Lotus Elan

Is it possible to have a relaxed drive in a Elan?

PostPost by: tdskip » Fri Aug 13, 2021 12:52 pm

Good morning/afternoon, thank you for all of the responses and sharing your adventures! What a fantastic group, very much appreciate the posts.

I was not complaining, well, not fully. To be clear I absolutely love the Elan, and that it is so totally involving is a big plus. That said, as others have noted we have some big spaces here and I like touring so having a 5th gear or taller rear ratio would help. With 5 speed boxes being a bigger job and recently even harder to come by here in the USA that doesn’t seem like the path for me personally, and I’m really enjoying the freshly rebuilt 4 speed gearbox in the car.

I caught up on my reading on this and it appears that the most pragmatic tweak would be a 3.1 rear gear set, exactly as @TBG fitted. It looks like NTG can provide those? https://www.ntgear.co.uk/ford-english-7-crown-wheel-and-pinions/

Thanks again and great to see the cars being used and enjoyed! To my Southern California fellow owners pints are on me and same threat to those in Northern California once I get the gearing figured out.
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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Fri Aug 13, 2021 6:15 pm

@tdskip and others contemplating 5 gears or tall diff ratios:

With all due respect to those who advocate a taller diff ratio (I am guilty of a 3.55 which I think is plenty tall) I think it is the wrong answer to the question "Is it possible to have a relaxed drive in a Elan?" as it only exacerbates the weak elements of an Elan. Our little cars are at their absolute best on the US equivalent of the B roads in the UK. What William Least Heat Moon called “Blue Highways”.

As I attempted to say in my previous post, and as @69S4 said much better “There is a kind of adrenalin boosting characteristic built in to the way they feel. With the Elan though it is possible to get through that and, for want of a better term, relax. It's then a very enjoyable drive. The 1500 mile trips mentioned above are ones I've done using a variety of vehicles, both two and four wheel , and the Elan rates as one of the best compromises. I'd rather use it than my Land Rover for example - as long as you stay off the autoroutes (3.77 diff makes for a slow noisy time).”

The key then is to stay off the high speed Motorways, Autoroutes, or Interstates as they may be called where you live. There you can make better rates of progress but that simply defeats the purpose of an Elan, and that is the only place where you really need a tall ratio differential or a fifth gear.

So, I submit that anything taller than a 3.55 will by its very nature lead you to poor route selection and you will traverse many more miles per day (800 miles!!!! Yikes!) with far less satisfaction. As the old saying goes, “There are horses for courses” and our little quarter horse is not meant to run with the Derby thoroughbreds over long distances but to run barrel races with aplomb. Just my $ .02.

Oh and thanks for all the kind comments about my drives but the real reason I enjoy them is that I follow the principles outlined in both posts and therefore do enjoy relaxed drives. I think if I preach enough about this more of you will do the same.

Cheers and Kudos to all those who drive and win awards like you did TD Skip!!
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PostPost by: TBG » Fri Aug 13, 2021 6:42 pm

Ross - you state "So, I submit that anything taller than a 3.55 will by its very nature lead you to poor route selection and you will traverse many more miles per day (800 miles!!!! Yikes!) with far less satisfaction"

Absolutely true if you have not got the power to pull a 3:1 CWP. I have a 1700 and something motor with QED 420 cams and back roads are bliss! 2nd and 3rd gears are an absolute hoot, but on long drives to Spain for instance autoroutes and their equivalents are a boring necessity. On them the 3:1 comes into its own.90 mph at around 3850rpm - what's not to like? Oh and yes it is NTG who make them. D

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PostPost by: tdskip » Fri Aug 13, 2021 6:48 pm

Part of the challenge of Southern California is just how big it is, it can take awhile to get to the roads a stock Elan prefers.

I have some vintage cars with long legs but like yo expand the range where the Elan feels at hone (for my circumstances).
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PostPost by: 1owner69Elan » Fri Aug 13, 2021 9:08 pm

TBG wrote:Ross - you state "So, I submit that anything taller than a 3.55 will by its very nature lead you to poor route selection and you will traverse many more miles per day (800 miles!!!! Yikes!) with far less satisfaction"

Absolutely true if you have not got the power to pull a 3:1 CWP. I have a 1700 and something motor with QED 420 cams and back roads are bliss! 2nd and 3rd gears are an absolute hoot, but on long drives to Spain for instance autoroutes and their equivalents are a boring necessity. On them the 3:1 comes into its own.90 mph at around 3850rpm - what's not to like? Oh and yes it is NTG who make them. D

Spain 2012 447.JPG


TBG is quite happy with his decision on the 3.0 diff and it appears to suit his driving needs.

