Lotus Elan

Early Tales of Woe - So What's Your Story?

PostPost by: AlfaLofa » Sat Dec 22, 2012 7:25 pm

Here are a few tales which have happened to me during my early years of Elan ownership - although the first story happened not to me but another S1 owner I met in about 1973.

a) He forgot to tighten the spark plugs after giving his Elan a service. On attempting to start the car all 4 plugs exited the engine bay via the bonnet - I have seen tidier holes.

b) In about 1973 after doing some work on my car I forgot (or more likely neglected) to attach the pair of bonnet retaining springs. On my way to work I was doing about a 100 with the roof down on the A1 towards Borehamwood (3 lanes each way) when the bonnet began to "twitch". Shortly later the bonnet flew over my head and floated down the middle lane like a Frisbee.

Traffic swerved to miss the bonnet as it seemed to hover in mid-air (as witnessed in my rear view mirror). The bonnet landed in the middle lane and fortunately I was able to retrieve it before it caused an accident. The bonnet was undamaged.

To prevent a repeat performance I fitted 4 bonnet straps (2 each at the front and back of the bonnet) as backup for the springs.

c) Again in 1973 I went with a mate down to Torquay for the bank holiday. On the way back to NW London the water pump failed in mid-afternoon near Newton Abbot - still 200 miles from home.

We abandoned the car in a convenient petrol station and decided to hitch. We eventually reached my friend's house at about midnight and immediately drove back to Devon in his Mini Cooper with the intention of towing the Elan back home - and that is what we did. In fact the car was back home just short of 24 hours after we broke down. We developed all sorts of hand signals to warn me of what the Cooper driver was about to do especially when he was doing 70 :shock:

All went well except for intermittent overheating which resulted in my mate losing lumps of skin from his arm when he removed the rad cap. Mind you the T -shirt wrapped around his arm for nearly 200miles made it easier for me to anticipate when a hand signal was due.

My first engine extraction followed shortly afterwards.

d)There was a day in 1973 when I demolished the firm's 6ft chain link fence including 5 concrete posts - but I don't want to talk about that :wink:

This incident resulted in me bonding a new offside front quarter to the Elan - during this process I ended up in hospital after some resin dripped off the brush handle into my eye when I was lying on my back applying matting to the underside of the nose.

For searing pain I would imagine resin in the eyeball is hard to beat.

It was a shame about all the fibreglass and resin handprints down the hall and into the kitchen as I frantically tried to find a tap to rinse my eyeball before a manic drive to hospital.

At least the resin had solidified by the time I had driven to hospital (using my one good eye). The bits were all picked out using tweezers with particular attention being paid to those bits which had rotated to the rear of my rotating eyeball.

e) In 1974 I took the car (and my new wife ) down to Newquay for a holiday. On the trip down to Cornwall the Elan was playing up with either a fuel or ignition problem - so the morning after we had arrived I found a small rural one-man garage and asked the guy to look into the problem. I was assured that the car would be ready for pick up at about 2pm. We went to pick up the car at the suggested time but there was no sign of the mechanic or the car.

By the time darkness fell I was beginning to get worried - but he did eventually turn up. His story was that after working on the car he took it for a test drive. Unfortunately he didn't attach the springs. He did attach the rear pair of bonnet straps - but not the front two.

On his test drive he must have reached 100mph - for the bonnet lifted as it had done before on the A1 - but this time because the rear straps were attached, the bonnet simply smashed through the windscreen. Fortunately he managed to keep the car on the road despite having his line of sight blocked by the vertical bonnet.

He had to go on a 250 mile round trip to Taunton to get a replacement screen!

f)The day I lost a brake pad and the ensuing disaster.

I was again on my way to work - in fact I had got as far as the firm's gate when the brakes totally failed.

As I came down the hill towards a T-junction I put my foot on the brake but nothing happened. My foot went straight to the floor. I shot across the T-junction hitting an Escort van broadsides and ended up stationary and wrecked in the middle of the entrance to my workplace - to the amusement of all my workmates.

After the car had been towed round my Mum's house I discovered that I had lost a rear brake pad which had popped out as I approached the T-junction (I later found the pad in the road) hence the momentary loss of braking. (Pity I had no time to pump - but just sufficient to panic).

