Lotus Elan

Impressions from a new Elan driver

PostPost by: steve lyle » Mon Sep 09, 2019 8:39 pm

I'm not a new owner - I bought this car sight unseen (other than pictures) off of eBay 4 years ago. But I've finally gotten to the point where I trust the car enough to drive it farther than the free towing range on my Haggerty policy.

BTW - I blame practically all of what I had to address on the last renovation some PO did or, more likely, had done. Other than maybe the doughnuts - those were pretty fundamental.

Anyway, back to the topic. In June I drove the car from Tulsa, OK to Carthage, MO, about 300 mi round trip, to attend an "All British" car show they have their annually. We also brought along our MGB, which we'd brought to this show every year since it's restoration in '14.

The trip was on backroads. The only problem with the roads was how straight they were, that was a shame. But the car ran great. Very happy with the acceleration. Steering light and accurate. Very quick, even with a 3.55 diff.

Negatives were 1) difficulty in starting when hot. I searched and found several reports of this problem, with no solution, other than install a gear reduction starter and overpower the starting problem. The speedo read 20% high, which I already knew about, and the tach wasn't particularly accurate, or precise, which I also knew about. The radio was show, also known. And my newly repaired driver's door window fell back down into the door the first time I tried it. Which was a shame, since we dealt with a couple of thunderstorms during the trip.

In spite of it all, we took the best in class trophy (not hard, we were the only Lotus) and Best in Show, likely because Elan's are cute, and rare - ours was likely the first one this show had gotten in 20 years.

After returning, I thought it best that I work in a 100 degree garage in the heat of an Oklahoma summer to address as many of the negatives as possible before Sept 6, when we would drive another 300 miles or so to another All Brit show in Fayetteville, AR.

I basically rewired the engine bay and dash to fix myriad issues, replacing the radio, having the tach converted to voltage sensing, and calibrating the speedo in the process. The starter also got addressed. New speakers in the doors, and I took another swing at the driver's door window as well. Replaced the seat belts so the passenger would have one that locked, at wife's request.

We got back yesterday. Much "funner" drive, we took the long way back though/over the hills, which the car handled beautifully. Lots of fun with the excess horsepower compared to the B I'm used to. My speedo guy still needs to do some work - the needle swung a bit, but it generally ran 10% fast this time. Tach was spot on. Radio worked well enough, but the suppression wires I needed to eliminate ignition noise didn't arrive until we were on the road. Even so, noisy tunes were better than none. Window worked perfectly (knock on dash). Hot starting took a bit more cranking, but the starter had no problem with that. I did have to push start it one morning - my 2 possible explanations are either I pulled the key out with the ignition on (unlikely, but possible with this key/switch) or the driver's window switch stuck on "up" overnight. First time it had done this, and it didn't repeat, and had not happened before, so I think I just need to keep an eye on those two reasons, unless someone can come up with another. We got Best in Class again - and again, we were the only Lotus. But lots of nice comments.

Still things I want to address, but I think I have a reliable car now. Maybe we can make it to the next LOG in Salt Lake city - it's only 1200 miles from Tulsa.

I do think I'll put a call in to the Voight shop, though - I think I'd want a 5th gear for that trip.
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PostPost by: SENC » Tue Sep 10, 2019 1:04 am

re: the hot start problem, I seem to recall reading that once cause could be mounting the manifold to the adaptor plates to tightly, causing a rigid mount rather than a slightly flexible mount. I looked back at your pictures from an earlier thread and it does look like the manifold and adaptor plate are tight against each other, but that could just be the angle.

Otherwise, I'd confirm the timing is right and if the carbs haven't been serviced in a while I'd check the floats, fuel valves, needles and jets to make sure all are within spec and not contributing to the problem.
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PostPost by: steve lyle » Tue Sep 10, 2019 4:28 am

Thanks Henry.

The carbs were rebuilt by Joe Curto a few months, and maybe 700 miles, ago.

The spacing between the carbs and the adapter is per the workshop manual - .070".

As for timing, it's 9 DBTDC static. British Vacuum Unit rebuild the dizzy at the same time Curto did the carbs - I don't recall the advance he put in and don't have my notes handy, but the car runs so well I'm happy with whatever he did, and anyway centrifugal and vacuum advance shouldn't affect starting.

The really odd thing to me is that 1) the car is running great when shut off, and 2) the car runs great once it eventually starts. It's just that with the inertial gear starter that may take 20 attempts over several minutes, and with the gear reduction starter it may take 5-10 seconds of cranking (vs immediate starting with full bowls and a dead cold engine). And when I say the a "hot" engine can be difficult to start - it's not everytime, and it may be after it's sat for up to an hour.

