Lotus Elan

Complete Newbie

PostPost by: Guyver » Fri Mar 18, 2005 2:05 pm

Dear all,

Firstly I like to mention I am a complete newbie to this forum, so not sure as to protocols (if any). I am 23 year old Masters Student at York University and am very interested in owning a classic Elan +2 as an everyday (but limited mileage) car.

I currently own a 1982 Austin Metro with about 22k on the clock (yes really! :D) and am approaching full no claims bonus. To be honest the metro is a tad boring and have been hanging on to because it makes financial sense to do so. I am fast approaching the end of my course and to celebrate I?m considering purchasing an Elan +2 for the summer months and beyond.

I have a few things I would like to clear up before these considerations become more concrete and was wondering if you could possibly help me out with them?

Clearly the Elan +2 is approaching 30 years +, Like my metro it possibly runs on the now defunct Leaded fuel, is it possible to convert the car to run on standard fuel, and if so what kinds of prices are we looking at?.

Being 23 insurance companies feel I?m going to hit 6 very expensive Bentleys and then crash through a china shop on the way to collect fish and chips. Is it really viable to expect insurance to reasonably insure me in a car with such a prestigious badge ?

On average how reliable would an Elan +2 be? I am aware it depends on how it has been treated but are there some major inherent design flaws which could really mess things up?

All cars will eventually need bits replacing, how easy is it to find replacement parts, or parts which can be substituted (for some reason Rover bits pops into my head here)?

And finally, and perhaps should have been the first question, how easy would it be to find a working one and what would be the average price for a rather well cared for one.

Thank you for your consideration and Looking forward to your reply,

Guyver. :)
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PostPost by: daves56 » Fri Mar 18, 2005 4:10 pm

Hi Guyver,
Plus 2s are great cars but they can be high maintenance. Most by now have been converted to unleaded fuel so probably not a problem there. Insurance may or may not be expensive. It is only a 4 cyl. car and the book values are fairly low. Mechanical parts are not that hard to find. Body parts can be. Rear bumpers are almost impossible to replace. So don't get hit.
I would hinge the question on whether or not you have a garage. Don't park it on the street. They don't like cold weather. The carbs and ignition will always need tinkering. A good rule-of-thumb is two hours of repairs/adjustments for every hour of drive time. It will need lots of care. If you have a girlfriend(s) she'll think you love the car more than her (dumb question).
Regards,
Dave Sutcliffe
69' +2
77' Esprit
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PostPost by: davidcroft » Fri Mar 18, 2005 5:10 pm

Hi Guyver

While my plus 2 is (or will be, when it comes back from the menders) a second car, I think the other Dave is a mite pessemistic with his 2:1 tinkering to driving ratio. Admittedly I've got no false ideas about my mechanical ability, so I pay people who do it for a living to fix the car.

So far, by changing things when the guys say things need changing, and getting it serviced regularly, the car has been very reliable. Not cheap to maintain, but reliable.

Don't get hung up with the leaded petrol thing. This topic has bounced around the various forums for years now, and it seems the consensus is that the car doesn't mind what you put in. Lots of people go for Shell Optimax for its higher octane, others use LRP, and I know a few just use regular unleaded - all without any problems. Optimax seems to make the car run well - I think its higher octane is as near to 4star as you can get nowadays.

The point seems to be that any problems with the cylinder head or exhaust valve recession will take many thousands of miles (if ever) to surface - and you'll probably need to have some engine work done before then any way. Remember that the alloy head has had steel valve seats in it from new - it's old-fashioned cast-iron heads with the valve seats cut directly in the head that will struggle with unleaded.

Having said all that, for peace of mind when I drove to the South of France (750+ miles in a day) I put some Castrol lead replacement/octane booster stuff in, but 10 hours at 5500rpm is pretty exceptional for a car that lives in London...

Regarding parts - you can practically build a car from scratch with 'off the shelf' parts. Certainly all the usual bits are available from people like Paul matty, Christopher Neils and SJ Sportscars. Chris Neils tend to be cheapest, but there are some stories of iffy service and less than perfect quality goods (although I've been treated well). Basically - do not worry about the parts; they are all out there.

