Lotus Elan

Tasteful updating

PostPost by: The Cyclist » Fri Oct 06, 2017 4:49 pm

I am about to start the restoration of my S3 SE that last turned a wheel in 1984. There was a false start 10 years ago & my ideas on what to do have completely changed. I am now planning to stay stock with only modifications that will not reduce the value of the car. I have persuaded my wife it's an investment.
So far the only improvements I have come up with are:
Electronic ignition hidden within the distributor.
Dynalite - alternator as dynamo.

I have to change the seatbelt as I will not risk my life with 40 year old inertia reels, but I do wonder if I can improve the mounting points for the belts [and the seat] without compromising the value.

Thoughts ladies & gentlemen please.....

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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:28 pm

CV joints instead of donuts.
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PostPost by: elanfan1 » Fri Oct 06, 2017 5:42 pm

IT isn't really an investment, I doubt you'd make your money back to be honest. However if you want to maintain or increase value don't change the seats! The seatbelts can be checked or made good by Quickfit. Try to keep it original as possible incl a Lotus chassis!
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Fri Oct 06, 2017 9:48 pm

I have the same car and I would suggest :-

C/V driveshafts, which I have only just done.
Change to negative earth and alternator. The rev counter is easy to change but you need to be careful with the radio. Mine had a pos/neg switch.
Electronic ignition unit in the distributor.
Modern pre engaged starter motor.
Increase the spacing of the pedals by 1/2". The pedals bend easily in the vice with a hammer and do not look much different but transform the pedal action.
Extra switchable electric radiator fan.

Most of these do not cost much as they are alternatives to restoring what you have now.
I look forward to watching your progress.
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PostPost by: Grizzly » Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:23 am

For me the best thing i did was fit adjustable handbrake rods and new handbrake pad springs. Really satisfying to have a working handbrake for more than a couple of weeks :)

If you do fit CV drive shafts you will need some form of Droop reduction for the rear suspension, if you fit just the shafts they will work but you will find the CV boots don't last very long (don't forget to fit a Diff brace as well ;) stock diff mount castings aren't up for the shock load of the CV drive shafts)

As for electronic Ignitions, i'd recommend a Lumenition Magnetronic. I've had a few different set up's and they all work well but the Chinese copies seem to have a fairly short life span and are very highly strung (doesn't take allot to pop one)........ I have a Optronic and Magnetronic fitted to each of my cars without issue but the Optronic has an external box which requires mounting some where.
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PostPost by: The Cyclist » Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:24 pm

Thank you that's really interesting information. The only disagreement you have with the guy who's doing the restoration is that he doesn't like CV joints, even though the doughnuts are clearly a PITA. I will ask him about the pedals.

I am viewing it as an "investment" - something I shouldn't lose a lot of money on.....

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PostPost by: Grizzly » Sat Oct 07, 2017 6:35 pm

Frankly CV Joints are a necessary evil, you just can't get Rotoflex's of suitable quality nowadays...... I have a bit of a purist side so wanted to keep Rotoflex's for the character of the wind up effect etc (wanted the drive to be as 1970's) but having seen the cracks appear in brand new specialist supplied couplings i submitted that it was a reliability mod that was 100% justified. (i had one let go on my +2 back in the 90's too so i know how annoying the fortnightly grovel under the back of the car to check for cracks can be)

My advice is if you do decide to take the risk make sure he fits the later safety type output shafts etc but end of the day the CV Drive shafts are bolt on so can be reversed fairly easy.

FYI, you need to decide if you are going to use your car or stick it in a carcoon as an 'Investment' because many of the modifications above would take away from the originality but add to the usability (there needs to be a balance if your going to use it)
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PostPost by: AHM » Sun Oct 08, 2017 5:29 am

I have one car with cv joints and one without.
I prefer the smoother ride of the one with doughnuts.

Spend time getting the engine set up properly - valve timing, balancing, and carbs. This will improve your elan experience generally and stop much of the kangaroo effect. The rest is down to your driving style.
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PostPost by: Grizzly » Sun Oct 08, 2017 10:23 am

I agree i prefer the feel of the Rubber donuts too but thats not the problem (they also absorb trans shocks to save damaging fragile lotus castings etc), the problem is finding proper rubber rotoflex's nowadays that can stand up to the angle of articulation. They weren't great when the rubber they used was good quality now they start to fail very quickly.

