S1 Exige - buying & potential issues


I’m relatively new to Exige’s but have had Lotus for around 20 years.

I’m interested in buying an S1 Exige which has the VHPD engine and original ECU, I’ve found one that I think would be good but is 1k km away and the owner doesn’t want me to drive it away or drive it home. This concerns me, as my intention is to use the car.

I understand it’s a 20 year old car and things can / do go wrong, but the intention is to drive it. What are the common issues that should be checked? How far have people driven them in the past? Anything that I should have checked out before buying?

The cars seem to sit for a while before being sold, I believe this to be normal but talking to my Dad earlier and he thinks that should be a red flag?!

Thanks in advance & sorry if it’s a bit vague!


Hi Nick, welcome to the forum.

As feedback (only my opinion), the Exige was designed as a track orientated/focused version of the Elise so is inherently not designed to be a daily driver, but I think back in the day a good number of people did do that and enjoyed it so they can definitely be used and enjoyed. And there’s plenty of Exige’s with big mileages to show that.

Given values/age a good number now don’t get used that much and spend more time in garages than other more regular cars, so I don’t think it’s uncommon to find Exige’s that have sat parked up. Just look for regular servicing and be conscious they are sensitive to cam belt change, suspension geometry/wear and tear, tyres so nothing out of the norm. Corrosion on the rear cross members and chassis condition are important. The biggy to worry about mechanicals wise being head gasket failure. And obviously check the chassis as damage isn’t in general repairable.

You can get a specialist inspection maybe, I don’t know where you’re based but Scott Russell sportscars are great. Opposite end of country to me but Phoenix motorsport are very well regarded etc.

Personally I don’t track mine now. No reason as such I just dont get to the track and if I was track day driving a lot, I wouldn’t be afraid to use it, but I’d probably get a modern Caterham.

I tend to get up early and go for 3-6 hr mini cross country road trips. And have mini adventures with mine, where I fall in love with it all over again. And on those drives it’s fine on the motorway just noisy, manages traffic etc without issues. And it’s fantastic on the B roads.

I imagine if it’s been laid up the guy could be worries re brakes/cambelt etc. Personally I’d want him to service and Mot as part of the sale, you should definitely be ok to drive it home…

Best of luck :+1:

Thank you for the reply, I have a 340r & S2 Elise. I used to daily drive the S2 and may do again at some point in the not too future. The 340r has done a couple of reasonable trips and plenty of short couple of hour fun rides locally.

Longer term intention would be the same for the Exige as well as hopefully trips away, in a couple of cars, with the wife and kids. I’d also have frequent rides locally.

The engine was rebuilt around 10k miles ago, I’m not 100% sure of the time frame or mileage but it hasn’t seen huge miles since I believe. I’ll see what I can do about services / checks and then go from there.

The drive home would be 1,000 km in one go (either one or two days) and then shorter trips after that. I don’t want to break it but I want to use the car & not just as an ornament so would probably do 2k - 4K miles per year I guess.

Thanks again

Oh well if your used to a 340r you’re be a good place with an Exige !

I’ve driven to Alps etc in an Exige and not had any drama bar the noise/heat in the cabin and being honest that doesn’t really bother so much, just feels part of the experience as it’s all part of the trip. Fingers crossed for your purchase but if you’ve lived with an Elise and 340 you’ll be in a good place :sunglasses:

I’m very jealous of a 340R I’d love one to partner my Exige, similar to you I love days out with the cars, would make for a great pair :heart_eyes:.

Thanks, hope it’s all going to work out! An S1 Exige alongside would be a dream! Im quite happy to do big mileage to get home, it’s a good way of getting to know the car & have some fun. It’s not ideal and can understand why people trailer them - just feels like a wasted opportunity to me! :laughing:

1000km is a long way in any Exige but perfectly ok. I find the seats very comfortable and tgd driving position is very good. They do get very hot inside (so wear summer clothes in winter) and they are very noisy. To combat the noise I use Alpine motorcycle ear plugs.

If it has been standing for a long time it should still be ok. Oil does not go off standing, brake fluid does absorb water so avoid racing it and check the brakes pull up straight and true. If it has stood for a long time i would be concerned about the cam belt. I doubt it would snap but if it did, where do you find a new VHPD?

If the car looks good and straight an the price is right, go for it.

Given your experience and ownership of a 340R, I can’t imagine an S1 would present any problems. I bought my S1 privately. It had been little used and had not been fully serviced for three years. I took a big gamble and drove it home carefully after a short test drive prior to purchase.
I had an immediate full service and cambelt change. I have since done three Euro trips, including one to Corsica😳, a Le Mans Classic run and track days in Europe and the UK, covering long distances in Europe in one day at speed in a breathless effort to keep up with S3 Exiges.
I have been lucky, the car has run faultlessly and has 60K plus on the VHPD. If anything, it’s getting better year by year.
Go for it, bearing in mind the advice others have given.

I just discovered Nick’s post here and the car in question for sale is my Exige S1. As I posted quite some part of my restoration journey within this forum here and I like this place a lot and I would like to add a comment.

The car is in perfect working order and all the service things like cambelt, oil, brake fluid, etc. are alle fine. I just didn’t feel fine if a buyer that is not familliar with this car just picks it up and drives it 1000 km home. I strongly suggested to collect it using a trailer that would also solve all things of international insurance and registration issues. Nevertheless I think we can arrange a deal and it all will work out.

I did not offer my Exige here on the site becaue of all the Brexit and Corona trouble which makes a private deal quite complicated.
The ad to my Exige can be found here: https://www.autoscout24.de/angebote/-148a4cbf-38c0-856f-e053-0100007f4953


Nicks a lucky guy, Klaus your Exige looks fantastic, and paired up with a 340R :+1:

Klaus is a good man. Go for it.