Lotus Elan

Wot I did in my summer hols..

PostPost by: JJDraper » Thu Aug 09, 2012 12:37 pm

Finally underway after various ills and fiddly repair/service items. It?s a bit like selling a house ? you have to sort out all the little niggles and problems you?ve lived with for a while. Once I had sorted out the valve clearances and timing, the next area to tackle was the interior trim.

Three years of daily use since the resto have taken their toll. The under-dash trims are a pain, and both sides were loose and flopping down. The door cards had also come adrift slightly and the driver?s door handle was loose. Along with oil changes all round, new handbrake shoes and a tidy up of the boot it was finally time to pack up & head for Italy.

After previous runs down to the Alps and Northern Italy, we had decided to take the easier option of Motor rail from Holland down to Allessandria. Quite expensive but saves a day at each end of the trip, plus fuel, toll charges and overnight accommodation. A 1200 mile trip home after a tiring holiday can be a chore. It is still nearly 400 miles from home to the railhead and the car is running well apart from the annoying whine of the diff at certain speeds; something I failed to sort out with all the problems with the head gasket earlier in the year.

Loading the car on the train was exciting, along with all the other cars and motorcycles (mainly Dutch). The train set off at 4 in the afternoon, slowly meandering through the Dutch countryside and picking up pace into Germany. After an hour or so the line meets the Rhine and runs alongside it. The scenery gets spectacular and I can sit back and watch it all go by. The carriage is divided up into cabins for the drivers and support crews (family), so when it gets dark, the seats are folded back to make beds and we settle down to get some sleep. I thought it would be difficult to sleep in the swaying train, but eyes shut and my lights went out.

I woke up at around 2am in the morning as the train jolted around, back and forwards. Looking out of the window, I saw an eerily empty station ? Bern in Switzerland. I closed my eyes and slept again. Woke up at around 6am with mountain scenery flashing past. Place names and flags flying showed we were still in Switzerland, but very close to the Italian border. The reason for all the jolting in the night dawned on me ? we were going in the opposite direction to when we set off.. A more powerful loco was required to push us through the Alps. More exotic scenery; we chugged through Milan and on to Allessandria.

By the time we were unloaded and on our way, it was midday and VERY HOT ? mid 30s DegC. We opted for the Autostrada to our destination ? at the southern end of Tuscany, past Modena, Bologna and on to Cesena, then take the E45 inland and mountains.. This looked a short run on the map ? only about 6 inches, but reality is different from planning in the depths of a UK winter. The car continued to run well, at around 120-130kph, keeping up with the traffic. I felt pretty smug after fitting the oil cooler, which is doing its job. Last time, oil temp went to the max on the guauge (140C) and stuck there on these long runs. Oil temp went up to 120C on the autostrada leaving some breathing space for the really tough stuff. Water temp, as usual, stayed at around 90C.

The E45, again, looks easy on the map, but the reality of recession-rough roads hit hard after a few miles inland. With a full load, and tyres pumped up, every pothole felt like Armageddon, almost causing Mrs D heart failure with each crash. These roads are deceptive and it can be difficult to tell if you are climbing or descending. After 6 hours on the road in blistering heat (overhead gantries showed low 40s C), I was hot & tired, the car was hot & tired and Mrs D was comatose. As we approached our destination, off the E45, I thought the car felt ill and short on power ? paranoia sets in. Mrs D gets a whiff of this and asks if anything is wrong? Should we stop? Let the car cool down? The Satnav says only 25ks to go, so I think ?to hell with it? and carry on, determined to get to our destination at all costs. Leaving the E45, the Satnav shows only 5 ks to the cottage we had booked. It said ?a mountain cottage?, and I now knew why.

