Probably like most of us on this forum, I have always been a car guy, gearhead sort. In High school the only language for us was Detroit Iron, drag racing [& maybe the occasional impromptu street race]. I began to move away from that when I was introduced to sports cars by some friends. I was intrigued by the idea of a car that could do “everything” – turn both ways, brake & accelerate – this seemed more logical and practical.
There are always trade-offs & compromises, but the compromises that are made to improve straight line acceleration end up sacrificing other dynamic performance elements and ultimately make a car less practical for all around performance as well as any street performance driving. The more I learned about the more technical aspects of real drag race cars, the more I found that they sacrificed a number of qualities in order to maximize straight line acceleration, and this made them less practical for street use.
On the Street
The “Street Use” issue was of significance for me since I had no expectation of doing any professional racing, or even prepping a car for amateur local drag racing. There was just no money & no known way of ever making that much in the limited world in which I was raised. I was never convinced that I would be able to afford both a commuter type car and a pseudo race car or sports car toy, so I developed a working theory that I would have to make a compromise to have some sort of a hi-performance car that I could also use for everyday work.
Held on to this plan way too long.
When I was out of school and actually being paid for some sort of work, I went searching for & found a used GT-350 Shelby Mustang. This was still in the 70s while their price was dropping rather than appreciating. That $2500 has always seemed like a good investment to me.
A few years later, while working at a parts store, I arrived at work and noticed that someone had parked a Sunbeam Tiger in the parking lot nearby. It seemed more to have been left randomly where it stopped, rather than parked properly into a marked parking stall. The car was hardly in pristine condition, adding to the image of a car and/or driver in some bit of distress. With nothing to risk, I left a note for the owner to contact me if he were interested in selling the car. Later that day, the owner stopped by and we eventually arranged a deal. It turned that the throttle cable had broken yet again & left the owner stranded yet again, and said owner was becoming increasingly frustrated with an ongoing series of maintenance issues. The more significant among these was that the front suspension of the thing was so badly deteriorated that it was essentially impossible to drive over 35 mph. This did not concern me at all, since I was way too naive to even consider that parts could be difficult to locate for something a relatively “exotic” as a limited production British sports car that had ceased production some 9 years prior to this. Nor did I care that there were not that many made to begin with. Hey, this is 1970s California, and anything seemed possible for a transplanted lad from the Midwest who had only recently driven 36 hours to relocate to the West coast with everything that he owned stuffed into the car [the GT-350]. Sure enough, front suspension parts were readily available from some local source.
That car got more miles and years of use & abuse from me than anything I have ever owned. I still have that car along with the GT-350, and it is due for more work after the Elan is back on the road. The Tiger has had 2 engine rebuilds, 1 transmission rebuild and I have since rebuilt the front suspension 3 times. This was my only street, commuter and occasional track car for decades. I took it to most of the local tracks available such as Willow Springs, Riverside Raceway before they finally demolished it [the track, not the car] and Laguna Seca.
My Elan history actually goes back to the 70s also, but only with a brief introduction to an Elan at a Slalom from someone with a more money than I could imagine at the time. Years later, when scouring the car ads in the LA Times was still considered good Sunday recreation, I spotted an Elan for sale within a few hours drive at what seemed like a reasonable price, so I called. That car turned out to be a 1967 S3/SE. It was an odd color and had suffered a bit from use, but was generally intact & fully functional. Out of money as usual due to other automotive foolishness, financing that purchase was aided by a close personal friend in whose debt I will always feel, although the actual money issue was resolved fairly quickly.
Still with limited knowledge of Elan models, I decided that I really wanted an S2. It took over 1 year for an S2 to show up in the L.A. Times. Some pretentious prig who worked in “downtown” L.A. needed to unload his car since he had thoroughly trashed the synchro in 2nd and apparently had some other maintenance adventures. I always suspected that he did not really know how to drive a manual trans very well and was tired of rowing through the commuter traffic on Wilshire. I had no respect for this guy and just wanted to complete a deal and be done with him. Other than the synchro, the car was in excellent condition cosmetically and I think it was a fair deal. It was however, more money than I had ever paid for a car to that point in my life.
I had already replaced the synchros in a Datsun SPL311 as well as my Tiger Toploader 4 speed, so I had no concern about the trans. I knew that I could drive it as it was for a while without really damaging the trans, and I also knew that I could rebuild the trans when I had the time. Deal done. Shortly after this acquisition, I found someone who lusted after the S3. He got a good deal, and I felt that I did as well.
Now I have a Sunbeam Tiger, a Lotus Elan and a 1966 GT-350 Shelby Mustang. All need work. Some need a lot of work. I am attempting to get the Elan back on the road first, since it seemed to need the least work. But, as I knew from the start, this is a project doomed to “mission creep”. Even knowing that was going to happen, I began hoping to maintain some focus on limiting the modifications & budget. I did make some progress and then other family and employment issues arose, but I am now back on a revised plan to get on the road this summer. Or next summer, at the latest.
This forum has been a great help on many questions. I can not thank all of you enough.
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- Location: Southern Cal, USA
Looked for awhile that you were going to be correct in your assumption that nobody would read and reply. I was checking out the unanswered thread button and your post popped up.
Like you, I held on to my Lotus, a +2 purchased in the 70's, and now retired have time to finish what I started. After planning all along to keep the car as original as possible I find myself building a "resto-mod", "hot rod", or as the intro to the Mods section says "something to upset the purists".
I have to say that you did well to have kept all three cars, and great cars as well. Hope your "mission creep" is minimal and you can get on to the other cars as well. Keep us posted. We love pictures!
1970 +2S Fed
"A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely
foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools."-Douglas Adams
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- Location: Winnemucca, NV, USA
I have thought about starting one of those resto-blogs on the forum, but I am not sure that I would maintain it or complete it. But I do have lots of pics so far. Once I begin to get some parts back on the car, I will feel better about documenting the progress and then I will post some b4 & after pics.
I am not a purist exactly, but I enjoy period correct upgrades to improve performance & “personalize” the car to a point.
Before I found my S3, I looked at a +2. I missed getting it by about 2 days, but it may have been for the best since it would have been more of a project than I needed at the time.
I love your Yogi quote. Just a few months ago I stumbled onto a website dedicated to “Yogi-isms”, and that was one of my favorites. I had not heard that one before and I fw’d it to some friends, so in theory it has had time to travel around the net. I am sure that I started this.
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- Location: Southern Cal, USA
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