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BUILD THREAD - 600bhp 2.5L 5cyl VAG Turbo Lotus Elise S1

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The time has come to start a proper build thread for my current ‘long term’ project. As a quick overview I’ve completed a few VAG related projects in the past. I mainly focused on engine conversions for myself and friends as that’s what interested me. My last full rebuild project was one that you may have seen a while ago. It was an AWD 1.8T VW Corrado that graced the pages of Performance VW magazine way back in 2006. I went to town on this car, perhaps a little too much in some areas - 




After selling up I had been contemplating for a while taking a lightweight car and sticking a turbo’d  VAG engine in it. An imminent house purchase stalled this idea but I was lucky enough to squeeze 4 months ownership of an S2 Lotus Exige 190bhp in chrome orange. I loved everything about it but couldn’t help but think what it would be like with a 1.8T in the back. However it remained standard to ensure a quick sale. Forward to 2 years ago. I decided to go on the hunt for a donor S1 Elise as a basis for a long term project. I searched everywhere for about 6 months trying to find an example that hadn’t been in an accident but that fit my tight budget. I finally came across this Norfolk mustard yellow example that had a broken engine and an owner that didn’t have the time to fix it - 








Shortly after I came across a rather unique engine through an old Corrado contact. It was a nearly new 2.5L inline 5 VAG test engine that’s now used in the Mk5/6 Rabbit, Bettle etc in North America and that went on to be developed for the TTRS / RS3 etc. Mine is a N/A engine but I bought it with forced induction in mind -








Then I sourced a ‘wide’ S1 Exige body with the motorsport 3 piece rear clam and extended rood scoop -






Started to pull the old elise front and rear clams off the car. They were seized in places so I ended up cutting most of the body off. Note to Lotus.. steel does rust, so find something else to bolt the clams down with! -




Trimmed and test fitted the body –






I had been pondering over whether the engine I bought would even fit, in the end it did go into the space between the chassis legs but only just! It will need some modifications before it can sit in its final position.


Getting the old ‘Rover K series’ Elise engine out -






Elise engine out... 2.5 waiting to go in -




2.5 stripped to a long block -




02M Lean 6spd box fitted -




...and back in place for another trial fit -




Then I managed to get a bit of time to unbolt the engine subframe and wishbones etc in order to trial fit the engine/box again but this time placing it lower and further back to the rear of the car. The ideal position would allow the driveshafts to lineup perfectly straight, however this will be tricky to achieve for various reasons. Unfortunately for me Lotus didn't design the car to have a 5cyl engine and bulky 6spd gearbox installed therefore the clearances are very close. I will need some very stiff engine mounts if this is going to work! The sump might be a bit lower than the K-series engine. The lower rear wishbones will both need their cross strut modifying to clear the sump and gearbox. The gearbox output flanges were pretty close to lining up with the hubs.


Engine subframe off -




2.5L engine back in -






Should have enough room behind the bulkhead -




I managed to get hold of some used SSR Type-C 16x8 wheels, which were ideal for what I wanted and suited the car really well. These are destine for the front, obviously. The rears were going to be 17x10.5 but I came across a bit of problem. I soon worked out that SSR decided to discontinue their Type-C range not long before I purchased the fronts 2nd hand! I’ve so far spent an age searching for a pair for the rears but it still continues! (If anyone knows of some wide 17's SSR wheels for sale please let me know!!) Pic of the fronts..




I bought some S2 Elise wishbones and uprights and fitted the vx220 hubs, giving me 5x110 PCD. I fitted these for mock purpurses as they will be all sand blasted and powder coated eventually -




Some timber supports used to represent a low ride height.




The first piece of the engine puzzle was purchased. Its a GTX3076R with a .63 Tial hot side. I could have gone larger but I want to try and make the car as driveable as I can with road driving in mind as well as the track. I think it will be plenty powerful enough (y)







Because I needed to start sorting the bodywork out I spoke to Matt at Stanced UK Ltd (recommend him by the way, very helpful, for UK based peeps) I bought some reps to use as mock ups. 17x10 rear with mock up tyres, 275-40-17.