The rear calliper on the driver's side had the bottom pad retaining pin missing (I haven't a clue of when or how). Consequently when I applied the brake (relatively gently) the rotation of the disc simply ejected the pad out of the back of the calliper. (It would not have happened if the pins passed through the pads as per the front brakes).

What followed was a chassis change in my Mum's garage and an appearance in court (driving knowingly in an unroadworthy vehicle, driving with defective brakes and failing to observe a "Stop" sign).

The chassis change was successful and so was the court case - I got an absolute discharge which meant that I shouldn't have been driving with defective brakes - but the court accepted that I didn't know they were defective. No fine and no endorsements.

As you can see, it was fortunate that I abandoned the car in my Mum's garage in '77 - if I hadn't I doubt it would still be on the road today :mrgreen:

So what stories have you got ????
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'69 Alfa Romeo 1750 Spider Veloce (Owned since '77)
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PostPost by: elancoupe » Sat Dec 22, 2012 8:16 pm

I have a few of these - some are too painful to relive...... :cry: Here is a mild one:

My car, as purchased, was fitted with a chrome strip between bumper and body. It was yellowed, and had 2 nasty screws in the ends. I ordered a new one, but, without going into too many details, let's just say it got ruined during the process of "warming" it for installation. :oops: So, the old one went back on, but this time without the screws, and a bit of adhesive instead- it did look better without those screws. Took a fling down a local favorite road, hit a dip in the road and WHOOOSH, the strip flew straight up and over the car. I looked in the mirror as I began to slow, and watched a car coming up behind me run it over and break it in multiple pieces.... At the beginning of the day there were 2 serviceable strips, now there were none.

On the positive side, I worked with the bumper and body to make both fit together nicely, never felt the need or want to use one of those d****d things again.
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PostPost by: garyeanderson » Sat Dec 22, 2012 10:01 pm

I bought 26/4597 in 1976 and I don't have a lot of story's good or bad. It had a broken windscreen and I only had it on the road legally for a week before I could no longer drive it. I have gone on about which screen to order because of this many times so I won't go there now. Anyway it took about a year and a half to get things straighted out so that the Elan ran and was close to being on the road in early February 1978 when I was out testing the Elan, just a quick trip around the block (no registration, insurance or plate on it) to make sure it all worked ok. Yes, you think you know where this is going but it doesn't, No cops or arrest or anything like that but, I had turned into the beach parking lot and did some tight circles in both directions and on the right hand turns the engine ingested one of the trumpet nuts and embedded it into number 4 piston. I drove back to the house about a quarter mile and not deterred by it all, I pulled the head that evening and brought it to the welder the next day, picked it up the day after and brought it to the machine shop and had the head skimmed. The following day I got a new head gasket and the rest of the parts to reassemble, this is when it started to snow, kind of heavily and my Father and I just made it home and dropped me off at the top of the street where I lived,. So here I was with about 6 to 8 inches of snow on the ground, my Elan has both the head and pan off. It is in the ground floor basement and the wind picks up into the 50 to 60 mph range out of the north east. There is 2 feet of ocean water surrounding the house that evening but none in the basement. I figure tomorrow I'll get the head back on but lets just say that didn't happen. The rest of the story is written here.



p.s. no claylastic strip between the front bumper and body on my elans either, I don't like them at all...
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PostPost by: twincamman » Sat Dec 22, 2012 11:52 pm

I was installing the motor without the carbs attached and rolled underneath to tighten the motor mounts .Having seen the fuel line I tucked it over the solenoid and when I was in perfect position the gas line swung down and deposited much gas directly into my right nostril into my lungs ---- breathing problems for quite a while after -- :roll: if stupidity paid Id be rich -ed
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PostPost by: AHM » Sun Dec 23, 2012 2:04 pm

AlfaLofa wrote:For searing pain I would imagine resin in the eyeball is hard to beat.

I have tried the same trick getting underseal off - As I lifted the loaded brush out of the pot, a large blob of paint stripper fell off straight into my eye. Nitromorse hurts when you get it on your skin, it hurts some more when it is in your eye, and blinking doesn't help much either.