But anyone considering the same 3.0 solution might consider these factors:

1. TBG has a large, non-stock engine. This allows him to overcome potential limitations on startup in 1st gear.
2. TBG has a semi-close gearbox with a 2.97 1st gear (I believe). If one has a close ratio with a 2.5 1st gear the overall ratio with the 3.0 could be problematic for starts.
3. If you live in a hilly area where you often encounter stop signs and lights on steep hills (e.g. San Francisco) standing starts will generally not be particularly comfortable. Of course the starts can be done with revving and slipping the clutch but it will not be very much fun in traffic with cars close in front and behind.

My experience with a 2.66 1st gear (T9 BGH sporting close ratio) and a 3.94 diff (effective) is that very steep hill starts can still sometimes be a bit challenging. And I also have a large engine. But even a large engine does not have much torque at idle. Revs are needed with some consequential slipping of the clutch to control things. A lesser engine or taller 1st gear just adds to the challenge, especially with a 3.0 diff.
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PostPost by: TBG » Fri Aug 13, 2021 9:30 pm

Never had a problem with very steep hill starts both forwards and backwards. Don't knock it until you try it!! D

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PostPost by: tdskip » Sat Aug 14, 2021 7:31 pm

Being a Lotus and all is there anything I should be aware of that would complicate swapping out the rear gear set?

Thanks!
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Sat Aug 14, 2021 8:53 pm

tdskip wrote:Being a Lotus and all is there anything I should be aware of that would complicate swapping out the rear gear set?

Thanks!


It's pretty straightforward but requires the appropriate tools and shims. It's covered in the service manual. It's all English Ford parts.
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PostPost by: SENC » Sat Aug 14, 2021 9:43 pm

Get a Seven - makes the Elan feel downright refined!
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PostPost by: h20hamelan » Sat Aug 14, 2021 10:11 pm

hand brakes are a good aid for hills
Though I know most don't have them, so ye old sting on a block is in order :lol:
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PostPost by: 2cams70 » Sun Aug 15, 2021 2:50 pm

The Lotus engine is a lot smoother, sweeter and less busy at high RPM if you keep it at the standard stroke. Making it 1700cc by putting in a long stroke crank will be to the detriment of refinement at high RPM
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PostPost by: Mazzini » Sun Aug 15, 2021 3:29 pm

2cams70 wrote:The Lotus engine is a lot smoother, sweeter and less busy at high RPM if you keep it at the standard stroke. Making it 1700cc by putting in a long stroke crank will be to the detriment of refinement at high RPM


Same with Coventry Climax FWE and the longer stroke FWB.

"Horses for courses". I've just been out for a thrash in my S2, it's perfectly standard apart from the tweaked motor. Every time I drive the car I really feel Lotus built the most outstanding sports car of it's time.
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PostPost by: TBG » Sun Aug 15, 2021 5:48 pm

Mazzers- I have not gone down the long stroke crank route as you are quite right in what you say. I have a bored out block to gain the cc's required. Also someone mentioned a handbrake. Do we have one? Mine is so ineffectual except when tweeked up for the MoT that I never use it. See also my comments on starting on steep hills with a 3:1 cwp - not a problem. D

PS black bumpers rule....................!!

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PostPost by: billmoore42 » Sun Aug 15, 2021 6:26 pm

I have the 3.1 CWP from Scotland in my garage in Northern CA but am waiting to find the time to convert my differential. I had such a horrible time replacing the Rotoflex couplings a couple years ago that I am not exactly excited about working on the rear end again, particularly since my Rotoflex are so far holding up very well. My 67 Elan has an older Spyder chassis (painted gold) which I believe will not fit any 5 speed transmission.

I also plan to order a CV Joint kit from R Dent before I do this conversion, as I think getting a solid rear drive train will make it easier to launch my car from 1st (get rid of the surge). I have a 2.97 first gear, which should help compared with the 2.65 in some cars. I also have a 1700 CC tall block stroker engine converted by the previous owner which should help with the power.

One thing that is recommended is to have a professional convert your differential. I plan to take the donuts and driveshafts out, remove the diff, and transport it to a shop to install the 3.1 CWP. The 3.1 CWP comes with notes on how to install the unit, which do not make sense to me, but will make sense to a professional.

I hope this helps.
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PostPost by: TBG » Sun Aug 15, 2021 6:45 pm

Bill - good luck, I very much look forward to your experience with the 3:1. I think also that you will not regret going solid at the rear end if you get my meaning!! D

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