Lotus Elan

The Saga of 26/4623

PostPost by: benymazz » Thu Nov 29, 2018 4:26 am


I have recently stumbled across documents that chronicle the early history of my S2. Most of this I already knew from what my dad told me, but I didn't have any specifics, only the rough story. Fair warning -- this post is quite long and likely of no value to anybody else, but I'm putting it out there for three reasons: First, I want to put the record of this car in the public domain, on the internet, to ensure that it never disappears even if the people that know the story do. Second, I thought some people might be interested in the extraordinary early history that this car had. I doubt that the early history of many cars is this unique or this well documented. Third, and most importantly, I want to make sure that I do my duty to keep this forum's supply of material to peruse when you're bored at work (or school, in my case) well-stocked :lol: .

According to the original receipt 26/4623 was purchased on June 28th, 1965 with optional equipment of a hardtop, tonneau cover, and Dunlop S.P. tires. My dad had left for England just after receiving his Doctorate at MIT. His plan was to go to England, stay with friends for a couple of days, buy a Lotus, drive it around Europe, and then have it shipped back to the States. And so our story begins.

On July 28, 1965 my dad returned the Elan to the Lotus factory to have it shipped to the States, as it was bought under the personal export scheme to avoid taxes. The staff were "on holiday" when he returned it however, so he left brief instructions pertaining to shipment. My dad sent a letter to Brian Perks, then the head of exports, on August 21, 1965 essentially asking when his car would be back in the states. The last two sentences are my favorite: "Also, if the labor unions in the States are causing shipping delays, please investigate the possibility of shipping the car to Montreal, Canada. You can probably understand that I would like to receive the car as soon as possible, mainly because it is such a wonderful car to drive and something no motoring enthusiast should be without."

On September 17, 1965 Brian Perks sent a letter back saying the Elan was still at the factory "awaiting shipment of the hard top although the service work has already been completed on this car." (Service, I am guessing, because he put around 2,000 miles on it in Europe.) He also said this: "Unfortunately the factory shut-down, together with the illness of some of our trimmers has made the hard top position extremely critical but I hope to have a hard top on the car within the next week. In this event I would imagine that we would be able to ship your car to New York, arriving the second week in October."

The car arrived in New York on October 16, 1965. However, when my dad got there to take delivery of it, "the car could not be located". It was shortly thereafter reported as missing.

So several months of back-and-forth ensued between my dad, the customs brokers, and the insurance company.

Then, sometime either in the last week of February or the first week of March 1966, the car was found. It was later revealed that the car was taken from the pier by an employee of another brokerage. The aforementioned employee was apprehended with the car in his possession, fired from the firm he worked for, and given a suspended sentence.

Upon examination however, the vehicle "was found to be variously damaged," on both the interior and exterior (apparently this included having racing stripes painted on it and a racing number sticker on the sides). The estimate for the repairs at the time was $450.

The saga continues...

A letter sent on June 23, 1966 to a Mr. Pete Pulver of the Lotus Division of Dutchess Auto Co. (also known as Lotus East if I recall), reads:

"On April 23, 1966, my Lotus Elan suffered an engine failure. A bolt broke on the no. 1 connecting rod bearing cap, resulting in extensive damage to the engine block, crankshaft, jackshaft, connecting rod, piston, and valves. The failure occured at an engine speed of approximately 5500-6000 RPM; the engine had been run for approximately 10,000 miles.

The car had been in my possession for approximately 4 months at the time of the failure, but in addition it had sat at the factory in Chesunt for 3 months and was missing from the dock in New Jersey for 3 months. Would you please inform me of any warranty coverage of the damaged parts?"

The response from Mr. Pulver dated July 11, 1966 reads: "The engine failure described is very unusual and uncommon. It is most likely that this is the delayed result of abuse the car received while in the hands of the thief. Operation of the engine above the 6500 rpm redline would seriously weaken the rod bolts, although they may not completely fail until some later time. In view of these circumstances, the damaged parts are not covered by the factory warranty."

So my dad went to file (another) claim with the insurance company, this time for the ~$650 that the replacement engine cost. Now, knowing my dad, it was very typical of him to do what he did next: he pulled out all the stops. Not only did he send Pulver's letter as support that this was damage that resulted due to the theft and was therefore insured, but he had one more ace in his hand.

I mentioned earlier that my dad received his Doctorate at MIT. What I didn't mention was that it was a Doctor of Metallurgy, and he had done his masters thesis on using X-ray diffraction to study the structure of pieces of iron or steel. By this time he had been working for General Electric's Research and Development division for about a year. Perhaps you can see where this is going.

Excerpted from the August 25, 1966 letter to the claims adjuster: "A metallurgical investigation conducted by me showed that the failure was not due to abuse at the time the failure occurred nor was it due to faulty materials or manufacture. The most plausible explanation is a delayed fatigue fracture of the connecting rod assembly. The enclosed report is based upon my investigation; my conclusions are based partly upon consultations held with other metallurgical experts at the General Electric Research and Development Center. The damaged parts are retained in my possession for any necessary inspection in the future."

I scanned in the full 6-page report tonight, and have put it into the form of a PDF attached to this post. It's actually quite interesting and is not overly technical at all. It also has a picture of the knackered rod and piston assembly.

That's all for now. I'm more than happy to respond to any questions anyone has. I'll also, if I remember and time permits, update this thread with other pieces of the history of the car as well at some later date.
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1965 S2 26/4623 Carmen Red
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PostPost by: Mazzini » Thu Nov 29, 2018 7:33 am

Very interesting, thanks for posting. I'm surprised the thief only got a suspended sentence. I have 26/4891 and it too had the early thin type conrods.

I look forward to reading more about the history of the car.
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Thu Nov 29, 2018 10:15 am

Great story, but make sure you have a backup for yourself for this information. I know of three other forums
that I participate in that had crashed and NONE of them were backed up. Lots of
information lost and gone forever.
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PostPost by: Certified Lotus » Thu Nov 29, 2018 11:06 am

Great story! Knowing the intimate details of Lotus Ownership is always a journey.
65 Elan S2 - 26/4055
72 Europa - 74/2358R
69 Elan S4 - 45/7941
64 Elan S1 - 26/0379
12 Colin 30 - Lotus Racing Kart
07 Exige S - Wicked Road/Track Car
07 Exige S - Fast Road/Track Car
06 Elise - Track pack
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PostPost by: The Veg » Thu Nov 29, 2018 4:56 pm

Nifty! Can't wait to read more!
1969/70 Elan Plus 2 (not S) 50/2036
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PostPost by: Quart Meg Miles » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:55 pm

Those were the days! In 1969 Len Street's chief mechanic claimed he had never ever seen a rusted through front turret like mine.
I wonder how many cars still have those L-rods.

26/4088 1965 S1½ Old and scruffy but in perfect working order; the car too.

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PostPost by: Mazzini » Fri Nov 30, 2018 11:22 pm

Quart Meg Miles wrote:Those were the days! In 1969 Len Street's chief mechanic claimed he had never ever seen a rusted through front turret like mine.
I wonder how many cars still have those L-rods.

Mine did till just recently.
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