Lotus Elan

To Poland in a Lotus Elan

PostPost by: jimj » Mon Sep 03, 2018 3:58 pm

To Poland in a Lotus Elan (and elsewhere)

Turtle wax, Auto Glym, Carnauba, we`d been practising our polish vocabulary ready for the Classic Europe 2018. The trip started in Leipzig, headed into the Czech Republic, Poland, then finished in Potsdam near Berlin. It`s a long way away, around 450 miles from Rotterdam and we were in two minds whether to go, especially as the motorway would take nearly 7 hours and non-motorway twice as much.

Around half the group flew there and hired cars and a further quarter went in modern cars. When I asked my glamorous assistant which she would prefer I was rather proud when she asked; “ Are we going on an adventure, or just a holiday?” I booked the ferry that day. Plus it meant we could occupy the moral high ground which is not a place I`m normally familiar with.

As always, the Elan was running sweetly, kept tip-top with anything showing signs of wear replaced. What could possibly go wrong? There`s some discussion whether the tubeless tyres need tubes and Dougal at Longstone Tyres assured me they did. Plenty of french chalk prevents wear, supposedly. Even so I had all the tubes replaced just before we left. Our first puncture was around 300miles from Rotterdam, damn.

We arrived in time for a look around Leipzig then, next day, we were off to Chemnitz taking in, amongst other things, a visit to Colditz. It turns out that, just like the Great Escape, Americans didn`t feature in any derring do and the stories we`ve heard were fiction loosely based on fact. A bit like the Route Book!

Chemnitz was lovely, there was a festival going on with live music on 3 separate stages, stalls, funfair, buskers, you name it. It was all very good humoured, just delightful. One day later, after we left, those riots broke out and Chemnitz has become a draw for psychopathic Neo-Nazis. Appalling.

I`m convinced that there`s a proportion of all religions and races who are drawn to violence, be they right-wingers, Isis, Al Queda, Catholics and Protestants, football hooligans, mods and rockers (you remember, yes you do) and what about Teddy Boys? Don`t call `em terrorists doing horrible things for, supposedly, a cause. They`re psychopaths.

Enough……….. the next day we were off to Dresden taking in the Miessen factory, seeing how they make and hand paint their rather expensive porcelain. The most affordable item was a porcelain teddy bear broach, about 1” high at 89 Euros. The factory tour was fascinating, I love that sort of thing. They`re great these trips.
Dresden was a highlight, beautifully restored, with lots to see and do. We didn`t see any jungle VIPs and the King didn`t live at the Zwinger Palace. There were lots of lovely restaurants but I`m not a big fan of German food. It`s either fried or very rich or both. I see lots of places and streets are named after Friedrich. And what is that grey, foul tasting milk they serve with coffee at breakfast? Carole thought it might be German sheep milk, more likely German Shepherd milk, I reckon.

It was around this time we had the second puncture at Liberec in the Czech republic. Good job I brought my Czech book (Nick) but first we drove in and out of Poland. Before that, (how did we fit it in?) for some sombre visits in the former DDR we went in the actual chambers where, from 1939, disabled German people were ushered supposedly for a shower, but were gassed, then burnt and tipped on a rubbish heap. Then on to Bautzen, the “yellow hell” where, post war right up to the 90s East German people were imprisoned for years without trial, sometimes for just speaking out against the government in this “Democratic” Republic.

I was really looking forward to Gorlitz where the river border, only opened around 20 years ago, reflects different levels of prosperity within sight of each other. Road works caused confusion but, coming across others on the trip, Jean assured me she had the route on her sat nav and we should follow them. 10 minutes later we realised, as we left Gorlitz, that they`d already been into town and we were following them to the next destination.
Others on the trip? Well, what can I say? Disappointingly no-one was really annoying so I didn`t have the pleasure of bearing a grudge. I really enjoy that. We were acquainted, already, with quite a number from other Classic Car Journey trips and re-acqaintance was a pleasure. Mostly, everyone was super friendly, especially Lindsey! And early evenings in the hotel bars was great fun. They`re great these trips.

The car was running as sweetly as ever and, one day in particular, we had a smashing drive through alpine-like scenery in the company of Alan and Lindsey in his 400bhp Skyline GTR . Brrrrm. Alan`s a great bloke, I don`t know why Lindsey doesn`t ask him to marry her. Meanwhile my paranoia about punctures reminded me to check the tyres at every stop and every change in road surface makes me question the nuances of the Elan`s handling. As Gordon Murray, another Elan owner, says; he couldn`t quite design the McLaren F1 to steer so beautifully.