Decided to make a start improving the front (wide) s1 Exige clam. I think it was put together with Motorsport in mind and therefore all the recesses have been removed etc. The clam had been widened down the centre. Roughly 40-45mm. They had also done similar to the bonnet adding 40-45mm, which didn’t look right in my book so I had every intention of changing this. The whole kit didn’t fit particularly well plus I prefer the look of the old bonnet so I went at it with a grinder!


Wide clam with wide bonnet -




Took my old Elise clam and use it as a donor for its bonnet, surround, windscreen edge and door shuts. First up was to re-fit the s1 Elise clam. Then cut around the bonnet, roughly 50mm from the return -






Then I cut the wide clam close to the bonnet return and lay it over the Elise version -




Marked and cut then re-fit-




Made some metal stays and screwed them to hold everything in the right place -




Next up I cut the Elise wheel returns and fit them to the Exige clam. These are bigger than the OEM Exige clams but thought I'd give it a go.. Can always amend them to look factory -




Thought at this point it would be neat to try and lower the look of the clam by dropping the wheel return down about 25mm then back filling. Again if it doesn't work then I can re-do -




Next I needed to sort the side returns. Wanted to try and match the normal Exige clam but because of the extra width the door would hit, so tried a straight return using the original elise door returns in the design. Think it will look ok and the doors clear fine -






Then it was time to backfill the adjustments with some glassfibre -




Finally I had time to remove the stays, grind and a quick rough sand then refit the clam -






Finally, a box of engine parts arrived on Friday. Was very chuffed indeed. :D Massive thanks to Issam @ INA Engineering (Canada) for sorting me out! I can't recommend him enough :thumbup: I've got one of their awesome cnc oil filter / oil cooler ali adapters with built in check valves.. great piece of engineering!! Then some bottom end bits including some Mahle 83mm pistons,  DM Forged rods, Calico bearings.... I'm hoping to get the engine dry built first before re-building the motor so I ordered the essential Tial BOV/44mm wastegate and 2.5 exhaust manifold flange so I can start fabricating.


Bad quality pic -




I will try and keep this thread up to date, but it will take a good few years to complete this project so bear with me! :D

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Wow, what a build


How long has it taken so far?


Thanks! Its taken about 18 months so far. I haven't done a great deal other than save and buy parts! I hope to have the body done this summer, engine in shortly after on mounts and then I can start fabricating the bits for the turbo etc. 

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That is an epic looking build and I'll definitely be watching and following!


I've always liked the idea of having a turbo, wide one of these 



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Ruddy love builds like this!! Not helping my hankering for a proper project

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I remember your 'rado. TVR dash?


This looks nuts!

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This is bloody mental lol. I think this will be the first of it's kind!

Thanks!! I don't think there are many of these engines around at the moment.. But they are starting to develop parts in the US and they share many components with the 2.0 tfsi engines ;-) Should be fun in a 750kg car!! ;-)

Edited by biggerbigben

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Amazing project you've got going on!

The old corrado was a quality looking build with some great details on the interior.

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Thanks for the comments guys re my old corrado. It was a labour of love and I enjoyed every aspect of building it. The tvr dash was a little mad but it was a nice place to be when it was finished! The focus is different this time around. I choose a car that needs minimal body/interior tinkering as it already looks good and the interior is purposeful, well designed and lightweight. It will be all about the engine and chassis setup to get a considerable amount of power transferred to the road/track. You can't beat a VAG engine!

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This is awesome! Can't wait to see it progress!

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Wow really interesting project dude. lots of work gone in so far, lots more to do. will be keeping an eye on this thread, best of luck hope u keep on it

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ohh my!

Nearly brought an s1 elise a couple years back, always been a fan but this thing!!!


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Great looking project this, and different to the 1.8t conversions you occasionally see ( think a guy called Bernard something was doing them a few years back?) Elise's are such epic little cars, almost telepathic handling. Good luck and keep the updates coming.....

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