I couldn't open either eye, but luckily my neighbour was in his garage and heard the fuss, dragged me up his garden and stuck my head in the washing up bowl. I remember thinking that they were a bit slack leaving the drying up and the water in the bowl - His wife must have been out!

My guess is that the paint stripper is more painfull initially, but having remnants of resin to get out probably takes it on duration. Pain being subjective it is difficult to say without a direct comparrison - I don't fancy that!

The only other time I have got out from under a car that fast was when it was falling off the jack - I always put the wheels under the car now!

Testing the spark on a motorbike holding the spark plug in my hand - When you kick-start it is difficult to hold the plug in contact with the cylinderhead. With the plug out it turns-over easily...several times ? I didn?t get the chance to see if the spark was any good! My mate thought it was funny so I made him hold it while I kick-started the bike as hard as I could.

My first car was a Mini. I wired-up a reversing light. Ran the wire under the carpet to the back. It was a proper job looked just like the rally cars. When it rained the car leaked and I took the carpet out to dry. When I depressed the clutch pedal the edge of it cut through the wire and fried the wiring, filling the car with smoke. Still it was easily fixed and with some insulating tape it was as good as new.
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PostPost by: collins_dan » Sun Dec 23, 2012 3:41 pm

Wow, this is a topic that I have lots to contribute. :) Here's one of my best. Replaced the rear suspension, reattached the cv driveshaft, but didn't re-wire the nuts, because I wanted to drive to make sure everything worked ok. Drove a couple more times, small trips, so didn't think they would back out that fast. Well, guess what they did. Jammed against the strut and locked up the wheel. Fortunately, it was at a slow speed. More to come, I am sure. Dan
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PostPost by: PeterK » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:25 pm

Lying under my rally Escort mk 1, doing a small welding repair. Heard a slight whooshing noise, then saw a jet of flame - the welding had melted the fuel line and it was now doing an impression of a flame thrower.
Out from under the car as fast as, and discharged a fire extinguisher. Could still see a glow in the haze, so emptied my second (and last) extinguisher, but could still see the glow.

Apparently fire extinguishers don't put out inspection lamps :oops:
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PostPost by: prezoom » Sun Dec 23, 2012 5:32 pm

I think I'll start with the least painful one, leaving out the numerous times I have to had a sliver of steel removed, firmly inserted while using a grinding wheel, cut off wheel etc., from one or the other eye, even while wearing a face shield, safety glasses, goggles etc. I now use swimming goggles, as they fit tight around the eye. Working on a friends race car, I was installing sheets of formed aluminum for ducting air to the radiator. I was laying under the car using a pop rivet tool to fasten two panels together. When the pop rivet stem sheared, the little bead also came out of the rivet, rolled down the bottom panel and fell into my ear. Crawled out from under the car, shook my head a few times to try and shake it out with no luck. Tried washing out with ear wash, with no luck. Went to the doctors to try to get it fished out, he poked around for a while and decided it was no longer there. Oh yea.... I could still feel it moving around and told him so. He just walked out of the room. Found another doctor, who tried to get it out, but couldn't. All the time the little ball of aluminum was banging around in my ear, driving me crazy. Her partner was not in that day, so she had me come back a couple of days later to see if he could do any better. He started giving it a try and after a while, he plucked it out. I sent the offending piece back to the first doctor, after first wrapping in a little gift box, when his bill came, along with a very descriptive note.

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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Sun Dec 23, 2012 7:54 pm

Dan, You are not alone on the CV problem See:http://www.lotuselan.net/forums/elan-f14/the-rest-the-story-t26805.html

But wait, there's more.When I bought my Elan, two cross country trips ago, it didn't run very well so I parked it in my friend's garage until I could afford to suss out and solve the poor running problem. About six months later I had some spare funds and had the Weber carbs rebuilt by a race mechanic I know. He said the car ran like a scalded cat on his test drive, so after picking up the car on the trailer and bringing it home I was tempted enough to give it a go that I didn't bother with registration or insurance. I took a plate off another of my Lotus cars and went for just a wee, tiny, short drive to see how it ran. I went down to our version of the local pub, no more than half a mile away. The car was fantastic so I decided to have a pint and celebrate.