Weak spots on the car are things like waterpumps and rotoflex joints on the drive shafts, but regular maintenance (correct fan belt tension for example) and good driving technique (don't try and burn rubber from the lights!) can help with longevity of these. If it does all go steamy and/or quiet here are mods to help with all of these, too - CV conversions and waterpump cassette kits for example. I'm certainly not the best person to go into technicalities, but common sense should help - it's a 30 year-old car. Don't drive it like a Focus, and keep on top of the maintenance and you'll be surprised how well it all works.

The cheapest source of cars seems to be the quarterly Club Lotus magazine classifieds. The mag itself used to be a bit of a joke, but it's got better since the old club chairman went to the autojumble in the sky. Joining the club is almost a requirement if you want agreed value insurance, as they do the valuation for you (at a small fee). Hopefully a car owned by a club member will have been looked after - and the prices are a lot lower than you'll find at the dealers.

Insurance - try Norton (I use them) or Footman James. As the other fella said, it ain't that quick or expensive a car, and the insurance companies will think you're an old-car-anorak who wouldn't drive like a bastard anyway.

Good luck

David
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PostPost by: davidcroft » Fri Mar 18, 2005 5:27 pm

Oh yes, prices...

Less than ?4K and you're asking for trouble and a lot of dirty fingernails.

More than ?8K will get you a very very good car indeed.

In between those areas you could find a beautiful non 'S', non big-valve car, or a really really nice 'S', or a not quite so lovely but very solid 130/4 or 130/5.

The five-speed cars can command a premium, but the 'box is more fragile, difficult to fix, and the shift quality is pants compared to the ford box in the 4-speeder.

If you do lots of motorways, consider a 5 speed. Or put in a 5 speed box from a modern ford, isuzu, etc etc (this is a BIG subject).

But the most important thing is to buy a car with good paint and fibreglass. If you're at all bothered about the appearance of the car, putting these things right costs a huge amount of cazash.

Check for cracks, blistered paint, crazing, and rubbish repairs. All of these are BIG things to put right.

And they all leak, by the way. Just get used to the smell of musty carpets and petrol - it's all part of the experience.

D
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PostPost by: Hamish Coutts » Fri Mar 18, 2005 10:53 pm

David,

I couldn't have said it any better. I agree with all you have said.

For me the highest priority is mechanical condition, then it is bodywork.

I bought my ( sorry ours - my partner has a half share but she hasn't really driven it yet) car from a friend. I've done a fair bit of work on the mechanics but by far the biggest task ahead is the paintwork. As far as cost is concerned by experience, the biggest dent in the wallet is made by mechanics the biggest dent in your time is the bodywork.

Guyver, it's your decision. Look for one that is mechanically sound, the body is less important. Take a friend for advice on mechanics if you need to. However, the decision is to buy one. You will not regret it. The car lives and is wouderful to drive.

(before you buy though, check the sills and the water pump)

If you need advice - you will get plenty of it here. I've found this site to be fantastic. The enthusiasm is amazing!

Regards,

Hamish.
"One day I'll finish the restoration - honest, darling, just a few more years....."
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PostPost by: Guyver » Fri Mar 18, 2005 11:59 pm

Thank you all for your replys. Its good to know how these things work in the real world outside of the sales junk that all cars being sold are perfect. I dont have access to a fulltime garage, its generally full of other peoples junk who would not be pleased moving it for my car :(.

Still if i could source an all over cover would that go someway to fixing the cold outdoor problem?

Secondly, what kind of 'cold' issues are we talking about here, the paint cracking off ??

Again thank you for your replys,

Guyver
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PostPost by: Hamish Coutts » Sat Mar 19, 2005 9:15 am

Guyver,

Be careful using a cover. They can cause more trouble than they are worth in that they don't really allow the car (particularly the paintwork) to breathe. This can cause osmosis (looks like little blisters) all over the paintwork.
My car has this condition and the only solution is to remove the paint and start all over again. This is my project for next winter!
One of the body experts in Club Lotus Scotland recons it's better to leave the car uncovered when it's outside.

Think the comments about cold conditions refer to starting the car (they can be a wee bit 'iffy' to start in cold weather).

Hamish.
:)
"One day I'll finish the restoration - honest, darling, just a few more years....."
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PostPost by: Guyver » Sat Mar 19, 2005 11:18 am

Great,
thanks for your advice, if its just getting the car started in the morning because they are cold is not really a problem for me, me metro hates mornings when its cold, the only thing that really gets it through is a well charged battery (even then its a struggle :D).

