Lotus Elan

Steering Rack Info and Options - 69 S4 DHC (LHD)

PostPost by: SF69Elan » Sun Mar 27, 2016 8:43 pm

Hi folks, the shop where I'm having my 69 S4 DHC (LHD) worked on has determined that my steering rack needs to be rebuilt or replaced. I've included a couple of pics of the current rack below.

I've gone through the forums and it looks like the stock steering ratio should be approximately 2.7, is that correct?

Also, for replacement units, it seems like the most recent forum info references options from Dave Bean and Paul Matty for direct replacements, and Moss Motors for a Spitfire rack that would need some modifications to work (replacing the tie rod ends with the shorter Elan parts seems like the primary thing). Are these still my best options?

Thanks in advance for any info or recommendations that you can provide.

Rich
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"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
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PostPost by: RogerFrench » Mon Mar 28, 2016 8:06 am

I believe current Spitfire racks are non-modifiable, you can't take them apart to fit shorter tie rods.
I believe Spyder have a new rack option.
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PostPost by: nomad » Mon Mar 28, 2016 12:48 pm

The racks were used on spitfires and the late midgets. Lots of good used ones out there. I avoid buying any of the new made items since most are substandard.

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PostPost by: RichardHawkins » Mon Mar 28, 2016 6:40 pm

Rich,

It's quite a while since I worked on the rack. What is wrong with your rack, the photographs do not show much, perhaps some more detail would help the rest of us to help you.

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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:23 am

Hi folks, thanks very much for your replies, much appreciated.

Regarding my current steering rack, here's what I learned from the shop today: (1) it's very worn/loose and would need to be completely rebuilt, the internal rack itself is probably ok (the teeth seem alright), it's not a high ratio rack (it's somewhere around 3.5 turns wheel to wheel. My understanding is that original Elan steering racks are approximately 2.7 turns wheel to wheel, so I think the current rack is likely an old standard Triumph rack at 3.5ish turns instead of the original rack that came with the car.

We could probably rebuild it as is, but it wouldn't be a high ratio rack. Are there modifications that can be done with readily available parts to convert a non-high ratio steering rack to a high ratio one?

I talked to folks at both Dave Bean and RD Ent and learned the following.

* Lotus took Triumph steering racks and modified them for use on the Elans. I'm not sure what the mods were, but perhaps somehow converting them to the higher ratio, lower number turn to turn?
* Replacement racks need to be fitted with stops for the Elan to ensure that turning is restricted so that you can't turn the wheel and hit the wheel well.
* Dave Bean does not sell a complete replacement rack, but currently has in stock the internal rod with the ratchets on it that fits inside the rack assembly.
* RD Ent does not sell a complete replacement rack, but currently has in stock the correct tie rods, tie rod ends and steering rack boots.

I have sent emails to both Spyder UK and Paul Matty UK enquiring about whether they sell complete replacement racks, whether they have them in stock, the turn to turn number/steering ratio, and the price. Hope to hear back from them w/in the next day or two.

I have also talked to Moss Motors - they have a high ratio Triumph Spitfire steering rack (2.6), but it is a sealed unit and I'm not sure that it could actually be taken apart and fitted with the required stops for the Elan. Here's a link to that part: http://www.mossmotors.com/Shop/ViewProd ... exID=53688.

My follow up questions to the forum are:

* Did our Elans indeed have high ratio steering originally, somewhere around 2.6/2.7 turn to turn, instead of the standard Triumph ratio of 3.5?
* Can you easily modify a Triumph 3.5 rack to be a 2.7 rack with appropriate stops? If so, what parts do you need and where would you get them?
* Has anyone successfully installed the Triumph high ratio rack from Moss Motors, using Elan tie rods and tie rod ends I presume? If so, how did you deal with the need to add stops?
* Can the Spyder UK replacement rack be used on an original Elan frame w/o modifications?

Thanks - trying to determine what my best options are at this point.

Rich
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: Chancer » Tue Mar 29, 2016 8:56 am

Your first question is the key one to me, I dont have the answer but can give you my thoughts.

The Triumph Herald had by far the tightest turning circle of any car except a London taxi and they would advertise that fact, the wheels practically turned sideways, there was no power steering in those days and its unthinkable that they would have used a high ratio "quick" rack as standard, I think that the 3.3 or 3.5 is likely to be the ratio used.

The addition of the Lotus lock stop spacers would reduce the number of turns lock to lock to say 2.7, the rack and pinion having the same numerical ratio would not be any "quicker" it just has less travel.

Did the shop measure the turns of your rack with or without the lock stops?

The rebuilding of a rack where the teeth are not excesively worn is very simple, usually just one rack bush, maybe both, the pinion bearing rarely and adjustment of the damper by removing shims, maybe replacing the damper spring.
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Tue Mar 29, 2016 2:56 pm

Hi Chancer, thanks very much for your reply - great info. That makes sense - so the Elan rack is basically a standard Triumph rack, but the travel is limited by the stops resulting in reduction from 3.5 to 2.7 turn to turn rotation. Lotus didn't change the steering ratio, they just limited travel.

I'll contact my shop today to see how they measured the number of turns. It sounds like I might be able to just rebuild the existing rack, assuming the teeth are ok. I'll need to determine whether the existing rack had the required lock stops installed, and if they were missing, find the right parts.