While there I met a good friend, Tom, who shares my interest in cars and his wife, so I called my wife Ann who came over in the Explorer and we stayed for dinner. Afterwards Tom said he'd like a go. I said yes but not too far just down the way and back. He agreed and went out and back in less than three minutes. He also pronounced the car fantastic. Time to go home.

It was just at dusk so I turned on the lights and headed north the three blocks to the left turn arrow monitored intersection. Of course the arrow had just turned red so as I sat there smugly satisfied that I had a wonderful Elan to drive, I smelled smoke and it was me. I saw the smoke curl up from out of the right front wheel well so I switched off. That didn't help. I jumped out of the car with the key and opened the boot to pull the lead off the battery. No tools, no joy! My wife was right behind me in the turn lane in the Explorer so I went to the back of it to find pliers or a wrench. As I looked I heard her scream, turned and looked and saw flames about four feet high where smoke had been.

Standing helplessly I told Ann to call 911 and as I watched flames pouring from the grill opening and the wheel well, a fellow from across the street came running with a 20 pound fire bottle and emptied it into the grille. About then the fire truck arrived and pronounced the fire out. I hooked up a tow strap to the Explorer and had Ann tow me home just a quarter mile away.

I later discovered that the unfused wire to the headlights had rubbed against the radiator until the insulation wore through and had welded itself to the radiator creating a dead short that created the smoke I first saw. Then the heat melted the fuel line just above after a few minutes dumping raw gasoline into the equation and that resulted in the four foot flames.

After rebuilding the Elan with my own money, (Uninsured, remember) I counted myself lucky to not have gotten a ticket, not had the fire department turn me into the insurance company and mostly that the fellow with the fire extinguisher came from a sushi restaurant all the way across three lanes of traffic to put out the fire. Ironic that a restaurant that doesn't cook anything had a fire extinguisher, eh?

Needless to say, the former wiring harness with two fuses has been replaced with one that has seven relays and eight fuses. Oh, and a master cutoff switch that I can reach from the driver's seat. :roll:
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PostPost by: 69S4 » Mon Dec 24, 2012 7:52 am

I bought my Elan from someone who worked at the navy helicopter base at Portland (the UK Portland that is) and he'd been using the facilities on the base to keep on top of maintenance issues. He'd got tired of the handbrake pads wearing out, for example, so he'd relined them with some everlasting material they used to brake helicopter rotors (or so I was told) and lightweight nuts and bolts had been used all over the car. Of course I didn't now know what was a substitute part and what was original Lotus but if he works on military aircraft he must know what he's doing, right?

About a week later I used the Elan for a 100 mile round trip to a motorcycle show with a friend of mine. We got there ok but about 10 miles into the return journey we were doing about 70mph on a motorway section of the A1 when there was a loud bang, the rear end of the car dropped and we started spinning. Luckily everybody else managed to miss us and we fortuitously ended up unhurt on the hard shoulder. The nearside rear wheel and hub had come away and was jammed under the arch. When I eventually got the car back home I had a look at the hub and shaft. The steel nut had been substituted by an aluminium one (presumably some helicopter part) and the threads had pulled out leaving a spiral of aluminium wound round the shaft and a completely smooth interior to the nut, which I found rattling round inside the spinner / hub assembly. Luckily no real damage done to the car or to either of us but it could easily have been very different.

The second incident was more embarrassing than dangerous. Those of you with Stromberg engined cars will know that they sometimes have "issues" with hot starting and mine has been no exception. After a while you get to know what to do in those circumstances to get the car running, it becomes less of a worry and it's just another one of the car's endearing little traits. One day in the late 80's my wife's car was off the road but she had to get to work and I suggested she take the Elan. I thought she'd get to work ok and by the time she had to return it would have cooled down and it's always been an easy starter from cold.

When she did return she was furious and I don't think she's driven the car since. She works as a doctor in a local medical practice and in the middle of the day had to visit a patient at home. She got there ok but after the visit the engine was hot and it wouldn't start. After several minutes of trying she eventually had to ask her patient and a couple of other family members to push start the car as she needed to get back to start her afternoon surgery. That's probably the nearest we've come to divorce and even now, 25yrs later, she still reminds me of the episode.
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PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:21 am

Hi Ross

There's two ways of reading this "While there I met a good friend, Tom, who shares my interest in cars and his wife,"!


