"I was already modifying it on the way home from the showroom," says Frank Profera of his 2005 Lotus Elise. "I can never understand people who buy cars and then want to keep them stock. In that case, why not just lease?" Why not, indeed. This car is a perfect example of one man's automotive obsession. It's not unreasonable to call someone who installs two types of forced induction into that tiny engine bay obsessive, is it? That's right, a turbo and a supercharger. In a car that weighs not much more than a pizza.
The supercharger went in first-a VF Engineering MP62. But when Profera got used to the 300 or so horsepower that gave, it was supplemented with a Precision 6262 ball bearing turbo. These days, that turbo is accompanied by a custom-made air intake, manifold, headers and a four-inch tailpipe from Stafford Fabrication. Based in Lancaster, CA, Mike Stafford is a good friend of Profera's and a whiz with a welder. There's also a Burns muffler in there somewhere. Enhanced exhalation is aided by a Tial 44 waste gate and a Turbonetics Raptor blow-off valve.
Feeding the beast's greater appetite is an in-tank Walbro 255-lph pump, a Stafford full return fuel rail with an Aeromotive regulator, a Stafford fuel swirl pot with its own Walbro pump (to prevent any fuel starvation when cornering hard and fast, of which this car is eminently capable), and Siemens 750cc/min injectors. If there are going to be bigger explosions, the Toyota 2ZZ-GE should be able to withstand them, so Brian Crower connecting rods topped with Wiseco pistons now move through Darton cast iron cylinder sleeves, while a set of Monkey Wrench Racing (MWR) valve springs with titanium retainers ping away above them. Compression now stands at 9:1, as opposed to the standard figure of 11.5:1. Stafford also came up with beefier engine mounts.
Naturally, the suspension had to go to another level. Profera collaborated with Chris Randall of Hofmanns Racing and together they worked with Nitron-from dear olde England, keeping the limey/Lotus connection-to get them valved just right. These are supported by Eibach springs: 550 pounds in the front, 800 pounds in the rear. Yet the car rides almost as comfortably as stock. "It's all in the valving," says Profera. A Lotus Sport antiroll bar joins Stafford-built lower A-arms, toe-links, and bushings.
There was no point in stopping there. Hence an upgrade to Lotus Sport AP brakes, using Pagid R14 pads and Aeroquip stainless steel braided lines. In front of the stoppers are the rollers: Kodiak FX wheels, sized 7.5x16 up front and 10.5x18 at the rear, wearing 205/40 and 285/30 Hoosier R6 super-sticky competition tires.
With all the above fitted and functioning, it was time to go for a an exhilarating drive. Just one small hitch: All that muscle ended up turning two stock gearboxes into scrap metal. Obviously a more serious transmission was needed. As it happens, the E153 gearbox found in the Toyota MR2 Turbo can take 500 hp. Stafford got on the case re-working the bell housing, as well as putting together a gear oil cooler and installing Moser axles. With the trans still in pieces, it was a good time to fit a Clutchmasters twin-disc clutch and pressure plate, plus a Fidanza single mass flywheel.
The thing is, the E153 'box is a five-speeder with quite tall gearing, which wasn't chiming well with the turbo. To keep from dropping too far out of the powerband, Profera went for over-the-top. He decided to throw in a supercharger, which meant buying the same model as before. "That's called R&D," he says.
Now the turbo blows through the supercharger, into the air/water charge cooler (another Stafford piece), then into the engine. It takes serious orchestration to take an output of around 580 hp (from a 2.0-liter four, for goodness sake) and retain some kind of drivability. It all starts with a reprogrammed ECU, which then marshals its deputies: an AEM boost controller (an ARK boost controller is kept on board as a spare-a teensy bit obsessive?) and an NGK wideband controller, while sparking comes from Okada plasma coils (which, according to Profera, add 3 hp).
Boost levels are 14 psi with 89-octane gas, 24 with 91, and 32 when Profera gets hold of the good 100-octane stuff. Much of the plumbing is held in place by Wiggins clamshell clamps. They're expensive, but they can handle 80 psi.
Under-hood temperatures might cause a mercury shortage were it not for the Stafford rear-mounted oil cooler, Pro Alloy radiators and heat exchangers, and Spal fans. A Jabsco water pump services the charge cooler while a Johnson water pump attends to the rear-mounted radiator. What used to be the small luggage space behind the engine has now been co-opted by all these extra necessities. Essential lubrication is aided by a Circuitworx oil pump, a Moroso oil pan (modified for an eight-quart capacity), and a Stafford oil catch can.