And then we were off to Wroclaw, back into Poland, which makes 23 countries that we`ve visited in the Elan, and that`s not including Poundland. Wroclaw, again, was a lovely place to visit and we had time for a good look around and 11 of us piled into a weird long wheelbase golf buggy for a city tour. They`re great these trips. I tried a sample of Cherry Vodka, then so did most of the others, and then we had another, yum! You know how you try something on holiday and like it so much that you buy some? Then, when you get home you hate it? Well, the next door neighbours here presented us with a bottle yesterday and I`ve yet to try it. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow, then, was a drive to Legnica and on the way we went to an amazing, huge wooden church, accommodating 5500 people, was 400 years old and built using no nails, and this pre-dates Superglue. But then we went to Gross Rosen concentration camp, one of the few survivors being Simon Wiesenthal. Prisoners worked in the quarry where the average life expectancy was less than 2 months. There was an official Nazi policy of “Extermination through labour”. World leaders today, and everyone, should visit these places, should feel the evil, and think on.

Dee di did dee, dee der dee, did duh dee dee der de dee dee dee etc. You know it. For the final, driving day towards Berlin we were visiting Stalag Luft III, scene of the real Great Escape. Tom, Dick and Harry really were there but Steve McQueen wasn`t, nor was his motorbike. Now overgrown and probably of little interest to future generations we were able to stand over tunnel Harry and imagine the 130 odd prisoners crawling through, climbing up, and finding themselves 20` short of the woods and concealment. All but 3 were re-captured, 50 were shot, and escaper 13 went on to befriend a chap called Ian, 20 years his junior and was best man at Ian`s wedding. Ian was on the trip with us. How fantastic? They`re great these trips.

Now, you might think that some of these visits were saddening but it was quite the opposite, uplifting in fact. Today`s world with all its current evils is not so bad in comparison. We were really saddened, though, a little later as the clutch pedal in the Elan felt a little spongey, or was it my imagination? A quick check of the master cylinder showed no sign of leaking and the fluid level was fine. Everything seemed OK and we motored on for another 40 miles and still hadn`t had puncture number 3. Then……….at some traffic lights……..just 1.1 miles from the final hotel, as I went to engage first gear, the clutch pedal went to the floor, no amount of pumping having any effect and I managed to engage first and continue on in 3 lanes of tea-time traffic until I could sneak up onto the pavement. There was a stream of clutch fluid along the road, the master cylinder was fine and the the slave cylinder is inside the bell housing, totally inaccessible with the concentric clutch system on the 5 speed Sierra `box we have fitted. We were broken, well not us actually, we have Continental breakdown insurance. We had the next day looking around Berlin, another day in Potsdam then we were flown home free of charge and spared the miserable motorway drive back to Rotterdam. The car will be re-patriated in due course.

I`m upset that we sort of feel we let the car down, even though the slave cylinder was renewed last year as preventative maintenance and, frankly, if one more person asks me if I know what the letters LOTUS stand for I shall either burst into tears or burst into violence.

Jim & Carole
P.S. They`re great these trips.
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PostPost by: 69S4 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 4:44 pm

Sounds like it had the ingredients for a great trip but for the clutch. Fingers crossed the recovery people get it back safe and sound. Was this an organised trip you signed up for - if so which company was it, or was it just a bunch of friends? I keep thinking about going on an arranged trip but its always seemed really expensive for what appears little more than a route map and and hotel bookings. Having said that I did go on a few motorcycle ones many years ago and it was the other people in the group that lifted it out of the mundane.

Any ideas what caused the punctures? Nails or something you ran over? It's just that I've only had one puncture in the Elan since the 80's and that was a nail, or a kind of screw thing anyway. I've always used tubes and I don't change them other than when the tyres get changed. What sort of tyre pressures were you using? I've seen abrasion punctures caused by the internal ridges in tubeless tyres on motorcycles but only when people have been running very low tyre pressures - 10-15psi. The 'sweet spot' for the Uniroyals on my Elan between heavy steering and lack of feel is around 25-26psi and that's what I normally use.
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PostPost by: JimE » Mon Sep 03, 2018 7:36 pm

Next time you're asked what LOTUS stands for, simple. Lots of thrills, usually spectacular :D . Jim
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Mon Sep 03, 2018 7:49 pm

Great story! I guess Carol got her adventure. I like your acronym better.
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PostPost by: Craven » Mon Sep 03, 2018 7:52 pm

Many punctures take place in the rear tyres, debris thrown back after being picked up by the front wheels. Maybe not be to every ones liking but front mud flaps stop this happening.
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PostPost by: jimj » Mon Sep 03, 2018 9:22 pm

