What has happened to my Exige - rebuild thread

It’s a cosy community in Exiges.com, so I thought I’d post this here to share what has happened to my Exige and also as a way of documenting what’s been done.

Long post alert, it’s more of an article than a quickie. One for the enthusiasts and it does include shiny metal pics in it. Pure filth!

It all began several years and oil changes ago at my regular specialist Back on Track, when a few little bits of metal were found in the oil. “One to keep an eye on” said the garage. “Gulp” said I.

We kept an eye on it and nothing for two years. Then on a timely pre Donnington service a few small particles started showing up again. They put in fresh oil and a filter and said the track day would be ok, but there was clearly something going on in the engine. The advice was don’t go mad and if I couldn’t hear the cam change lift at 4.5k, then stop and get a flatbed back. So they put in fresh oil and a filter and said come back soon after the track day and we’ll check the oil then to see what it looks like.

I asked them with a wince “Is it getting close to rebuild time.”
“Yes” was the reply.

So potential swan song it was on a fabulous dry, December Donny day. The car was going well but then mid afternoon I felt a loss in power along the back straight, at 7k rpm, the car didn’t accelerate at all at full chat, just flattened. The opposite of what the steep and continuous climbing Cup 260 power curve should be.

‘Oh shoot’ I thought, this is it, so I immediately eased right off and went gently straight to the pits hoping no pistons would be flying out of the engine. I tested the cam change at 4.5k and it was still kicking in. A good sign and the engine was sounding and feeling ok in the lower revs. There was no blue or white smoke coming from the exhaust so I felt it was good enough to take it easy and drive it home, rather than on a flatbed. It got me back with no issues or funny noises so at least that was a relief.

However, I knew the next time I turned the key and drove it, it would be taking I to the garage for its…‘Gulp’.

Booked in, I went for the oil check. What came out was dark oil. Unreasonably dark oil, given the car had only done about 600 miles on fresh oil. It looked like oil that had done 10,000 miles. The garage described it as a “disco ball”. When you looked closely you could see very fine particles glittering away. Without doubt it was time, this engine was on its way out. “Ok guys let’s book it in”. They popped in fresh oil and filter so I could use the car gently before it’s ‘appointment’.

It helped seeing the state of the oil to convince me that it was time to act and the car would likely not last another track day. Prevention is better than cure as the saying goes. The phrase ‘now this may hurt a little’ (in the wallet) came to mind.

The due date arrived and the guys set to work, coming back with this diagnosis:
Rebuild of Toyota 2ZZ
Strip Engine and Reassemble with the following list and new components;
Vapour Blast and Clean all Casings
Repaint Cam Cover and Paint Cylinder Block
New Toyota Pistons and Rings
New Toyota Oil Pump with Uprated Billet Gear
ARP Con-Rod Bolts
MWR Coated Main and Big End Bearings
Supertech Valves/Springs and Ti Retainers
Toyota Timing Chain and Tensioner
Toyota Gasket and Seal Kit
Iridium Spark Plugs
TRD Air Filter
Supercharger Belt
Injector Clean and Flow Test
AC Regas
New Twin Oil Coolers

Once ready this is what it looked like, shiny metal parts alert:

And with the Xtreme Flywheel to lower inertia - Lightweight Chrome-Moly
ARP Flywheel Bolts

With the engine out it made sense to replace the old worn clutch and put in a new clutch, an Xtreme Performance Heavy Duty Organic Clutch Kit.

The engine now mated to the gearbox.

And refitted with the all important baffled sump. As many of us know, a necessity if you do track days.

Seeing those pictures, it amazes me how tall it looks, and how it all fits into the car.

With the front clam off for the new twin oil coolers (as a precautionary change to avoid any residue metal bits in the system working their way from the older oil coolers into the rebuilt engine), it meant it was an opportune time to replace the old towing eye bar. This was the state of the original.

So using man maths I’ve just made a saving as it was a job that needed doing at some point anyway, to avoid the original one snapping and ripping out the front clam if ever being towed. Genius :smiley:

And the quality Jordan Engineering new one in its place.

The air con was working well and the pipes had already been replaced, along with the radiator so nothing else needed doing with the clam off apart from the stainless steel bolts should it ever need to come off again then it will be easier and quicker.

We also planned to replace the toe links as a precautionary measure as they were ageing, so Uniball uprated links were ordered and fitted.

With that work budgeted, it all looked good. Or so I thought…

A day later, ring ring, I got a call “Hi, it’s the garage, your manifold bolts are rusted and rounded, they needed to be drilled out, plus it’s the original manifold and well past its best. You probably want to think about getting a new one”.

“Ah.” (ouch, as I googled 2bular manifold and cat. I already had a 2bular back box so perhaps this was the excuse to go the whole hog. Silver lining and all that.) “Ok” I said “let’s do it”. GULP.

So a 2bular 4-1 Manifold and HJS Sports Cat and Lambda Sensor was added to the list. Fitted to the fresh engine, they really are a work of art to look at.

