Lotus Elan

The Rest of the Story

PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:25 am

On a beautiful October day the cars of Lotus Colorado including my 1965 Elan headed out to drive the Peak to Peak highway up from Golden, CO to Estes Park, CO and down to Lyons for lunch. With almost twenty cars of various ages and colors, the train of Lotuses made a glorious sight as we wound through the mountain roads. As Lindsay Gilbert said, ?It looked like someone spilled a bag of Skittles!? While the roads were glorious and the weather was perfect, the mechanical aspects of my car were not.

About halfway through the trip, my Elan had the axle shaft come loose from the CV joint and jam into the suspension locking up the left rear wheel. I was able to control the car despite the locked up wheel and, fortunately, we were going slowly when it happened. I turned into a parking pull off area where a few of us moved the car far enough off the road that we could safely work on it. It seems the bolts holding the axle to the center section of the differential had worked loose and the axle shaft flailing around had damaged the control arm to the point that we couldn?t get the bolts to go back in their respective holes.
Unable to repair it despite the best efforts of several mates, I was forced to abandon the car there, hidden as far off the road as possible in the tree line at the edge of the parking area. With humble apologies to Paul Harvey whose breathless delivery I cannot come close to matching, here is what happened after we left the Elan in the forest clearing, wounded with the broken leg; in other words ?The Rest of the Story? .

Thankfully, our friends Steve and Julie Gram were driving their four passenger Audi rather than their two passenger Esprit as it was not road ready at the time, so my wife Ann and I were able to ride down to lunch in Lyons with them. After leaving the Oskar Blues restaurant with a distraught waitress whose only mistake was to try and keep us all happy (an effort that drove her to tears, literally), the Grams delivered us in air conditioned comfort to our home. There I hitched the trailer to our BMW X5 and, with Steve to assist, headed back some 65 miles to the Elan near Allens Park, CO. The trip up, via mostly Interstate this time, was relatively easy and although the empty trailer bounced around in an irritating manner we made it to the car in reasonable time. Just as we were pulling up to the parking pullout where the car was parked, and as I was planning the alignment of the trailer for proper loading, a sudden thought struck with abrupt pain.

Oh, $%!t! I forgot the tie down straps!

Now that we were at the car, late on a Sunday afternoon, we were at least 30 miles from the nearest probable source to buy anything to secure the car on the trailer, and a 130 mile round trip from some tie down straps I had at home that worked perfectly on the Elan if only I had remembered them. What to do? Time to be flexible and inventive once again.

Option A: Drive the 30 miles down to Lyons and buy some. Pluses: Safety, certainty and convenience. Minuses: Cost; whether they were available in the very small town of Lyons at all; and well over an hour and a half of lost time even if they could be found.
Option B: Drive back home and get my tie down straps. Pluses: Safety; certainty and only gas cost. Minuses: At least 3 hours which would get us back to the car about dark and the risk of a stolen car/trailer as I would want to do the round trip without the trailer.
Option C. Secure the car ?somehow? with ?something? and get to Lyons, or Boulder if necessary, for real straps. Pluses: Time and convenience. Minuses: Safety, uncertainty and risk of total loss.

Obviously I chose Option ?C? wherein Steve (reluctantly participating in this boondoggle saying; ?Are you sure this is going to work, Ross??) and I chocked all four wheels to ?secure the car? with rocks; the ?something? we found nearby. We really wedged them into the tires, both the front and back of each tire, at all four corners. Then, for insurance, I put the car into first gear. There would be no way for it to move now, right?

Slowly I pulled out of the gravel and onto the pavement, all the while watching the car on the trailer for any movement at all. It seemed to be OK. But then we were only going a few miles per hour. So, all we had to do was tow an unsecured car both uphill and down on 30 miles of steep grades and winding curves with no sudden starts, stops or turns. No problem! Steve asked me as we were creeping down the first few turns, "Are you going to tell the club what happened?" I responded, "Only if it turns out well"

I planned on holding 20-25 mile per hour regardless of whether the road was straight or curved based on the logic that I didn?t want to apply any extra forces from acceleration or braking to the barely secured car. Remember this is the faultless logic of the same guy who thought eight small rocks would keep the car on the trailer with no problem. Oh, and we also had to keep out of the way of all the returning Sunday drivers in a hurry to get down the hill going 40 mph or more. Unavoidably, we held some of them up, though most passed quite readily. Steve never took his eyes off the Elan on the trailer all the way down, while I never dared look at it at all. A disaster unseen is a disaster unmet!

By the time we got down to Lyons it was about 5:30 PM so the hardware store was closed and the convenience store had nothing of use. Not even rope. But as Steve checked the local gas station parking lot, almost scoring a piece of rope from a sympathetic local, I noticed that the motorcycle shop next door was still open. Sure enough they had ratchet style tie downs for cycles that would work well to really secure the Elan. $86 later we properly cinched down the car on the trailer and headed for home with tie downs we could have bought for under $20 at any auto parts store in Denver.
Well we made it which is why I am telling this to you all. As I see it, this was just another chance to be flexible and inventive with thanks to Steve, and all the rest.

A few days later I obtained a rear lower wishbone from Jeff Robinson at JAE to replace the one that was damaged, and with the help of Ben Wofford at Caterham USA, installed longer and double nutted bolts through the CV joint to the axle. Then we drove without incident to Gettysburg and back over 4,100 miles with that repair. I am glad it happened on the shakedown trip where I had support and resources rather than in the heart of Kansas a few weeks later. Actually, that trip really is ?The Rest of the Story?.
rest of the story 005.jpg and
Ross Robbins
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PostPost by: memini55 » Tue Dec 18, 2012 2:53 am


So let me get this right, it took you two years to write this short story??? Or two years to fess up to such a fun adventure?
Well at any rate these kind of stories keep us all young in our life and journey of Lotus ownership.
Glad it all went well or maybe you would not have told anyone.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Ann.

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PostPost by: dougweall » Tue Dec 18, 2012 11:23 am

Good story Ross.

Hope all is well with Ann and yourself.

Have a good Xmas and New Year, hope GeoffC and Brian (the other Louts) have been in touch.

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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Tue Dec 18, 2012 4:04 pm

two years to fess up

Who wants to willingly admit reckless stupidity while it is fresh? :oops: :oops:

A very Merry Christmas to you Mark and Doug and to all the LOUTS as well, and to all the wonderful folks on Lotus Elan.net
Ross Robbins
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