Lotus Elan

The Saga of 26/4623

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

All,

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.
Attachments
LotusEngineFailureAnalysisPart1.pdf
(1.95 MiB) Downloaded 163 times
LotusEngineFailureAnalysisPart2.pdf
(1.76 MiB) Downloaded 146 times
1965 S2 26/4623
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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.
Greg Z
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36/5727 pre airflow coupe
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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.
Glen
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.
Meg

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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PostPost by: benymazz » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:29 pm

Some more bits of history— I found some parts of the maintenance log. This is an exact transcript of the log, my comments are in [brackets]. Yes, this is a very, uh, expanded post, but I decided readability was better than conservation of space. All mileages are listed in miles.

23,000 - Oil change
29,000 - Oil change
34,700
    -Oil and oil filter changed
    -Engine balanced
    -Rings replaced
36,000 - Air filter replaced
41,500 - New tires
47,000
    -Replace rear shocks
    -Replace rubber donuts
    -Replace differential oil seal
49,450 [Year 1967]
    -New engine Cortina [I assume this means that another engine was purchased that came from a Cortina as I have never heard any mention or seen any pictures of my father owning a Cortina. Whether this became the touring engine or the racing engine, I don't know, but I assume it's the touring engine that I just took out. If anyone has a means of tracking this down, the engine I just took out is S/N LP5494LBA and the race engine is S/N LP6215 or LP6245, I think it is 6215, can't read the markings that well though]
53,000 - Oil change
54,000 - Rebuild head Cortina [see above]
59,000 - Oil change
61,000 - Oil change
64,000 [November 1968]
    -New rear springs
65,500
    -Valves checked
      -#1 intake a little tight
      -All others OK
    -Adjust chain tension
    -Change oil - 40W
    -Replace outside right rear rubber donut
65,800
    -Replace front brake disks
    -Replace front wheel bearings
    -Replace front grease seals
66,300
    -Flare rear fenders
    -New roll bar
    -Replace inner right rear rubber donut
(This is where I have a giant hole in my records)
August 1985 128,616
9/22/1986 (Mileage still 128,616 - Page titled "Major rebuild" :D)
    -Fitted new pistons +.040"
    -Had to sleeve #1 cylinder [When I had the sump off to pull the oil pickup for going on the race engine once it's rebuilt, I confirmed this... and unless my eyesight is already failing me at the age of 17, #2 had been sleeved as well at some point]
    -New pistons are heavier than original
    Block
      -Bored out
      -Sleeve #1
      -Cleaned thoroughly
    Block
      -Assemble pistons, rods, crank
      -New bearings
      -New front seal
      -Cam drive to fuel pump worn
        -Need to switch to electric pump
      -New water pump bearings, impeller
      -Assemble water pump, new O-rings
      -Check crank dimensions
        -Approx. -.001"
      -Jackshaft
      -Oil pump new filter, fill with oil
      -Double check oil line plugs
    Head
      -Remove and install valve seats
      -New valve guides
      -Cut valve seats
      -Lap valves
      -Adjust valves, new shims
10/26/1986 [Mileage still 128,616]
    -Attach exhaust pipe to headers
    -Take pictures of frame and engine
    -Tighten front suspension A-arms
    -Check body fit - if OK, then
      -Take off body
      -Fit oil filter, fill engine with oil
      -Fit starter, try cranking over
      -Check transmission oil
    Body
      -Sand and repaint trunk/lid
      -Check rest of body for bad spots
      -Doors
        -How to fix window channels
        -How to fix external seal door to window
128,616
    -Replace heater blower motor
      -Used motor from MGB
      -Black -> switch (-)
      -Yellow/green -> ground (+)
      -6 Amps running current
    -Wiper motor
      -Took apart and cleaned and lubricated parts
      -2 to 3 Amps running current
1965 S2 26/4623
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PostPost by: benymazz » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:46 pm

Continuation of previous post:

