Lotus Elan

Full S4 Restoration

PostPost by: NCK381J » Fri Sep 10, 2004 8:06 pm

I am about to begin the restoration of a truly bombed out Lotus Elan S4 dhc. It will I suspect be a long labour of love. I fully intend this as an ongoing hobby and will be learning everything as I go.

Are there any advisors out there who have gone back to basics (throw away original chassis, complete body off restoration, interior, engine, suspension etc.)

I have three books to date Gordon Lund on Lotus Restoring, an owners workshop manual and a full workshop manual.

Is a Lotus Elan parts list useful ? Any others you would suggest.

All advice on what to do first, where to go to, who to ask and what order to do it all in ?

Questions like which replacement chassis route :

1) A restored original
2) A galvanised original
3) A Spyder Cars replacement ....

Oh, and can anyone tell me the critical, you can't buy those anywhere parts on an S4 Elan ? The kind that no matter what condition you keep because you can't replace.

I think thats enough questions for now :-))

Cheers.
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PostPost by: elansprint71 » Fri Sep 10, 2004 8:33 pm

Let me get in first before the "keep it all original folks" kick off. Chuck out the chassis, get a Spyder one, replace all the suspension and brakes componenets, change the steering rack- NOW you can begin the restoration.

Read the Gordon Lund book- put it aside, it contains errors. There is a book to be published in the next few months which promises to be the definitive bible on Elan restoration. Set up a favourites watch on ebay for Lotus Elan, books turn up almost weekly, buy them all as they come up, but do not bid silly money. This is also a good source of parts. Go to the Lotus parts fair at Stoneleigh and the show at Donnington.
Join a club- are you in the North of England- your car was originally registered in Preston. Cheshire Lotus Owners Group <a href='http://members.lycos/clog/' target='_blank'>http://members.lycos/clog/</a> is free to join and you'll get no bullshit, actually you probably will, I made that bit up.

Most important- stick with Lotus Elan.net, trawl the archives if you have a question, if you can't find it- ask on the e-mail list. This site is absolutely invaluable.

Cheers,

Pete Taylor
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PostPost by: 1964 S1 » Fri Sep 10, 2004 10:07 pm

Greetings from the USA, and a keep it all original student. I've never had a replacement chassis but if I needed one, I'd go with either galvanised original or Spyder. I've never driven an Elan with a Spyder frame, the owners love them. Weigh the costs and know how original you want to keep it before you decide. What condition are your suspension parts in? Are you replacing everything with new and/or excellent used? I've been selling numerous Elan parts on ebay and have more to come. Is there anything specific that you need? Keep everything at the beginning. When you say bombed out, how bad is it? Newer car seats can be very nice! Modifying a lotta stuff can be fun, how's the engine? I'm hearing about Twin Cam Toyota motors with 5 speeds stuck in Elans. Late 80's Corolla SR5's? Anyone out there got one? I ditto what Pete Taylor had to say. Good Luck, Eric
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PostPost by: daves56 » Fri Sep 10, 2004 10:08 pm

I'm almost finished with my second Lotus restoration. My best advice is start with the chassis. Pull off the body, put it someplace safe and cover it up. Don't think about it, don't look at it. You'll devote at least a year (probably two) to this project and if don't divide the work you'll get discouraged and quit. Set small goals such as the brakes or engine. Finish that task and start on something else. The only exception to that rule would be to make a list of needed parts. Check Ebay frequently. Look for good "buys". Spread the purchases out over time so the wife doesn't start asking too many questions. Before you start, make sure you have the room and the finances to complete it.
Oh, regarding a new chassis, modified engine, etc. It's all nice, but expensive. If you can afford it great. If not, that's OK. A lot of Elans still have the original chassis and stock motor. Mine does.
Good Luck,
Dave Sutcliffe
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PostPost by: richboyd » Fri Sep 10, 2004 10:46 pm

Pete,

I have two words of advise for you: TAKE PHOTOS. Lots and lots of them - at all stages of the process. If you take a thousand pictures of the back of your dash as you take the car apart, you will want two thousand pictures when you put it back together. Trust me.

