Introducing Hitel Club Elan to Randy's Lotus Elan Club

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Greetings from Korea! My name is Doojin Hwang and I am a member of the Hitel Club Elan of Korea. You may have noticed that some KIA Elan owners, myself included, have registered their cars on Elan Net. Whether we are welcome guests or not, we thought it would be a good idea to introduce ourselves to you. I do not officially represent the club, but I posted this writing on-line for several days and was encouraged to send it to your website. Here is our story:

KIA

Yes, the South Korean auto company produced Elans in one of its subsidiary firms called KIA Motec. Notice I said 'produced'. The production of this star-crossed car is discontinued for the third time; twice at Lotus and now at KIA. Hyundai, the new owner of KIA, finally pulled the plug after some 1,000 Elans. (How Hyundai came to own KIA, one of its arch-rivals, is a fascinating story itself taking place right at the center of the recent economic recession in Korea.) This has left us KIA Elan owners facing the same challenge as you Lotus Elan owners do; the trauma of owning an expensive, discontinued car, which, like a demanding lover, seems to have its own mind and always asks for something more......

KIA Elan?

You can say thousand things about KIA Elan and a few already did, mostly in bad terms. We just hope that your opinions, whatever they are, are based on facts and actual experience, not prejudices. Some of us have driven Lotus Elans and shared their experience with other less fortunate members. It is interesting to know that they don't always side with a Lotus Elan. While we sometimes blame KIA for the changes that were made, such as dropping turbo or slightly raising the car's height, we generally agree that it's a great car. We don't envy Z3 owners, for example. When it comes to the looks, we spare no words in praising KIA for its new design for tail lamps (as opposed to Lotus 'executive look'). The engine is a KIA 1.8-liter DOHC NA, as compared to Isuzu 1.5-liter turbo with not so great reputation. (Hey, we read books and reports.) Which is weaker? I don't know. Some of the power-hungry members in Korea have done turbo tuning and the car literally takes off......

Note: The only country where both Lotus and KIA Elans are found is Japan, for both companies sold their Elans there. (KIA, bound with agreement with Lotus, used the name Vigato instead.) We would love to hear from Elans owners in Japan.

Hitel Club Elan

The Hitel Club Elan and the Chollian Elan Mania are the two major Elan clubs in Korea. Our activities are not that different from yours; on- and off-line meetings, information sharing , group purchase, R &D of parts and accessaries. We have started to get inquiries from foreign customers, even from California and Norway! (A rear strut bar will be on its way to California soon.) Please visit our website: www. clubelan.co.kr and find more about our activities. You are always welcome and please feel free to write in English; we will answer in whatever English we can possibly come up with. We all speak Elanese, anyway.

Though there are only 700 or so Elans rolling in Korea, (a few hundreds were sold in Japan and Europe under the name Vigato) the country's small size pushes the 'Elan density' to a higher level than that of, say, California. Make no mistakes, however; an Elan is a rare breed here and never fails to evoke 'Ah's' and 'Oh's' from our usually unexpressive fellow countrymen. The terrain is ideal, too. Korea is a mountainous peninsular surround by seas and we have four distinctive seasons. The government seems to fail in everything else but road-building. What more can we ask for?

What does all this mean? We are having a ball everyday! Our on-line message board is bombarded with notes, technical infos, Q & A's, notices, tuning tips, etc. The off-line meetings, regular and spontaneous (called 'Thunder'), take places at least once a week. In a recent, uniquely memorable off-line meeting, there were 16 Elans aboard a ferry bound for a resort island. We ruled the road that day.

Maintenance

Say 'maintenance' or 'spare parts' to an Elan owner, Lotus or KIA, you will see very interesting facial movement. There are always those suckers out there whose self-imposed mission is to go out and scratch expensive cars. We jump and scream and curse at first, then becomes somewhat philosophical. A car is a car is a car......

Yes, KIA Elans leak too, following the family tradition. However, this doesn't seem to be a problem anymore; KIA Motec's A/S department has excellent reputation of making an Elan a submarine. Repainting, both partial and full, can be easily done too. (Pockets will be much lighter, as a matter of course.) There are even some Elans here repainted in 'Chameleon' color which are visually startling, but......

Getting spare parts are becoming a problem. Cost is and will always be a nightmare, but a specter of 'Availability', or lack of it, is looming above the horizon. Recently, the club has launched a plan to produce PR videos; none of us say it, but we all know that the real reason for doing this to visually 'preserve' our cars, which we are destined to be parted with someday.

The newest Lotus Elan is much older than the oldest KIA Elan. Therefore, we have a lot to learn from your experience. On the other hand, KIA is known to have enough parts to produce several hundred Elans; we believe that many of them are Lotus-compatible too, unless you are some sort of 'purists'. It seems that we are much better off if we build a relationship, eventually calling ourselves simply, 'we'.

Elan lovers of the world, unite!