Since the original rear end had been remodeled by a Peterbilt, it was time to concentrate on the exterior. Profera plumped for Brit beautification and contacted ReVerie for a carbon front splitter, rear diffuser, canards, seats, and harness bar. The company counts Formula One teams among its client list, so not too shabby.
More CF stuff came from TWRD, in the form of a roof, door panels, and sills. Specialty Car Craft of Los Angeles fashioned the front and rear fender flares, side intakes and side skirts, attached the Craft Square mirrors, then applied the paint-a Ferrari-derived grey. Note the lack of front-end turn signals. They've been replaced with Rizoma motorcycle counterparts and stashed in the headlight assembly.
Inside are ReVerie CF bucket seats, Sparco harnesses, and flat-bottom steering wheel (the latter affixed to a Works Bell quick release adaptor), complemented by a TWRD CF center console and dash. Housed within is a Panasonic Avic N3 head unit with DVD, XM, navigation, and monitor for a rear-view camera. Extra buttons, switches and dials, such as the AEM wideband A/F gauge, are placed intelligently and discreetly. As is the small-footprint Braille battery-deep in the passenger footwell.
After sinking around $135,000 into this build (including $40,000 or so for the car itself), Profera, a retired seller of collectable cars, has something extremely special. Or even just extreme. Every non-standard component has been made well and fitted well. Then there's the performance. "It was tuned in Death Valley," says Profera. "Like the OEM guys."
In third gear, the engine can pull sweetly and without effort from low revs right up to triple-digit speeds in no time. The acceleration is simply astonishing. Seriously, it could embarrass a few sport motorcycles. If someone were to encounter such speed while playing a video game, they would criticize it for not being realistic. But it's real, all right. The turbo whoosh and supercharger whistle combine into what sounds like a Harrier jet. Or a drill devised by the world's most evil dentist.
While this kinetic and aural feat might mean mission accomplished for some, an obsessive nature is inclined to keep going. Only recently has Profera turned the last bolt on the installation of a Master Shift column-mounted sequential paddle shifter. And he plans to sprout a DTM-style rear wing. "I'm not dealing with any rules," he says, "because I'm not racing."
He's not racing. He's just going really, really fast.
2005 Lotus Elise
Transverse mid engine, rear-wheel drive
2.0-liter I4, dohc, 16-valve, supercharged, turbocharged and intercooled. Wiseco 9.1:1 forged pistons; Darton cylinder sleeves; Crower rods; VF MP62 supercharger; Precision 6262 turbo w/1.06 turbine housing; Stafford air-to-water intercooler, air intake, manifold, fuel rail, headers, four-inch tailpipe, oil catch can, oil cooler, fuel swirl pot, engine mounts; Siemens 750 cc/min fuel injectors; Burns stainless steel muffler; Tial 44 waste gate, Turbonetics Raptor BOV; Circuitworx oil pump; Moroso oil pan; MWR valve springs, retainers; Walbro 255 lph fuel pumps (2); Aeromotive fuel regulator; Okada plasma coils; Wiggins clamps; Pro Alloy radiators, heat exchangers; Spal fans; Jabsco water pump; Johnson water pump; AEM boost controller; ARK boost controller
Five-speed manual (Toyota E153); Master Shift robotized clutch w/paddle shift; Clutchmasters twin-disc clutch, pressure plate; Fidanza single-mass flywheel; Moser axles
Nitron/Hoffmans coilovers; Eibach springs; Stafford lower A-arms, toe-links, bushings; OEM Lotus front anti-roll bar
Lotus Sport AP brakes; Pagid R14 pads; Aeroquip stainless steel braided lines
Wheels & Tires
Kodiak FX alloys, 7.5x16 (f), 10.5x18 (r)
Hoosier R6, 205/40 (f), 285/30 (r)
ReVerie carbon fiber front splitter, rear diffuser, canards; Craft Square carbon fiber race mirrors; TWRD carbon fiber roof; Rizoma front turn signals; Specialty Car Craft front and rear fender flares, side intakes, side skirts
ReVerie CF bucket seats; Sparco harnesses, flat-bottomed steering wheel; Works Bell quick release adaptor; TWRD CF center console, dash, door panels, sills; Panasonic Avic N3 head unit; AEM wideband A/F gauge; Braille battery; Frank's paddle shifters
Peak Power: 580 hp @ 6900 rpm
Peak Torque: 430 lb-ft @ 4300 rpm
0-60 mph: 2.2 sec
0-125 mph: 5.3 sec