PS Great thread
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PostPost by: Mazzini » Mon Dec 24, 2012 9:40 am

trw99 wrote:Hi Ross

There's two ways of reading this "While there I met a good friend, Tom, who shares my interest in cars and his wife,"!


PS Great thread

I say!
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PostPost by: garyeanderson » Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:44 pm

Back to the plot of the topic. I bought 26/4597 as non runner like all of the Elans. This S2 had had a carb fire and burned the right hand scuttle, the foot box, the top of the right front wing and of course the firewall. There was quite a bit of open air in those locations. Not a problem, I had worked with fiberglass at Boston Whaler for 6 months and knew enough on how to get that part done. The first thing to do was to get the engine out and that went well too even with the fact that you needed to rotate the engine so that the carbs were higher than the exhaust side (kind of pre-internet in 1976) so there was not a lot of local info on how to do this stuff at the time. With the engine out I had some good access to the burned area and proceeded to form up the areas with cardboard to lay the fiberglass mat on. several days of work (glassing and grinding) had it looking close. On to the story, I started to clean the area up (yes this Elan leaked) and noticed a crack in the chassis, well it was a bit more than a crack the whole right longeron was separated top to bottom. So with the engine out no windscreen in the frame my friend and I decided to bring it to the welder about 10 miles away. we didn't have a trailer but we had a rope and he had his Mustang so the decision was made to tow it to the welders shop. That we did, I had brakes so it went pretty well and the next day went to pick up the Elan roller. The Welder was not too happy about all of the fiberglass dust that he had to work around and charged me double for the itching that it was causing him, I didn't argue and gave him the $20 for his time. We tied the rope on and left. We made it out of Weymouth and into Hingham. We had just crossed the state highway (rt228) on High street, as luck would have it, the Hingham Police were there too. Lights came on and we pulled over and talked to the officers and they were being pretty nice to us and said to "drop the Elan" off and leave it at the corner gas station. We pulled it over there and I started to untie the Elan. As the Police pulled away my friend says "Lets Go" so I retied the knot and off we went, this time with a bit of hurry. Every road is a 30mph zone and we are moving along at 50 or better, no real problems except that the fiberglass dust that had stayed put at 30mph was now a snow storm and most of it was what appeared to be right in front of my so my eyes and I was taking the equivalent of grinding without safety goggles. We made it out of Hingham in into Norwell and slowed down a bit and finally back into Scituate. Job done and only $20 lighter. Now about that windscreen

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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Mon Dec 24, 2012 5:47 pm

Ross Robbins wrote:Dan, You are not alone on the CV problem See:http://www.lotuselan.net/forums/elan-f14/the-rest-the-story-t26805.html

Needless to say, the former wiring harness with two fuses has been replaced with one that has seven relays and eight fuses. Oh, and a master cutoff switch that I can reach from the driver's seat. :roll:

Hello Ross,

My wiring harness still has two 50 amp fuses, plus another eight on the firewall. Of course, there is no documentation and the previous owner did not bother to mask off the wires from the fuse block when he painted the firewall.....

So tracing a circuit problem is always an adventure in patience and perseverance.

Merry Christmas to all!

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PostPost by: Quart Meg Miles » Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:03 pm

This thread should be titled THE CONFESSIONAL! I was going to start one but felt too ashamed. BTW This should be in Free Parking.

1969 No guilt in this one! I?d owned the Elan for one month and was returning from Snowdonia in North Wales to Brighton on the South Coast when the engine just died. There was no spark but while prodding around inside the distributor there was a faint ?ping? from the CB spring and normal operation was restored. So I continued the journey (though the dynamo failed as it got dark and the headlights dimmed so much that the relay dropped out! But it was June so I completed my trip on sidelights).

Some weeks later I was showing-off the car and had just reached 100 mph on the Great Chertsey Road when the engine cut as I braked for the home roundabout. The distributor shaft was jammed and wouldn?t turn. After walking two miles back to my works in Teddington I stuffed some money in a pocket, just in case, and returned with a friend and rope to tow the Elan back to base. But the money had disappeared without trace, all ?30 of it (in 1969, ouch). Removing the dizzy (hate the word but it?s short) I found that part of the skew gear was broken off though the jackshaft seemed fine. Inside the dizz there was a small lump of metal jamming the point of the Advance-Retard plate against the side of the zinc casing which itself showed rupture marks all round it where it had been dented previously. I identified the stray metal as being part of the detent that usually retains the rotor arm, which was missing, and it must have been the cause of the stoppage on the Welsh trip, shorting out the CB that time. With a new skew gear from Ford we were soon back on the road.

