Lotus Elan

Engine Dilemma

PostPost by: BullAndrew » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:21 am

I have a big dilemma, when I started my journey I accepted that I would accept sensible mods that enhance the car and not to worry about calling it a restoration but more a re-commissioning as I was not going to get hung up with authenticity / originality etc.

But I had considered the heart of the car to be the Twincam.

But I am starting to question the logic of a Zetec, I can buy a crate engine of the shelf for less than ?800 and the parts to make it RWD for another ?1000 (although some of these parts Starter and Alternator would be needed for the TC anyway) So 150+ hp for not a lot.

The mods to fit the Zetec can be reversed if I wanted to go back to the TC, I have thought of cleaning up the TC, putting it on a stand, glass top on spacers to the cam cover and keep it in the office as a coffee table to preserve it in a warm clean environment.

My estimate for rebuilding the TC is at ?4000 and I am doing most of the rebuild and I am sure I have not yet counted everything.

But ripping the heart out the car is stopping me at the moment, although the brain is saying finically the Zetec makes sense, and as I would keep the TC I do not kill the cars future identity.

I am sure there is no simple answer, but I am going to have to make up my mind soon as I can not delay the engine much longer

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PostPost by: rgh0 » Fri Jun 05, 2015 11:54 am

If you have a complete engine now and a decent head and block and crank and rods and you will do all the assembly work yourself, then 4000 pounds should get you a totally renewed engine and you could build it to a 150 HP specification for that money.

A Zetec may be cheaper -- but not that much after you do all the other things to fit it and get it running.

e.g. carbs or fuel injection, ignition system, exhaust, air cleaner and intake, wiring loom, engine mounts, chassis cutout to clear pulley, lower profile sump for ground clearance etc etc etc

Personally even if it cost me a couple of thousand pounds more I would stick with a twincam but that is just my personal preference

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PostPost by: Certified Lotus » Fri Jun 05, 2015 12:43 pm

I agree with Rohan. I went thru similar thinking when I found out my engine rebuild would be fairly expensive to build to my spec. But the heart of the car is the original twin cam. Couldn't bear the thought of not seeing twin webers and Lotus on the cam cover in the engine bay. Didn't have to think long.
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PostPost by: jono » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:07 pm

Went through exactly the same thing/thought process.

Ended up rebuilding the TC and never regretted it - they're a fabulous engine and, for me, the soul of the car.

Re build the TC. Do it yourself would be my suggestion as that way you can invest the extra care and attention to make it right.

Do it!

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PostPost by: Chancer » Fri Jun 05, 2015 4:11 pm

I bought a written off Catarham with one of the first (James Whiting) zetec conversions, water had got into the cylinders as the air filters were ripped off in the crash so I replaced it temporarily with a new crated standard 1.8 unit that cost ?400.

Well it was a revelation I can tell you! Still running on carbs so having an original look and driveability (which is actually a negative) with nothing more than a simple ignition module it was the sweetest revviest engine I have evr experienced.

Later on I did a complete bodge job on the damaged 2 litre engine, glass papered the bores scotchbrited the inlet valves and ports, I even re-used the head gasket, it rattled like a pig for the first 20 minutes (they all do that sir!!!) and then not surprisingly was pretty smokey with partially stuck rings (I hadnt removed the pistons) but my standard running in process of hammering it up and down Bury Hill for several hours on full throttle (uphill) did its magic and full compression was returned and zero o?l consumption.

I went on to race that car with the same engine for several seasons and it was still as fresh as new when I finally sold it, back then you could buy a brand new short motor from Ford for ?400.

I know that times have moved on and the Duratec/Duratorq or whatever they are are further ?volutions but I am a great fan of the Zetec, they are just so unburstable and sweet running/revving.

I would put one in an Elan in a heartbeat if I wanted to use the car regularly, go on long touring trips etc, if all I wanted to do was be a bonnet polisher (more of a Caterham term) and sit beside it at car shows then of course the Lotus twink would be the choice.

I can see that the cost of all the conversion bits will be expensive but I bet there are a lot of cheap unfinished project kit cars out there with all the right bits for sensible money.

food for thought.....................
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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Fri Jun 05, 2015 5:46 pm

No prizes for guessing what I think :lol:

As Chancer says, zetecs are pretty bombproof, Andy at Spyder showed me a 2 litre block from a 150,000 mile scrapped Mondeo that you could still see the honing marks down the bores.

They sound great, rev great and give good reliable power, and if you should somehow manage to break one there are plenty to choose from down the scrappers.

However, they are not a simple slot in exercise unless you have a second generation Spyder Spaceframe chassis with the notch out of the front crossmember to clear the front pulley of the Zetec. It's not that difficult a job to make the modification, but it needs to be taken into account.

The Zetec will bolt straight to the original gearbox, but caution is needed in this area as the extra torque of the Zetec will be heavy on the clutch and maybe the first gear as experienced on John Pelly's car which now resides with his old pal Mike Duff ( MikeD) who is currently rebuilding the gearbox, although it seems that perhaps the failure was down to assembly or machining faults by a prominent "expert" used by John whom I have little time for but shall remain nameless.

I see nothing wrong with making the swap, I don't regret swapping mine on my +2 and certainly wouldn't swap it back.

No problem running a Zetec on Webers or Dellortos, so no real need to spend an awful lot of money on alternative methods of fuelling
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: PeterK » Fri Jun 05, 2015 6:50 pm

I bought my Plus 2 in boxes without engine (and it turns out, many other bits as well :D ).

My logic was that to buy either a Twink or to buy the bits and build one would cost a lot more than a brand new Zetec c/w all engine and car mods. If you then consider the refresh / rebuild - lots for a Twink vs less than ?1k for a crate replacement or around ?150 for a used motor.

FWIW my Zetec is more powerful, and with fuel injection, needs less maintenance and is more reliable. It's the modern Twink, and with Jenvey throttle bodies, sounds pretty much like a pair of Webbers !

If I'd got an original and complete car, then I would always use an original Twink. But I haven't, so I didn't.

I'm not too far from you, so if you want a look, call around and see my Zetec and look at the mods required.
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PostPost by: gav » Sat Jun 06, 2015 5:00 pm

Alan's point is critical - to get the zetec to fit, the vacuum tank needs to be modified to clear the front pulley. If you don't have the second generation Spyder chassis, you will need to do this to fit the combination in the chassis.
I am running Spyders second gen chassis with the Sierra gearbox and LSD diff and I was toying with running a zetec. I have a 150 BHP twink and reckoned that I could get around 180 BHP comfortably out of the zetec with not much work.For me the killer cost war the fuel injection system which was around 2k plus around ?500 for a set up on the rollers.
I stayed with the twink which had an irritating ignition problem that I couldnt crack and that damaged my confidence in the engine. Last autumn I decided to fit fuel injection to the twincam on the basis that I could always transfer it to a zetec if I wanted more power.
I did a sprint a few weeks ago in the new set up using the soft rev limiter on the ecu and the twink ran a dream.
It looks good and if you use a good exhaust system ( I'm running the TTR one) it breathes really well and sounds fantastic.
With this set up I can't see myself changing to a zetec anytime soon
Sorry to stir the pot if you have made your mind up already - but half the fun is the deliberation.
Good luck
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