The Missing Elan M90
Which parts bin did Lotus raid this time?
So what have I learnt so far about this unusual car? First the engine is a Toyota 4A-GE 1.6 L, twin overhead cam mated to a Toyota gear box. The engine was also used in the MR2 and as such is easily modified for performance. The suspension is also Toyota and the same as the Excel. The instrument pod is Opel (GM Europe) Monza which required there to be an adapter for the oil pressure to mate it with the Toyota sender. In somewhat typical Lotus fashion, this was engineered at the limit and cracked after less than 1500 miles. Untypical, for Lotus, the radiator is over engineered, coming from a 1750 cc Austin Allegro. This choice was to allow for the addition of air-conditioning. Other sources of parts that I have been able to ascertain are as follows. The rear lights are from an Austin Martin Lagonda; the front indicators are Ford Fiesta reversing lights turned upside-down with yellow bulbs. In addition, to the engine and 5-speed gear box the final drive, heater, switch gear, headlight pods, and wheels all come from various Toyota cars. Finally, the M100's door handles are clearly the same as its M90 forbear.
The shape of the M90 was, and still is, criticized as being not as exciting as the M100. However, this is with hindsight and is a matter for some personal preference. What is often not appreciated is that in addition to the parts-bin raiding the M90 has several features that would have allowed it to be easily produced and user friendly. Unlike the majority of cars, the outside door panels is removed rather than the inside. This makes work inside the door panel simple and quick. Something that M100 owners would appreciate. The body panels were designed such that the lower body panels (dark gray on all cars) would be made of RRIM and easily replaced in the case of an accident. The upper panels would be GFRP and colored with the standard range. This sounds like a Saturn and similar modern cars from Detroit and Japan. For those interested in the technical details of the M90 they are provided in the Table. While the 1587 cc engine only produces 123 Bhp (@ 6600 rpm) the overall weight of 1973 lbs results in a power to rate ratio comparable to the original Elan and not to far from the turbocharged version of the Elan M100.
A feature that Winterbottom carried over from the TVR Tasmin was the Targa/convertible top. The roof comes in two sections. A Taga style center section which is removed and stored in the boot (trunk) and a rear section that folds down to give a true convertible. Unlike other Lotus soft tops the interior is fully lined.