Lotus Elan

Keeping It Original

PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Jun 06, 2022 10:04 am

I'm starting this thread to record my ownership of MMM 15L, my 1972 Sprint DHC, bought recently in original condition.

As the title suggests, my intention is to keep the car as original as it is possible to do, whilst still using and enjoying it. So although well intentioned, I shall not be entertaining suggestions to change the doughnuts to solid driveshafts, I shall not seek better cooling from a larger radiator and so forth! I wish to replicate the driving experience of the car as it was when new and as I remember it when I had my first Sprint in the glorious summer of 1976.

Over the last ten to fifteen years, I had been on the lookout for a specific Sprint. I wanted a lagoon blue over white DHC from mid 1972 on, in as original condition as possible. It was a difficult criterion to fulfil, as several friends on here know, since they kept an eye out for just such a car.

In the end, I suppose, it was inevitable that I would have to compromise in some respect. Colour was, of course, the easiest way to do so. To begin with I widened, if that is the right expression, the search to include tawny brown over white cars. However, as we know, fewer Sprints were made of this colour combination so, much as I admired it, I was not helping my search!

I was perusing the Elan Facebook pages this spring, when a recently posted advert caught my eye. It was a later Sprint, it was a DHC, it had original factory paintwork, it had its original chassis and engine. All that was good. It was Lotus Yellow over white. Right, I thought, that is the compromise! There were other rather encouraging indicators too. It was in regular use, it had full provenance, two long term owners and was in my budget.

Without thinking any more about it I sent the vendor a Messenger text. I verified one or two bits of information with him and, within half an hour of spotting the ad, I made my offer, which was accepted. Over the next few days, we continued to correspond and I sent the vendor a good-sized deposit to secure the deal. As you might imagine, I was by then really rather excited and set about planning how to get the car from Yorkshire to my home.

My first problem was one of space. My modest home has but a single garage, two thirds of which has been converted to a workshop for my wife's interior design and soft furnishings business. Clearly no Elan was going to fit in there. On the driveway sits our Jaguar XK and the Land Rover FL2 i6 sits outside the house on the road. My first thought was to see if any of my neighbours had a garage they were not using, so I put out a request on our local multimedia outlets. I also began investigating local council lockup garages and was surprised to find there were several sites within a mile of home. However, such is the demand for them that there is a waiting list. I put my name down for one.

Fortunately, within a couple of days a neighbour who lives three minutes’ walk from me responded to my plea.She was not using her garage. I viewed it, we agreed a monthly rental and I had my space for the Sprint. The next matter to sort was insurance. I carried out some diligent homework and decided to use Hagerty. Not the cheapest but certainly my experience with them so far has been positive and I feel their cover to be comprehensive and what I sought.

Onwards to agreeing a date for me to collect the car from its home in Yorkshire. This necessitated a taxi, two railway journeys and a kind collection at my destination by the vendor. We got on well, not least because he has another Sprint and a S3 Elan, as well as a new restoration project, a Lancia Fulvia Zagato. He opened up the door to his garage and there was the Sprint, under its cover. He removed the cover and I was able to view the car for the first time.

Now at this point I know more than a few of you are saying I must have been crazy, buying the car unseen and untried. And indeed you would have been spot on if what I viewed before me at that point turned out to have been a pup. But it wasn’t. Was I just lucky? Perhaps, but by now you know I do like to get my anorak out for Elans and I like to think I know enough about them not to get caught out too badly. As it happened, I knew the first owner of the car and had corresponded with the other long-term owner. I therefore had a pretty clear picture about the car and its history. The vendor had bought the car only several months before, intending to do a full restoration. Once he got the car home and thoroughly inspected it, to his credit he realised that it was so original it would have been remiss to start a restoration. After all, ‘a car is only original once’. That was why he was selling. He had sent me copies of a lot of the paperwork that comes with the car and my gut feel was that this car was indeed what I was looking for. That is why I took that risk in buying unseen and I don’t regret having secured the car thus.

We spent some time in his kitchen chatting, I transferred the remainder of the agreed price to him, gathered up the paperwork and went to set off. Very kindly the vendor led me out of his home town to set me on my way to the A1 and south for home. I had intended to keep off dual carriageways for as much of the journey as possible. In the end, I ran out of time and did the entire journey on the A1. The car behaved well, did not miss a beat and we started to get to know each other. It was a happy journey!
Attachments
M Ad 5.JPG and
One of the advert photos
M garage.jpeg and
First view of the Sprint
Collection Day 4.jpg and
A stop on the journey south to take the hood down
Insurance Storage  2.jpg and
Journey's end, tucked up in its new home
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PostPost by: SENC » Mon Jun 06, 2022 12:36 pm

Excellent, looks like you got a gem! Looking forward to following, donuts and all!
Henry
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65 Seven S2
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PostPost by: alanr » Mon Jun 06, 2022 2:07 pm

Looks like you have found a beauty....well done!

I would totally agree that keeping the donuts is the right thing to do nowadays!

Looking forward to hearing more as the weeks/months go by. :D

Alan
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PostPost by: Roland » Mon Jun 06, 2022 2:30 pm

Looks a great car.