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PostPost by: grassyknoll » Tue Sep 10, 2019 9:17 am

I had the same problem for years with my first elan, I replaced the coil with a flamethrower and the problem was resolved, the original coil spark was reduced when hot.
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PostPost by: vincereynard » Tue Sep 10, 2019 2:13 pm

steve lyle wrote:BTW - I blame practically all of what I had to address on the last renovation some PO did or, more likely, had done.


I know the feeling! We will have to form a special club. :)

Re the poor hot starting - considered an electric fuel pump?
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PostPost by: tdskip » Tue Sep 10, 2019 5:32 pm

vincereynard wrote:
steve lyle wrote:BTW - I blame practically all of what I had to address on the last renovation some PO did or, more likely, had done.


Re the poor hot starting - considered an electric fuel pump?


Is fuel vaporization a common issue, assuming that is the idea behind the pump suggestion.

@Steve, need to find you some hills and canyons!
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PostPost by: mbell » Tue Sep 10, 2019 6:17 pm

On the hot start I think you need to isolate to a fuel or spark problem. I probably do this using some easy start fluid, if it starts with easy start then likely the spark side is ok and can look at the fuel side of things.

If you fancy a longer but not as far as LOG 2020 drive Texas All Bristish Car Day is in Round Rock last weekend of September I believe. My experience of it is a little hit and miss for Classic Lotus. First time I went their were a couple of Europa, next time a single Espit S4, next time my +2 was on the road so took that and there were 3 Red +2's(!) and last year my +2 was the only Classic Lotus.
'73 +2 130/5 RHD, now on the road and very slowly rolling though a "restoration"
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PostPost by: steve lyle » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:35 pm

Vince - my mechanical pump works fine. The only benefit I'm aware of for an electrical one is negating the need to crank the engine longer than 'normal' if the bowls are dry. Which is pretty much a once a year thing for me.

TD - I know where the hills and canyons are, they're just a few hours away from Tulsa! In November we'll take the Elan on the Talimena Scenic Byway, and the Pig Trail in Arkansas. No canyons, but plenty of hills and curves. And yeah, that's one thought about LOG 2020 - plenty of "hills" and canyons between Tulsa and SLC!

MBell - I've heard of that show, it's definitely on my list for the future. Unfortunately we won't be able to make it this year. And I'm pretty sure the hot start issue is an ignition deal - after a few start attempts with the inertia starter, there was the definite smell of gas, so I don't think fuel was the problem. I probably will try Grassy's suggestion of a replacement coil - they're inexpensive, and it doesn't hurt to have a spare anyway.

Thanks all!
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PostPost by: The Veg » Thu Sep 12, 2019 5:42 pm

Steve, if you'd like one a mere 800 or so miles from you, this one in the Atlanta area was this past weekend but I would highly recommend it for next year:

https://www.atlantabritishcarfayre.com

I haven't got around to posting pictures yet but there were 2 or 3 Caterhams, Greg Z's FHC, a couple of Esprits, an Elise, a Type 14 Elite and a Plus 2. Also tons of Jaguars, MGs and Triumphs, pretty good showings of Sunbeams, Morgans and Minis, a few Rolls Royces and Bentleys, a couple of Aston Martins, a McLaren, and this one old yellow TVR that has been at EVERY British car show in the area for ten years. :D A few other odds and ends too, like an Allard, Land Rovers, etc., also a good display of motorbikes.
An added bonus is that from where that show is, it's only about an hour to where the North Georgia Mountains begin, and there are some roads up there that you'd definitely love! I can recommend several.

Talimena Scenic Drive! When I lived in Dallas I used to go up there all the time on my motorbike, in fact I had a friend who lived about 5 minutes off the middle of it and host small, intimate gatherings twice a year for his fellow 'airhead' BMW riders. Good times that I still miss! I've ridden the Pig Trail too and several other really fun roads in that neck of the woods.
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PostPost by: steve lyle » Thu Sep 12, 2019 7:06 pm

Thanks, TV. I'll definitely put that one of the list of shows to go to. One issue is that there's a LOT of shows in September, it seems.
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PostPost by: DJW » Thu Sep 12, 2019 7:22 pm

Thanks for sharing OP
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PostPost by: englishmaninwales » Thu Sep 12, 2019 10:50 pm

+1 on a new coil to cure poor hot starting.
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PostPost by: reb53 » Fri Sep 13, 2019 6:47 am

Over the 40+ years I've had my Webered Sprint I've had a few occasions when hot starting was a problem.
Bit of a splutter, sometimes a backfire, then lots, and lots...., of starter churning before reluctantly clearing its throat and getting underway.
For me anyway, and I may well be missing something here, the answer turned out to be putting my foot to the floor, and keeping it there, ( definitely no pumping ), and then operating the starter.
Has worked every time since the first time I did it.

I should add that I have the original fuel pump, and a standard coil.

Ralph.
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