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PostPost by: type36lotus » Sat Sep 11, 2004 7:01 pm

Yes, take lots of photos. If you don't have a digital camera, get one. I used a 35mm still and have hundreds of photos. There is one roll missing. It was the roll I DID NOT have in the camera. Yep took a complete roll as I disaasembled with no film, therefore no record as to how it looked and came apart. The digital also makes it easier to make a nice photo album of the whole process. I go back and look at mine from time to time.
Mike Geiger
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PostPost by: NCK381J » Sat Sep 11, 2004 8:08 pm

Gentlemen,

Thanks for the responses I am heartened by the speed and number of them.

elansprint71/Pete - what is the soon to be released Elan Restoration guide to be titled - I think I and many others on these boards will be looking out for it ?

Chassis, I am leaning toward the Spyder version - they seem to please their customers. I am also considering a roll bar from them, side impact and the sill and foot box protection as well ... I intend to visit their offices in Peterborough vicinity and see for myself. Are they the only people to make these kinds of parts or are there other options ?

Photos - yes already started, I will hunt out the photos of the car taken before I bought it - that alone will raise a smile. I have since fiddled only as far as cleaning the outside to give the car a little dignity.

So, chassis duly replaced along with suspension. As it was, or are there any simple but highly desirable tweaks that the suspension can benefit from ?

Next up brakes, I have never driven an Elan with a running engine (only tried steering mine while being pushed by friends) are the brakes up to modern road use or am I likely to struggle if the idiot in front slams on ABS ?

Cheers,

George.
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PostPost by: elans4dhc » Sat Sep 11, 2004 11:48 pm

If I were starting an Elan restoration again, I'd choose the Tony Thomson chassis - like the original Lotus chassis but better, much better. And it has the advantage over the Spyder chassis of being able to accommodate the Alan Voigts T9 5-speed gearbox, another worthwhile upgrade.
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PostPost by: elansprint71 » Sun Sep 12, 2004 9:30 am

George,
There are about half a dozen different books on the Elan on ebay UK at the moment, they are all good in their different ways- get bidding!
I don't know what Brian Buckland is going to call the restoration book, all I know is that it will be BIG and is the result of his frustrations with the ohter "restoration guides". As I understand it, he has done quite a few restos over the last quarter of a century, he was featured in Classic & Sportscar a few months ago.
One person who can help with restoration parts is Susan Miller, widow of Mick, she carries loads of hard to find bits and pieces.
Where are you located?

Cheers,

Pete
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PostPost by: Mohe » Sun Sep 12, 2004 11:04 am

I am about half way through a restoration project of a S3 FHC. I live in Leeds which can't be too a from you if you feel like a chat and beer and comparing notes.

As you will have seen there are people who build very accurate original spec cars, others that change a little and some that change a lot. I am building a noce ca close to the orginal spec with a few modern improvements. They include the Spyder roll cage and foot protection. You have to make holes in the rear wheel arches to pass the side bars into the sills. The roll cage includes head rests.

The original front suspension towers tend to get very rusty as they are shaped to catch and hold water. The air tank at the front is also a weak spot. I quickly decided that the old chassis was too far gone.

I decided on a Spyder replacement chassis - not the redesigned one, a replacement that it almost exactly the same as the orginal.

I stripped the car out, parked the trim in a spare room and lifted the shell off to start with. Dismantling the chassis improved my upper body strength but cost me some knuckle skin as there are some large, very corrdoded nuts and bolts. Heat helped a lot. Once it was all apart I pressed all the suspendion rubbers out, painted all the wishbones etc and reassmbled the whole lot. I used the orginial rack but the replacement, solid, rack mounts. I found nearly all my suspension, brakes and steering on ebay or at the Lotus fair. There is another fair in November (I think). I have quite few bits left over. I have now got a pretty complete rolling chassis and the body is soon to get painted and then refitted. One day we will have an empty spare room again.

LotusElan.net has been really helpful and so as a friend of mine who has owned a S2 from new!

Let me know if I can help some more or if you start to loose heart.


geoff

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PostPost by: richboyd » Tue Sep 14, 2004 9:23 pm

George,

Your question about the Elan vs ABS brakes brings up the heart of the originality vs upgrade debate. As you restore your Elan, you will be faced (again and again) with issues of "use what the factory employed" or "go with a modern replacement." There are valid arguments on both sides.