Ring ring. I see the garage’s number pop up and break out in a cold sweat. A sense of reluctance to answer comes over me in case it is another one of ‘those’ conversations which normally starts with, ‘we’ve noticed something’ and ends with the need to shell out more money. I pick up the phone whincing.
“Hi, we’ve noticed your engine mounts are shot. They have melted a bit over the years. So you definitely need new ones.”

So Powerflex Front Engine Mount Insert and Powerflex Rear Engine Mount Insert were added to the list.

“And while we’re there” the garage continued “you need a new Wishbone Bush”.

It shoudn’t do that sticking out thing.

“Er, ok” I say. I think to myself at least that must be everything. I think I need to host a funeral for my bank account.

A day later. Ring, ring. It was the garage, do I dare answer! “Hi” I say very tentatively.
“We’ve noticed your intercooler is cracked.”
“Oh” I say whilst googling ProAlloy intercoolers and breaking out in a cold sweat.
“We’ll send you a photo to show you what we mean”
“Ok” I say nervously.

A 7 inch fissure which was only going to get worse explains the lack of acceleration at the recent Donny track day as it would have been losing pressure from the supercharger. On reflection it clearly had been happening for a while, the performance of the engine almost imperceptibly getting worse over time been and I had unwittingly got used to that gradual lower power. I did have my suspicions it was down on power at Snetterton last year where on the Bentley straight I was not able to keep up with a standard S2 Elise even though we accelerated at the same time, at the same point, from the same speed and it pulled away cleanly from me. Compared to previous visits when I was 120mph+, I could only just get to 109mph at best by the time I reached the bridge.

Well at a least we’d found the problem (that and the engine in decline). The 211 intercooler had had its day. “Ok guys, let’s go for the Pro Alloy with the cold air kit.” Gulp.

The cold air kit is well worth it if you are ever adding or switching your intercooler, it reminds me of Inspector Gadget with his tentacle arms. As testament to that, after a spirited drive the engine was hot to touch i.e. you couldn’t comfortably leave your hand on the engine, however right above the engine on the top of the intercooler, the right hand side felt cool, almost cold to touch. Even the left hand side where there is more engine heat, it felt coolish.

I think this is a combination of the well designed Pro Alloy heat shield that comes with it, plus the cool air kit which must almost treble the amount of air coming in. Also it’s from the side rather than the front roof scoop which may feed some warm air from the front bonnet vents. I thoroughly recommend it.

I’ve essentially had to get everything new, from the intake down. This is what everything looks like fitted. I did warn you there was filth in this post, I could look at it all day.

I also recommend the Radium coolant tank, fitted last year when my plastic one inevitably went brittle. The cost was only a small bit more than the crappy plastic Toyota one that will crack and perish in the next 7 years, this one will last a lifetime. It’s a brilliant bit of kit and there is a see-through tube on the side where you can check the fill level.

It’s a quaint notion to have to run in a car, but here we were on collecting the car, that I had do a 500 miles careful run in to seat the piston rings. The first 100 no more than 4,000rpm, the next 400 could stretch up to 5,000rpm and don’t keep it at a constant rev for any long period of time.

It reminded me of when I was young and my dad got a new car and had to run it in, in a similar fashion. I had a nostalgic moment in memory of my dad as a result of this.

I was utterly religious about the run in period, avoiding motorways instead taking back roads, not doing short trips, minimum trips of 45 minutes to let the car fully warm up and drive.

Even during the run in I knew something felt positively different about the car and couldn’t wait to open the taps when ready. I could sense it felt freer running. Within a month I’d done it and on Tuesday I got to have the 500 mile service where they give the car a good check over and the running-in oil is taken out replaced by fully synth. I was pleased to see the oil was nice and clear with just a slight bit of deeper yellowish colour as hoped, it had done its job. Back on Track gave the green light, the run in period was over and I could take it to the red line.

I have to confess I did feel a bit like a kid at Christmas, I was really looking forwards to having the car completed with run in done. I couldn’t wait for that moment to feel what it would really be like. I was secretly hoping that the extra additions would make a tangible difference to the feel of the car and that it would give more zingy performance.

In short, wow. It really is a marked difference to what it was. So much more punchy, it now feels a bit angry in a good way with some aggression in the power delivery. In all gears the car is more immediate and has a sense of urgency. 3rd gear feels rapid and 4th pulls hard, with torque. The cam change comes in at 4.5k with a real kick, I feel a second at 5.5k, a third mini surge around 7k, with a linear shove all the way to the red line, it keeps pulling harder the faster you go and the power never flattens off. The acceleration is significantly different to before along with the torque, in every gear it punches more. It’s almost a bit scary and I felt like I had to hold on for dear life with eyes bulging wide open as my senses were battered.

Previously, if I wanted a burst of speed and power I would typically change down to get into the 6k rev band for some shove. Now even from 3.5k in 4th there is some, obviously not quite the same shove as at 6k+ but there is still noticeably more than before. It’s a marked step change in acceleration each time the cam kicks in, it almost felt like a turbo kicking in.

