Lotus Elan

Restore Blog - '66 Elan S2 (26/4378)

PostPost by: bilcoh » Thu Sep 29, 2011 6:36 am

As promised, here's the start of my restore blog, which I hope to write for my own posterity and recording of the rebuild. In the process, I'll try to make it interesting to the rest of you as well.

First, the backstory - It's my dad's fault. I was probably 6 years old when the first Lotus entered the household. I only remember it was BRG and an FHC that had the front end all broken up. Eventually, the car was running, though this one didn't make any impressions on me. But when I was 10, my current Elan made it's entrance, mostly in boxes. I wasn't much involved in the restoration, but was smitten during the next few years. In 1976, the family business became a wrecking yard (that's a "breaker" in the UK, right?). When I was 15, we bought a 74 Europa Big Valve Special at an insurance auction. Punched in the front quarter, it needed a lot of bodywork and replacement of the frame (just happened to have a spare from a burned Europa, so all needed parts were handy).

Had that done by 16, at which time I rescued the Elan from the back yard by fixing the broken diff output shaft. Dad had availed himself of a Ferrari 308GTB, Lamborghini Miura S and Lamborghini Silhouette through insurance auctions and performed bleeding miracles on all three cars to make them reputable and seemingly new versions of themselves. I was in the corner, piddling away on Loti, so it was a pretty good life for a kid. Eventually, I sold the Europa, paid back the purchase loan and bought the Elan with the remains. To be fair, the old man was very kind on pricing, I'm sure.

Having lusted for the Elan for years, and also had the good fortune to know Dave Vegher and watch him race his Elan, I had delusions of grandeur, and given free reign (time and tools as well), I did several modifications to the car, most notably the fender flares, Europa wheels and leather-covered dash (original veneer was all cracked to hell). The results have been seen before, but here they are again.
Elan circa 1981 small.jpg and

Elan circa 1981 rear quarter_small.jpg and


This was completed by the summer of 1981, and enjoyed thoroughly during my final year of high school until Valentine's Day, 1982. Blame it on the girlfriend, my mind distracted about the evening ahead. You'll note the car is RHD. I had it at the shop to bleed the brakes and do a couple other minor maintenance items. Not having remote reservoirs, I found that pesky fuel tree to be in the way. Loosening the main connectors into the Webers allowed me to swing it out of the way and get a fairly straight shot into the master cylinder for adding brake fluid. You see where I'm going, right?

Rush, rush, get it all done, buttoned up and out the door. I pull out of the shop, down the street, and praise the Lotus gods that I hit a red light. The car belches and dies, and I see smoke pouring out from the right front. Panic sets in and I do everything wrong. I forget that I've got an electric fuel pump, and don't shut off the key, thereby continually dumping fuel on the flames, which started, of course, because I forgot to tighten up the fuel tree once I was done with the brakes.

I honestly don't recall if I even had an extinguisher (stupid move #2), and even if I did, it wasn't going to get this blaze under control. As I said, the red light had me stopped within running distance of the shop, and within a couple minutes, Dad and I were back at the car with several extinguishers, with Grandpa bringing more in the truck. It's still hard to believe that the car wasn't burned to the ground already. In fact, we were able to get the blaze out before the fire department arrived, and I'm fairly sure they're only contribution was to ruin all the original gauges by flooding the interior with water.

In the end, there was a lot of smoke damage, but the bodywork required a new bonnet, and I had to rebuild the RF fender and precious flare. Most of the inner arch was still intact, as was the outer, so there were plenty of good lines to use to help get it right. New carbs, gauges and dash also resulted, plus a few other bits and bobs. Sadly, no photos survived that dark period.