In my opinion, ABS brakes are one of the best inovations in automotive history. ABS ranks right up there with the (slow) evolution of computerized engine management for the Golden Steering Wheel award. In the hands of 99% of all drivers, in at least 95% of all situations, a car with ABS brakes will stop faster than a car without them. ABS works extremely well these days. Only good racing drivers can better its performance - under some circumstances - and then only marginally better stops. ABS works.

Asking whether you want something equivalent to ABS brakes on you Elan (or your Elise for that matter) is an entirely different issue. New tech vs Old tech. I'm not talking about brakes, but about every aspect of design.

The Elan was, and still is, a brilliant design. It works extremely well the way it left the factory. Restoring an Elan to original specs is no crime. Many consider it their duty to restore to original specs. I won't argue with that crowd, although it is not my position.

Technology has marched along. It is possible to "improve" the original Elan with many types of modern replacement systems. Spyder chassis vs Lotus-style folded sheet metal. CV joints vs Rotoflex couplings. The list goes on and on.

The original design is excellent. The question is: Should you change it with modern improvements? I believe this is a personal choice. You will be faced with this choice repeatedly. Also, there is the issue of the added cost of the "updated improvements?" Some on the new stuff tends to be pricey.

Me? I'm upgrading every thing I can; I am not tied to originality. I might feel differently if I was restoring an Elite; very few of them around. Spyder makes an extremely nice replacement chassis; I highly recommend it. The Tony Thompson version of the original chassis is pretty good, from what I've read. Etc.

Bottom line: Its your choice. Its your car. Be wary of fanatics on either side. Make your own choices. Choose what is best for YOUR restoration.

re: ABS vs Elan. The braking of the Elan is very good. You should not worry about someone in front of you (with ABS) stopping faster than you can. Being able to sense incipient lock-up is what ABS does. In the Elan, you can easily feel each wheel as it locks, and you (if you are a decent driver) can adjust brake pedal pressure. The Elan has low-tech, driver-involved ABS. Original isn't bad. Sure is a lot more fun to be involved in the driving.

Rich Boyd

ps. Geoff noted: "The original front suspension towers tend to get very rusty, as they are shaped to catch and hold water." This is actually a feature. If your enging leaks a lot of oil (as it was designed to do?), the suspension towers will "catch and hold" the oil, thus preventing rust. Clever design?
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PostPost by: pereirac » Sun Sep 19, 2004 10:34 pm

Once piece of advice, work out how much you plan to spend and then double it!!

When you have the body off life will be full of... "while I have gone this far, I may as well... rebuild the engine, change the waterpump, replace all the rubber bushes, rebuild the brakes, recore the radiator, etc...type decisions.

It's always easier to do work with the car in bits than later on. My chassis swap in the late 80s cost about double what I expected - but it was worth every penny!!

Take care of your window frames, they are very difficult to find and you can't finish the car without them..
Carl

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87 Excel SE
97 Alpina B10

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PostPost by: type36lotus » Sun Sep 26, 2004 2:05 pm

I had planned on replacing every wear item and still ended up where pereirac said to set your budget! If you would like an idea of how many little pieces there are to replace I still have my MS word document listing all the pieces to the point at which I considered my restoration complete. If you would like a copy email me.
Mike Geiger
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PostPost by: sotul86 » Mon Sep 27, 2004 10:07 am

Hi

My advice would also be a Tony Thompson chassi or you could make same reinforcment yourself like I did ...you can have a look in my site...and about the cost
Once piece of advice, work out how much you plan to spend and then double it!!
that couldn?t be more true......but when you are finished it will be worth it all ...



cheers
Johan
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PostPost by: johnmo » Thu Sep 30, 2004 4:53 pm

A few simple useful mods:

1. Replace Lotus the half moon rubber camshaft bungs with the ones used on the 1850 Triumph Dolomite engine - it will not leak from there!

2. Drill the tapped holes in the side of the front cover to clearance. Turn the timing chain guide plate round and redrill and tap the holes in the timing chain guide plate, you can then screw the guide plate on from outside the fornt cover. This means you will not have to remove the cylinder head to replace the water pump.

3. In the boot drill a hole large enough for a socket in the fibreglass opposite the filler for the differential this will allow you to check/top the diff much more easily than from underneath the car. Use a large rubber grommit to fill the hole, you can find a suitable one at any autojumble.

I will try to think of some of the other mods I made to make maintenance easier.

'69 S4 fhc - now has Spyder chassis and big valve engine, I havn't driven it yet though.
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