Lotus Elan

Monumental screw-ups

PostPost by: hatman » Mon Sep 21, 2009 8:30 pm

Many years ago after repairing a puncture in my motorcycle tyre I experienced a worrying sort of vibrating thump when I started riding it. :shock: An exploratory removal of the tyre soon revealed the reason - and the whereabouts of the tyre lever that had mysteriously vanished when I put the tools away after my first efforts. :oops:
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PostPost by: johnsimister » Mon Sep 21, 2009 9:44 pm

My two contributions both involve sudden unintended combustion.

1) I had a rusty MGB and a new arc welder. Before I welded on new sills I thought I would Waxoyl the inner sills to stop the rust getting worse. Next came the welding, with quite a lot of not very controllable sparks. Whoooof! The jet of flame through where the rear closing plate had been when Pressed Steel made the shell was very impressive. All praise to the Simoniz aerosol fire extinguisher.

2) My father had a canal boat with a Stewart-Turner two-stroke engine which kept flooding its carburettor. On dismantling it I discovered the float to be full of petrol. How to get the petrol out? Heat it on a gas ring, of course, using gentle flame to vaporise the petrol and drive the vapour out through the pinhole. What was I thinking? This time the jet of flame took my eyebrows off.

A year ago my lovely wife gave me a fire extinguisher for my Elan. I still haven't fitted it. I really must learn to treat flames with more respect.

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PostPost by: robertverhey » Mon Sep 21, 2009 11:49 pm

Being 54 and having worked on cars all my life I can look back on quite a lot of these. I nearly burnt down a block of flats once thanks to a welding spark that went through the bulkhead into the car and started a fire in the underfelt. 10 seconds later with the hose....who knows? Then there's the time I learnt the hard way that when pressing bearings off you need to apply 5 tonnes of pressure to the inner race, not the outer race....

But two others less dramatic come to mention.

First involves some Lancia coil springs, removed from the strut, in the set of cheap spring compressors, which didn't have enough thread to allow me to relax the tension fully....what to do? I know, I'll unscrew them until the screw thread is only just engaged, just a mm or so, then I'll throw the spring across the driveway as far and high as I can, and it will all pop apart on landing..... Two problems. A dog that thought it was a game of fetch (and why not?) and I'd underestimated the amount of residual tension. Come apart? Oh yes! went sailing past both our ears.

The other involves a trolley jack under the diff, a steepish drive, some rear brakes that needed adjusting, some relatives to impress. Unfortunately it doesn't involve wheel chocks. You can fill in the rest.

Amazing I'm intact, really......
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PostPost by: garyeanderson » Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:00 am

robertverhey wrote:
The other involves a trolley jack under the diff, a steepish drive, some rear brakes that needed adjusting, some relatives to impress. Unfortunately it doesn't involve wheel chocks. You can fill in the rest.

Amazing I'm intact, really......

A couple from my days when I had a shop in Greenbush where the empty parking lot is now for the commuter train to Boston . Both involve the welding shop that was directly across from my shop they built trailers to haul boats in an out of the water with hydraulic arms that lifted the boats up out of the water. One of the buttons on the control box also operated a wheel at the front of the trailer. Well a good friend of the owner needed to launch his boat and all went well at the launch ramp until he accidentally pushed the wrong button. This put the front wheel down lifting the back of the 6 wheel pickup up and launching the boat, trailer, and truck into Hingham harbor. I nearly pissed myself laughing so hard is hurt when I heard the story.

Then came my turn, I was going out to just north of Albany, N.Y. to get a S1 Mk1 Europa any had borrowed a trailer that they made for the landlord of the buildings that we rented. It seems this was a spare time project and the metal work was completed and axle installed and put outside for awhile to do some work that was paying money. I needed to put the deck on the trailer and the next day I was off. The Mass Turnpike was pretty empty that Thursday and I was moving right along at 80 and out by the State Police barracks in Westfield (about 90 miles from home) the left wheel on the trailer comes off and starts bouncing down the highway also going about 80. All I could do is watch it bounce along and pray that it didn't bounce over the median guard rail into oncomming traffic, it didn't so after dragging the one wheel trailer for a half a mile I went back to fine the wheel. The bearing races were a bright blue, It seems the grease gun ran out of grease after doing the one side and being a Friday someone else put the trailer out on Saturday to do some other work. Things were soon forgotten till I showed the owner the bright blue bearing race?

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PostPost by: twincamman » Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:57 am

ahhh here we go---one night in a blinding snow storm in my old VW I missed Kennedy road attempted to turn into the next side street ---the car buried itself into a large snow bank just left by the snow plough . Being 17 and 140 pounds I put the car in reverse set the hand choke and closed the door and on the third heave the car motored out o f the drift and proceeded backwards down Eglinton Ave in reverse in the wrong lane with me in pursuit through the intersection and into a cruiser ----Cops have no sense of humour nor do insurance companies --I tried to explain to the magistrate I wasnt really driving ----- his reply was paramount to 'YOU WILL BE TAKEN FROM THIS PLACE TO A PLACE OF EXACUTION IN THE MORNING etc etc '-- :roll: -ed
dont close your eyes --you will miss the crash

Editor: On June 12, 2020, Edward Law, AKA TwinCamMan, passed away; his obituary can be read at https://www.friscolanti.com/obituary/edward-law. He will be missed.
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PostPost by: reb53 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 6:12 am

"probably my worst was forgetting to refit the oil plug in the main oil gallery on an engine I was overhauling....the one behind the flywheel ".