Resume rebuild May 2006 [That's the title of the page]
Previous work
    Engine total rebuild 1986
      Plus new pistons
    Body rebuild approx 1987-1988
      -Sand down three spider cracks
      -Add new overlay of fiberglass + polyester resin
      -Lots of rework around front air intake [This had already been repaired once before. It was an early casualty, as in the Elan's first hillclimb c. late 1966 my dad spun off course (it was winter) and hit a tree, which as you can imagine mangled up the bodywork pretty well]
      -Paint with featherfill
      -Acrylic primer - gray
      -Acrylic lacquer - Carmen Red (Jaguar color) [I don't know if this was actually done in 1987-1988 despite where the heading it is written under in the log. I know that my dad repainted the car in 2007, and I despite being only 6 at the time I distinctly remember helping him strip off the old red paint that had faded to almost a pink by that point. I don't remember him doing any body or fiberglass work though except for applying some Bondo, so that might have been done in the eighties, but I could also just not be remembering that.]
    Doors
      -Remove and disassemble
        -Use 1/4" socket drive to back off door pivots
      Remove:
        -Window channels
        -Window
        -Door locks
1965 S2 26/4623
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PostPost by: benymazz » Sat Dec 22, 2018 11:57 pm

Another page:

    -New dash padding cover [this refers to the crashpad]
    -Replace interior grill
    -Remove old steering column, replace with new
    -Replace heater motor
    -Replace heater
    -Connect hoses
    -Fit bonnet latches
    -Fit switches
    -Fit instruments

[There's no date on this page, but I think it's from the same time as the previous one, i.e. May 2006. The bit about the steering column being replaced is new to me as I have no receipts of the purchase of a new one. I have a very difficult time believing that the bit with the splines that runs through the body and hooks into a U-joint down by the rack-and-pinion was replaced as I had to take that very joint off with a cutoff wheel last week because I rounded off the heads on every single rusted bolt on it trying to get even one to come loose - but to no avail.]
1965 S2 26/4623
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PostPost by: benymazz » Tue Jan 01, 2019 8:28 am

First things first, happy new year! This is a bit of a non sequitur to the previous posts, but I've decided that I'm making this my restoration update/log thread rather than start a new one. For those of you just tuning in, I started a pretty comprehensive restoration about 3 months ago that's going to stop just short of taking the body off the chassis. Currently the engine is out of the car, all interior upholstery has been pulled out, the hardtop has been sanded to gelcoat (and further in a few places, oops) and is almost ready for painting, the dashboard is out, and some other things as well.

Here's a mostly complete what's been done and put back together so far:
    -R&R front brake discs (I think I'm stating the obvious as we're on a forum of gearheads basically but I'm not sure if this is an American term, R&R stands for remove and replace)
    -Rebuilt front brake calipers: New pads, pins, shims, piston seals, dust boots, and crossover seals. Pistons were cleaned and reused; original steel ones were found in the left hand caliper, but the ones in the right caliper had been replaced with stainless at an earlier date. Calipers painted black as well.
    -Took calipers back apart again because apparently I didn't clean the pistons or their bores well enough; they were "bottoming out" too high and I couldn't fit the new pads in (I hate doing things twice)
    -Degreased and repacked front wheel bearings
    -Removed, thoroughly cleaned clutch master & slave cylinder and reinstalled
    -Removed, thoroughly cleaned brake master cylinder and reinstalled
    -R&R clutch hose (the original red nylon one wasn't leaking before I touched it, I swear)
    -Recovered door cards and arm rest, original pull handles were MIA so those were replaced as well
    -Removed right driveshaft (the left one will come soon)
    -Removed right rear brake caliper, currently in the middle of rebuilding it but it was a mess, pistons seized pretty well and the whole thing was covered in a layer of grease, dirt, brake dust, and rust. Attempted disassembly of handbrake mechanism. Gave up after I couldn't draw the pins out with the 10-32 bolt with nut and washers and small pipe method didn't work even with persuasion in the form of an oxy-acetylene torch and a hammer. I guess I'll settle for just replacing the handbrake pads. Not looking forward to doing the left hand caliper.
    -Removed original steering column U-joint. What should have come out in 15 minutes and few pieces came out in about 2 hours and 20 pieces. Couldn't get it to release from the splines at all so I after I had cut the head off every bolt in sight I just kept making cuts with the cutoff wheel until finally it came off. I just have to get new "clamping" bolts and then the new U-joint one can go in.
    -Removed gas tank to check fuel gauge sending unit. Unit was OK, what prompted me to check it was before I started the restoration the gauge would never read below 1/4 even if the tank was bone dry. I guess I need to adjust the gauge. I did find the reason that the trunk (or "boot" as you Brits call it) always smelled like gas though, that gasket around the sender was no good. Not gushing gasoline everywhere, but enough that you could smell it. I cut a new one up from a sheet of buna-N and installed it... so far so good, no smell.
And this is where I would put a list of things that I have yet to do, but that's about a mile long so I'll abstain. Not to leave a teaser, but I did make a discovery relating to the rear suspension springs that is probably of interest to some people— it's unconventional, to put it mildly. I'll report on that tomorrow morning (or later this morning?) but right now it's 3AM and I have to start winding my schedule back from "vacation" to "school".

