Lotus Elan

Modifying an Elan in Australia

PostPost by: HappyJack » Mon Sep 14, 2020 10:12 pm

Some recent discussions with other owners in the thread about my old Elan Sprint XAM 80K have got me thinking about owning another.

35 years ago, I rolled my Elan after coming off the road and into an earth bank topped with a large rock. The impact pushed the front wheel back and into the footwell, breaking my foot. I was lucky that it was only that and concussion, not decapitation.

So, the Spyder chassis would certainly provide me some reassurance that I would be better protected in that sort of accident. However, that implies finding either a car with the Spyder chassis, or building up a project car. And the latter route opens the way to a full rolling chassis from Spyder, complete with a Zetec engine. Better safety, better reliability, and presumably, if the engine output is left as standard (around 130 bhp / 95 kw) similar performance to the original.

I’m in Sydney, Australia, and I’ve just spotted a local ad for a recently imported LHD S4 which is missing engine, steering column, gearbox internals and propshaft, though it’s got a Stromberg head and carbs and a VIN. Sounds like the ideal basis for a Spyder + Zetec transplant. Hey presto - modern reliable (RHD) running gear with improved safety and the classic Elan body and interior!

But I’ve just had a look at the Australian design rules which seem to prohibit or at least make it difficult to get road registration of a substantially modified car where, for example, it’s been converted from LHD to RHD, or converted to DHC, or had a different engine or gearbox not originally available, or had substantially more power than original or had a roll cage fitted.

Does anyone here have any experience of such a project in Australia? Can it be done? Is it legal and what would it take to get road registration? How would I start such a project? Would I be better just to find and import a nice original DHC Sprint? And can one of those have the roll bar fitted?

Price wise, Spyder could build up a complete Zetec rolling RHD chassis with engine, gearbox, wheels etc, for around £20k, or A$35k. The seller of the Elan wants $25k so it would end up as a practically new car for $60k plus assembly, electrics and trim. A nice UK Elan for, say, £35k is going to end up here at a similar price, allowing for import costs.
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 1:52 am

VSB14 covers light vehicle modifications here in Australia. You'll probably need an AVE (Authorised Vehicle Examiner) certificate to enable registration upon completion. There may be some minor variations in the regulations between the different states and territories (surprise, surprise!). See link below

https://www.infrastructure.gov.au/vehic ... _ncop.aspx
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PostPost by: vstibbard » Tue Sep 15, 2020 4:33 am

I'm not sure where you got the idea that a Spyder chassis will provide better impact protection than the standard Lotus chassis. ever looked at a historic space frame formula car thats had an accident.... they bend and fold, tube chassis are carefully designed to take the static and dynamic loads they intended for, not the unintended loads of an impact....

I've had a massive accident in my 26R, oil on track at braking point led to a ~ 190 kph backwards slide into the end of the concrete pit wall under the sleeping fag point at turn 1 Eastern Creek. I walked away from it, the shell absorbed a lot of energy as did the chassis which bent and folded over the diff, no damage forward of the diff area and the cockpit remained intact and doors opened etc.

I'm a serial Lotus owner and restorer on Sydney's Northern Beaches, I've a few projects under way right now. Always interested in meeting people interested in Elan's.

Give me a call and drop in for a chat, my mobile's 0412 975 932

Cheers

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PostPost by: richardcox_lotus » Tue Sep 15, 2020 6:49 am

The key things Spyder offer are the sill and footwell protection bars. I believe these can be attached to either a Spyder or the original Lotus “subframe”.

Others may have more info.

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PostPost by: nmauduit » Tue Sep 15, 2020 8:14 am

if passive protection is your main concern, I would think that today's roll cage offer is plentiful to reasonably cover that angle.
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PostPost by: HappyJack » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:27 am

I think the rollover protection would be my number one priority; side instrusion and footwell protection bars would also be nice to have.

The big question is probably the one that seems to crop up across the forum - originality vs practicality and reliability. And the local rules on modifications, plus concerns about resellability, may point me towards a mostly original DHC.
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:54 am

restoring it as a running and basically original RHD car should not be to onerous or challenging to register in Australia. If you have a head and carbs the bottom end of a twin cam is easy and the swap from LHD to RHD is even easier. Just need to convince the registration authorities the car was always designed to be either but if its never been registers as LHD then that should be no problem

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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Tue Sep 15, 2020 10:56 am

You need to check in VSB14 whether some of those things are legal in a road car. Roll cages may not be.
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PostPost by: HappyJack » Tue Sep 15, 2020 11:06 am

Yes - VSB14 does mention roll cages as significant modifications; though I'd be interested to know if there is a difference between a roll cage and a roll bar - quite a few convertibles (incl Caterham 7 & Mazda MX-5) have roll bars; perhaps a roll cage is more, well, enclosing, and more likely to impede access and egress. But perhaps I'm being a little too logical.
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PostPost by: englishmaninwales » Thu Sep 17, 2020 4:32 pm

richardcox_lotus wrote:The key things Spyder offer are the sill and footwell protection bars. I believe these can be attached to either a Spyder or the original Lotus “subframe”.

Others may have more info.

Regards
Richard


Yes, I can confirm the Spyder sill and footwell protection bars will fit on a Lotus chassis frame ( LR in my case).
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PostPost by: HappyJack » Sat Sep 19, 2020 3:45 am

Thanks. That's good to hear.

Does anyone here have any experience of putting fuel injection throttle bodies on a Stromberg Twin Cam head? I've seen reference to Jeveny throttle bodies on TC heads but they appeared to be Weber types.
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Sat Sep 19, 2020 4:05 am

QED supply a system with throttle bodies for either Weber or Stromberg heads

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PostPost by: vstibbard » Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:56 am

In NSW there is a "modified historic registration that allows roll cages, hot rods etc, as does the NSW rally registration as it recognises that rally cars have transport stages to traverse.
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PostPost by: au-yt » Sun Sep 20, 2020 10:47 am

I also looked at that Elan, good start for a lightweight hot rod. Each state of Australia has a different approach to modified vechicles and NSW is probably the most difficult.
However its not impossible in NSW the key thing is start with the engineer before you do anything. Some are good to work with but some aren’t and make life difficult. Having said that recently in NSW I saw an S86 with an LS3, and the thing it looks stock.
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