It took the rest of the spring and summer to get it done....again, but the result looked pretty much the same except for the dash and gauge change. I got a happy 5 or so years from it in that condition before the engine began burning so much oil that a rebuild was inevitable. In 1988, I pulled the twink, disassembled it completely, and that's when time began to stand still for my beloved car, until this past July. In the interim, it was stored in 5 different locations (always under cover, thankfully), and from 1998 - 2002, I spent about $8,000 on parts, engine and tranny rebuild, etc. in anticipation of getting it going once again. More time went by, but now my needed budget is much smaller than it might have been if I'd done nothing at all.

And that brings us up to July, 2011. Frame mods and paint are next. Stay tuned.

Dave
Last edited by bilcoh on Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: bilcoh » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:02 am

Installment #2 - The Frame

After years of inactivity, interspersed with depression and guilt about the forlorn Lotus in my garage, dark thoughts about selling the pile of parts and being done with it, or delusions of grandeur about handing the whole mess to someone for refurbishment, a lucky thing happened.

Not long before the weekend of July 4, 2011, a workmate purchased a well used MGB. He bought this on a lark for a couple thousand, and was showing increasing enthusiasm for the simplicity and fun of top down motoring, UK style. Our local race track has a decently attended vintage race weekend on the 4th, and I suggested we take it in and he drive. The day of racing, sunshine and chance to buzz around in his MGB was enough to plant the bug. In answering his questions about his car and showing him how to properly use the choke, memories and knowledge I didn't know I had came flooding bag like a forgotten childhood language.

I spent the next two days cleaning the garage to create the tiniest bit of space, then assembling all my new/old parts until I was satisfied that I could, in fact, place my hands on every bit. The engine was already out and rebuilt. Same for the tranny. The rear suspension and diff were out but need attention. Front suspension was still on, so I pulled that next, finding myself jumping in with both feet when I had to use the torch to melt a bushing enough to get the suspension arm off, then using a cutoff blade to get the inner bushing sleeve off the pin. That was a bugger, and my only regret was not using the torch sooner.

As I started cleaning 46 years of grime off the frame, and having precious little success. I concluded that with everything stripped as it was, I needed remove only 16 more bolts to pull the frame and do things properly. Decision made, I soon found myself taking said grimy frame to the local self-wash for a bath before next taking it to the media blaster. Upon my return, I noticed the bent front suspension pins, which were then discussed with this forum here:

elan-f15/elan-chassis-now-that-not-right-t23322.html

After some research, I chose to straighten the pins by cold bending them and taking lots of measurements. At least they look right. Wish me luck!

1_LF Lower_Before and After.jpg and
Looks better, anyway.


I was finally able to start modifying the frame per the AVO photos on this site, as well as suggestions/photos from others here. Special thanks to jkolb (Jerry) for great photos and inspiration.

Initially, I'd planned to provide measurements and/or templates of metal bits to a fabricator so that I could get straight cuts, flat bits for welding. I was shocked at price quotes, which were likely inflated due to the pain-in-the-ass factor this tiny job represented. I found myself forced into the "jack of all trades" mode, and decided to purchase an inexpensive metal shear from Summit Racing.com for just over $100.

1_Metal Shear.jpg and


In the end, I'm very happy with choice, as I could fiddle with the bits until I had them just right, and the shear did great cutting 14G cold rolled sheet steel. Here are some photos of the results:

1_Diff torsion mounts and underside bracing.jpg and
Bracing down underside of frame

1_Rear A-arm pickup gussets.jpg and
Decided to gusset rear a-arm frame pickups.

1_Blanked off turret.jpg and
Blanked off the front turrets

1_Exhaust header clearance.jpg and
Exhaust header cutout.

1_Engine Mount Gusset.jpg and
Engine mount gusset.

1_Tranny tunnel box beam.jpg and
Front Y, boxed in flanges.

1_Rear triangle gussets.jpg and
Rear frame triangle gussets.

1_Rear tower gussets per AVO.jpg and
Rear tower gussets.


(NOTE: Just ran out of attachments, so I'll add a couple more in the next post).

