Lotus Elan

+2 Ride height

PostPost by: alanr » Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:57 pm

Almost all of of the photos of USA +2's seem to have a higher body ride height than is usually seen on UK cars with big gaps between the wheels and body. This surely must affect the handling.
Can somone tell me if it is definite fact that at the time Federal +2's did in fact have a higher ride height as supplied stock or is it just how they have now been post restoration been set up?
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PostPost by: Gordon Sauer » Sat Nov 02, 2019 12:41 am

I think mines pretty much in fitting with what people expect but here’s a picture of it for your own judgment, when I bought it in 89 I did think that the backend was too high and not consistent with the front and I cut off some of the spring and that seemed to even it out. I have not done any changes from factory in terms of spring perches or any of that business so maybe that has to do some with some of the cars seeming to sit higher, Gordon Sauer
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PostPost by: Gordon Sauer » Sat Nov 02, 2019 2:09 am

Further, just measuring from the bottom of those sills that that carry the screws that go into the metal sill, (so just as you would see the ground clearance) the front just behind the tire is 4 inches and the rear just in front of the tire is 6 inches, so still a little higher in back and that’s with 165/13 tires Gordon Sauer
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PostPost by: alanr » Sat Nov 02, 2019 9:12 am

Yes Gordon your car looks how I think a +2 should look to my eyes and probably handles just 'right'.

My question really was to try and understand why a lot of +2's sit too high all round, particularly US cars although some UK cars, particularly later ones, also look all wrong to my eyes.
I wonder if all US bound cars had to be higher to comply with US legislation at the time. I know the USA legislation at the time meant that all, both US and UK, MGB's had the ride height lifted at the time to the real detriment of handling compared to the earlier MGB's. Similar situation with +2's maybe?
Last edited by alanr on Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: Gordon Sauer » Sat Nov 02, 2019 1:32 pm

I’ve got a 1974 chrome bumper MGB, with the build date of 1973 and consequently it missed the raised ride height and rubber bumper iteration which went together. My +2 is something like 10 from the end of those imported into the United States so if any one of them would’ve had adjustments this one would’ve and I don’t believe that requirement was mandated for this car as it’s a 1973 titled but 72 build. I actually think the reason this car was almost the end of the line was that Lotus didn’t want to have anything to do with raising the right height and trying to do bumper compliance so I don’t think ride height awkwardness have to do anything with something done at the factory. I also think sometimes it’s about the tires with folks putting on lower profile tires which makes for that larger clearance between the top of the tire in the wheel arch. Gordon Sauer
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PostPost by: Matt Elan » Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:24 pm

I'm pretty sure the federal and UK cars had the same ride height - all the literature gives the overall height of the car as 3' 11" (47 inches) over its lifetime, as do the 'official' Lotus specs.

The MGB had its ride height upped to so that the car met the 1970s US regs for headlamp height - must have been cheaper than changing the front wings. Rubber bumper MGs went on sale in 1974 to meet the new US crash standards, with the ride height raised by 25mm (1 inch) in the middle of the year to bring the headlight height up, again to meet the US standards. The Plus 2 was out of production by the end of 1974 so shipments to the US were probably completed before the raised height regs came into force (or Lotus were a bit lax about the production date of the last cars, but thats another story...)
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PostPost by: mbell » Sat Nov 02, 2019 5:55 pm

From what I've seen I don't think the ride height is a UK v fed issue. I have a October 73 UK model with what looks like original springs (who knows if they really are thou) and it sits high.

Personally I think it just a general trend for the +2 to sit high, especially on later cars.
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PostPost by: Esprit2 » Sat Nov 02, 2019 6:48 pm

Federal regulations required minimum heights for the front bumper and headlights (when up). None of the early Lotus models (Elan, Elan +2, Europa, Elite, Eclat) met those standards as designed, and Lotus played some games to get the cars into North America. Initially, they got away with the more obvious stuff. Later, the Feds became more aware and less forgiving, and the Federal cars were jacked up in more invasive ways.

The following is not about the Elan +2, but just for instance...

From the Europa's chassis outward, the early S2's front- lower control arms went down to a low point, then back up to the trunion. The coil-over shock attached to the low point. To get the cars into North America, Lotus installed the lower arms upside down, so the shocks attached to the resulting high point. The nose rode very high, but it met/ exceeded the Federal standard.

Once the car was in the country, the dealer or owner could simply flip the lower arms over to drop the nose back down to Lotus' design-correct ride height. All stock parts, just shuffled around.

The Feds figured out what was going on, and required a recall to add bolt-on headlight pods to raise the lights. With the pods in place, the Europa looked like an Elan with it's headlights up. That got the dealers off the hook, but the owners still took the cars home, removed the pods, and trashed them.

Later Europa S2s built from Sept 1971 used longer springs that were not spec'd in the Workshop manual's Tech Data Section, didn't appear in the Parts Manual, and couldn't be purchased as replacements. Vapor. But they got the car into the country. Then simply buy stock springs as listed in the "Twin Cam" Parts Manual, and the Fed S2's front ride height drops to Euro spec.

For the Europa Twin Cam, the games ended. The body was molded taller, and sat on a chassis that wasn't jacked up... it was where is 'should' be. The bumper & headlights looked motor-boat high, but you couldn't effectively lower the car far enough to look right without destroying the suspension geometry and ground clearance. Bummer.

Yeah, I know, that's Europa, not +2. But that sort of stuff went on... I'm just not an Elan +2 owner, and I can't tell you what specific games were played with it. But there were games played with the +2... and with the Elan as well.

Even the Elite & Eclat came to North America with simple expedient of thicker rubber spring seats and longer front springs. The cat was out of the bag, so the dealer could no longer participate in any games. But once the car was in the country, all the owner had to do was swap the thinner stock Esprit spring seats into the Elite-Eclat to lower the nose by about 1 1/2 inches. If you wanted lower, then buy a set of the 'then' readily available Euro-stock front springs, and plug them in with the thin Esprit rubber seats. My '79 Eclat is that way. If I make a tight fist, and use it as a plug gauge, it will 'just' slide in between the bottom of the tub and the ground, right behind the front wheel wells. That transformed the already great handling for the better.

So, long story short, yes, when the Federal Elan +2 rolled off the boat on our east coast, it usually rode a bit higher than the Euro version. It had to, or be confiscated. 'How' that happened was a moving target, and the parts that did the job weren't always listed in the manual. NNWWSNM (Monty Python quote).

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