Rotus: The Exige With Extra Width & A 700+hp Wankel

If I asked you to think of a car brand that delivers the most kart-like driving experience with its models, a lot of you would surely come back with Lotus – and for good reason.

The Lotus recipe starts with a very low kerb weight. The first generation, or Series 1, Lotus Sport Exige – like the one seen here – weighed less than 800kg from the factory. Next, that low kerb weight is supplemented by a small capacity, high-revving four-cylinder engine. The first cars came with a powerplant supplied by Rover, with later models up to the current offerings using Toyota units. Thirdly, a low centre of gravity and fine-tuned suspension provides razor-sharp handling.


Over the years, Lotus models have also become the subjects of modification. Owners have swapped in all kinds of engines, the most popular being the Honda K-series. But every now and then you find someone that’s gone a different route.


Just a few days ago I showed you an AMG-powered Exige. Now it’s time to look at one powered by a turbo Mazda 13B rotary engine. Aptly, it’s called the Rotus.


When its owner, Craig, came up with the crazy idea for this race car build, the Exige was more or less a rolling chassis, so the exterior modifications were tackled first. The Lotus wears a custom bodykit constructed in FRP and includes widened rear and front fenders. There’s also a large carbon fiber GT wing added out back.

In addition, the headlights were modified by removing the plastic lens covers and fitting dual projectors on each side, the front and rear amber indicator lights were replaced with clear equivalents, compact mirrors were added, and a dry-break fuel filler system was installed. Because you know, rotaries are thirsty at the best of times.


I’ve already mentioned the lightness of a Lotus Exige, but Craig’s example sheds even more weight through the factory glass rear screen being replaced with an FRP cover complete with large vents to aid in heat dissipation. Lexan replaces the side windows and front screen glass too.


With the body sorted and now able to accommodate a much larger wheel and tire combination, Craig specced up a set of 17x9s for the front end and 18x10s for the rear. To contrast against the new blue paint, the Lensos were refinished in a custom copper color before being wrapped up in 235/40R17 Toyo Proxes RA1s and 295/30R18 Toyo Proxes R888Rs.


While the car has many notable upgrades, the real talking point of this build sits behind the cockpit. A 13B turbo in stock or lightly tuned form would have been a nice match for the lightweight Lotus, but Craig wanted a little more. Actually, he wanted a lot.


What he’s ended up with is pretty much as extreme as it gets for a 13B twin rotor engine. The factory side ports were filled in and new peripheral intake ports formed right through the rotor housings, providing the engine with a savage idle and low-RPM drivability, but big top-end power.


Then there’s the turbo, an 88mm Precision Turbo PT8891 Gen2 CEA unit that’s hard to miss in the engine bay. A solid 30psi of boost pressure is delivered by the big single, with a charge cooler tasked to keep intake temps in check.

As you’d expect, there’s a massive appetite for fuel here, and E100 ethanol is delivered by three Walbro pumps feeding four 2,200cc Denso injectors. Now the quick-fill dry-break makes real sense…


On engine management duties is a MicroTech LT-10s that after tuning revealed a whopping 737whp from the ferocious 13B package. That’s a lot of power for any car, but in a modified Lotus Exige that weighs only 743kg (1,638lb), it’s utter madness.


How Craig manages to harness the power boggles the mind, but BC Racing coilovers and a full AP Racing brake setup on the front end, coupled with upgraded rotors and pads at the rear, provide some extra reassurance. Gear shifts are made through a Hewland sequential transmission.


Peeking through the windscreen, you’ll notice that the Sparco steering wheel is not where you’d expect it to be. Yes, this Exige now has a centre driving position with one lone Recaro Lotus Sport seat. The conversion would have taken a bit of work, but the experience from behind the wheel must be worth it.


I don’t know if you could get closer to a car-sized kart – and a Superkart at that – than what Craig has created in the Rotus. All I know is, this thing must be damn scary to drive.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto



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I sometimes wonder.

Are these model cars?



Hahah my wife said the same when she saw it. They're really so tiny


Toy cars


This must so much fun to drive and nimble , man imagine that sound and 3rd gear wide open throttle !!!!


This thing is mad. Unlikely rotary swaps like this one make me even more interested in 13b swapping my SVX.


Somehow a rotary sounds like a natural powerplant for something styled like the SVX.


The color temperature of the photos makes me think the photos were shot on film. Anyone know?


