Lotus Elan

Devising a restoration plan

PostPost by: Dave240 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 8:39 pm

As noted in my first thread, I recently bought a Plus 2 project. Professionally, I do communications auditing and planning, so I'm always writing plans and following through with them in a scheduled manner. I'd like to take this same approach to restoring the Elan. Considering the previous two owners both bought the car with high hopes that never panned out, I'm hoping a solid plan will help me succeed. So what I'm looking for is help creating a step-by-step guide to restoring the car as I know many things have to be completed before other things, such as the headliner needs to be installed before the windshield.

As the car sits right now, pretty much everything is stripped from the car and in boxes. The engine is still bolted in but the carbs and accessories have been removed. The wiring has all been removed and thrown out, so I will be buying new harnesses. My goal for the car is a fun driver that I can take to the track on occasion for time attack/solo events. So I'm not planning on concours perfection.

This is what I have so far, somewhat in the order I think they need to be completed:
-Chassis inspection. I haven't done a thorough inspection of the chassis yet. I've found some useful info on here and will be doing that this weekend. Lets assume the chassis is OK. Is there any need to remove the body off the frame?
-Engine. Hasn't been run in five years. Any chance that it doesn't need a rebuild? Compression was between 155-160 when it last ran. Good numbers or not really? I'm guessing at the very least I should pull the head off and go from there?
-Other mechanical - brakes, steering, wiring etc.
-Sills. I can see there is some rust on them, so I might as well repair them now.
-Body work. There are two layers of paint on the car and some cracking. It needs to be stripped and resprayed. I have just ordered 'How to Restore Fibreglass Bodywork' which I will have to study.
-Interior. Reassemble and replace/recover any damaged pieces.
-Reinstall glass and tie up all other loose ends.

I know this is a pretty basic list and I'm probably missing a lot, but I just want a strategy before I dive in! I'm very new to the Elan, so I appreciate all of your Lotus wisdom!
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PostPost by: holywood3645 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 9:02 pm

I'm affraid a P6 type plan/schedule may just drive you crazy with this project. The Brian Buckland book is the best place to start to get the sequence, milestone and related activities. (there are several other books that will help)

I think you will be better with white board and a few markers. Its a very dynamic build... you will see. But don't let me put you off.

I just finished building and commissioning a 40MW hydro electric plant that was easier than the elan.

I wish you Good Luck,

Last edited by holywood3645 on Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: cal44 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:14 pm

Yep........every time I have had set plans on a restore it was two steps forward then ten sideways.........in either direction.
My written plans always ended up like the Donner party...........the plan didn't go exactly...........as planned.
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PostPost by: Dave240 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:21 pm

Well it's not something to be written in stone, more of a guideline.
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PostPost by: holywood3645 » Fri Apr 27, 2012 11:33 pm

I understand what and why you are saying it.... now.

It won't be what you will say when its done.

I would like to see you do it on a schedule, but I would LOVE to see your impact analysis

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PostPost by: DeanG » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:35 am

I'm no expert however I have played around with my Elan for a few decades and have read a bit about restorations to understand that most people do things backward. If you don't have to organize the plan around self motivation, finances, storage space... First do are the things that stop expensive deterioration, next the things that take time and can sit without deteriorating. The final things should be those things that can be done quickly and don't like to sit. I suggest:

- Read about Elans
- Evaluate the car and what it needs
- Stop further deterioration e.g., oil up the engine, transmission & differential and put them aside.
- Body work structural --> cosmetic then put it aside
- Chassis & components: brakes & lines, fuel tank, steering box, suspension, differential...
- Assemble the car, make it a roller
- Fit the body
- Wiring & fit components fuel tank, radiator
- Interior
- Glass
- Transmission
- Engine
Then shake it down and have some driving fun.

Good luck, take lots of pictures to post and have fun
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Sat Apr 28, 2012 1:09 am

holywood3645 wrote:...I just finished building and commissioning a 40MW hydro electric plant that was easier than the Elan.

I wish you Good Luck,


Love that thought James. Dave, don't get discouraged, we are all having a bit of fun.

Dave if you PM me your address I would be happy to mail you my copy of Gordon Lund's book, "Lotus Elan - A Restoration Guide" free for your perusal. It is a short read that is pretty good at covering the major points of the Elan & Plus 2 restoration process (the author did one of each). The book is not meant to be in the same league as the Buckland book or the Workshop Manual, but I found it quite helpful (and amusing) during the planning stages. Gordon posts here from time to time as well.

Looking quickly at his planning section, he stresses being realistic with the time you can dedicate per week, making sure you have a good work space, and getting support from your SO. All excellent points. The other key point is your skill level on each major item, and perhaps adding up all the items that need attention and selecting some to job out budget allowing.

As to the schedule, like James and you I did a ton of project planning over my career, largely in oil and gas construction projects. A rough schedule and broad stroke task list is very helpful, almost essential, for the restoration, so good on you for creating one. Just remember it's a hobby and labour of love, and targets are created to keep track of progress and keep in correct order and sequence. If they slip a few months, it's no big deal. If you find yourself not enjoying the work, stop for a few weeks and come back.