?Bl**dy Hell, those roads look steep? said Mrs D. ?They aren?t even on the map...? I was more concerned about a misfire on the car. Anyway, up we went. Mostly second gear, with the odd 1st gear stretch up to the final two hairpin bends when the car couldn?t get enough revs to get any power and clear its throat. The engine popped and banged and chugged at 1200rpm in first, but couldn?t make it up. I had to stop, with Mrs D throwing a fit as we rolled backwards with a dead engine. Looking in the mirror, I found a slightly flatter area to come to a halt & restart the engine. Thank goodness for fresh handbrake pads I thought as I juggled the pedals and restarted the engine, ready for another go. No dice, the 3.55 diff ratio was not a great help at this point as I could not fully engage the clutch and get enough power to get up the hill. Engine popped and banged and died, so I had to roll back to where I started. Mrs D got out to lighten the car or save her skin, not sure which.

Anyway, ?do or die? I thought, restarted the engine, revved it clear, waking all the locals enough to come & have a gawp and slipped the clutch to bug*ery, ensuring enough power reached the wheels to get up the hill and provide a savoury-toasty burnt clutch smell to mingle with the local aromas. As I pulled up outside the cottage, the engine died, but at least we had made it.

The Tuscan mountains in Late July.

More to come if you can take it!

Jeremy
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PostPost by: trw99 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:29 pm

Jeremy

Great write up, thank you for taking the time to do it. Sounds like an interesting trip ... what happened next?

Tim
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PostPost by: gjz30075 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 1:52 pm

So, if Mrs D got out at the bottom of the hill, and you made it to the top, in the car, did Mrs D have to walk to the top?

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PostPost by: JJDraper » Thu Aug 09, 2012 2:47 pm

yes..
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PostPost by: Robbie693 » Thu Aug 09, 2012 11:34 pm

Bravo! More please
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PostPost by: jimj » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:03 am

I think you`d have far fewer problems if you called Mrs. D by her first name, in my experience wives prefer a less formal address. Do tell us what happened next.
Jim
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PostPost by: ardee_selby » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:25 am

JJDraper wrote: ...Anyway, ?do or die? I thought, restarted the engine, revved it clear...


So does "Wot" = Wide Open Throttle? :wink:

JJDraper wrote: More to come if you can take it! Jeremy


Yes, more please...don't leave us with a cliffhanger!

Cheers - Richard
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Fri Aug 10, 2012 4:53 pm

+2 in Tuscany - take 2

As the engine ticked and sighed into silence, Mrs D came up the road with a look of concern and dread ? ?What?s the matter with the car?? she said, ?I don?t know, but I really need a drink?. With that, I got out ? soaked through with sweat - and peeled myself off the seat. The cottage was cool and dark, with cold and refreshing tapwater. Mrs D said ?A lot of smoke coming out of the exhaust at that last start? I asked what type of smoke ?Black? she said. Ah, I thought, not mechanical then. With that I reassured Mrs D that all would be right in the morning (without much enthusiasm).

After unloading and setting up home in the cottage I popped the bonnet on the car and looked for anything unusual. The recuperator bottle was full, with a little evidence of overflowing. Oil was fine, but there was evidence of a bad petrol leak around the rear Weber petrol banjo. The coil was too hot to touch ? perhaps another source of trouble. With that, I closed the bonnet and left the car and attended to domestic matters. Mileage stands at around 650 miles.

Next morning started clear and blue and HOT. Even at 7am, it was around 30DegC.
Digression ? in the UK we are peculiarly mixed up about temperature units ? ask the average person what the freezing point of water is, they will invariably answer ?zero? ask them what the boiling point of water is and the answer comes back ?100 degrees?; now ask what temperature a really hot day is and this causes pause for thought; Most people will say ?80-90 degrees?. Why is this?

Anyway, it was hot when I went out to check on the car. I tightened up the banjo ? a good wiggle on the union suggesting quite a serious leak. With mild concern I noticed that the recuperation system had not pulled the excess coolant back into the engine overnight. Before leaving home I had replaced the old cap with a new 7lb one, as opposed to the old 10lb one, as some folk had suggested this may be a little high. The old cap always allowed the coolant to pull back into the engine overnight, but I had to do it manually this time, removing the cap and topping up from the recuperator. No external top up required, but something to keep an eye on.