At the end of the week the usual cleaners came round and one of them emerged from the toilet gazing in astonishment at an old toilet roll which had three ?10 notes in its core! ?They?re mine?, I cried, remembering that just before returning to the broken car I had grabbed the toilet roll as cheap cleaning material and had stuffed it into the same pocket as the notes, which had neatly slipped inside it.

1977 Time for new rear pads. Some years before I had lost one of the retaining pin clips and, being impecunious like Gary, I had bent up a piece of wire to replace it. But guilt made me buy a new clip to go with the new pads. That afternoon I drove cross-country for twenty miles but on braking for a roundabout in a 30 mph area the pedal hit the floor (just like Steve?s item f) but I managed to scrabble round the corner and the brakes pumped solid again as the piston hit the disc. You?ve guessed it, the new clip had somehow fallen out followed by the pin and the pad, none of which I found despite walking back over a mile to where the brakes had last worked. So I drove home gently so as not to scratch the disc. Ever tried buying a single pad?

1980s This is the shameful one. The rear pads had worn thin and one piston had jammed causing the pad to scrape, but even with the pad out I couldn?t move the piston by stamping on the pedal. So I left the pad out to stop the scraping, intending to sort it within days. Next morning, driving to work, I needed to get petrol but an Alfa on my inside got in the way, so I powered past and swung into the garage at 40 mph, pressed the brake fairly firmly and?.nothing. Pumping furiously I steered the car into what seemed to be an empty field at the end of the forecourt, not noticing a chain link fence guarding it which broke free under pressure at one end and swung round to smash the windscreen. The field was rough and the car wasn?t slowing as the piston had popped out of the calliper, and all I could see was empty space as there was a ten foot sheer drop at the end of the field. As I contemplated impending disaster, possibly death, the car stopped on the brink with a violent jolt! A short concrete post on the edge of the field had punched through the front bodywork, just scraped the turns-indicator, just scraped the headlamp pod and just scraped the vacuum canister before punching through the rear panel and stopping the car by crushing the wishbone (control arm) against the chassis. It couldn?t have done less damage if I had planned it and ever since then that field has never been empty of parked cars!

Although the chassis was slightly dented by the impact I simply replaced the wishbone, fixed the brakes and got the windscreen replaced and eventually repaired the gaping holes and other damage under the bumper according to the Gospel of St Wilkins and just one thin crack has appeared, plus the inevitable stone chips, after all this time and 85,000 more miles.

1990 Time for the fourth chassis as the turrets were badly decayed and the vacuum leaked despite some weld patches and heavy glass-fibre additions. Miles Wilkins was the man and we fitted new front uprights, straightened a rear wishbone and the usual things and I refitted the 3.9 diff (in place of a 3.55 which didn?t suit the car). It didn?t look level afterwards, but I was assured it would settle down, and it steered to the left too, even when I replaced the tyres with a new set. Nothing wrong, I was assured! I checked everything, corner weights (crudely), tracking of course including sighting through the rear wishbone holes but couldn?t find any reason.

Five years later I changed the tyres again and the car has steered straight ever since and looks level too! The only thing I didn?t try was changing the tyres from side to side and I suspect that one of the tyres was a 155 instead of 145, or something similar though I?m sure I compared the axle heights.

1999 I was replacing the camshafts after a water pump change when I dropped a spring washer down an unguarded plug hole! I fished around for some time with a piece of wire but couldn?t feel it but then remembered that Bruce McLaren had once had a stone drop down an inlet trumpet and eventually he started the engine to break it up and spit it out, successfully. Well, the washer broke up all right, when I spun the engine, but stuck its sharp fragments all over the swish area making a huge din so I had to take the head off again anyway to clean it up. Surprisingly, it was a different piston which broke up eight years later and forced a rebore.

26/4088 1965 S1½ Old and scruffy but in perfect working order; the car too.
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