Originality can be quite a struggle I find. One of my other non lotus cars has rare and expensive magnesium alloys in very good condition. They are kept in a 'glass' case because they will deteriorate (or be wrecked) if I drive on them and replacement is difficult and expensive. I drive on identical non magnesium alloys which most wouldn't know the difference.

The situation with the Elan Sprint is not that different, I have good original wheels that I really don't want to drive really hard on. However just now identical looking but stronger wheels are not available and I want an 'identical' original looking wheel. So I am sort of hanging onto originality there slightly unwillingly.

If I do change anything I always where possible keep the serviceable components so it can be changed back. So I am on Spyder drive shafts but the old shafts I still have in a box.

Enjoy your new car.
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Mon Jun 06, 2022 11:09 pm

I just hit the 'like' button.
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PostPost by: LI-599 » Tue Jun 07, 2022 8:34 am

We are so lucky here in OZ with 3 car carport under house roofline, 2 car brick garage for lotus and other non lotus. I admire your dedication to originality, great job. Ian
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PostPost by: trw99 » Wed Jun 08, 2022 12:35 pm

I was encouraged that, during my journey home in the car, the water temperature had remained pretty constant, mostly around 92 degrees and the oil pressure was equally resolute at 40 psi. I did not try out everything electrical, but those I needed worked pretty well. The indicators were on slow march, the horn appeared to be one trumpet short of a duo and I didn’t even bother with the radio.

A few days later I spent several hours going through the car, inspecting as much as I could without a ramp and giving it a good clean. I had also had a chance to review all the paperwork that I had been handed. So lets start this particular missive with that.

Every tax disc from 1977 and every MOT certificate since then was present, thus verifying the milage. The car has been put through the MOT test every year, right up to the present, though Covid gave a small hiatus. It was clear that the long term owner of 45 years, let’s call him John, had done the maintenance work himself. I would estimate that 80% of the parts invoices for this work were available for me to review.

From the invoices I was able to surmise that a few items had been replaced, for reasons unknown. In 1978 these included the hood, dashboard, top crash pad, under dash trim and ashtray. I shall investigate with John why presently. Perhaps a thief attempted to steal the radio and made a hash of it. In addition, 2011 saw the fitting of a Powermax electrical ignition kit to the distributor and in 2018 a pre-engaged high torque starter motor was plumbed in. Those appear to be the only non-standard items on the car and are, of course, easily replaced. The rest of the invoices showed a couple of top engine rebuilds and the regular servicing and replacement of parts that you would expect.

Content with that I turned my attention to the interior. The floor carpets have been replaced, but my guess is that the remainder of the carpeting is original. Since it all remains quite black in colour and has not changed to that faded brown they go after over-exposure to the sun and UV, I would conclude that the car has been garaged virtually all of its life. Even the boot carpet without trimming around the edge was there, as fitted at the factory.
The seats have both lost some give due to the foam getting tired over the years. On one seat the corners where the side bolsters meet the base have either worn away or come undone. I have a local car upholsterer who should be able to replace the foam and hopefully repair the wear, without the need to replace the entire cover.
Elsewhere the instruments all work fine, though the tacho bounces around at times and is a bit slow at others. The lights all work, the windscreen wipers and washers too. The heater chucks out heat satisfactorily and the fan also churns around. The Radiomobile radio/cassette does work but is not period. I do, though, have a period correct UK market Blaupunkt Hamburg radio to replace it. The dashboard has some delamination cracks, but I feel I can live with them. The correct steering wheel is there and in good nick, so let’s hope it stays so. The boot is all there, by which I mean the spare wheel and retaining nut, its wooden floor cover, as well as the petrol tank side floor and top blanking plate. The top of the petrol tank is ‘well patinated’! There is no tool kit, but what looks like a Mini scissor jack in the correct jack sack and the half-eaten remains of the original hammer.

Moving on to the bodywork and here we have great patina! There is the well blistered offside rear wing, the badly repainted area on the front bonnet, a couple of gouges where something heavy has dropped onto the body, one repaired and one not. There is cracking and crazing around most of the usual stress points, such as the boot hinges, petrol filler and windscreen base. The white area to the front of the car is well peppered with road-rash. I know the bumpers have been repainted at least twice, the wheels at least once. The spinners are in remarkably good fettle. All the glasswork looks to be original, some delamination of the screen starting to show in the corners.
A quick diversion here. How do I know about the bumper resprays? Well, the first owner, let’s call him John, when he bought the car, had the bumpers and wheels painted dark green. I know, who’d have thought? I suppose the yellow and green was a Lotus theme and it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. John also told me that he had replaced the steering wheel with a Moto-Lita item almost straight away. At least that was replaced with the correct wheel soon after he sold the car. I know John number two had the bumpers repainted the correct gold. There is a letter from Lotus in 1978 informing him of the correct colour code and confirming the standard rear diff ratio fitted to the car. Then the vendor, let’s call him Mike, told me that he had resprayed the bumpers because he felt they were in too sorry a state to do the car justice.

