1999 Lotus Elise Sport 190 (Series 1)

Started on Sept. 21 by MacLotus

Ride Rating


This Sport 190 was one of approximately 50 Elise's pulled from the production line to be factory track prepared for racing. These modifications included integrated roll bar, fire suppression, removable steering wheel, racing seats/harnesses, and a 1.8L DOHC VHPD engine made by the British auto manufacturer Rover. It was also lightened to weigh a mere 1600 lbs., so it truly drives like a go-kart on steroids.

While today's production Elise models (Series 2) come equipped with a Toyota power plant, the original models (Series 1 - 1996 to 2001) had Rover engines coupled to a 5 spd gearbox. The switch to the Toyota platform was made due to reliability issues with the Rover engines.

Because the Rover engines were so unreliable, S1 Elise owners began to search for a suitable replacement platform. One of the more popular power plants has been the Honda 2.0L Type R (K20) with 6-spd transmission. Due to the popularity of this conversion, many kits have surfaced in the UK that provide the custom parts required to make the switch.

While the Sport 190 with VHPD engine is indeed rare, the track-only toy is underpowered to say the least (approximately 175whp), or at least this owner thinks so.

I've decided to box-up the rare VHPD with 5 spd gearbox (storing it in my barn), and set out in search of more power/speed. This is the story of my DIY conversion to a more suitable and updated power plant.

For later comparison, here is a link to a video - Hot laps at Road America with the VHPD.


4 comments on this ride

Latest updates

June 27

Track Test at BIR

Just a rear view of the new widebody. Performance improvement is incredible!!

June 27

Track Test

Recently took the car to BIR for testing where it performed better than it ever has before!

Jan. 30

Console installed

Dash was done in similar fashion.

Jan. 30

Custom console - Step 4

Cover with carbon fiber and black suede.

Jan. 30

Custom console - Step 3

Custom faceplate to accommodate Traqmate and gauges.

Jan. 30

Custom console - Step 2

Once covered with fiberglass, melt foam with acetone.

Jan. 30

Custom fiberglass console

Shape with foam.

Jan. 30

New carbon fiber racing seats

Complete with Schroth belts.

Jan. 30

Another angle

Looking good!

Jan. 30

View 2 - Preparing for paint

Vent behind front wheels too.

Jan. 30

View 1 - Preparing for paint

Added an APR wing.

Jan. 30

Preparing for paint

Rear view - note DRM style wheel duct vents.

Jan. 30

Covered foam with fiberglass

Starting to take shape.

Jan. 30

New body shaped with foam.

I used a two part liquid mix foam, shaped the body, and sanded to accommodate new fiberglass.

Jan. 30

Widebody Conversion

I decided to widen each tire by 3.5" (to the outside). This will require a new custom widebody design. Here's a sketch of my plan.

Nov. 07

Engine Bay Cool Zone

An early look at our strategy to manage heat within the engine bay.

Nov. 03

Test Fitted Clam Shell

Test fitted clam shell to measure for sheet metal aluminum that will compartmentalize the engine bay.

Nov. 03

Header Welded

Finished welding the header today.

Nov. 02

Header Fabrication

Since this build is custom, there are no off-the-shelf solutions for the header. Here you can see the initial mock-up, but we've left the fiber board in only as a reference point for exhaust system position. We'll pull it out ...

Nov. 02

Exhaust System Mods

After putting the wheels back on the car, I temporarily hung the exhaust system for the header fabricator. We're off to Full Blown Performance now in Apple Valley, MN. They're provide the fabrication expertise for this phase of the build.

Nov. 02

Re-assemble Rear Suspension

After reinstalling the rear sub-frame, I was able to re-attach the rear suspension components.

Nov. 02

Custom Drive Shafts

Here's the shortened drive shafts ready for installation.

Nov. 02

Re-build Drive Shafts so they'll fit a Lotus

Basically, I'll re-use the OE Acura CV joints and tripod joints and install them onto a shorter axle. I'm also using a custom hub designed to work with an Acura CV spindle and Lotus hub carrier/bearing.

Nov. 02

Drive Shaft Comparison: Lotus vs. Acura

With the added power and torque of the K24, and the different gearbox geometry of the RSX Type S transmission, it would be necessary to modify the drive shafts. Normally, the inner Acura tripod joint is used in conjunction with ...

