Lotus Exige soft top conversion

I love convertible cars, even though we get very little sunny weather here in Wales, and one of the aspects of the Elise/Exige that attracted me the most was the open top. The Elise was originally designed by Julian Thomson, then head of design at Lotus, and Richard Rackham, Lotus's chief engineer, as an open top car for racing with no doors! The car’s rigidity comes from a bonded extruded aluminium chassis that provides a rigid platform ‘tub’ rather than an encompassing roof and pillars. This keeps the mass of the car lower, which is great for handling, with the added benefit of not needing a roof.

The Lotus tub get its strength from very wide sills, which are often criticised for making the car difficult to get in and out of for taller people. However, it is not really a problem, and with roof off its no different to getting in and out of a Ferrari or Porsche convertible. Some notable cars used this Lotus platform including Tesla Roadster, Vauxhall VX220, the insane Hennessey Venom, and others.

The Elise is a soft top car, being sold with a fabric roof, that can be easily and quickly removed and stowed in the boot, whilst the Exige was originally a hardtop to differentiate it from the Elise. The Exige diverged into its own model and adapted platform giving the car larger dimensions, more pronounced styling and greater performance.

This roof legacy continued with the Exige being sold as a hardtop, with the ‘roadster’ an option, which for many was more desirable. Yet take the roof off a Exige, just 6 simple screws, and you will see the holes for the soft top roof bars already installed above the front windscreen!

Converting to a soft top is simple, requiring just two openings to be made in the rear bulkhead (same as the Elise) to match the two in the bar atop the windscreen. A job that can be completed in a couple of hours at most dealerships. However, the next part is not so simple, as soft top roofs are almost impossible to come by. After an eight month wait mine finally arrived, with another couple of months for the roof bag.

That is it! A short job, and long wait. Was it worth the wait? Absolutely, the volume of the car can be really appreciated adding to the exciting and experience. Whilst the colour coded hard top completes the look, taking the top off for weekend fun is essential. Which do you prefer?

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