My $18,000 Lotus Elise Project Car

How I Bought a Lotus Elise for $18k

Growing up the Lotus Elise was my dream car, but it never felt like an attainable or practical option. In college I was lucky and my husband, who had also loved the Lotus brand for years, bought his first Elise and I was given the opportunity to drive it. As a result, I fell head over heels in love with the car, even more so than I had originally. Years later, I purchased my own Lotus Elise for just $18,000.

The Poor Man’s Lotus Elise

From left to right: Lotus Elise, Toyota MR2 Spyder, and Pontiac Solstice

Unable to afford a Lotus Elise straight out of college I was given the opportunity to buy a well-built Toyota MR2 Spyder. Better known as the poor man’s Lotus Elise, the MR2 spyder only cost me $4,000 and was my first official mid-engine vehicle. Under the rear hatch sat the Toyota 1ZZ engine, similar to the 2ZZ engine found in the Elise. It was a great car and to this day I would recommend it to anyone looking for the most affordable mid-engine car on the market.

Finding my Elise

It was that very Toyota MR2 that I was in the garage working on when my husband came out to tell me that he had found the deal of a lifetime. It was a 2005 Lotus Elise needing some major cosmetic TLC, but in otherwise running and driving condition. The best part? It was only $18,000.

Now of course it’s worth mentioning that the car itself has a salvage title, which isn’t uncommon because the price to repair these cars is expensive, leading them to be totaled out after even minor damage. We’ve owned and built several salvage cars and I’ve never had any problems with the idea. In the end, we drive all of our cars to their limits and don’t have to feel bad about it because they aren’t clean titles.

Rebuild Number 1

Kissing the rebuilt front end of my Lotus Elise

We brought the car home in November of 2020 and began rebuilding and repainting the front end. I was desperate to get the car back on the road and as a result, we did the bare minimum to get the car in decent shape. I enjoyed the car like this for several years, bringing it out to shows and on drives, but I knew that it needed more care than I was giving it.

In December 2022 my husband and I decided to dive in to rebuild #2 and take the car completely apart to give it the genuine and in-depth TLC that it deserves. So, here we are, halfway through the second rebuild for my $18k Lotus Elise.

SEE MORE: Our Project Car Garage is Out Of Hand! Feb 2023 Project Updates

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