I recall the fear of ending up with an uncompleted project can be very real. I think the other side of the hobby that can lead to this unfortunate outcome is carrying on when your heart is not in it, and then just getting completely discouraged, or selling the completed car off because the builder has missed out on the incredible satisfaction of looking back at all the workshop time as enjoyable.

To your specific question regarding whether the body has to be removed. It really is all about the frame condition and your goal with the car. The body can absolutely be refreshed while on the car. My frame was too far gone, so glad I removed the body. Once off I found it had been rapped pretty hard at the rear tower; not sure I could have seen the damage without the body off.

Is it possible or reasonable to get the car actually running prior to tear down? If this makes any sense for your car, I would highly recommend it. This would go a long way to evaluating what on the drive train needs so be torn down.



I must have missed your question regarding the Premier Uni-Loom on your first thread. I posted a bit of a description of the product here:


The problem is I see the loom supplier has re-located to Spain and the original link i posted has expired.


As I mentioned in the other thread above, I got the loom for my Plus 2 from Spyder rather than directly from the supplier, so they may still be available there. The issue I was concerned about with ordering a 'stock' loom was making sure it is for the correct model of Plus 2, as there were several generations of wiring in the car.
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PostPost by: JJDraper » Sat Apr 28, 2012 6:57 am

Prior to starting the rebuild of my +2 I played around with the process and understanding what I was trying to achieve. The attached document is an attempt to put the ideas down on paper. It was also useful for creating a budget for the work and being focussed as to what I wanted from the various suppliers and specialists. On reflection, some things were impractical, and some things didn't work, but on the whole it worked. It helped focus on what was important and what was not and helped the specialists understand what I was trying to achieve. This in turn helped them come up with additional ideas for changes, and improvements. It worked for me.


PS I deliberately didn't call it a restoration plan, because I wanted a car that would be useable on a day to day basis and still be in keeping with the style of the car. A restoration is another thing.
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PostPost by: jono » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:08 am

My car was purchased in the same form as yours. I am now around 80% done over a period of 5 years.

The main thing I would say from experience is make a general plan and be flexible around it - nothing will go as planned :shock:

Motivation can be an issue. To overcome this what I found to be essential was to treat each component as a mini project - pedal box, heater box, diff, brakes etc. This really helped to keep me motivated as finished, shiny, components started to occupy space on shelves in the workshop. If you don't approach it this way you may become overwhelmed at the size of the task (if it truly is a completely stripped, uncatalogued car, as mine was)

I think the main issue with these projects is the time it takes, particularly with family and day time jobs to consider - it takes a long time and that is why I think many of these projects get abandoned - individual circumstances change over a period of time (kids, divorces, bereavement etc).

Anyway, enjoy - it's hugely fulfilling but is sometimes seems never ending. Oh, and set aside around ?20k

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PostPost by: TonyJ » Sun Apr 29, 2012 6:49 pm

I agree with jono with both the making each bit a mini project, to keep motivation, and the probable cost. It took me 20 years, and over ?20k, to strip and rebuild (mostly due to waiting for the fibregalss body work to be done, but that's another story).

Mini projects, such as completing the dash, the suspension, rewiring, the pedal box, brake pipes and even cleaning the seats, were all things that when completed made me smile/happy. I could go the garage and look at them to cheer me up when things were going slowly/badly - yes it will be completed one day, look what's been done already! Don't be too determined not to give bits to professionals, if you have the money, as it can speed up the process and get you out of the doldrums - wish I has done this more often and sooner.

During the final stages I found that the books, guides and manuals didn't have enough detail and went around photographing other plus 2s to help with the fitting of things. I found out that rebuilding the plus 2 is time consuming and requires tenacity, just because it fitted when I took it off didn't mean it would fit when I tried to put it back on! There maybe be times when it's best to walk away rather than keep going. For me there were time when the rising frustration made it hard not to give into the temptation to hit it with something big and heavy, but believe me it's worth it in the end.

Mine's only been back on the road for 2 weeks and I would go through it all again. Nothing beats for the sight of her in the garage, the fun of driving it and sense of achievement. The more I drive her the happier I am that I kept going.

Good luck and remember there are loads of people who are willing to help and support, you just have to ask. This forum is fab for info and help. I would like to thanks all those who helped me.

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PostPost by: Chancer » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:51 pm

20 years :shock:

Makes me feel a lot less guilty that my Elan has waited 15 years for me so far, she got a few days of attention 2 weeks ago and tomorrow goes back into storage for i reckon at least another 3 years.

I am 7 years into what I thought would be a 2 year job converting an old hotel into flats, I reckon I have at least 3 more to go but in truth am no more qualified to calculate than I was at the start.

As you can guess I dont have a project plan, just as well as I dont like to consider myself a failure. :shock:

I have found a cool place to store the Elan this time, she is going into an aircraft museum and will be sheltered under the wing of a huge 50'/60's aircraft :P

How long did your restoration take, longest and shortest?
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