I thought I would have been the only person in the World to have done that.
Mine was the front plug and I was so gutted when I realised what had happened I somehow managed to get in there, pull the front cover etc. without lifting the head. As it was the front plug I had no oil slick to tell me what was going on. Seemed to run fine with zero oil pressure.......and as this was 20 years ago doesn't seem to have suffered any long term damage.

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PostPost by: davidfost » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:21 am

Being also of a certain age I've had a few of these, generally due to distraction ('how long are you going to be out there?' etc):

MGA engine total rebuild, final stage - confused nm, kg-m and lb-ft on the torque wrench and did all the cylinder head nuts up to about double the correct torque. The last one gave up the struggle and the stud broke deep in the block.... had to dismantle the whole engine again and send the block to a shop to sort that. Still annoyed now after 30 years.

Elan valve clearances - changing shims when the cell phone rang. Picked it up with an oily hand, it slipped and dinged the paint on the wing (also breaking the phone). At the same time, I managed to drop the camshaft which was in my other hand.... that dinged the paint again on its way to breaking neatly in two on the floor. Still annoyed now after 20 years.

The best one wasn't me (really). A friend was removing a bush from a motorcycle swing arm using a wooden block, a car jack and a socket drift. The only location he could find that fitted the setup was across the front porch of his terraced brick house. The procedure seemed to be working until he realised that what was actually moving was an entire course of bricks... his neighbour is probably still annoyed now after 20 years.

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PostPost by: john.p.clegg » Tue Sep 22, 2009 9:33 am

Dear All

Have you ever done an oil change and forgot to refit the sump plug....wondering why the oil wasn't coming up the dipstick???

John :wink:
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PostPost by: Frank Howard » Tue Sep 22, 2009 10:53 am

hatman wrote:...the whereabouts of the tyre lever that had mysteriously vanished when I put the tools away after my first efforts. :oops:

You wouldn't by chance be a surgeon would you?
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PostPost by: Robbie693 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 11:42 am

Remembered another one that I posted on here a while ago:

Well I flushed the cooling system this weekend, why do I always manage to turn things into a crisis?

It went something like this:

Drained the system, disconnected the hoses and flushed backwards and forwards with the hosepipe.

Filled up with water and the flushing agent, ran the engine as per instructions. The 'stat opens and, what's that floating in the rad?

Fished out a 1" curved strip of RTV which looks about the radius of the thermostat housing.

More engine running and scum rising to the surface. Switch off.

Drain the system and flush again, refill with water and run back up to temperature. (with hindsight I think I should have let the engine cool down before putting cold water in - is this really bad?)

More scum rises in the rad which I'm doing my best to fish out.

My Dad comes over and says "maybe we should test the water temp to see if the gauge is correct, I've got a tester". Ok cool.

Hmm batteries are dead in the meter. Dad goes off in the house and comes back with a medical thermometer - "lets try this, it goes up to 110deg so it should be fine.."

Sticks thermometer in neck of the rad, pulls it out - "err, the end fell off..."

What!? So where's the end?

"In the rad"

and the mercury?

"In the rad"

You're *%$?&^*ing joking!!!??


Great, this is all I need. Tried to pick out the glass shards with tweezers but one piece disappears into the rad somewhere. Dad suggests sucking the mercury out with a syringe - no chance.

By this time the bloke next door has come out to have a look, so I've got one eye on what I'm doing and the other on my 'helpers' who are holding/dropping tools much too close to my paintwork for comfort.

So off comes the bonnet and the radiator for a very thorough flush forwards, backwards, upside down, everyway till I see tiny specs of mercury in the pool of water. Re-assemble, one more flush with the hose and fill with antifreeze and fire it up.


Finally, Dad finds another meter with a digital themometer probe (why not that one in the first place?)

Checking the water at the neck of the rad shows the car's gauge to be 8-10deg out (on the high side) which ties up with the temp the fan cuts in at.

Sorry, I got the temps wrong in a previous post - the fan cuts in at an indicated 100-105deg or so and cuts out at just over 90deg. I also found out I have a 74deg thermostat.

So it looks like the gauge is out, can these be recalibrated?
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PostPost by: bcmc33 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:25 pm

The mistakes I?ve made are legion ???.. and the most embarrassing are sent to the back of the mind in an attempt to be forgotten ? but never are!

Earler this year during the fuel injection conversion I stuffed some paper towelling into the inlet manifold ports after removing the carbs just to make sure that no foreign body could fall in. A few weeks later when all the other work had been completed I fitted the throttle bodies ? after removing the paper protection.