Meanwhile, for your viewing pleasure, I've attached 2 pictures from when my dad finished getting it back on the road in 2007. I think this is the best that the car has ever looked... and quite possibly myself as well :lol:
dscf0111.jpg and

dscf0116.jpg and
"Do I have to stand here? The sun's in my eyes!"
1965 S2 26/4623
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PostPost by: Quart Meg Miles » Tue Jan 01, 2019 11:38 pm

Are you the one on the left or the right?

It's interesting to follow your progress through a car (type) I know so well but what strikes me is how well you write. For someone of "school" age your English is exemplary and puts to shame many contributors who clearly can't be bothered to read what they've written; I'm not getting at dyslexics, they have my admiration too.

Adjusting the fuel gauge is tricky as two bolts on the back of the gauge secure a coil assembly which can be moved about to change the position of empty and full scale on the dial, and it's not intuitive. Nominally the Empty position of the sensor gives 0 Ohms and Full 87 Ohms between its contacts (though mine seemed more like 5 and 80) but you can't really swing the sensor between those positions when it's in the tank unless the tank is out of the car. Empty is the important setting so, if you can't move the tank, you need an external resistor to place quickly in series with the lead to check the Full reading, perhaps a resistance box from school!
Meg

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PostPost by: benymazz » Thu Jan 03, 2019 3:54 pm

The tank and dash are currently both out of the car. I don't have my notes in front of me and I can't remember which one was empty and which one was full but I think that I measured the float unit resistance range from 30 to 235 ohms. According to another thread, this seems like the correct reading so maybe the adjustments on the back of the gauge just got knocked about at some point.

Before I put the dash back in I'm going to short the terminals that hook to the sender and check the resistance from the connections to the gauge, just to rule out anything untoward in the wiring (should get 0 ohms or very close to). After that's ruled out I'll put the dash and gauges back in, and jumper the terminals for the sender with a 30 ohm and 235 ohm resistor or combination thereof and adjust the gauge accordingly.

Then the fuel tank goes back in and the sender gets connected, and another problem has been solved. Hopefully there won't be any surprises along the way.
1965 S2 26/4623
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:20 pm

The sender which goes from 30 ohms to 230 ohms is for the later type fuel gauge. I did not think these were used before about 1967.
It is fitted so that the resistance falls as the fuel level rises therefore giving a higher current through the gauge, which has a heater and bimetal strip which bends and moves the pointer with increasing temperature.
This system needs to be supplied from a 10 volt stabiliser usually fitted on the back of the tachometer.
The earlier gauges used a zero to 90 ohm sender and a different gauge and did not need the stabiliser.
You may have a mixture there.
It should be quite easy to test the gauge with a 10 volt supply and some resistors or a variable resistor.
Eric in Burnley
1967 S3SE DHC
Edit. I have changed the word regulator to stabiliser as in the circuit diagram to avoid confusion with the voltage regulator
Last edited by ericbushby on Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: benymazz » Thu Jan 03, 2019 4:39 pm

And now for something completely different: rear springs. The springs currently on the rear have the following specs:
    -12 active coils
    -9.50" free length
    -0.345" wire diameter
    -2.75" overall outer diameter

This yields a theoretical spring rate of 120in/lb. The way I was able to measure the free length without taking them off the shock is actually because at full droop (with the rotoflexes removed) there's about 3/4 of an inch of free play between the top of the spring and the bit that restrains it when it's under load. There would be much more free play, but there's a piece of steel pipe 2.5" long that sits on the spring platform that acts as a "spacer" between the spring and the platform, taking up most of the slack.

The only reason I can fathom for this is that the car was used in gymkhanas and autocrosses in a previous life so a higher spring rate would have been desirable. I haven't done the calculations yet but I assume that despite the higher spring rate the lower free length and nonexistent preload would leave the normal ride height similar to what it normally was.

(edited because I messed up BBCode)
Last edited by benymazz on Thu Jan 03, 2019 7:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
1965 S2 26/4623
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