With all the metal in hand, I headed up to the DPO's (my Dad's house) to play with the MIG welder for the day. Though pretty ugly, the welds came out solid, though I was surprised by the amount of splatter that wound up on the frame. In the end, I probably spent 6-7 hours with a grinder cleaning up my sloppy and inexperienced work, but am reasonably happy with the results.

I used POR-15 on everything, a process which I documented in another thread here:

elan-f15/por-experience-painting-frame-t23636.html

Again, happy with the results and plan to use it on the suspension members as well. Next up is getting all the suspension arms blasted, painted and with new bushings. Bushing removal was aided greatly once I figured out a simple little tool from basic items at your local home improvement center:

elan-f15/removing-year-old-front-suspension-bushings-with-photos-t23684.html

I'm sure I'm leaving out some details, so just ask if you need them. If you made it this far, well, why did you read this far? It can't be that interesting!

Cheers to all. It's my hope that the photos and detail will help the next person to come along the way other's posts helped me.

Dave
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PostPost by: bilcoh » Fri Sep 30, 2011 6:08 am

Frame Mods - More photos

1_Anti-Roll bar bolt inner.jpg and
Beefed up ARB mount locations.

1_AR Bar outer and removable cross brace mount.jpg and
Removable cross brace mounts.

1_Front box beam.jpg and
Boxed in flanges up to front turrets.

1_Removable crossbrace that will save my life someday.jpg and
Removable cross brace.
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Fri Sep 30, 2011 12:43 pm

Now's the time for a 5 speed, you know. :D

Greg Z
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PostPost by: cal44 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 10:45 am

Dave,

Black plate cars belong in California.

Mike
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PostPost by: bilcoh » Mon Oct 10, 2011 2:45 pm

Yes, Yes! I know. I'm actually trying to extract any registration history from the great state of California. I don't have any paperwork on the car (misplaced in the last 24 years) and will need to license it in WA. You don't happen to work for the DMV, do you? :lol:

Dave
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PostPost by: prezoom » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:23 pm

Dave,
When I purchased my Elan, it had the original California "pink" slip. But the car had been in a down condition for years and the registration had not been kept up. I found that no activity for the past 8 years and the car is dropped out of the system. The original pink made it easy to re-register, but the DPO had tossed the black plates.

On my other restoration, the owner had put the car in a NonOp status back in 1978, kept it current, and it was even easier to re-register, with the original black plate.

Rob Walker
26-4889
Rob Walker
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50-0315N
1964 Sabra GT
1964 Elva Mk4T Coupe (awaiting restoration)
1965 Ford Falcon Ranchero, 302,AOD,9",rack and pinion,disc,etc,etc,etc
1954 Nash Healey LeMans Coupe

Lotus is a life sentence with no parole
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PostPost by: cal44 » Mon Oct 10, 2011 6:38 pm

Dave,

my thoughts are you won't find it in the system. But don't get rid of the black plates in case it ends up in the State of California someday. Those can be issued back too the car and it's a nice bit of history.

Mike
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PostPost by: bilcoh » Tue Oct 11, 2011 3:11 am

Thanks for the tips. I'll be sure to keep that single black plate (complete with the trimmed lower lip to fit on the flat part of the rear body) for some future return to CA. Though when and how that could happen, I don't have a clue.

Actually, interesting aside was that when I was about 20, the 2nd owner thought he recognized the plate (I'd seriously modified the car, so he couldn't really recognize it that way) and we got into conversation. I even let him take a test ride and we discussed a possible sale. However, I would only have sold it for enough money to buy a race car, and that wasn't a reasonable number for a modified Elan. Heck, probably not even for a super sweet original car.

Anyway, still got her, thank goodness. Without the race car, I probably have lived longer. :D

Dave
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PostPost by: Plus2soon » Thu Sep 04, 2014 2:27 pm

Hi Dave,

I have read this informative tread and am about to do pretty much the same work with my own frame, reinforce and surface treat it. Did you jigg the frame up during welding?

Cheers
Johan, Sweden
Lotus Elan S4, Sweden
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