I am currenlty looking around on the internet just to gauge prices, build types, availability etc..

Again thanks for your replys

Guyver
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PostPost by: pereirac » Sun Mar 20, 2005 9:08 pm

Check the chassis as well. You can drive a car with less than perfect paintwork, but if the chassis is rusted then that's a big expense and thers are no cheap options. Ideally and Elan you buy should have a replacement galvanised or Spyder chassis.

Carl
Carl

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87 Excel SE
97 Alpina B10

http://www.lotuselan.co.uk
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PostPost by: steveww » Mon Mar 21, 2005 9:54 am

The modern car covers use breathable fabric like good walking jackets. I used to use one on my old Porsche, you could put the cover on a wet car when it was raining and the car would be dry in the morning - strange but true.

The covers are not cheap though - about GBP200 :o
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Wed Mar 30, 2005 10:23 pm

What's this about not leaving the car out in the cold?! My '68 +2 lives outside on the the road (no garage) and is used all year round. To date it has never failed to start, regardless of rain, snow or frost. Starting procedure is one pump of the throttle and turn the key - engine starts...Never had to use the choke, maybe it runs a bit rich, but in commuting & general use it returns around 28mpg (english gallons), better on a long run. This may have something to do with using electronic ignition (lumenition), but this is a sensible mod anyway. The downside of keeping the car outside is keeping water out - its taken a couple of years, but it can be done; doors are the most difficult to seal.

Surely garages are the preserve of wimps!
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PostPost by: 1964 S1 » Thu Mar 31, 2005 4:18 am

I'll agree from blustery Ohio, Strombergs great in the cold, my '69 +2 seems to love cold air, dependable, runs on unleaded premium. No changes over the last 5 years. Buy one.
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PostPost by: Madbury » Thu Mar 31, 2005 8:03 am

<!--QuoteBegin-JJDraper+Mar 30 2005, 10:23 PM--></div><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (JJDraper @ Mar 30 2005, 10:23 PM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'><!--QuoteEBegin-->What's this about not leaving the car out in the cold?! My '68 +2 lives outside on the the road (no garage) and is used all year round. To date it has never failed to start, regardless of rain, snow or frost. Starting procedure is one pump of the throttle and turn the key - engine starts...Never had to use the choke,
[/quote]
I can agree with that. I've got a garage, but it's a bit too tight to keep putting the car in and out of, so a lot of the time it sits outside in the drive. I rarely have a problem starting provided it has a decent amount of juice in the battery and the times I do have problems is down to my incompetence and a flooded engine. Never ever use the choke.

A quick pump on the gas and then key it over is usually enough for it to catch. If the engine is flooded then slowly very slowly depress the gas peddal to the floor and then key it over. It should start, but keep the peddal down until it's cleared it's throat. :)

I think the level of maintenance required relates to what you buy to start with. My +2 S130 was pretty servicable to begin with and although a lot of time and money has been invested, she's been reliable and a great deal of fun. I think the 2:1 is a bit pessimistic, sure if you want your car in concorse condition then that probably is the case, but if you want it for transport and fun then it's nowhere near as bad as that. Plus there are many things you can do to reduce the maintenance burden in the future. I've recently put a solid driveshaft conversion on mine, which means no more donut worries for example. The water pump is the other biggie, probably worth fitting a conversion kit when the pump gives out so that you don't have to go through the hassle of removing the head (or trying for a sneaky shortcut by removing the sump) to replace it the next time around.

As for the paint problems, mines been ok so far. Good ventilation is absolutely key to preservation though if the articles in the classic car mags are to be believed. A garage with a few holes in is actually more desirable than a completely sealed one.
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PostPost by: Brian » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:46 pm

Hello Guyver,
To chat to like minded enthusiasts why not pop along to the "Buckles Inn" on the A64 between York and Tadcaster on the 4th Tuesday of the month where "North Yorkshire Lotus Owners Club" meet for a "Noggin & Natter" evening and where no doubt you will be able to sort out any problems/information you may have/want.
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PostPost by: 1964 S1 » Sat Apr 30, 2005 2:26 am

Hello Guyver, have you found one? Any leads?
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