Lotus Elan

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PostPost by: Breezehill » Wed Oct 09, 2019 11:36 am

This story starts with my late father and the first French Blue Lotus +2 I saw back in my mid teens where I said it was a car I?d have one day. Many years later in 1979 the urge for the Lotus grew and with a job looming in Luxembourg, the chance came with eventually finding a used and abused Lotus, doing the deal over the phone subject to viewing. The car was down in south Dorset and myself up in Cheshire we agreed to meet around Bristol. Remember the day well the perfect day to buy a car cold and wet but the deal done I headed north. Well what a voyage of discovery the usual headlight issue one came up then the other thought about it for a while, got stuck on a speed hump on the way to a fuel station and she handled like a boat in rough seas, but she was mine.

And so back home the plan was to have the restoration work undertaken by a local independent dealer while working abroad but best laid plans and all that. The two-year company contract in Luxembourg had been withdrawn and so we returned home and a rethink on the restoration.

The rethink was to get on with it as best I could though with no garage and limited space a friendly chat with father and the use of his large garage with outside space was required.

The work started and all became apparent especially in the handling. The chassis was spilt in more than one place the worst where the front chassis section meet the main section along with the drivers side chassis upright which showed signs of a very poor repair which later became apparent when the paint was removed from the shell. The front wing to the door had been replaced I can only imagine collision damage hence the chassis repair. This also showed up when you opened the driver?s door, I thought the lower hinge had worn badly however it turned out the wing had not been fully bonded inside the door shut and so all this had to be rectified.

Having removed as much as possible and with the help of several friends the body was parted from the original chassis. The chassis was in worse shape than first viewed on the car, even father wondered how I?d driven home.

A new chassis purchased from Spyder along with various suspension parts, the Lotus slowly started to take shape. The gearbox and diff I had some excellent help with as my mother worked for an international Rolls & Bentley engineering company in North Staffordshire. Their gearbox specialist was an elderly chap who had done nothing but this type of work all his life. His reputation was that his work was far better than that which came out of the factory I?d also swear he was a clockmaker as he was some meticulous with his work. When the gearbox and diff came back they were so clean you could have put them on the kitchen table, the movement through the gears just turning the shaft was so precise.

The engine had also had a tough life and so again a full rebuild, the pistons all match weighted and balanced, likewise the conrods, the flywheel refaced and just a small amount of weight removed. The cylinder head went off to a specialist to be fully restored and upgraded to big valve specification.

The interior was trimmed in oatmeal by a company in Cheshire, it was originally black but had worn badly. On the interior I nearly killed myself, it was a winter evening and in the workshop fitting all the new insulation I was so cold I shut the doors on the car and carried on inside using evostik to glue the insulation in place not realising the fumes were slowly getting to me. Well what a state managed to open a door crawl out and lay on my back for a time getting some fresh air, what a numpty!

The original was French Blue, however this had been changed to a metallic blue not just a plain metallic but thick metal flake all over and it had to go, it wasn?t the best of paintwork. After many discussions with the local car body shops I set to with a flat chisel and managed to lift the paint in small sheets. It progressed this way for three months until it had all been lifted which at this point you could see the wing damage. The whole body was taken back to gel and all the cracks etc. repaired before etching and painting in red.

The windscreen surround wasn?t the original and so the search began to find the correct one. Letters written to most Lotus dealers, visits to Paul Matty and others all to no avail until a holiday in Cyprus. While there I by chance came across an old Ford Consul Capri abandoned and broken, after some enquires a deal struck the chrome windscreen trim and rubber removed eureka.

Well after all the hard work a marriage three house moves and a job move to Lincolnshire, two children, a large mortgage the Lotus was back on the road. That first tentative drive was awesome, gone the sloppy handling now crisp and precise along with the engine just wanting to get up and go.

So as a family we used the car whenever we could, the rear seats perfect for two small children. However growing children and other various commitments the car I said I?d never part with reluctantly had to go. I advertised her not really wanting to sell but a deal done she was collected by her new owner. At the time it was like losing your best friend and I can honestly say I cried even the new owner offered to cancel the deal.

And so the years passed in fact thirty years wondering what had happened to her, was she still in one piece and where was she. During these thirty years I?d always looked in the motoring press especially if there was a Lotus +2 for sale. Having lost the new owners address there was no point of contact, never thought about Club Lotus but tried DVLA and even a friend using the forces ANPR still nothing. Over these years the Lotus and its rebuild had been discussed with many family and friends and always referred to if anyone was rebuilding a car.

So moving on thirty years, family grown and flown, more house moves finally back in Cheshire. Over the years we?ve had a few special cars our last a TVR Chimaera we?ve had for eighteen years but still I look at the Lotus car sales just in case. Then over coffee I meant to look on Pistonheads TVR forum but instead went to car sales and Lotus Elan. Scrolling down the page there a +2, red with oatmeal interior, I looked further until I saw the registration PNC170J nearly spilling my coffee my wife came over to see what the commotion was. Ironically the screen saver on the Mac is the Lotus +2, flicking between both she was also shocked to see it was the same car. The car was for sale with a dealer in Kent at a figure well above our budget, however I wrote to the dealer to explain about the car it?s the rebuild and its history. It appeared it had been the person I?d sold it to thirty years previous who had sold it on. The dealer was fascinated with the story and the subsequent email exchanges, to the point he suggested we go down to meet and take the Lotus for a drive.

Well some two to three weeks after seeing the advert, the various emails we decided it had to be done. Tickets booked we caught the train to Kent where we were to be reacquainted with the Lotus. What a reunion, there she was almost exactly as the day I saw her go from our drive I could hardly hold myself. Walking around her, touching the body and then sitting in the driver?s seat I was welling up. Explaining to the dealer about the envelope we had placed on top of the chassis on the day the body went back, it contained the date and names of those who had helped to reunite the chassis and body. If the body has had not been lifted since then its probably still there.

Well we were there for over an hour and it had to be done she?s now back like the prodigal child.

Yes time has taken its toll, she?s stood for some time along with the mouse setting up home in the boot. However she in one piece, she runs, drives and handles well though although a well deserved overhaul is on the job list for this winter.
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PostPost by: RichardS » Wed Oct 09, 2019 4:54 pm

Great Elan story. Nearly brought a tear to my eye!

I remember doing something similar when I changed the chassis on my Sprint back in the 80s. I think I left some sort of message under the felt with my name and date.

Lotus Elan Sprint FHC 1973
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 7:32 am

Yes great story and did bring a tear to my eyes :cry: But then I do always like a happy ending

Welcome to the forum and many happy days with the Plus 2

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PostPost by: Ross Robbins » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:08 pm

What a wonderful reunion! Congratulations on stretching to get back such a key piece of your history. This is almost a "Lassie comes home" story...certainly just as heartwarming. Well done and welcome back!
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PostPost by: trw99 » Fri Oct 11, 2019 12:14 pm

Serendipity indeed!

Thank you for taking the time to write your great story. And welcome.

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PostPost by: el-saturn » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:02 pm

me too love the story .................and welcome to this lovely forum - you and yr PLUS 2 are in very good company sandy (alps)
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PostPost by: Frogelan » Sat Oct 12, 2019 5:43 pm

Great story! I'm pleased you have been reunited.

i'm not sure if it is easier or more difficult to do such a project now, but this type of rebuild is only for the brave!

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PostPost by: TeeJay » Sun Oct 13, 2019 10:49 am

Yes a heart-warming story.
Welcome to the forum and all the best with the overhaul.
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PostPost by: The Veg » Sun Oct 13, 2019 7:10 pm

Welcome and great story! Looking forward to hearing more about your car.
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