Lotus Elan

Rebuild Advice (and maybe a pep talk)

PostPost by: ngiovas » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:35 am

It has been a LONG time since I have posted on the forums. I own a 1964 Elan S1 that I bought over 10 years ago. The car was in bad shape, but was complete. Shortly after buying it, I stripped the car down to the bare chassis, had it powder coated and reconditioned the brakes, steering, suspension, etc. and now have a rolling chassis with the exception of the brake lines.

I then completely disassembled the engine and transmission to assess their condition and prep them for a complete rebuild. After reconditioning the transmission (and with the engine apart) I began to second guess the work I had done on the transmission. I was really wondering if I had screwed it up. I then was worried would I do something to damage the engine beyond repair.

Keep in mind that I have no transmission repair experience and while I have done some engine work (head replacement, starter replacement, minor carb work) I have no experience at all with the Lotus twin cam engine. I called a couple of local places to see if I could get some help with the engine, but none of them even knew what a Lotus twin cam engine was. I became more discouraged and shelved the project.

Fast forward many years. A friend pointed out that my Elan would be 50 years old next Fall and said I should get it back on the road for its birthday. I tried to explain that it sounded easier than it really is. His reply was that it can't be impossible or no one would have an Elan on the road.

Sorry for the long back story, but he was right - it is time to get the Elan back on the road.

I have a couple of questions:

1. Is it feasible for me to rebuild this engine and transmission myself, or am I better off getting someone else to do it? I was planning to take it one step at a time - starting with getting the block and crank cleaned and tested to see what condition they are in. Has anyone else with limited experience rebuilt their own engine?

2. Can someone recommend a shop that can rebuild a twin cam for street use at a reasonable price? I am located in Michigan and would be willing to drive to a surrounding state if necessary. I just can't afford to spend $10,000 to rebuild the engine and transmission.

Unfortunately, living near the Motor City, most of my friends are into American muscle cars and have no interest in the Lotus or any other British car. I'm sure there are other collectors in the area, I just need to locate them.

Thanks in advance for the help (and the pep talk :D )

Nick
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Sun Oct 06, 2013 6:04 am

The transmission rebuild is relatively straight forward and if you have got it back together and replaced bearings and synchros and if you can select each gear and reverse and it rotates smoothly and without noise then it is probably OK.

Rebuilding the engine is no bigger challenge if you have done the transmission. You need a good set of measuring tools to assess condition and determine what work is needed and a good torque wrench to reassemble. Provided you can locate a good shop that can do what may be needed in terms of a rebore and valve seat and guide replacement everything else is relatively easy and well within the skills of a home mechanic.

Get a copy of the Wilkins book on twin cam engines to use as your reference and an instruction guide for the machine shop you use if they are not familiar with twin cams and you should be OK. Anything you don't understand or need advice on ask here and you will rapidly get sensible help.

cheers
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PostPost by: PeterK » Sun Oct 06, 2013 9:13 am

Seconded.
It's really not a difficult job to rebuild the engine. Just take your time and ask questions when/where necessary.

Miles Wilkins book (the TC bible) is back in print so don't pay silly prices and consider getting one of the 'photocopy' versions so that you can get oily finger prints all over it without crying !
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PostPost by: lotocone » Sun Oct 06, 2013 2:37 pm

Hi Nick,

I'm a little north of Detroit, so we are probably in the same general area. Good to hear you are getting back to your Elan project.

I know a few Elan owners around here and I'll ask them about recommendations for rebuilding the engine and gearbox locally. My engine was rebuilt by Barry Sale at PHP Racengines in Wauconda, Illinois which is north of Chicago. He has a lot of experience with twin cams. I've had the head on and a off and can adjust valve clearances, but I'm not an engine expert. Never have done any gearbox work, but maybe others around here can at least provide a contact, or help.

Will PM you with my contact info.

Bob
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PostPost by: ngiovas » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:23 pm

Thanks for the replies. I'm really glad I posted. I think the support of the Lotus community, both on the forum and locally, will be a huge help/motivator with my project.

By the way, I do have Miles Wilken's book along with the original shop manual. I am going to start reading through those before making any decisions.
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PostPost by: twincamman » Sun Oct 06, 2013 3:56 pm

The. Bottom end is straight forward English Ford I sent the head out to a shop tha t does new VW heads for guides and valve seats Ed
dont close your eyes --you will miss the crash
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PostPost by: twincamman » Sun Oct 06, 2013 5:05 pm

Oh ya ....forgot the pep talk .......l.l,,rah rah sis boom ba .....turn your nuts till your fingers are raw.......yeaaaaaaa team ......ed :D
dont close your eyes --you will miss the crash
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Sun Oct 06, 2013 7:41 pm

Welcome back to your project Nick.

