alistar McQueen and Dave Minter. These guys didn’t just help bring Lotus back from the brink with the Elise, they were involved with the Espirit and even developing the test track. It was the end of an era when they left and whether the new era is better or not is irrelivant to the case of whether their final work is of “exceptional significance”. How could it not be?!


Didn’t ‘owning an S1 Exige’ just miss out on the 50 things you must do before you die list?

You need to import a vehicle with no motor in it.

There is a lot of speculation as to wether this is “enough” to qualify it as a kit car. Some people think yes, some people think no. I do know this is how Nobel sells cars here in the USA, so I would suspect it is “enough”. The other thing is, it just isn’t quite an exige if you put a different motor in it…

Are there any vehicles in the USA that come with the Rover motors? That could be a pain…

007, have you done this? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.


So then, could you not just ship in an Exige minus the engine, as Jorge says, and then if you could find a VHP engine , ship that in and fit that to the car.