Lotus Elan

Plus 2 Engine Fire

PostPost by: rgh0 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:26 am

I took my Plus 2 S 130/5 up to Canberra for the 2013 Lotus club national meeting this weekend.

Had a great drive up on Thursday except for a puncture in one of my new Dunlop 03G's but I had a pump and a can of sealant so everything was fixed quickly. Had a good meal Thursday night meeting some old friends from around Australia and also met a guy who is one of the top race and rally engine builders for the Toyota factory and who has been building race engines for some of the GT3 Exiges. Had a great discussion over dinner with him around engine building.

The Friday was the track day at Wakefield park near Goulburn. I was about 3 laps in and just starting to push the Plus 2 which I had not had on the track for many years when I spun on a corner for no reason. I restarted but smoke then started coming out from under the bonnet, then flames started coming out from the gap between the bonnet and body.

I rapidly pulled off and shut it down and got out the fire extinguisher, cracked open the bonnet and emptied it under the carbs which reduced the fired but did not put it out. The fire crew arrive very quickly soon after and put out the rest of the fire with a couple of large foam extinguishers which prevented major damage to the car. The car was loaded on a flatbed and retrieved. Fuel was still dripping from underneath as the plus 2 tank is high at the rear above the fuel line in the body. I pulled and plugged the fuel line in the boot to stop it once the car was off the track.

Friday night I got a plane back to Melbourne and picked up my Landcruiser and pushed the Elan of it trailer. Next morning I took the empty trailer back to Goulburn, loaded on the Plus 2 and brought it back to its home garage.

Sunday I high pressure cleaned it to remove all the powder and foam residue and put the car up on stands to commence the repairs. Examination showed that the nylon fuel line through the tunnel came out of the compression fitting that connected it to the rubber lines to the carbs. Why after 20 years it chose then to come out of the fitting I don't know. Fuel on the rear tyres from the leak probably caused the spin and then it ignited causing the fire. Damage is mainly to engine bay paint and wiring, No damage apparent to the engine or carbs or other components and no fire damage to the fibreglass except for a small amount on a couple of edges

Lessons Learned

1. Be paranoid about the condition of every fuel line fitting connection
2. The standard 1Kg powder extinguisher is inadequate to put out a fuel fire. Time for a plumbed in system in my Elan
3. Thank god it happened on the track where I had a fire crew respond in less than a minute. The car would have been destroyed if it had happened on the road.
4. I will be putting electric fuel shut off valves on the plus 2 and Elan like I have on the Esprit. The Plus 2 especially needs it next to the tank as with the high mounted tank and bottom take off, any leaks just flow out even if everything is turned off.

cheers
Rohan
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 8:30 am

A couple of photos of the damage

photo1.jpg and


photo.JPG and
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PostPost by: robertverhey » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:02 am

Terrible news rohan, everyone's worst fear. Yes I too will go with on-board.

I think Shannon's will cover this, if you are insured with them?

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PostPost by: rgh0 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:46 am

Yes I am insured with Shannon's but don't think they cover use on the track - but I will call and see

The actual cost will not be to much as I will do most myself and apart from painting it is really only a front wiring loom and a few cables and other minor bits and pieces.

The biggest cost will be repainting the bonnet and nose.

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Rohan
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PostPost by: Pistacchio sprint 72 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 9:48 am

In your lack of luck you were lucky as you mentioned that the fire crew was efficient.

My mech who prepares single seaters hate these plumb in extinguisher. He sait that 99% of time it is the customer or a relative or a friend who press by mistake the red button.

It depends of course where you want the sprinklers! It would have saved your engine bay but destroyed your cockpit for example.

On the other hand let say for example you do it your way and not FIA style. No sprinklers in the cockpit but in the engine bay only.

If the fire is at the rear ( for example grease or oild dif on the exhaust pipe like seen often on Exige s1), then you re stuck with a plumb in extinguisher and no sprinklers at the rear?!

May be a bigger extinguisher a more simple solution. A 2 kilos would be sufficient? Whaddaya think?
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PostPost by: rgh0 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 12:51 pm

They emptied 2 x 10kg foam extinguishers to put out the fire so even a bigger hand held unit in the car would struggle to extinguish it. The problem is getting to the base of the fire in the engine bay.

A plumbed in system can have the nozzles low down on either side of the engine so can cover the possible fire locations more efficiently.

Yes I am not sure if a nozzle in the cabin of an Elan would be much use but one in the boot next to the tank and fuel pump maybe useful.

Does anyone have any experience with design of these based on real world fire experience?

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Rohan
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PostPost by: Pistacchio sprint 72 » Sun Apr 28, 2013 1:12 pm

Mmmh really scary...
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PostPost by: Gray » Sun Apr 28, 2013 4:24 pm

Rohan

Sorry to hear about your fire.

I've not got any experience with plumbed in systems but will consider when I get anywhere near completing my rebuild.

Be careful that large hand held extinguishers are firmly fixed. I bought one following a engine bay fire on a Sprint many years ago, installed it in the centre of the rear bulkhead on the S3 that I still had. Somebody pulled out of a Pub on my way home one evening, I swerved onto the path, but it was covered in ice and I ended up hitting a telegraph pole head on, which pushed the chassis into the engine, the fire extinguisher ended up hitting the dashboard.

