At some point we've all become infatuated with something or someone and realize that we just have to make a game-changing move and realize our obsession. Peter Kangs' obsession was named Elise-a Lotus Elise to be exact. And the trappings of living in the City that Never Sleeps-or drives for that matter-was the impetus for his relocation to California.
Kang explains: "Having lived in Manhattan for most my adult life, you don't really drive as part of your daily routine. You take the subway, you walk, or you cab it. It's common to even know people who live there that don't even know how to drive. So there I was with the problem of how to reconcile my dream of learning how to properly drive a racecar while being stuck in what's otherwise one of the best cities in the world. Then a chance came up to transfer to an office in Los Angeles and I immediately took the opportunity to move out West."
With his dream squarely on deck, Kang began his hunt for the right machine. "The goal was simple. Find the best tool for the job, and learn how to properly drive a mid-engine lightweight sports car," he says.
A close friend and fellow motor head stopped by to help him decide on a car. Top Gear was on, the episode where presenter Jeremy Clarkson featured his test of the Exige. They watched Clarkson gush about how the Lotus "is a triumph of British engineering" and praise the car's light weight. He commented that anything "sold by the gram" is "always more exciting" than stuff "sold by the pound." Kang was sold; it had to be the Lotus Elise/Exige platform.
When he got to California he found his brand-new Elise at Southbay Lotus. There were three main shops that have had a hand in building this monster Elise. The project's jump-off point began at Tripoint Engineering, which fabricated the custom air-to-water intercooler and installed the initial supercharger system. He also looked to Dynamic Racing Solutions (DRS), which was responsible for sorting out the high power mods including the current engine block that was hand built by Kris Valdez and "is performing exceptionally well with perfect compression across the board." Kang explains
The Elise's buildup faced ongoing challenges riddled with mod gremlins and setbacks. "The most discussed aspect of the car is the powertrain," Kang says. When you drastically increase the power on any engine, everything needs to be reinforced, rethought and re-imagined. Kang reminds us: "This is basically a highly massaged Toyota Celica drivetrain that wasn't meant for the high abuse some in the community deliver to the platform."
Peter turned to Frank Profera, a central figure in the movement toward aftermarket supercharging for this platform. His Elise was the third vehicle to use the first-generation GReddy supercharging system for the Celica that was adapted to the Lotus Elise/Exige. "The 2ZZ engine now has lots of aftermarket support for engine strengthening and accessories; Frank has a dual charged setup rated at 550 hp," Kang says.
The Elise was haunted by catastrophic engine failures as the power skyrocketed. It happened three times-once from oil starvation, then the stock block gave out, and then another time under unknown circumstances. In the end, Kang got her sorted out with the guidance of Kris Valdez at Dynamic Racing Solutions to stabilize the machine, and he's been maintaining it ever since.
With the Elise finally performing solidly, Kang was eager to cut his racing teeth. He embraced the vibrant racing community on the West Coast. "One of the primary reasons I moved was for the car culture and access to canyon roads and tracks that can't be found anywhere else," he says.