Fast Friends: Matt Horgan’s Lotus Exige Sprint

Sometimes you have to give yourself a pat on the back when you know you’ve done something well – when you can look back at a moment with pride. Car companies occasionally do the same thing, yet their pat on the back sometimes arrives in the form of a limited edition model.

You can think of today’s feature car as just that; a little fibreglass, supercharged pat on the back from Lotus to Lotus. You see, only forty of these cars were ever produced, each one as paying homage to Lotus’ Elan Sprint, the final iteration of Lotus’ legendary sports car.

The model also celebrates 40 years of production at Lotus’ Hethel facility, with each car getting assigned a year on its chassis plate ranging from 1967-2007 with the exception of 1982, the year of Lotus founder Colin Chapman’s death.

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The F1-inspired duo-tone paint scheme was offered with either yellow or blue as a primary colour, the former of which made it onto just 13 cars. The beauty continues beneath the fibreglass skin too, with each car having every Exige option ticked from the factory – that means 239hp from the supercharged Toyota 2XX-GE engine, uprated Bilstein suspension, Probax seats, lightweight alloys, four piston brakes from AP and Yokohama’s barely-legal A048 sticky tyres as standard.

There are even creature comforts you wouldn’t normally associate with such a car: air conditioning, a four-speaker radio and probably the best cup holder I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, here are a few words with the current owner Matt Horgan:

What was it about this car that does it for you?

I was instantly drawn to the looks of this car – I wasn’t actively looking for an Exige at the time, but I absolutely fell in love with the way the car looked and how unique it was. It looks like a proper little race car and as soon as I heard that supercharger whine I was 100% sold so I had to swap my Elise for it

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You have to be one of the youngest Lotus owners in the country, and yet this is your second car from the brand, how do people react to that?

There are two very different reactions and you can usually tell if somebody is into cars depending on which category they fall into. A non car enthusiast response would be suggesting I’d be better off getting a 1.8 diesel Astra and that the insurance must be sky high (my Civic is actually over £200 dearer to insure). A car enthusiast tends to be more interested in whether I’ve tracked it and what it’s like to drive. Both groups of people most probably think I’m mad with non-car guys thinking I shouldn’t spend so much money on cars and car guys thinking I’m mad to drive it rain or shine for the daily commute

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You’ve owned both the Elise and the Exige, which do you prefer and why?

The Exige, no question about it. It’s got two mods – a Larini exhaust and TRD air intake which compliment the car perfectly and make it sound amazing (listen to Matt’s car for yourself here). The Exige is actually surprisingly slightly more refined than the Elise was inside due to it having a newer interior AND an actual cup holder. When you get into the handling department the Exige just blows the Elise away thanks to the sticky tyres. The Exige is a real event when you drive it and always tends to draw a crowd of onlookers when it’s parked up. I did enjoy the soft top element of the Elise in the summer but I’ve taken the top off of the Exige too (you just need 5 minutes with a screwdriver and somewhere to put it once you’ve taken it off)

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Describe the drive in three words

Focused, rewarding and planted. My girlfriend Bronny would say: cramped, anti-social and bumpy hahaha

What advice would you give to a potential Exige owner?

The best advice would be to get on the forums and get chatting. There’s a really good community on seloc.org so spend some time on there getting to know the quirks of the car you’re buying. It’s a Lotus so don’t be too afraid if you hear a few rattles and squeaks here and there (they’ll probably go away only to come back a few months later haha). Look for an example that’s been well loved and just do it – you won’t regret it. Residuals on them are rock solid so you’ll be hard pressed to lose much money if any

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What’s the highest you’ve seen on the clock?

The highest I’ve seen on the Exige is actually not high enough! I don’t even think she’s see past 120 (on a private road, obviously). It gets there so quickly that you really have to be careful where you put your foot down – you can quite easily get carried away! I plan on getting the car on track sometime soon so I can really stretch her legs!

How expensive is it to live with?

Ownership costs are entirely reasonable. Insurance is around £400 with Admiral, tax is around £260 IIRC and servicing can be a few hundred pound from an independent specialist. The original tyres were only meant to last around 5000 miles but the car has Avon ZZRs on it which are highly regarded and have lasted incredibly well

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What’s your favourite part of the car?

My favourite part of the car is just the pure theatre of it. Every time you go somewhere it’s a real event. Not only does it put a smile on your face every time you lift off the throttle and hear the exhaust pops on overrun but when you stop at the lights and glance over to see somebody taking a photo you realise that it seems to put a smile on everyone else’s face too

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Nice.. and your least favourite?

My least favourite thing is getting in and out of the car especially with passengers. I’ve had to climb through the passenger side before where a car has parked too close to me (ample room if you were in a normal car) and passengers tend to just fall in after unsuccessfully trying to figure out the most graceful way to get in (there isn’t one). Looking like an idiot when getting in and out is a small price to pay though!

Planning on parting with the car?

After over 3 years of driving a Lotus as my daily drive, I recently bought a Civic to eat up the motorway miles of my new job. I’m now starting to think about something even more hardcore i.e. a fast Caterham as the weekend car but I’m not sure I can part with the Exige as it just does everything so well

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Similar reads:

Fast friends: having a wankel with Alex Hope

Fast friends: Tom Parson’s modified Nissan GT-R

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