Lotus Elan

Plus 2 as an only car ??

PostPost by: JJDraper » Tue Apr 25, 2006 7:36 pm

My +2 is a daily driver, but not our only car.... As a family man, you need a big motor to lug around all the associated junk (not the family I mean). The +2 has been 99% reliable for 6 years of my ownership, and most problems were associated with past owner's misunderstandings. While it is a great car and serves its purpose well, I would feel vulnerable if it was my only car.

For comparison, my other car was a Vauxhall, and during the course of 5 years ownership, it blew two engines (2.5 V6, not cheap) and cost a packet to service, and is now in Estonia being stripped for spares after the second engine let go. The lotus cost half as much to buy, is now worth a bit more (than when I bought it), but service costs & sorting out past misdeads has cost around ?6k over 6 years. Offset the tax and insurance savings, and factoring in de/appreciation, and the +2 is a cheap car to run - if you use it for regular mileage, say 6-10k miles annually.

A lot of things benefit from regular use - electrics, fueling, and brakes, especially the handbrake! Regular driving puts you in tune with the car's needs.....

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PostPost by: Hamish Coutts » Tue Apr 25, 2006 9:53 pm

My God guys, you amaze me.

I wouldn't dream of going round the block without a few tools and a mobile phone in the car ... and I suppose sunglasses :roll: . Looks like I have a lot of work to do to get the car reliable.

The PO had let the car go quite a bit and most things were in a wee bit of a state and needed worked on. I'm slowly getting through a lot of it.
It seems to be taking ages to get the car stable and reliable - very frustrating at times. To look on the bright side - at least I'm learning a lot about how the car works; not least from you lot on the forum :) .

My sincere thanks for all the advice. I only hope I can give something back. ( I could start with advice on fab outings in Scotland - not much use to you guys in the Colonies :D :D but if you ever come across here ...)

"One day I'll finish the restoration - honest, darling, just a few more years....."
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:24 pm


The centering spring is mounted to the top of the gear change on the right hand side. The lever is free to move between 1/2 and 3/4 selector postion but the spring pushes the lever out of the 5/R plane back to 3/4.

The standard spring is to stiff and make selecting 5th hard and when changing out of 5th makes getting 3rd or 4th hard because it kicks you across the gate into the 1/2 plane. A lighter spring makes the feel of the change better in my opinion. I have only changed it with the box out of the car, not sure if you can do it through the top of the tunnel

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PostPost by: ahaserus » Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:51 am

thanks for all the replies re: +2 as an only car. It seems from the majority of replies that provided you buy one that's already sorted and looked after then it should be pretty reliable in daily use, and in fact daily use may be better for the car than leaving it in the garage over winter where damp and condensation will undoubtedly take their toll. From my point of view, if I were to own such a beautiful car I'd want to drive it as often as possible. However, we will also be keeping our sensible family estate - I have to be realistic.

The info about the Spyder seat-belt kit was much appreciated too - I had a look at their website and it looks pretty good.

I now have a couple more questions - any suggestions where I can start looking for that sorted and well-maintained +2, or is that like setting out to find the Holy Grail ?? Should I look for a car with full history, or is that a bit unrealistic given the age of the car ? Would evidence of recent tlc be a more realistic expectation ?


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PostPost by: Elanintheforest » Thu Apr 27, 2006 9:50 am

It depends how much you know about cars in general, and Elans specifically. If you?re not mechanically inclined, then stick to a dealer like Paul Matty who really knows his stuff and retails a wide variety of cars, from ?5000 cars needing some improvement to ?17,000 nigh on perfect restorations. Of course you?ll pay more, but we all have to make a living!
For an Elan, there are 3 main areas you need to check out; the chassis, the engine and the paintwork.

If you don?t want to do a total restoration, avoid a car that doesn?t have a replacement Lotus galvanised chassis or a spyder chassis fitted. There are Plus 2s around with their original chassis, I have 2 of them, but in this climate it?s only a matter of time before they will need doing, and that will be sooner rather than later if you use it everyday. It?s a fun job if you have the time, space and inclination, and it is usual that the steering, suspension and brakes all get sorted at the same time. Drive in / drive out replacement (with associated suspension etc) will be the thick end of ?5000 at a reputable Lotus restoration specialist.

The engine is pretty simple and robust, it being basically a Ford Cortina lump with an aluminium head and front cover. If there aren?t bills to support a rebuild in the last 50,000 miles or 10 years be careful. If it has low oil pressure or smokes a lot on acceleration / overrun, it will probably need doing. This will be ?3000 if the head is basically OK, a fair bit more if it need valve seats / welding etc.