It was shot on a Fujifilm X-T3, so it has some built in film-life simulations. I do try to get my processing more like film though anyway


That's hilarious


Oh man I know someone who will love this
And he is right now building a rotary C8


This has to be one of the strangest combinations ever and I love it!

Rafał Szulejko

I love seeing custom Lotuses here and I'm happy to see two during the same week. It seems to me like somehow builds based on these cars have some extra craziness and quality.


Love this feature just need a new feature on the other rotary lotus the Europa from re-amemiya


Two thinks to mention:
1. This is not an Exige - it is a very rare motorsport Elise
2. The taillights are upside down ;-)


Haha never noticed number 2, but I did hear from some local Lotus guys say it's a motorsport Elise, that actually used to belong to one of the Lotus test drivers, but didn't know it for a fact, so didn't want to include it. Before it had the widebody added, it was apparently full carbon body, unpainted as well.


Does this make it a Rotus Erise?


"If I asked you to think of a car brand that delivers the most kart-like driving experience with its models, a lot of you would surely come back with Lotus – and for good reason."

Love the car, love the article and love the write up. This quote always makes me laugh though bc it's usually people who have never driven karts who use it. Any "sports car" is about as close to a go kart as a mini van is to this Lotus.

Did you know that to have the same tire to weight ratio as a kart this car would need each rear wheel to be ~1000mm wide? What about a kart engine weighing about 6% of the total vehicle mass? Just thought that was a funny comparison--hate the cliche!


All the money spent on this and then shit R50 rev counter....

Tom Westmacott

Thanks for covering this, SH really brings us the best and barmiest cars! Really surprised it's possible to get away with transverse mounting of such a powerful engine. Must be amazing to drive with the light weight, sequential shift and all that power.

BTW in the sentence "this Exige now has a centre driving position with one loan Recaro Lotus Sport seat" - I think you probably wanted to say 'lone' rather than 'loan' (unless the seat has been borrowed from a friend?).


Peeking through the windscreen, you’ll notice that the Sparco steering wheel is not where you’d expect it to be. Yes, this Exige now has a centre driving position with one loan Recaro Lotus Sport seat. The conversion would have taken a bit of work, but the experience from behind the wheel must be worth it.

Spelling mistake here btw, unless im mistaked, loan should be lone.
:) Great article though I really enjoyed it!


Thanks for noticing, supposed to be lone indeed.

Glad you liked the article


I can’t find any video of this running. Anyone got links ?


We NEED to hear it! Any videos?


There must be some nobel prize for this.


Incredible build. The power weight ratio is pretty close to F1 range. Doesn’t it feel like too much power in such a light and short wheelbase car to be usable? I’d be utterly terrified to drive that in anger on a track.

Could you guys add more videos to posts? I’d LOVE to see this in action.


After the merc v8 the other day and now this top work thank you for sharing it with us , keep up the good work


It's so nice to see a S1 Exige here, that thing must be mental. Though i really think (especially the badge seems to say so) that this once was a Motorsport Elise (what then became the roadgoing Exige) and these always came with center seat position and the motorsport engine cover like this one. Did the owner tell you that he converted that or did you look at pictures of Exiges and just concluded he changed that?
Do you know how much a 13B weighs? Just curious.


Not all Motorsport Elise came with a center seat. It was possble to chose between LHD, RHD and MHD


Yeah, you're partly right. The first cars that were exclusively for the Bytel Championship were centerseat cars and came like that from Lotus. After that, Lotus sold you a Motorsport Elise kit with a plaque which qualifies as Motorsport Elise, but you couldn't get the centerseat for the later ones. But this seems to be a genuine centerseat one with build #030, which is quite cool.


I have received some info from a few local Lotus guys that it might've been a Motorsport Elise, not sure if the owner knows that as he didn't tell me himself. I went on the info the owner gave. I have looked at lots of info and imagery on the Motorsport Elise but they all seem to be LHD though, not centre.
I have no idea how much a 13B motor weighs, but I'm sure not too much.


The first 35(36?) Motorsport Elise that brough the Exige body to life were centerseat cars that ran against each other in the Championship in the UK. The fact that this one is wearing the #030 plaque seems to indicate this is a genuine Motorsport Elise, which makes it even cooler.


That's awesome man, thanks for that info. Never knew that. Does really make this car even more special


I'll bet that is an absolute sensory overload anywhere above 50% throttle haha. I'd love an exige one day in standard form let alone one ass crazy as this.

Tyler Edwards

Did everyone not notice the spoiler end plates appear wrong? In the rear shot, the right hand plate appears to be on some sort of inward angle that seems strange