I pulled the plugs and examined each in turn. All looked OK to my amateur eye, apart from being very sooty. I gave them a bit of a wipe with kitchen towel and put them back. I tried to start the engine, which chimed in lumpily on what sounded like two cylinders.. Shutting down quick, I got out to have a close look using the old trick of a finger with a bit of spit on each manifold. This quickly showed that two cylinders were indeed not firing. With rising anxiety I looked closer at the plug leads and noticed with relief that in my haste I had switched two leads over ? thank goodness for numbered leads.

Putting things right, I tried again and the engine burst into reasonable health after a few blips of the throttle, it settled down into a slow tickover. I then set the tyre pressures back down for normal driving (22 psi front - 25 psi back). Mrs D came out to ask after the health of the car. ?Fine? I said ?What was wrong with it?? said she, ?Hot and bothered, like us I think? I replied. With that we went in for breakfast.

A run down the mountain to the nearest big town (San Sepulcro) proved that there was indeed nothing wrong with the car, and that the lower tyre pressures made the potholes more bearable. Back to the cottage for some recuperation time. Mrs D got out again before the final two turns, citing fear; second attempt at the final two hairpins to the cottage fared slightly better than the previous night, but the car still died on the final climb and turn, as the engine could not supply the necessary power below 1500 revs, with the clutch fully home. I rolled back to a safe staging point and took a run at the climb/turn and just made it. At the top, I took the opportunity to do a little tuning of the webers ? raise tickover to around 1000, and twiddle with the pilot jet air setting. Starting at No.4 and working up to No.1 it seemed to me that the engine was running a little better by the time Mrs D had made it to the cottage.

After a couple of days recuperation and serious walking in the mountains, we were ready for another cruise in the glitter bug. We took the scenic route to Arezzo, on minor roads over the hills/mountains via Anghari ? an achingly picturesque town perched on steep hillsides at the top of a mountain pass, with a series of sweeping hairpin bends both up and down. I found that the car had difficulty keeping a clear throat bumbling along at 2-3k revs up the hills, so I made a change to my driving style to go up these steep hills in predominatly third, with a drop to second on the apex of the hairpins and this seemed to help keep the revving sweet.

I guess the plugs were sooting up at the lower revs. Anyway, with this change in driving style, the car felt a lot better, but boy did the oil get hot! The radiator was really needed, but the oil stabilised at around 130DegC on the ups and dropped back to around 120 on the downs. Water temp crept up a little to around 92, and back down to 88 in sympathy with the oil., but oil pressure remained rock solid. As I manhandled the car round the bends (it really needed some upper body exertion to turn into the bends), I asked Mrs D if this was OK, and she replied that it was fun except when oncoming vehicles tried to use the same bit of road as us...

I have driven the Stelvio pass (not in the +2), but these roads just go on and on and are much more satisfying. The road style seems to be a steep rise to the top of the hill/mountain, then miles and miles of contouring ? sweeping in and out of folds in the mountainside, but at (relatively) the same altitude. The mountain gave way to plains and the ancient city of Arezzo. For once the satnav proved its worth by guiding us to a cool, underground car park. This allowed all three of us to cool down and rest for a bit, then we fleshlings went for some culture and lunch.

The journey home was more of the same, except that I was gaining some confidence on these roads. Not too much though, as I wanted to admire the scenery, not become part of it. The procedure for the final two bends to the cottage followed the same procedure as previous attempts, except that I rolled back into a track at the bottom bend, to get a run up. This worked a treat, as I got the clutch home and at 2k revs before the steep bit of the road, and the car romped up, apart from a bit of wheel spin in the dirt on the final ascent, which gave me a bit of a fright as I briefly lost traction on the steepest bit of the track, but the tyres bit and I made it up without stopping.