Next up, the mechanicals. The engine bay was lovingly oiled up, the Dellortos with that rather nice off-brown hue indicative of age and use, the cam cover had lost none of its black crackle finish and the bonnet foam was still in place. The red rubber ‘top hat’ cover over the starter solenoid was missing its top. Can I find a replacement? I hope so. There was the additional wiring from the Powermax unit looking a bit untidy, one of the light relays was missing, I believe it’s the flashing unit. The original air filter pipe to the air box was miraculously in place and the bottom radiator blanking fibreboard plate was in the boot. The washer bag was an incorrect item, one which I was immediately able to replace with the correct Todor bag from my store of Elan parts. Finally, the spark plug leads were wrongly led aft around the back of the cylinder head, when they should be led over the cam cover and fed down between the two carbs.

Underneath the car I could see the front chassis cross member, the original red oxide paint finish showing under its black over-paint and looking reasonably fresh. I could not feel any rot under the front turrets. There was a goodly amount of oil blown back along the chassis and the suspension components look sound. Alarmingly, I was able to detect that the four tyres were still those fitted by John number two in 1996. I had the receipt for them. Michelin would be doing well out of me, what with the two replacement Pilot Sport rear tyres I had just bought for the Jaguar, the four replacement Cross Climate tyres recently fitted to the Land Rover and now the four XAS FF tyres I ‘ll need for the Elan.

I finished off my inspection by giving the interior a good clean out. I found the confetti, the French one franc coin, the two pence piece and the dog hairs that spoke of bygone times. I ascertained that the anti-theft switch was disconnected. I found that both sets of seat runners were deficient. It was then time to give the outside a clean and the old car scrubbed up well. One final task was to take the car off to a scenic spot and take some photographs for the nice man from Hagerty insurance to prove the condition of the car.
Attachments
Insurance Interior 2.jpg and
That bonnet lock handle is due to be replaced darned soon!
Clean Up Day 1.jpg and
Engine bay getting the once over
Clean Up Day 6.jpg and
Front chassis member with original red oxide paint
Clean Up Day 11.jpg and
Looking brighter after a scrub
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Wed Jun 08, 2022 12:44 pm

Nice pictures Tim. Keep them coming.
Last edited by gjz30075 on Wed Jun 08, 2022 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: pharriso » Wed Jun 08, 2022 1:34 pm

Tim, it's a beautiful car, cherish it!

The chassis looks to be minty as well... :D
Last edited by pharriso on Wed Jun 08, 2022 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Wed Jun 08, 2022 1:55 pm

This is the color scheme my car was born with and it's growing on me again.
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PostPost by: NTG999 » Wed Jun 08, 2022 4:28 pm

I like original but have conceded a few non-original parts, I have all the parts to put back to standard if required. It would be very helpful to me, as I near the end of my Sprint restoration to have a few un-molested under bonnet photos to know what to aim for
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PostPost by: ericbushby » Wed Jun 08, 2022 6:55 pm

Hi Tim,
I understood that the ignition leads were originally routed round the back of the head and through the hole in the head casting. Then a metal plate was fixed to the cam cover, over the plugs to reduce radio interference.
It may be more original than you think.
What a find, well done.
Eric in Burnley
1967 S3SE DHC
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PostPost by: pharriso » Wed Jun 08, 2022 8:51 pm

ericbushby wrote:Hi Tim,
I understood that the ignition leads were originally routed round the back of the head and through the hole in the head casting. Then a metal plate was fixed to the cam cover, over the plugs to reduce radio interference.
It may be more original than you think.
What a find, well done.
Eric in Burnley
1967 S3SE DHC

Eric, I believe Lotus tried it "Over the top" with & without the spark Suppression shield on Sprints:
Buckland_SpringEngineBay.jpg and
Without the Shield (Buckland picture)

&
ElanSprint_RHD_JimE.JPG and
With the Shield (JimE's very original car)


I don't like trapping the spark plug wires like that, so I have my wires coming through the rear with the cover installed:
IMG_4857_edited.jpg and
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PostPost by: trw99 » Thu Jun 09, 2022 3:45 pm

Eric, certainly the majority of Elans had the plug leads led aft through the opening under the web at the rear of the head.

However, around the time they began fitting Dellorto carbs in early 1972, the leads were led over the cam cover and between the carbs. This was regardless of whether a RSK (Radio Suppression Kit) was fitted or not.

Here are some photos of factory press cars from 1972 & 73. I've always enjoyed John Bolster's tests in Autosport and the one he did on a FHC Sprint in early 1973 has to be my favorite. You can see here the slight bow in the suppression plate from where it has passed over the plug leads. The plate is so thin that I doubt it had much, if any effect on the leads, other perhaps than some slight wear due to movement.

I've included a Plus 2S 130 engine bay - really just to be inclusive ...

And, in the same vein, the shot of a Federal engine bay demonstrates the impossibility of the plug leads going any other route than the traditional one led aft.

Tim
Attachments
Autosport Feb 74 Sprint Engine Bay.jpg and
Autosport Oct 72 Engine Bay.jpg and
Road & Track Mar 72 Federal Engine Bay.jpg and
Last edited by trw99 on Fri Jun 10, 2022 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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