Looking through the Autocar archive in aid of a recent Lotus Elise feature, I read information about and tests of the 340R, the limited-run, extra-light, Elise-based roadster that Hethel made in 2000.
It was warmly received by us, but we were mildly involved in its development, so it kind of had to be, even though we conceded it was “a very expensive exercise in minimalism”.
I’m not sure it was more broadly loved (like, say, the conceptually simpler 2-Eleven of 2007), but I do think it was probably ahead of its time. Rare, trinket-like special editions of sports cars and supercars have become a staple way of keeping cash coming in for some niche makers.
Anyway, that’s not what I want to talk about this time. What caught my eye was the Lotus 340R’s interior, with its bare spar stretched like a bridge across its width, with the instruments attached to it and a conjoining vertical central pillar featuring key functional buttons.
It reminded me of something, but what? I pulled up pictures of Lotus’s new electric hypercar, the Evija. Fast forward 20 years and there’s a conceptually similar horizontal spar and a vertical pillar hosting functions.
It’s a slightly more complicated interior today, no doubt, but today’s production cars are more complicated than an Elise-based lightweight special. Plus it has to have air vents.
And there’s another link. Lotus “prepared five designs” for the 340R, we were told back in the day, and “the decision was taken to go with the Russell Carr proposal”.
The Evija’s designer? None other than the very sane Mr Carr. There are huge differences between these cars and Lotus is a very different company than it was 20 years ago, but I was quite taken with the link.
How feasible is mega-miling a car?
Do you know of an incredibly high-mileage motor? As referenced in the Elise feature, I’ve come across a 290,000-mile Series 1 example that’s daily-driven. I’d like to know more about it, but I’d also like to find other mega-milers to tell their stories; to know what makes a car ripe for accumulating moonshot mileages.
Is going far the preserve of only interesting and strongly valued cars, or can we find some genuinely uninteresting metal that would be ripe for the Festival of the Unexceptional yet is still doing the rounds on the daily commute decades and five-figure distances after their brethren have met the scrapper?
Are some construction types more able to withstand higher mileages than others? And do some car makers think differently to others? It seems that Lotus engineers didn’t build much obsolescence into the Elise, given that its aluminium chassis won’t corrode, it apparently won’t wilt and most things that are bolted to it are also aluminium or composite. Beyond those are just consumables, making the car straightforward to maintain.
When manufacturers talk about rating components for the life of a car now, they tend to talk about 200,000 kilometres or 120,000 miles, which is about commensurate with the average age for cars being scrapped/recycled in the UK, which happens at around 15 years.
But I’m a fan of buying well and keeping forever, or for as long as is feasible. Which is why I’d like to hear from people who think the same way. How many cars with half a million miles, or indeed more, are out there?
I’m looking to put together a feature of celebration and – who knows? – maybe that could include some advice, too. So if you know a motor that would like to feature, drop me a note via one of the channels below.