One of three U.S. street-legal Lotus Elise S1’s popped up for sale on eBay.

Back in 2001, if you wanted a Lotus Elise S1 in the United States you legally couldn’t get one. Lotus’s engine stuffed in the back, a K-series 1.8 from Rover, didn’t meet U.S. emissions standards. Importer, Sun International, solved that problem by importing S1’s and swapping in DC2 Integra Type R engines. Only three ever got made. According to our good friends at King Motorsports earlier today (Mar. 17, 2017) one of those three Lotus Elise S1’s hit the market earlier last week. Click the link here to check out the listing for yourself.

Bidding for this Sun International Lotus Elise has since ended with no one submitting a starting bid of $50 thousand, not to mention the “Buy it now” price for $15 thousand more. MSRP for a stock S1 back in 1999 would’ve set you back $35 thousand not to mention the fact that you couldn’t import it into the United States.

According to the owner,

This car was built by Sun International (Sunspeed) in California. Sun International planned on making a series of these cars to be available for sale to the US market. This car was one of the original build cars and successfully passed all the requirements to become a legal road car in the US by completing the federalization needs. Ultimately only three Sun International Elises were built and this is one of them.

Before Sunspeed’s run could really take off, fortunately, one or two development cars were given a proper review by a couple of print magazines of the time “including Road & Track, Sport Compact Car, Car & Driver, European Car, Pistonheads, VTEC Sports Magazine, and Penthouse.” Much of the hype around the mystique of this car came from that screamer of an engine behind the driver’s head. In place of the stock Rover 1.8 with 118 BHP was a race ready B18C5 from Acura massaged by Spoon Sports themselves raising HP from 200 to 250 at the crank when all was said and done. Paired to that Japanese screamer was the ITR 5-speed, so shifts were just as good as the engine.

…the B18C5 engine was developed by Honda (Acura in the US) for use in the Integra Type-R. One would think this legendary engine alone would be enough for this conversion. After leaving the factory, this naturally aspirated engine was completely rebuilt and upgraded by Spoon (arguably the best Honda racing engine builder in Japan). The engine boasts a 9400 rpm redline along with a significantly extra power and reliability.

Keen eyes will notice that the stock tachometer was definitely not made for the ITR engine out back. An odometer reading of 21,381 KM translates to 13,285 miles which means that the B-series out back is “barely broken in” as far as Honda engines go.

According to Car and Driver, this gave the Lotus Elise the ability to hit 60 MPH in 4.6 seconds and blessed the handling with enough reliable power to make this featherweight heavy hitter hair-raising yet controllable on canyon roads. Think go-kart. Thanks to the curb weight being just about 1,700 pounds, there wasn’t much weight for that B18C5 to throw around. In comparison, an Integra Type R weighed 920 pounds more. Pair all that performance to Lotus’s legendary exotic styling and you have a one-of-a-kind car that few can replicate at your local Cars and Coffee.

Although the 1996-2001 Lotus Elise hasn’t had the most stellar reliability record, the big buck repairs come from mostly failing head gaskets and dodgy gear selectors, both which are remedied in this case by Acura’s engineering on both engine and transmission. If you’re decent with a wrench and somewhat diligent, repairs and routine maintenance shouldn’t be much of an issue.

$50 thousand is a lot to spend on any car but if you want a future collectors car with all the reliability of a bog standard Honda, this Lotus Elise S1 is your ticket.


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