Lotus Elan

first post here.. Spyder elan +2 driven

PostPost by: olia » Mon Mar 10, 2014 12:40 am

hello all

this is my first post here, as usually im on PH, but i was advised here would be better for the classic elans.

i recently test drove and had a good look around a spyder +2 for sale up at spyder engineering

its a very high spec car, that has had all the spyder mods done.

overall was very impressed, and it really would make a great useable classic. ive owned a number of classic british and french fibreglass cars in the past

however, 2 points for concern;

1. the ride height on the car (and another i saw there) was very high. looking under the car, the exhaust hangs low, and lowering the car even 1 inch will compromise the ground clearance greatly. Ive seen twincam engined cars sitting at correct ride height and often lower without issue

2. the steering i found surprisingly heavy, even once on the move, and not condusive to a light weight sports car. The car has 185x14 tyres.

these 2 factors put me off purchasing the car
i would appreciate any thoughts or opinions on the above, thank you!


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PostPost by: stugilmour » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:15 am

removed double post

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Last edited by stugilmour on Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:15 am

Welcome to the forum Olia. Both blue cars look fantastic! There are some folks here with Zetec's that can help out with direct experience.

My car has Spyder space frame, springs, suspension, bushings, wishbones, steering rack, etc, and I was able to lower the front end easily with the adjustables Andy supplied. Twenty-twenty hindsight and I think I would have preferred adjustable ride height in the rear as well. I run 165/80/13's on stock sized 5 1/2" x 13" Minilites; steering is very light even with the smaller Moto-Lita steering wheel. Maybe the Zetec would suit you better with a little less wheel and tire?

I do have a bit of an issue with my exhaust clearance where the pipe splitter goes around the bell housing of the Spyder supplied MT75 five speed transmission. Might be a bit different with the Zetec; my car has the Lotus TC. Anyway, one possible solution I saw was on the Jay Leno build video, Update 6. About 2:30 into the video, Jim Hall shows a very nice clearance pipe section. The Leno Elan is running a Quaife sequential six speed box, but assuming they had a similar gearbox clearance issue. Not sure if the Zetec clearance & ride height issue is solely a result of getting around the bell housing. Assume Andy has generally built the Zetec's with adjustable ride height though, so if the exhaust clearance can be resolved....

http://www.jaylenosgarage.com/segment/r ... og/#videos

Here is a picture of the car showing ride height with the trunk fully loaded with luggage. I find the car to be a very reliable and usable classic, and have taken several longer trips without undue drama.

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PostPost by: cal44 » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:37 am

The car in the foreground looks like the wheels are much to large, if that is the case the car needs to sit to high to clear the tires. Remember the design of the car dictates a correct size wheel, or, it looks funny. If any Lotus of that era is hard to steer something isn't right. I can darn near steer mine with one finger.

As to the exhaust, sounds as though is wasn't done right. A proper shop with a proper mandrel tubing bender would get it done. Are the headers hanging to low to begin with or does the low hanging fruit start somewhere after that?

I always thought the Plus 2 was meant to sit low, just look at the front wheel arch top back, why is it not a flowing curve? why the un-curved ,or less curved area? The rear fenders have a bunch of room to lower the car. This of course would all be moot if it was a modern car with long travel suspension, but these were not.

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PostPost by: olia » Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:17 pm

thanks for the replies Stu and mike

stu , your car looks great

Andy explained that the ride height is necessary due to the exhaust. The manifold and sump both looked fine from what i could see. There just isnt anywhere for the exhaust to sit higher up

the steering i suppose would be improved by going back to 13 inch wheels, and narrower tyres? but it was very heavy, and the geo seemed all correct

all 4 corners on the car were fully adjustable coil-over

any reason why the zetec engined cars wil have less clearance than n TC? here is pic under the car:

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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Mon Mar 10, 2014 4:28 pm

I own a +2 zetec converted by Spyder.

