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Mike Taylor’s association with Lotus began in the early ’90s with an M50 Elite project car.
“I built a chassis for it, but was spending £500 on parts every week at a local specialist,” he recalls.
“Then I found an Éclat in a scrapyard. It had new dampers and a new radiator, so I bought it for £350 and before long had earned £3000 by breaking it.
“I ended up buying cars to strip for spares, and worked from home until the neighbours complained.”
At that stage Taylor was still designing engine management systems and immobilisers for Lucas, Valeo, Nissan and others – he still has patents in his name.
He turned his hobby into a business in 2005 when he remortgaged his house to buy an industrial estate near Rugby.
The gamble paid off, and Taylor went full time in ’07. What began as a series of huts is now home to modern, purpose-built units and some 20 firms, hand-picked for their car-related specialisms.
Early on Taylor found that selling secondhand parts was seasonal: “We didn’t do much from November to February, then things would go mad in March and April when people got their cars out.
“We decided to set up a workshop to balance things. Now the parts are the minority in terms of time, but still the most profitable.”
Lotusbits probably has the largest inventory of 900-series engine parts in the world.
With its three-bay workshop and a clean room for engine building, it has developed a reputation for its full restorations and bespoke cars.
Rebuilding an Elite or Éclat on an Excel chassis is a popular upgrade to make these increasingly collectible four-seaters into the cars they always should have been.
From there, customers can add improved brakes and suspension, or perhaps an injected 2.6-litre, 270bhp ‘stroker’ engine with a billet crank, ported head and other tweaks developed in Taylor’s fearsome 300bhp Sunbeam Talbot Lotus rally car.
The team has looked deep into the inherent problems with the 907 unit.
“The issue wasn’t that the block was weak, but the crank was out of balance,” says Taylor. “Lotus tried to cure the resonance with a flexiplate flywheel that twisted axially, but we can measure what is happening on our dyno and our redesigned cranks have halved vibration levels.
“That’s gained us a lot of usable rpm and made our rally engines more reliable. For a road car the benefit is smoothness.”
“We do quite a few Jensen-Healeys: we’ve just finished a GT with a 2.2-litre engine – we sell a kit to upgrade those to the Toyota Supra ’box.”
One of Taylor’s pet hates is new parts that don’t work properly: “They can put lives at risk – they have to do a lot more than just fit. We put a lot of effort into research and development.”
Recent additions include an improved oil pump for the dry-sump Essex Esprit, a kit to convert vacuum pop-up lights to electric operation, and new original-style chassis for the Elite/Éclat.
Electrics in these cars were always marginal, so Taylor has developed a control module that gets rid of all the high-power switching and relays, thus avoiding the voltage drops and poor contacts that lead to unreliability.
“It still uses the original switches to work everything, but if a switch fails you have a hidden keypad as a back-up. It’s fully programmable, and a good improvement for 1970s and ’80s cars that are starting to get complicated electrically, but for which replacement parts are not always freely available.”
Customers are now spending money on the front-engined cars, not just more valuable Esprits.
“The trouble is, an Elite costs the same to restore but is worth a lot less. But owners love its four seats and the unique shape. It’s still my favourite Lotus.”
Images: Olgun Kordal
- Name Lotusbits
- Address Unit L, Old Station Yard, Oxford Road, Marton, Warwickshire CV23 9RU
- Staff Four
- Specialism Restoration, parts and upgrades for Elite, Éclat, Esprit, Excel and other Lotus 907-engined cars
- Prices £65 per hour
- Tel 01926 633211
- Web lotusbits.com
- Email email@example.com