I went through three sets Chris Neil (NOS Lotus items), Sue Miller's and Paul matty.... The Miller and Matty couplings didn't even make it to fitting (both poor quality and were returned), the Chris Neil ones got fitted but started to creak badly and showed signs of the bosses separating from the rubber.

My biggest issue with CV joints is it makes the car feel too much like an Mx5 with Webers on...... takes some thing from the character/personality of the car and i 100% would not have done it if i had felt the modern Rotoflex's could be trusted. On the up side i don't miss crawling under the back of the car trying to inspect them on a regular basis.
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PostPost by: Chancer » Sun Oct 08, 2017 11:51 am

I am surprised so few people have tried the BMW Guido couplings, I am guessing they are put off by the unknown quantity but when the devil you know is modern Rotoflex couplings made from cheese then surely they are worth consideration?

There are quite a few in use and I have not heard of any failures, you cant say that about Rotoflexes or even many of the CV joint conversions. Maybe they are harsh in use.

I will happily use them (when I finally have the time to restore my car) but will look very carefully at things like the hole diameters, bolt clearance and make the necessary machining adjustments to use fitted bolts of the correct shoulder length with the correct clearance.

If done by someone as ignorant and insouciant as was in my younger years then there is definitely potential for a catastrophic failure, I have seen this first hand with a failure of said coupling (the bolts) in the drivetrain of a bike engined Caterham and it did not take much other than common sense and determination to correct the bodge.
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PostPost by: nmauduit » Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:06 pm

Chancer wrote:I am surprised so few people have tried the BMW Guido couplings, I am guessing they are put off by the unknown quantity but when the devil you know is modern Rotoflex couplings made from cheese then surely they are worth consideration?

There are quite a few in use and I have not heard of any failures, you cant say that about Rotoflexes or even many of the CV joint conversions. Maybe they are harsh in use.


I would think the BMW couplings are meant for prop shafts only, giving to some rotational play but almost no angular play (perpendicular to the axis of the shaft), while the rotoflex do both, esp. favoring the latter for suspensions to operate : do you know of people having actually installed Guido couplings on elans ?
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PostPost by: mbell » Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:37 pm

I doubt think the BMW gumbo are a good idea either. They are meant for drive line damping and not designed for the angles required.

Based off looking at one removed from my daily, I suspect they would work but significantly effect (stiffen) the suspension operation until they were over whelmed and fail.

But I am far from an expert and not having any original style doughnuts to compare with.
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PostPost by: Grizzly » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:15 pm

I bought a BMW Prop shaft coupling to weigh it up and there is no way that would last with the amount of articulation needed for an Elan. Does look a quality item but the rubber is quite hard/stiff and as said above it's designed to remove prop trans shocks with limited articulation.

Are there quite a few in use? when i was looking no one could suggest anyone that had tried it?
Last edited by Grizzly on Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: pharriso » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:23 pm

You're also ignoring the BMW guibos are between the gearbox & diff, whereas our rotoflexs are between the diff & wheel. The differential reduces speed but amplifies tourque.
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PostPost by: Chancer » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:46 pm

I am not ignoring anything, there are a thousand and one justifiable reasons not to use them but that can also be said of many things I life, learning from mistakes is part of my DNA, "whats the worst that could happen?" will probably be written on my grave but for all the theorising using gelatine for a drive coupling could not be any worse than the current rotoflexes.

I believe that they are in use having read so on this forum, you will have to search but one was someone selling them as uprated couplings for race/rally Hillman pimps and another was on the transaxle of single seater racers in Australia if my memory serves me right, I will definitely give them a go one day.

Articulation? - no doubt they will be far stiffer than a Rotoflex within their range of movement which may well be reduced.

Torque rating? Yes they are designed for a propshaft and the torque through a LSD will be at least 3 times higher but put the two together and you would forget the theorising and be in no doubt which one you would trust your life to for a given load.
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