The paintwork tends to point to what sort of a life the car has lived. If it?s covered in gelcoat cracks, star cracks and ?blisters? under the paint, the shell has probably had a hard time. Even a small accident in a fibreglass car can transmit shock and cause problems throughout the shell, with cracks appearing months and even years later. These can all be fixed, but it is very time consuming and expensive to get done properly. Blisters have two causes One is water trapped between the paint and the gelcoat due to poor preparation in the paint shop. The other is more serious, with a fracture or weakness in the fibreglass allowing water to get under the paint from the underside of the panel though capillary action, often called ?osmosis??.even more time consuming to fix.
I would rather buy a car that was last painted 5 years ago and has a couple of gelcoat cracks and chips in the paint than one that has just been repainted with no bills or photos to support what has been done. It?s very easy to blow over an Elan to make it look good, but unless those faults have been fixed properly, they will come back in a few weeks.
Painting an Elan properly will cost anything between ?4000 and ?8000 (or more), depending on how much crack-fixing and prep has to be completed.

So if you know your stuff and are mindful of the 3 main issues above, or you?re just feeling plain lucky, you can buy privately. I have found ebay to be a great source of cars, and they cover the complete spectrum, from cars that are only fit for breaking through totally original never-messed-about-with to properly restored cars. The bargain cars tend to be the ones that have been lovingly restored a few years ago, but then never used. If the paint is still good, and they are running properly, they won?t take a lot of fettling to get sorted. The car will probably have albums of photos showing it in various stages of restoration, supported by many invoices for all the bits. You can often pick these cars up for ?4000 - ?6000. In fact there?s one on ebay right now that may just fit into this category?.an early (1967) car in Red that has been restored and needs re-commissioning ..it?s in Bristol I think.
There have also been a few advertised on the ?for sale? section of this forum which appear to be good, honest cars, and there are always quite a few in the Club Lotus magazine.
I would avoid like the plague any non-original car, with home made wiring looms, fuel injection etc. These are usually put together by enthusiasts who understand what they are doing and can fix them when they go wrong, but nobody else can due to lack of documentation or obvious logic. Take one of these to Paul Matty, Chis Neil or Miles Wikens and the first thing they will do is rip out all the ?mods? and put it back to standard?at a price.
The exception to this is the Zetec engined Spyder cars. The components available from Spyder are arguably better that the Lotus originals, and the Zetec engine provides a super-reliable alternative to the old twincam, and is of course it?s spiritual successor. How good the car is will depend on how well it?s all been put together?just because it has a good chassis and engine doesn?t mean that the bodywork and electrics have been sorted properly.
If you haven?t done so already come to a gathering of Lotus cars and examine the cars / chat to the owners?most everybody is keen to talk about their car! There are often cars for sale at the Castle Coombe meeting in June , Stoneleigh in November and Donnington in March. You?ll also be able to see the different models?the early (67 ? 69) and the later S and 130/S, 4 or 5 speed cars. And of course the Spyder cars.
Which is the best one to get? That?s entirely up to you, and is probably another complete thread!
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PostPost by: RobCapper » Thu Apr 27, 2006 7:06 pm

When finding my car, I searched around for about a year, looking at about 5 or 6. I got mine privately, and it was immediately apparent that that was the one - it had clearly been looked after and was a cut above the rest...
It did take around 2 months of regular use before it became reliable enough to totally depend on it every day, but that's what happens when cars get more polish and garage time than that spend tanking down a road..!

Mark - you're in the Forest of Dean? What have you got? I'm only across in Cheltenham - are there any clubs nearby?
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PostPost by: richardhallett99 » Thu Apr 27, 2006 8:07 pm

I see lots of threads about how people very sensibly spent months or years searching for the right car. I went to B&Q to buy a step ladder and came home with a Plus 2. The wife was naturally thrilled - especially considering that she was expecting our daughter at the time!

I have driven it as near a dammit daily ever since with some exceptions (I am in the Army and spend a fair amount of time away from home). I have had the car for a year and a half now and despite CONSTANT niggling little - pain in the ass - faults she has never actually broken down. I was utterly and completely unprepared for owning a classic car and it had never even crossed my mind until I saw my red and silver beauty sitting in a forecourt in Colchester. I paid ?6500 and have spent about ?1700 on her since having various things sorted. I look at it this way: My car does not depreciate but the money that one loses on a new car in depreciation, I pay on maintenance.

There have been several occasions when I am so p$?%$d off that I flooded the engine AGAIN in sainsbury's car park or when I got home from the dentist yesterday to see water flooding from a split hose - that I just want to sack it and buy a Porsche Boxter. Then - you find yourself on a country road on a sunny day when the car is sounding and looking great and you wouldn't swap it for anything (well maybe).

They are fabulous cars they really are and for goodness sake buy one, but please go into it with open eyes - and don't be annoyed - ever - when she inevitably goes wrong! Oh and my wife refuses to drive it as she is scared of the hard clutch and the noise it makes. That is just the icing on the cake.
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