I found this earlier thread which has good info on the lock stop, including a diagram and a reference to some relevant pages in Brian Buckland's book.

lotus-suspension-f42/steering-rack-travel-t19188.html

Thanks! I'm going to call my shop later today to relay this information - they have my copy of Bucklands book and can look up the additional detail apparently available there.

Much appreciated!

Rich
"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: Chancer » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:26 pm

I dont know it for a fact but it seems logical and to make sense.

Also they might have used the Spitfire rack and not the Herald if there was even any difference, the Spit had a tight turning circle but not like the Herald, maybe Triumph used lock stop spacers themselves?
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PostPost by: Elan45 » Tue Mar 29, 2016 4:49 pm

If you choose to rebuild your rack, Longs British or Victoria British in Kansas had the bushings that go at each end of the rack. I remember after installation in my Lotus 22, that the bushes had to be line reamed, but that rack has served me well. Lotus formula car racks were simply shortend street car racks.

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PostPost by: vxah » Wed Mar 30, 2016 12:55 pm

From my experience it's not the rack teeth that is the wear problem, it's the bearings of the pinion or, rather the part of the pinion that runs on the bushes that wears away allowing the pinion to float about sideways when the steering is rocked rather than the rack being moved? Tightening (over tightening) the preload seems to eliminate the play but of course you then have a horrid stiff steering rack.
It seems to me that it could be water ingress past the pinion that causes the wearing away but I am not too sure about that? One can replace the worn bushes but on the rack pinions that I have seen there is more wear than in the bush? Machining the shaft down and making a new bush with a smaller ID would be nice but it's not really an option due to having to machine down the splines for the coupling in order to slide the new bush on? I did think about metal spraying the pinion shaft and turning it back down to size but in the end having taken a lot of racks apart I found a good pinion!
Also if you do have a rack from a triumph the wear point on the rack around the straight ahead is not in the same place as the Lotus then, if you set it up with the pinion 180 degrees from where it was originally you have a straight ahead rack point with very little wear? Well that's what I did after I bought a so called "rebuilt" rack. After I dismantled it I found the only way they had reduced the play in the rack tube bush was to hit the end of it with a dot punch!
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PostPost by: SF69Elan » Sun Apr 10, 2016 7:25 pm

Hi folks I wanted to post a follow up on this thread. First, thanks to all who responded with recommendations and information.

Regarding rebuilding of my existing steering rack, I received a reply from a query I sent to Paul Matty. They indicated that they could recondition my existing rack back to original for approximately 360 pounds, not including shipping costs there and back.

I was considering that option when I received a PM from Mike Ostrov, located in Northern California near me. Mike indicated that he might have an original 1969 S4 rack in storage at his shop. He offered to check the next time he had the chance to visit his shop. A few days later Mike gave me a call to confirm that he did indeed have the part and that it was available should I wish to purchase it. Mike told me the history of how he obtained the part - it was included in the purchase back in the 70s or early 80s of a partially disassembled Elan that had been off the road for a while at that time. The steering rack was in very good condition, showing only signs of light use. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to purchase the part - an opportunity to keep my Elan as original as possible with a rack from the same year and model as mine - and will rebuild the worn rack that came off my car as a spare.

I was able to stop by Mike's shop in El Sobrante the following Saturday afternoon. Wow, what a place! To be honest, being fairly new to the Lotus world I didn't know who Mike Ostrov was before talking to him about the part and visiting his shop. Most of the folks on this forum are probably already well aware of his expertise on Lotus Elite's in particular, as well as Elans. Mike was nice enough to show me around his shop, talk "Lotus" with me, tell me about the history and some of the mechanicals of one of several Elites currently in his garage, and talk with me about the specifics of the Elan steering rack while we looked at a copy of the repair manual. All in all a great experience and an afternoon well spent. Once I get my Elan out of the repair shop (hopefully before the end of April), I'm looking forward to bringing it by Mike's place and asking more questions.

For those of you who may not have seen the video he made on Elite's for the Golden Gate Lotus Club, here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weGSN_OZDbs

And here are a few pictures of the S4 steering rack - before and after I cleaned it up and repainted it. For newer folks like me - you can see the "stops" at both ends in the pictures that are often referenced which limit steering travel to 2.7 turns - one is a sliding bit of tube, and one is a nut welded together with a smaller length of tubing.

Once again, thanks to folks who responded with all the great info and recommendations. And thanks to Mike Ostrov for reaching out to me and offering me the S4 rack.

Rich
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"What kind of a man are you? Don't you even like dolphins!?" - Zorba the Greek

69 Elan S4/SE DHC
66 Ford Mustang Conv. (289ci)
71 Cadillac Eldorado Conv. (8.2L)
65 Buick Wildcat Conv. (425ci)
And a pickup truck full of Miatas....
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PostPost by: Certified Lotus » Fri Jul 08, 2016 11:06 am

I'm in the midst of rebuilding my rack for same year car. Will let you know how the reassembly and reinstallation goes.
image.jpeg and
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PostPost by: crypto » Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:53 am

A year ago I bought this one:
http://www.limora.com/en/steering-rack-1-141408.html
(it is LHD despite the wrong picture :roll: ) but requires modifications as mentioned before. The dimensions for the lock-stops are in the workshop manual or can be re-used from the old part.
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