When commuters see a Ferrari or a Lamborghini cruising past them they typically say to themselves, “I wonder who owns that?,” “What does that person do for a living?,” “One day I’ll drive one,” or simply just “Wow, that car is awesome!” It doesn’t really matter what people think, what is really happening when that car comes by is that almost all the people are thinking about the same thing, their true dream car.
So what car would you run out and buy after cashing in that lottery ticket? For most, the daydream usually escalates to something like a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, no? However, sometimes it is nice to dream of something you can actually get your hands on. Dream cars don’t have to be pie in the sky propositions. So if you had the real-life funds to satisfy your practical dreams, what would it be?
Known for precise, knife-edge suspension tuning, Lotus makes cars for people who love to drive. There are tons of exotic car manufacturers out there, but many of these can be caged birds on wheels… so powerful but unable to really push their limits in public space. Lotus, more specifically, the Exige line has the look and feel of an exotic but it comes in a package that can be wrung out on the open road at will. The Exige is a two-seat, mid-engined, rear-wheel-drive coupe derived from the Elise roadster. It is powered by a 1.8-liter supercharged inline-4 Toyota engine. The body is a hand-finished fiberglass shell mounted on an aluminum chassis that provides a rigid platform for the suspension. For Ben Pengson, owner of the Lotus Exige S240 you see here, it is the exact compact exotic car he saw in his dreams. It has it all, from stunning lines to an impressive power-to-weight ratio.
Before It All
Of course, every project has to have a starting point. But, before moving on with Pengson’s build, let’s rewind. We’ll actually take it beyond the starting point. Before Pengson was even able to drive, he was already into cars. His father had a 1990 Honda CRX which, in turn, got him hooked on the importance of handling prowess as the little Honda barely made triple digit power.
Pengson’s dad has always been the driving force in his favorite hobby, cars. So when he was old enough to drive and had saved up enough money, Pengson obtained a Mazda3 which they ended up modifying. It wasn’t the dream car he was set on but it served him well as a guinea pig for learning the basics. Like any build, you gain experience and meet new people. He then got rid of the Mazda and picked up a Nissan 240SX S13 fastback and equipped it with an SR20DET. So he was rolling pretty good at this point. He gained more experience, met more new people, car after car. Come 2011, when he had enough saved up, he pulled the trigger on his dream machine, the Lotus Exige S240.
Pengson’s vision for an Exige S is obviously extreme. Lotus owners, in a somewhat stereotypical form, are usually purists and either keep their cars relatively unmodified or completely stock. Pengson feared nothing and unleashed his full excitement and all the lessons learned along the way on creating something one of a kind.
The Lotus was a blank canvas and after filtering through a lot of options and design possibilities, he was ready to make his move. Pengson originally wanted to full race on the Lotus, but with the influence from all of his supporting colleagues such as Encore Collective, he opened his eyes and was quickly immersed in building the ultimate street/track Exige S.
One of the cool things about the Exige is the engine is already modded. Lotus takes the Toyota powerplant and drops a supercharger on it, complete with air-to-air intercooler. It looks like a custom build-up done to a factory standard because that’s what it is. Introduced in 2008 the S240 replaced the previous S model and received a bump in power to 240, hence the name. The new model also introduced AP Racing brakes from Lotus’ Cup race car. Pengson added a Club Sport exhaust system from Larini to the mix to give the upstart Brit a tad more bark. Soon, the engine will undergo some work aiming at the 400-500 horsepower range.
Pengson kept most of the interior stock. But he did add some tasteful goodies: a Sparco Alcantara steering wheel, NRG quick-release hub, and Schroth four-point safety harness fitted on the Exige factory bucket seats. The interesting part about this interior is the seating arrangement designed by Lotus to improve handling. You can just see how far the seats are from each side door and how low and close they are to each other. A lot of little details about the interior design play a big role in the car’s go-cart-like driving dynamics. Pengson will be soon adding a roll cage that should up the interior game and take safety to the next level.As you enter the cockpit, you will find the interior to be a bit interesting in its minimalist approach. The layout is very simple, driver-focused, and straight to the point.
Pengson wanted to push the car’s stance past its limits, so he took the car to DTM Autobody in El Monte, California for a one-off, custom, wide-body kit. It turned out to be exactly how he imagined it, right down to fitting his re-barreled custom matte copper finished BBS RS wheels in the fat fenderwells. The mesh wheels measure 17×9 +18 front and 18×12 +0 rear. To complete the track-oriented hotness, a handful of APR Performance carbon fiber aero goodies were added: GTC2k wing, racing canards, front lip, front splitter, side splitters, and racing side mirrors. Talk about weight reduction and downforce, all in one package!Obviously, this car’s exterior is far from just bolt-on parts.
The process of the build is actually what Pengson enjoyed the most. Whether it be fitment issues or not having a clue on what to do, it was all a very fulfilling learning process. But Pengson is quick to point out that the most fulfilling aspect of the Exige is driving those trick custom wheels off the car. Pengson’s ideology when it comes to creating a car is, “do what makes you happy.” This is not a typical Lotus project. In fact, many of the purists in the community would love to flame the car, but at the end of the day everyone loves the build.
And Pengson loves driving his dream car. He used to be the kid that drooled over those highly expensive cars that would roll by his backseat window. But now, the tables have turned, and Ben Pengson is driving the machine that is causing the drooling.
Owner: Ben Pengson
Hometown: Temecula, CA
Occupation: Healthcare Administrator
Car Club Affiliation: Encore Collective
Car Cost: $50,000
Cost To Build: Lost track
Time To Build: 3 years
Date Completed: Never ending
Powerplant: 1.8-liter straight four-cylinder factory supercharged Toyota engine; Larini Club Sport exhaust system; S111 oil catch can; Braille battery and racing bracket
Drivetrain: Limited slip differential; variable traction control
Engine Management: N/A
Chassis: Nitrogen Singles coilovers
Brakes: Pagid RS4-2 front and rear racing pads
Footwork: Fully rebuilt BBS RS front: 17×9 +18 rear 18×12 +0; Falken Azenis RT615K tires
Exterior: APR GTC2K wing; APR carbon fiber racing canards; APR carbon fiber front lip; APR carbon fiber front splitter; APR carbon fiber side splitter; APR carbon fiber side mirrors; 3M star shield; one-off rear widebody by DTM Autobody; locking gas cap – Stant 11507 conversion
Interior: JVC Nav/Stereo; 10” JL subwoofer; rear view mirror and wiper delete; Schroth 4-point racing harnesses;Sparco Alcantara racing steering wheel
Honors & Awards: WekFest San Francisco 2012 3rd best exotic; WekFest Long Beach 2012 3rd best euro; 2013 Drive @UCR best of show; WekFest San Francisco 2014 best exotic of show; Nisei StanceNation Show-Off 2014 best static of show; Nurotag 2014 best of show
Sponsors: Falken Tire; Meguiars Detailing; APR Performance; DTM Autobody
Special Thanks: God, supportive family, and friends