After another rest day, we went to San Leo, near the small state of San Marino. The guide books suggested that the San Leo was more of a visit than the monied San Marino. We went the country route again, with more of the same, but even harder going. Relentless hills and bends; valleys, ridges, with views at every turn. This was also clearly popular with bikers, as signs suggested they may wish to stay alive, we met a few doing just that. Oddly, the +2 pulled away from them on the bends, but they caught up on the short straights, but rarely decided to pass until the roads softened.

San Leo was as described ? well worth a visit. Ancient churches, interesting fort & museum with a rather gory display of torture implements.. After lunch we set off for some sun and sand at Cattolica, just down the coast from Rimini. As the road went down to the coast it straightened up and became a dual carriageway and it got hotter and hotter.. We did the beach thing and a swim in the sea, it was so hot, it was difficult to think of the drive home through those hills again, so we made the sensible choice to go back via Autostrada and dual carriageway ? twice the miles, but half the time.

As the sun sank, I realised something else I had forgotten to do ? beam correctors on the lights. Oh well, the last 20ks of dual carriageway was fairly quiet and I apologise to anyone I dazzled.. Once again Mrs D declines to be in the car for the last two bends, so I stop, let her out and run back to take the run up as before. Worked a treat; I cruised up in 1st at 2k revs, missing the dirt edges this time. Another fab day for all off us.

Another rest day, with sun and swimming. This day was going to be a tough one. Loaded schedule, twisty roads, power and pathos. We drove cross country to Imola to have a look at the circuit and the Senna memorial. Used to drama of the scenery and roads, we made good time, with my change of driving style seeming to suit the car, with no repeats of the misfires.

We pulled into the entrance to the circuit and some shade; got out and had a look around. I wasn?t expecting anything, as race circuits are like ghost towns unless there is an event. Initial indications confirmed this, until we heard the unmistakeable and primeval howl of an F1 engine starting up. Pushing our noses around we saw the Red Bull F1 team transporters at the back of the pits. As the Red Bull car pulled onto the circuit, the howl was incredible ? more so for being all alone and echoing around an empty grandstand. We stayed for a while, visiting the Senna memorial and watching the all too brief appearances of the F1 car.

On and on, we had an appointment with my dead uncle in the war grave cemetery of Castiglioni de Pepoli, along with 502 other souls killed in the vicious late 1944 campaign. Taking the country roads again; stunning scenery and roads ? epic roads! The cemetery was still and a place for quiet reflection. I located my uncle?s grave, took some pictures and after a sit in the shade, left a message in the visitor?s book.

After a brief lunch, and a rest we pressed on to Maranello and a visit to the Ferrari museum ? country route of course. Words begin to fail regarding the relentlessness of these mountain roads. By the time we reached Maranello and the museum, it was 5.30pm and the museum closed at 7pm. We paid up and went in. Very Ferrari. Interesting, but I have seen better displays at various UK classic events. However, it was cool, in an air conditioned sort of way, and the chilled water in the cafe was reasonably priced. I guess if you arrived earlier and paid up for the trip round the factory it may hold more interest.

A combined ticket with the Modena museum probably presents a better deal, but no time today. Looking at the speedo, as we left Maranello, I noticed we had done 189 miles since filling up in the morning ? Stelvio is only around 20 miles top to bottom, and these roads were much more challenging. We took the Autostrada and E45 home... around 400miles for the day.

Arriving back at the cottage, the final two bends developed their own routine and went smoothly. A truly Epic day.

Can?t really top that. The drive to Florence via the country route was again engaging, and I really felt I had the measure of the hill roads. I was now catching up the locals, rather than holding them up. There was one thing I cannot match the locals at ? overtaking on absolutely blind bends and rises. I JUST CAN?T DO IT. So when they want to get past, I now indicate and pull to one side and get ready to avoid the inevitable debris of the crash. Not sure what the accident rate is, but I would rather not be a statistic.

