Lotus Elan

The Grand Tour

PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Sun Jun 17, 2018 9:49 pm

Well, I made it home under my own power yesterday after 5,200 miles around the country. I had two more incidents after the radiator event yet drove into my garage without assistance.

The first problem showed up in western Tennessee. After days of spirited driving (including a big time charge through the Tail of the Dragon) where the temp never moved above 90 degrees, as I was driving along at about 70mph the temp suddenly rose to 120. I pulled off at the next exit and let it cool down and found the coolant was several quarts low. I bought some antifreeze and added a 16 ounce cup alternating with a cup of water three times to fill it. I saw no evidence of coolant anywhere so I thought it was just a fluke. Within five miles it had gone to 120 again and this time I had to limp to a gas station well off the freeway. When I waited to let it cool down, I began talking with a guy in an old pickup truck from Alabama who was quite willing to give me advice. He allowed as how it could be the head gasket since it happened so suddenly, stoking immense fear in me as I was so far from any major town and from home. I saw no evidence in the oil, nor did it pressurize the system when I refilled it and started it again. So he thought it was my fan not coming on, but I argued that I was rolling along and even without the fan there would have been plenty of air moving to cool things. Then he poked the thermostat with a screwdriver and couldn't move it at all. That provided a diagnosis that made sense...a stuck closed thermostat. He freed it with continued poking but it stuck again leaving but one alternative; removal!

He had to go so I began unbolting the housing finding that the coolant was still mighty hot to my bare hands, and that glycol makes tools VERY slippery. I finally got the thermostat out and re bolted the housing which proceeded to leak as it needed the thickness of the thermostat to seal. Nuts! I took the thermostat and with a pair of nippers (dikes) cut out the flange holding the sensor leaving just the metal disk with its hole. I pulled the housing apart again and put the disk back in. I didn't leak. I refilled the coolant and waited through several tries to get the air out of the system, buttoned it up and headed off.

The temp came up slowly to about 85 Celsius and stayed there the rest of the trip. I surmise all the heat cycles with the radiator damaged the sensor causing it to stick closed. I made good time across Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri Kansan and Colorado and was about 20 miles from home when the next problem struck. Another stuck item reared it's head...the throttle. It had been a bit slow to return to idle for a while but while cruising it was not a problem. I stopped and tried to see where it was stuck but could find no obvious cause. I sprayed some WD-40 on linkages but they were not the problem...it was inside the cable. Now I was in traffic and had lots of stop lights to navigate, and the engine would not slow to less than 4,500 rpm! I was tempted to park it and deal with it later but I really wanted to get it (and me) home, so I drove at high revs in second gear to keep abreast of traffic and when I came to a red light, shut the car off and used engine braking to slow to a point where I could brake to a stop, dead stick as it were. When the light turned green I would start the car and immediately let out the clutch to accelerate in first, then if required, speed shift into second leaving large gaps to the car ahead.I got a lot of dirty looks and the middle finger from a guy who was behind me and got frustrated so he saluted as he swept around me. I took a longer route home that had fewer stops and left turns and finally made it into my driveway. Now I need a new throttle cable and thermostat as well as a good cleaning.

The main thing, however, is that I had a wonderful trip through 17 states, finished two high speed rallies, saw many friends and family and three car museums in a 46 year old Lotus and came home under my own power. I think LOTUS should represent Lots Of Travel, Usually Sublime :o :o
Ross Robbins
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PostPost by: nomad » Mon Jun 18, 2018 4:20 am

All and all that sounds like a great trip to me, Ross!

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PostPost by: mbell » Mon Jun 18, 2018 6:26 pm

Glad to here you made it home and under your own power. Sounds like a very good trip with a few normal classic car type issues thrown in to keep you on your toes, perfect for a chapter in your next book!

Very much look forward to when life allows me to take similair trips (probably a little shorter) and the likely similar issues that will need to be handled! Thanks for the inspiration....
'73 +2 130/5 RHD, now on the road and very slowly rolling though a "restoration"
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