It was this company; https://greatroadjourneys.com having recently changed its name from Classiccarjourneys to widen its appeal.
We run Uniroyal tyres too and there was no sign of anything in the tyres causing the punctures. Maybe it was a coincidence or maybe a bad batch of inner tubes, which was my worry.
Jim
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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Mon Sep 03, 2018 10:52 pm

Jim,

I admire your use of your Elan on these wonderful trips, but I admire Carole's spirit even more! An adventure indeed! And, then the very clever way you write about them with wry observations and those puns makes going along for the ride quite a delight. To quote a major Elan adventurer: "They`re great these trips."
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PostPost by: normand » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:51 am

Its the rough interior of modern tubeless tyres that cause the punctures when tubes are used, I have 3 cars with this arrangement and only mitchelin tubes seem able to keep puncture free.
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PostPost by: trw99 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 7:58 am

Thanks for taking the time to write up your trip, Jim. Always appreciated.

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PostPost by: Mazzini » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:11 am

trw99 wrote:Thanks for taking the time to write up your trip, Jim. Always appreciated.

Tim


Indeed. Always a good read. What time of year did you go? I am really impressed you made the trip in the Elan.

Psychopaths - agreed, but not only, it's intolerance and fear stoked up by populism; it's been seventy-three years since the last major outbreak on the continent (excluding Yugoslavia) and we seem to have forgotten where it leads us.
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PostPost by: jimj » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:27 am

Time of year??? Last week.
The Balkan conflict was only just over 20 years ago, neighbour fighting neighbour, vile atrocities of the worst kind just 2 hours flight away.
We should all count our blessings as we did. Had the clutch failed 5 miles later we`d have been on the Autobahn heading for the ferry. Que sera.
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PostPost by: Elanintheforest » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:29 am

A great story about a very interesting trip, Jim.

I'm not sure that I would find visiting those sort of places uplifting in the current climate of populist grumpiness, although it would certainly be very emotionally engaging and educational.

I still can't figure out why concentric clutch slave cylinders exist, other that as an instrument for service departments to make more money out of their customer. I play with the rather odd but very appealing mid-engine Clio V6, and when anything has to be done to the engine, like cam belt change, the engine has to come out. And whilst the engine is out I'm told it would be daft to not fit a new concentric slave (and dual mass flywheel, clutch, engine mountings, starter motor and a few other things) and those who haven't heeded the advice normally have to get the engine out again a few months later!

The slave cylinder started leaking on my Lotus Cortina a few weeks ago. It took 30 minutes to remove the piston (with the slave body in situ), clean it all, pop in new seals and bleed the system. What does a concentric slave do that is worth all the extra hassle in replacement?!
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PostPost by: el-saturn » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:54 am

no tubes and sealed rims (enough paint where needed) are the perfect solution! i use a modern tyres (yoko a539 175/60/13) which can cope with my 160hp!! some of the tyres you folks use would peel of like banana peels!! lovely story!! sandy
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PostPost by: Mazzini » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:29 am

jimj wrote:Time of year??? Last week.
The Balkan conflict was only just over 20 years ago, neighbour fighting neighbour, vile atrocities of the worst kind just 2 hours flight away.
We should all count our blessings as we did. Had the clutch failed 5 miles later we`d have been on the Autobahn heading for the ferry. Que sera.
Jim


How was the weather? I stopped driving the Elans over the summer as it was just too hot, after half an hour I felt frazzled. To think as a teenager I would laugh at US E-types that had AC fitted, now I understand.

I was over in Germany a few weeks ago, I contemplated taking an Elan, but gave in and took the Elise instead and I was glad I so did because somewhere round the Midlands it started to rain (proper stuff, hard to see through) and it didn't stop till Bruges. I think we'd have drowned in the Elan.

I've run tubeless tyres for years without issue. I think Dave would try and sell snow to Eskimos.

Sounds like you've done a lot of miles in the Elan with the concentric clutch - ever had any prior issues?

23 countries - all in Europe?
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PostPost by: jimj » Tue Sep 04, 2018 9:53 pm

The weather was just about perfect. We had the roof up for 10 minutes in a heavy shower and once overnight when we were parked in the open. Gilets on for an hour in the mornings then shorts and short sleeves the whole time. Though one of us sometimes wore a skirt.
I`ve never had trouble with the clutch hydraulics before other than a slight weep from the master cylinder a while ago. I seem to recall a new one was £47 so I just replaced it.
AXA rang today to say the car should be back within the next 2 weeks so that`s good news. I`m missing it already.
Jim
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