The engine would not start even though I proved the fuel delivery, injectors, spark and timing were working correctly. Plugs were dry as a bone even though the injectors wet a finger when placed in a throttle body. I had already checked that the buterflies were opening and closing correctly, but when I checked again using a more powerful light, I noticed something faintly white ? with a hooked piece of wire I removed some light tissue from bottom of each port. That?s when I remembered that I had started with tissues and followed up with paper towels as tissues did not appear to be adequate workshop protection.

Clearly the memory or vision are not what they were.

Anyway, as my old dad used to say ?people who never made mistakes ? never made anything?.
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(1972 Sprint 5 EFI)

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PostPost by: tcsoar » Tue Sep 22, 2009 12:38 pm


I have two tales both concerning my brother inlaws cars.

The first was on his first car. His dad had shown how to check the fluid levels, tyres etc. and how to top up if needed. One week later he looked in the rad and saw no water, replaced the cap, returned with a watering can full of water, and then promptly filled the engine with water via the oil filler. He started the engine, it spluttered, stopped, and was then scrapped.

The second was his car, but my moment of maddness. I was at his place and he asked me to look at his car, it had been serviced (after the efforts above he now pays for his car to be serviced) but was leaking water. I found that they had replaced the bottom rad hose and not tightened the hose clip. Problem sorted but no water left in the rad., so I start to fill the system. Unfortunately I could not get the water into the rad. quickly enough so had a brainwave :roll: . Undo the big rubber hose that runs across the top of the engine and fill that with water. All done and the engine doesnt turn over at all. Start to look at what I had done and realised that what i took for a waterhose actually went from the turbo to the air cooler :oops: .
Luckily a bit of rocking in gear and many attempts to turn it over got it to slowly start to turn, then suddenly it turned and fired. My brother inlaw realising that something had changed as the largest fog cloud I have ever seen come from a car drifted past his window. Quick blast down the road and it was working fine again, PHEW.

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PostPost by: hatman » Tue Sep 22, 2009 1:49 pm

Frank Howard wrote:
hatman wrote:...the whereabouts of the tyre lever that had mysteriously vanished when I put the tools away after my first efforts. :oops:

You wouldn't by chance be a surgeon would you?

No, but I'm willing to give it a go - what's your problem?
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PostPost by: types26/36 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:10 pm

Yes the stories are coming out now...
Here is a "screw up" that I have to admit to;
One of my cars had not been started for several months, I messed about a bit until I got fuel through the lines and it started but was low on fuel, getting what I thought was a can of petrol I keep for such occasions and poured it into the tank.
Well the car started ran for a few minutes then started smoking and knocking .....terrible pre ignition when revved! ....I thought "what the hell" until I realized the can of petrol was actually a can of paraffin (kerosene) if I didnt know better I would have said it was a Diesel Elan!

And now for more but NOT of my doing:
A friend was building a Seven replica and needed a steering rack, I had a spare one from I think it was a VW Golf or Passat, I gave him it and he fitted it not reliseing that the rack was designed for fitment behind the centre line of the steering, he fitted it ahead of the centre line and turning the steering wheel left turned the road wheels right and vice versa.

Many years ago I worked at a BMC (Layland) Dealership, an apprentice servicing a Mini filled the gearbox via the plug on the bellhousing.......only that plug hole is actually a hole with a pointer for setting the ign timing........result one very oily clutch!

I also worked for a VW dealership in the days of the original Beetle, on the swing axle Beetle it is possible to refit the crown wheel from the wrong side, a guy did it after working on the gearbox and it results in four reverse gears and one forward gear....interesting!
Last edited by types26/36 on Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: alexblack13 » Tue Sep 22, 2009 2:12 pm

Hi All,
I'v a couple which spring to mind. One car related the other ..eerr not!

Seviced my Lotus Cortina engine and fitted a set of super duper GT go faster platinum tipped flaming expensive spark plugs. Started up and drove off. Great going real nice. After a few days I started to notice a missfire which got worse and worse. After replacing everything electrical (except the plugs) I still had my missfire. In desperation I took out the 'supers' and put in the champs I took out.
No Missfire.. The super GT racing items got free flying lessons. Missfires now get plugs 1st!...

During my Clay pigeon shooting days I decided to make myself a clay pigion 'trap' (the device which flies the targets) Mk1 took the form of a simple crossbow/catapult powered with elastic. Time for testing.. I had 2 clay targets I had scrounged and one old vw dynamo pulley half which happened to be exactly the same dia as the clays. Primed the thing up and loaded the dynamo pulley and I was ready for test 1.. Mate No 1 who was watching and had helped the construction of the contraption suggested that the target might fly some distance and clear the boundaries of the test area. Poss' causing damage. So I took out the vw pulley and loaded one of the two (remaining) clays. Good job I did!! Might not be here now had I not!! What followed happened so fast I hardly felt a thing! The target shot all the way round the 't' part of the x bow/catapult, underneath to almost full streatch again and came back directly into my 'grimacing' chops. I saw stars for about a week & I had a face that looked like I had gone a few rounds with Tyson! The clay target I am reliably informed, completely disintigrated on contact with my nose & drifted away as dust! Thank goodness I did not test it with the dynamo pulley. I did not try it again, and moved on to MK2.. It did not work either. Mk3 did!! :lol:

Happy days!!

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Alex Black.
Now Sprintless!!
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