I am having to recalibrate my senses, it feels properly rapid on the road, similar (but not quite as extreme) to when I modded my VX220 to go up 70bhp from 230bhp to 300. My Exige was probably putting out about 190 with the power loss so it felt a similar jump of about a 70bhp gain to the 260bhp it should be doing with the Lotus Cup 260 ecu.

Doing a 3rd gear overtake surprised me, it felt a bit like warp speed and almost a bit scary. I found myself changing up at 7,000rpm and backing off because of the intense sensation of speed, instead of powering on through to the red line like I normally would do. It just despatched the car so easily and quickly. It feels faster than it ever did, like Star Wars when they go to light speed in the Falcon, things become a bit blurred while I adjust to it.

Coupled with the exhaust tone, more racey, slightly deeper, the odd pop and burble here and there. Raucous and a controlled riot in a good way without being McDonalds car park at night. The new sounds add to the drama and the stimulus to make it seem even faster.

I’m trying to rule out the psychosomatic effect like when you have a service, and you swear that the car feels like it’s running better. I find this effect is even more pronounced the more money you have spent on the things! Acceleration is a more obvious data point and I don’t think it’s my mind playing tricks on me because I am having to adjust my driving style to be more careful because of the surge. I am having to be a bit more patient on the throttle as I approach the apex of a bend, I can’t power on as early as before because the cam change is now strong enough that it lifts the front a little, transferring weight to the back and some driver induced understeer ensues.

I think the reality is, it’s transformed because it’s a combination of an engine that’s now working, the cold air intake kit giving much more cool air to the engine along with a new manifold giving it freer flow out the back. Most importantly, the intercooler now doesn’t have a big crack in it that was clearly losing increasing pressure over time, as the crack got bigger.

Do you hear that sound? Yes, that one, it sounds like a wallet flat-lining. It turns out I could have bought a decent second hand car for the amount I ended up spending. In fact, on Pistonheads there are currently 107,970 cars to choose from that come in under that budget. But that’s not the point. My Exige is a very special and magical car to me and let’s not forget it is 16 years old, so it’s inevitable that it will need some work doing to it to keep it in tip top shape. (Can you see my man maths in action here) :D.

In a strange way the extra ‘things’ were a bit of a blessing in disguise because if it was just the rebuild, it kind of feels like you are getting nothing. A bit like if you need to replace your roof then you’re not really getting anything extra, apart from no leaks and a lighter wallet.

My ‘gulp’ moments meant I actually get something new in addition to engine build. Am hoping this will see me for 100,000 miles plus, with the upside I know the full history of this engine and its complete care going forwards. Having the extras meant I got to experience a real change and it feels like I am getting something for my money.

I’ve been deploying PhD level blokeconomics to feel better. This article is part of that cathartic process. Overall I’m blown away by the car and just how different it is now. In a way it’s like trading up Lotus cars to a noticeably more powerful version.

Either way I have an absolutely massive grin, am in awe of the ‘new’ car and can’t wait to get out in it again. Even though my wallet had CPR, I feel like I’ve got my moneys worth because this new sensation behind the wheel is such a step change. A cracking job by Back on Track.

Roll on track day season, no excuses now!


Great writeup :+1:

Unfortunate series of events but she should be box fresh now. Feels good :ok_hand:


Fantastic post.

I have been through a similiar man maths lecture with my plastic fantastic so it resonated with me.

Car looks superb!


Thanks for sharing - I enjoyed the read whilst sipping an early morning cup of tea. I’m doing the man maths for another car purchase to add to the fold - amazing how easy it is!
/The bonus is you also feel like that kid at school who was annoyingly good at maths :face_with_hand_over_mouth:


I’m not surprised the intercooler has given out - I remember Hangar 111 fitting it for me when they remapped the ECU; probably back in late 2012!! And those engine mounts also look like the ones I had put in… good to see you’ve still got it going strong

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Hey, how’s going it. I love it about these cars and the community that there is a linage and previous owners still care about their old car. Yes, it’s still going strong, feels stronger than ever now.

I didn’t know the intercoolers had a shelf life, I just assumed they lasted for the life of the car. Hopefully this one will go for the next 30 years.

Those engine mounts were absolute toast.

I remember you spent a good amount on the car with various uprated parts, I think I may have beaten that spending limit :grin:

It’s still a magical beastie.


@andybond (I think you’re an admin) I accidentally hit the Privately flag post but on WillD’s response :laughing: Was a mistake, I clicked the three dots thinking what does this do, now I know. lol. Can you unflag that or just confirm that it was not meant to be flagged and don;t go and arrest WillD or ban him from the site for 37 years.
Turns out I can’t unflag. Apologies WillD.

Nothing come through this side - all good.

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Glad to hear its still going strong. Yes, I spent plenty on it while I owned it but it does sound like you have beaten that by a long way. Hopefully will give you many more years of fun though now.

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what an amazing color scheme ! Love what you did and great info if I ever need a new cooler :pray:

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Great write up! I love shiny new parts and the car looks great. Not so bad spending the money on something you enjoy so much. I’m sure you’ll get plenty more of trouble free miles now and the tow strut won’t even get used :slight_smile:

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