The woman who pulled out in front of me was prosecuted, the S3 was sold to a friend of a friend to rebuild, but was eventually broken. I kept the Sprint and rebuilt it, it needed parts of the bulkhead, complete interior, wiring, respray, etc. I ran an S4 during the rebuild, it did a lot of work with minimal attention and subsequently sold to a friend who kept quite a while.

I hope you get the +2 fixed soon.

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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:19 am

Rohan,
What a shocker for you, notwithstanding the damage to the car it must have been a real chore flying home then driving back and forth with the trailer. Yes, it could have been a disaster on the road, a race track is the best place to have any sort of incident, lucky you.... although I'm sure you didn't feel fortunate at the time.

Neither of my cars have anything standard in the fuel delivery department, but I bet there's room for improvement from the fire safety aspect. The +2 is in for it's annual MOT and spannering tomorrow, I will be looking closely at the fuel lines (flow and return on fuel injected).

Regards, and keep us posted on the repairs.
Kindest regards

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PostPost by: rgh0 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:45 am

A bit more thought on the likely sequence of events and cause.

The clutch is fitted with a flexible rubber brake system style hose from the rigid line down the side of the chassis across to another rigid line that starts at the bottom of the bell housing and runs to the slave cylinder.

The rubber hose to its end fitting at the bottom of the bell housing had blown out. I had assumed that happened during the fire when I had stopped the car. On reflection and further examination it is clear that the hose did not suffer any overheating and it appears to have failed before the fire as there is no fire damage on the frayed failed end of the hose. Being at the low point in the engine it appears the fire was above this point.

It looks like what happened was the clutch hose blew and sprayed brake fluid onto the exhaust system which is close by. This lead to a fire that then impinged on the nylon fuel line where it emerged from the chassis. This softened the nylon line so it came out of its compression fitting releasing fuel that further fed the fire. The fire melted the nylon line almost closed so the leak after the fire was out was only a small drip

it was probably this brake fluid that I spun on when the hose first failed.as I changed down going into the corner.

I have previously always been comfortable with the nylon fuel line as it is well protected in the tunnel from mechanical or heat damage. However the short section where it runs from the tunnel to the rear of the engine where it originally connects to the fuel pump is vulnerable to an engine bay fire from other sources such as oil or brake fluid. I will be running a steel line when I fix the Plus 2 and protecting the flexible rubber lines between the rigid steel line and the engine with heat shield wrap

cheers
Rohan

Another lesson learnt - regularly change all flexible brake lines including any in the clutch system!
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PostPost by: [email protected] » Mon Apr 29, 2013 5:44 pm

Good point Rohan. I had always thought that nylon line was perfect. Doesn't corrode, seems compatible with contemporary fuel mixes, compact, last seemingly forever etc. Hadn't considered what fire would do to it. Time to plumb that chassis with a hard line.
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PostPost by: andyhodg » Mon Apr 29, 2013 7:14 pm

Hi Rohan

I had exactly the the same failure on my rubber clutch pipe, without the subsequent fire fortunately. No warning, just failed at the (corroded) crimp just as I can to a halt. I was suprised that it failed in that manner. It is esentially a flexible brake pipe and could have been far more serious if it failed in a braking circuit.

Now replaced with a stainless braided item. See your post made me realise I lucky I was.

Andy
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PostPost by: cal44 » Mon Apr 29, 2013 9:50 pm

I can't help but think about the hood release cable/s. You are so friggin' lucky the cable worked to get the hood open. Makes me think four hood pins would be the call. Plus, easy to get the hood off the car.

I like stock but those stinkin' cables remind me of a pain in my future. Anyone here do pins?

Rohan is so helpful to many of us with our questions, I just hate to see this.

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PostPost by: rgh0 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 3:28 am

The bonnet release cable outer plastic cover burnt off but the outer steel layer and inner cable still worked perfectly !

I have bonnet pins on my Elan and would on any serious track car just for ease of engine access. My Plus 2 is usually for road only

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PostPost by: elanfan1 » Tue Apr 30, 2013 9:39 am

As a Fire surveyor in a former life could I just point out that it is 'usually' bad practice to open a bonnet during an engine bay fire. The woosh of fresh oxygen just helps the fire grow - it is better to try to get extinguishent in through the grille if you can (I realise this is in an ideal world). Rohan's experience was 'lucky' in that there were professional fire marshals at at hand and even they used a massive amount of extinguishent - most people with their 1 or 2kg extinguisher won't be as lucky

Can I also comment on the positioning of extinguisher nozzles (rather than sprinklers) in the cabin - this may not be a good idea. If these were to be set off either deliberately or accidentally you would be blinded by the extinguishent which whilst driving might not be a good idea but might also be the least of your worries as CO2 could asphyxiate you and the dry powder would cause a severe choking reaction - probably so bad that you couldn't control the car. Unfortunately these things do get set off sometimes when you least expect it.

Rohan if you are going to plumb your own system there are a lot of commercially made systems that you could base your design on - just go for as large a capacity extinguisher as you dare (I'd have thought 5kg minimum).
Steve

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