I was in a similar situation with my car. I went the other way and got the engine done. For transmission I bought a rebuilt one (changed to a five speed); original sitting in the shed. Would have got it done if I was using it. Diff I got rebuilt as well' although that came up after assembly and road testing. I saved some money by taking on sourcing the required parts, which is not a trivial piece up here in Canada; might be different in your area. This also kept me in the loop regarding any mods or upgrades and allowed me to sort of control the scope of the work. Certainly cost more, but the engine fired up right away. Note it still ended up taking a year of use to fettle the car and get it where I wanted it.

Not disagreeing with other posters, just suggesting to take a realistic look at your comfort / skill level and decide on a plan and schedule. If you have body off now, you already have plenty of 'part switching' to do; not much more difficult than assembling a Tamiya model. I still got certain things done, like some welding, installing wheel bearings, etc. along the way, so lots to do. I think the actual tear-down, machining, and assembly of the engine was about $4K labour; certainly not trivial but not the end of the world.

I would have extended my rebuild schedule by at least a year if I took on the drivetrain rebuild myself. Nice thing about a professional rebuild is the shop will have the required contacts for machining, valve seats, cam shims, etc. With luck, the component goes in once and works. For example, I decided my diff and rear bearings were OK on the initial build, but the seal leaks were so bad they had to come out. Was only about $900 for my local guy to completely rebuild the diff correctly and install the bearings with parts I lined up. Worth it to me not to do that in and out job twice! :)

Anyway, key point is there is no wrong answer on how you proceed. Best of luck on the project, and keep us up to date on how you make out. Hope this is encouraging, and key advice is to not let the project overwhelm you at this critical stage. Luckily I had a friend remind me when my car was in bits and spread out over the country that it was just overly stressing me out, break it down in to doable chunks, and get it finished. Glad he did that! It will all work out.

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PostPost by: [email protected] » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:43 pm

I would also recommend Barry @ PHP. He is one of the few that builds race engine yet takes the care to build a really nice road engine. You will be happy with the result in good power and excellent longevity. The gearbox is straight forward as long as you pay attention to the interlock pins.
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PostPost by: joe7 » Wed Oct 09, 2013 3:52 pm

I had Barry at PHP do an engine rebuild on a Cosworth 7 pushrod motor. Very nice job. Regarding the gear box, I've rebuilt several including my own. Some parts are getting difficult to source or expensive, such as thrust washers, syncro hubs, gears, etc. Also some after market syncro rings, while shiny, new and appear to be inexpensive, are in my opinion not suitable for a rebuild as they don't provide an acceptable amount of clearance when fitted on the gear. Any ? just send me an email.
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PostPost by: zog » Wed Oct 09, 2013 7:24 pm

Barry at PHP does a great job! And he has a dyno to document the results.

There is also Bill at Apex in Bensenville illinois.

http://www.apexae.com/
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PostPost by: AChen » Wed Oct 09, 2013 8:43 pm

Hi Nick,

I had little engine experience before I rebuilt my Twincam. I had replaced heads, timing belts, water pumps, oil pans, alternators, starters, tranny gears, etc but never pistons, valves, or cams. So the twink was my first engine rebuild. And I did make mistakes. I had to remount the head (used a few head gaskets) a few times just to seal all the oil leaks. There are a few tricks that you only learn from previous experience on the same engine. It also depends how perfect you want the results to be. For example if you want to get the cam timing perfect with offset dowels or adjustable camshaft gears, I'd probably go to a shop with twink experience. I just wanted to make sure everything on my engine was in spec. I tore the engine apart, measured everything, and consulted a machine shop if something was out of spec. I had the valve seats recut and replaced valves, valve springs, spacers, and bearings.

I'd read Kyoshi's write up on Twink engine rebuilding in general to see if you are up for the task. If you do it yourself, go slow and consult the board and experts if you have any doubts.

http://gglotus.org/ggtech/tc-rebuild-st ... ebuild.htm

Good luck,
Tony
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PostPost by: ngiovas » Wed Oct 09, 2013 11:01 pm

Thanks for all of the replies. I'm starting to weigh all of my options. I started reading Miles Wilkens' book and have been combing through lots of info on the web. I have also started to reach out to some shops. I spoke with Medina Motorsports today and had a great conversation. I will also call a couple of the other shops recommended here.

In the end, whether I do it myself, or pay someone to do it, it looks like this portion of the project is something I can get through.

Thanks again to everyone for the words of advice. I will keep this thread up to date as I continue to work on my decision.

Nick
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