Florence was pretty, smelly in places, excellent underground public car park with CCTV & clean toilets. These things mean a lot when you have been on the road a long time.

The car has been a star. No problems apart from fuel leaks from the Weber banjos which seem to keep slackening off. I keep refilling the cooling system from the recuperator bottle, and it hasn?t required any extra top up. Oil use has been minimal, but I will need to put in a pint before the drive home. I did a check-over this morning, jacking up each wheel and doing a visual check. The front right wheel bearing seem a little loose, but not enough to worry me yet. Handbrake shoes had bedded in, requiring some adjustment to get the bite back. The oil cooler has developed a bit of a leak on one of the unions, but is really difficult to get at with the radiator in place. I managed a slight turn with a spanner, but we will see what happens. I think this may be where the oil is going, as the engine usually goes between oil changes without a top up.

Mileage stands at around 1800miles since leaving home. Sad day, as it is time to leave tomorrow. Back home by Sunday.

Jeremy
I will try and add pics later - not enogh bandwidth in the mountains
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PostPost by: Mazzini » Sat Aug 11, 2012 7:48 pm

Jeremy - thank you, I thoroughly enjoyed that. I think perhaps a European trip in late summer early autumn is called for, either that or I'll have to have an oil cooler fitted... anybody ever fitted A/C to a dhc Elan? :lol:
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PostPost by: jimj » Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:54 pm

You might ring MSA Euroclassic for a late entry Mazzini, Spain and France for 10 days, can`t wait.
Jim
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PostPost by: Jas » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:43 am

Hi Jeremy

Very inspirering writing, I wish I could write like that.
And what a great trip, must go there too some day.
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PostPost by: ardee_selby » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:12 am

Jas wrote: I wish I could write like that...


"Eat one live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day" :D

Anyone who can write that can write anything!

Cheers - Richard
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PostPost by: Jas » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:58 pm

I'm can't take credit for that catchy line it's stolen from Stott Adams' "Dilbert rules of order"
Here is another catchy rule:
"Accept that some days you are the pigeon and some days the statue" :wink:
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Thu Aug 16, 2012 10:02 pm

Journey back without incident, back to work this week :( . A great time had by all, and the car came through almost unscathed (I dropped my plug socket on the wing...).

A few pics as promised.

I thoroughly recommend the 'Auto Slaap' (motor rail) as it gave us more time to spend driving around Italy. Total Mileage from home & back, around 2,500 miles + rail journey. Average around 27mpg (imperial). Petrol expensive, but pay up and drive. Oil use, half a litre. Same for water - mainly lost during top up from the recuperator bottle. Most useful mod to the car - oil cooler. Problems; handbrake slackened off - easy to adjust back; lens fell out of the map light; plugs sooting up at lower revs and part load.

Will we do it again? Odds on. Locals loved the car, the car loved the roads, even the rough ones. We loved the whole two weeks.

Jeremy
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Anghiari small.JPG and
San Leo small.jpg and
Imola 2 small.jpg and
Not sure who the driver was..
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Ferrari Mus.jpg and
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Sat Aug 18, 2012 11:18 am

Jas wrote:Hi Jeremy

Very inspirering writing, I wish I could write like that.
And what a great trip, must go there too some day.


Anyone who can post on this forum can write. I find the writing adds to the overall experience of whatever you do, whether its doing something to the car, a holiday - whatever. When you come to re-read it again in the depths of a cold dark winter, you can re-live the experience. Even years later, it helps the memory almost better than photos. Try it; you don't need to show it to anyone - its for you after all. As you read and re-read what you write, you can refine the text to more closely match the experience. This is the best way to enjoy what you write. I have to write very boring, technical stuff at work, so it is a pleasure to write without the constraint of the day job.

If I've given anyone a shove to 'just do it', all the better, but the trip was for Mrs D & myself (and to justify spending a shed-load on the car!).

Jeremy
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