They all ride high because of the limited ground clearance due to the exhaust manifold having to be routed underneath the backbone chassis, It's a common gripe with owners that it makes the car look like a 4x4! the standard +2 exhaust and manifold is a smaller diameter making it easier to hug the underside of the chassis, but ground clearance has never been a strong point with +2's. Some say the standard cars are riding too low anyway.

castle combe.jpg and

Here's a photo of my +2 at Castle Combe a couple of years ago parked next to my S4. This is a typical ride height if you don't want to damage the exhaust over every speed hump and bump. Interestingly my S4 doesn't suffer from the ride height issue as can be seen, it has a bespoke one off Spyder conversion with a Duratec engine and I very rarely scrape the exhaust over speed humps or ground out on high speed bumps, there have also been zetec conversions for the S4 Elan and they look fine as well. The wheels and tyres fitted as standard by Spyder are 14x6J with 185/60 profile rubber, you could easily fit 16" wheels with a similar profile without problems and this would make the car look more balanced, but it's hardly classic looks.

EDIT: I just remembered that I raised the front slightly for the track day to counter a nasty bump between Avon Rise & Quarry where the car was bottoming out on braking, the following picture is more recent and shows the normal ride height and the normal wheels and tyres (it had track day tyres fitted on Minilite classic rims).
P1030033.JPG and


The steering was heavy on the car you tested because Spyder haven't got the steering arm connections properly figured out. The front uprights are Ford Sierra so that the ventilated discs and uprated brakes can be fitted and the car uses a steering rack from a Classic Mini rather than the original Triumph unit, the throw of this rack is shorter than the original meaning that coupled with the normal Sierra control arms the turning circle is huge, to overcome this they drill the arms to allow a different connection for the track rod ends thereby decreasing the turning circle but of course this makes the steering heavier. You can have lighter steering by moving the track rod ends to the normal position on the control arms, this will be at the expense of having a bigger turning circle which sometimes makes it difficult to pull out of narrow/tight junctions or parallel park. I ran my car with the steering arm connection in the normal position for a while, but it was a total pain. My current steering lock and turning circle is if anything too much and the effort needed at low speed or parking is only just about acceptable. I'm looking into having the steering arms altered again to go in between the 2 extremes.

Apart from the two things you have highlighted there really isn't anything else not to like. The performance is deceptively quick, the handling is very neutral with no power off oversteer or other nasties to catch you out. It's actually a very practical car with reasonable refinement ( by modern standards) and you don't see that many making them nice and exclusive. Averaging 35 - 40 mpg can't be bad either, and those Elise's get a proper fright when you take it on track :mrgreen:
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PostPost by: trw99 » Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:07 pm

Here is the standard car, which shows the standard ride height. Even fresh from the factory it was tall. However, once on the road it's not an issue and I can't remember feeling they looked odd whenever I saw one back in the 60s or 70s.

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PostPost by: Elanintheforest » Mon Mar 10, 2014 6:04 pm

The early Plus 2 sits about 2 cms lower than the later ones, and has a different front spring. Comparing the Spyder with the early cars shows a very big difference!
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PostPost by: cal44 » Mon Mar 10, 2014 7:37 pm

I believe they sat high from the factory due to headlight and bumper height requirements (just a theory). The exhaust on a stock Plus2 pretty much hugs the under belly.

My P2s have adjustable suspension front and rear and factory backbone frames.

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PostPost by: alexblack13 » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:10 pm

Don't forget the aerodynamic 'lift' when the car is at speed too.. There is a fair lift from the bodyshape. It's a nice wing section. I have pics of my + 2 S130 / 4 on Knockhill Circuit and the lift on the body surprised me somewhat. I wondered why it felt light! Lol... :roll:

You need a spoiler to get rid of it and that causes profile drag.

No luck! ...

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PostPost by: Bud English » Mon Mar 10, 2014 8:35 pm

cal44 wrote:... The exhaust on a stock Plus2 pretty much hugs the under belly.
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Mike is dead on with that comment. From the picture of the underside of the blue one above, it's obvious that the header, and tail pipe are considerably lower than stock. IIRC my tail pipe was even with the under side or slightly inside the lower indented portion of the back bone chassis. In addition, although really hard to confirm from that angle, it looks like the muffler (silencer) is mounted forward of the original position making it lower as well. It looks like it could be improved on.
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Mon Mar 10, 2014 9:53 pm

Bud English wrote:...although really hard to confirm from that angle, it looks like the muffler (silencer) is mounted forward of the original position making it lower as well. It looks like it could be improved on.