Nov. 02

New Engine /Trans Installed

While it's pretty tight, the new Acura TSX 2.4L with RSX Type S 6 speed transmission just fits.

Nov. 02

Engine Build Complete

Finished off build with... Skunk2 Pro K Series Manifold Skunk2 Composite Fuel Rail Bosch ID725 cc Injectors Fluidampr Harmonic Balancer

Nov. 02

Oil Sump Baffle

Installed a K20 aluminum oil pan fitted with a Clockwise Motion sump baffle. This keeps the oil from sloshing away from the oil pick up during long sweeping turns.

Nov. 02

Stage 2 Cams

Installed Stage 2 cams custom built by ENDYN.

Nov. 02

Port & Polish Cylinder Head

Here's where it pays to spend some money on a normally aspirated engine. Air flow is critical... or more appropriately equates to power. ENDYN Full Racing Performance CNC (Port match to Skunk2 Intake Manifold) Valve Job Decking & Assy Premium ...

Nov. 02

Bottom End Assembled

Pistons installed and ready for cylinder head.

Nov. 02

Balance Rotating Assembly

ENDYN also balanced the crankshaft and entire rotating assembly to minimize wear on bearings and extend power band RPM.

Nov. 02

New 12.5:1 Pistons & Billet Rods

New 87.5mm RollerWave pistons (12.5:1) and coat piston skirts (Endyn custom design for the K24). Piston Rings will be installed with proper end gaps to ensure proper fit. Custom Crower MaxiLite Billet Rods (not Brian Crower) are provided with custom ...

Nov. 02

Bored Block to 87.5mm

I shipped the engine block to ENDYN in Ft. Worth, TX for machine work. Endyn will bore and hone the block to 87.5mm (no need to sleeve) with deck plate. This bores the cylinders properly without ovalizing cylinders (deckplate). Evidently, ...

Nov. 02

Rebuilt New 6 Speed Transmission

I rebuilt/cleaned up the Acura RSX Type S transmission and modified the shift linkage slightly to adapt to the Lotus shift cables.

Nov. 02

Increased Fuel Pressure

Because the new Acura K24 engine requires higher fuel pressure than the Rover VHPD did, I needed to replace the fuel pump. I dropped the OE Lotus 8 gallon fuel cell and removed the OE in-tank pump (approx 40 psi). ...

Nov. 02

New Radiator

I purchased a new aluminum high pressure / extra capacity radiator and installed a dual fan system to improve engine cooling.

Nov. 02

Removed the OE Radiator

Because the Acura TSX engine operates at higher coolant pressure, it is recommended that it be replaced. It seems the OE Lotus radiator has some plastic end caps that may pop off if over-pressurized, causing loss of vital engine coolant ...

Nov. 02

Removed the Engine/Trans

After removing the rear clam shell, suspension components and drive shafts, I was able to remove the Rover 1.8L DOHC VHPD engine with 5 speed gearbox. I'll box this up and store it in my barn as this car is ...

Nov. 02

The New Transmission...

Next, I needed a transmission. In order to make life easier, it made sense to use the same transmission the K20 would use. That way, the mount kits made in the UK would work. I sourced a 6 speed transmission ...

Nov. 02

The New Engine...

A few months back, I sourced the first component needed... an engine. K24A2: 2004 Acura TSX * Displacement: 2,354 cc (143.6 cu in) * Power: 200 PS (150 kW; 200 hp) @ 6800 rpm * Torque: 232 N·m (171 lb·ft) ...

Nov. 02

DIY Engine Conversion

As I indicated in the car description, the existing Rover VHPD engine is extremely unreliable due to poor manufacturing processes, so I've decided to save the original (and rare) engine/gearbox in my barn for possible restoration someday. For now, since ...

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Sep 22, 2010 8:44 a.m.
David S. Wallens:
Dec 30, 2010 10:25 p.m.
Sonja Henie's Tutu ! that is a gorgeous track animal...
May 19, 2011 6:42 a.m.
Giant Purple Snorklewacker:
May 31, 2012 7:11 p.m.
Matt B (fs):
Looks incredibly well thought out. What a beautiful build. Cool to see how the Elise comes apart too.

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