That is what I thought looking at the picture Bud. Olia, the second picture of my car shows the muffler pretty well; located in an indent in the trunk floor; note that the muffler position on the Plus 2 was a running change, and early cars used a sideways positioning of the muffler, although I still think it was located below the trunk floor. Alan, does the Zetec run two boxes (resonator and silencer) or some such?

I was able to get the pipe very close to the bottom of the backbone as well. In the picture of the blue car the pipe is lowered so the muffler will fit, presumably without rattling. I don't have a front pipe mount off of the transmission, which does cause the pipe to flop a bit lower than ideal. Only place I consistently drag though is right where the pipe turns to level with the floor below the header. I figure if that part had an oval shape I would not drag.

Alan, thanks for the excellent write-up. I had no idea of all the differences in the Zetec cars. Just going from memory that my exhaust pipe is diameter 1 5/8". Assuming the larger brakes you mention will dictate the 14" wheels have to stay? My car has the ex-Mini rack, but with the stock uprights, trunnions, etc. I have never checked the turning circle but it seems OK. Your baby looks a bit tired from the track day; her eyes are almost closing. :) The ride height in your second picture looks very nice. Would all the Spyder Zetec's use the modified double wishbone rear suspension?

Olia, to add to Alan's impression of the Spyder Zetec. My sense is if I had the extra power I might not have felt I 'needed' an Esprit. :)

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PostPost by: olia » Mon Mar 10, 2014 11:21 pm

thank you for all the great info!

yes overall im really keen on the plus 2 zetec conversion

but for me the steering feel and weight is critical. it wil be for fast road and track days
Possibly the best option would be to go back to the standard suspension arrangement?


the exhaust problem seems solvable. But Im surprised how the historic racer plus 2s get their cars so low to the ground (without running the pipe inside the car)....?
i also hate when sports cars sit too 'high' - it has to look right also
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PostPost by: cal44 » Tue Mar 11, 2014 12:33 am

It can be done. This picture is a P2 sitting on a Spyder frame. Done correctly. Sitting on 14's"
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PostPost by: Spyder fan » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:26 am

olia wrote:thank you for all the great info!

yes overall im really keen on the plus 2 zetec conversion

but for me the steering feel and weight is critical. it wil be for fast road and track days
Possibly the best option would be to go back to the standard suspension arrangement?


the exhaust problem seems solvable. But Im surprised how the historic racer plus 2s get their cars so low to the ground (without running the pipe inside the car)....?
i also hate when sports cars sit too 'high' - it has to look right also


Olia,
If the exhaust clearance could be improved upon to gain ground clearance and allow lowering then Spyder would already have done so, I spoke to Sean this morning and he thinks they can gain maybe 1/2 " by using oval tubing for the manifold where it swoops under the front of the chassis, but that's it.

For the correct suspension geometry (wishbones parallel with the ground) the ride height is correct. The spring rates and dampers used by racers allow very small suspension travel and an extremely harsh ride, early +2's rode lower as Mark points out, but I suspect that Lotus changed the springs for a good reason on the 1970's onwards cars to stop customer complaints about ground clearance and to soften the ride.

The steering weight is being looked into, it is suspected that the track is too wide and this might be improved by a different wheel offset and castor angle. A customer car that was completed about 8 years ago has a very light steering action and it's not immediately obvious why this should be, but it has an obsolete set of wheels, so maybe the offset is different to the current batch. My S4 uses the same rack and steering setup as the zetec +2 , but the steering is much lighter and about as good as you could imagine, the wheels have a different offset and the castor is different, but this could be replicated on the +2. I think Sean took your criticisms on board and is looking into this (probably using my cars as reference points).

Finally ?20k is cheap for a Spyder +2 zetec with all the upgrades........ :mrgreen:
Kindest regards

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