Lotus Elan

Advice on restoration approach

PostPost by: NedK » Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:32 pm

Again, thanks to all. This is a really interesting debate.

If I wanted to put this in a museum, or win prizes, I'd be going Option 1. But I want to drive the car myself, and make it operate safely and reliably. So I am undoubtedly going to fix the wiring (possibly from scratch), and switch from generator to alternator etc. I am tempted by cosmetic changes that 'appear' old, but function in a new way (eg the radio). But there's a lot of basic stuff to do before that.

For me, Option 3 doesn't work, as it's a lot of expense to change an Elan into something that just... well... looks like an Elan.

The general consensus on here seems to be that there's not much point in trying to restore an original chassis. There's no real value in doing so, and a new one doesn't seem that expensive, in the general scheme of things. But I'm not going to know the state of the chassis properly until the bodywork is off and I can measure everything on a flat floor.

One simple question: is it easier to get the bodywork out of the way before attempting anything? If wiring and electrics is my first job, then is it better to keep the shell in place, to make sure I get cable lengths correct etc? I realise seats, upholstery and maybe the dashboard could be attempted with bodywork still on.

All the best
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PostPost by: Grizzly » Wed Sep 16, 2015 4:48 pm

When i did my +2 i was going to split the body from the chassis, put the body on a dolly then rebuild the chassis and body separately. The problem was the body is relatively heavy and there isn't much strength to the front / back areas of the shell (Pre wheels at the front and post wheels at the back) so just lifting the body on and off caused fractures over each wheel arch.

So that's why i waited to do my body work until the chassis was back under the car.

So the order i did it all in was:

Split body from chassis (just unbolt the dash to get access to the chassis bolts)
Rebuild chassis
Rebuild engine and Trans
Clean body Floor and paint engine bay
Refit Chassis
Repair and Paint body (pull the Interior out at this point)
Change Looms

Sounds easy if you say it fast :)

I know the 2 seater Elan's body is much stronger and lighter so many choose to do the body work while the chassis is out but i wouldn't recommend it with a +2.

Being in the Classic car trade i have to disagree about changing the chassis, i'd always look for Matching number cars but that said if the chassis is beyond redemption that's fair enough but as with any Classic car i'd always make an effort to keep it original (plus saves you having to drill a new chassis which is a pain)
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PostPost by: RichC » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:42 pm

I'd say a good tip to find out the structural integrity of your shell would be to go to back of car , open the bootlid & remove boards from boot & lift the back up with your hands whilst looking out for flexion in boot floor ... there really shouldn't be any ! Likewise go round to the front and lift the nose gently & watch the front valance where it joins chassis in front of steering column. Neither here nor at the wheelarch apexes should you see any flexion . if it feels floppy and flexy then there's need for further investigation to find the GRP cracks responsible
I've just removed an accident damaged shell from chassis . the donor shell underneath was full of cracks around the bobbins in the engine bay and boot floor as well as having no sill members . This has all been properly sorted prior to taking away for back to gelcoat painting and it's rigid from bow to stern . we've flipped it over on roof and side ( old mattress on floor) numerous times . You only need 1 crack somewhere in GRP for the rigidity to go .
Another place to look for shell failure is in the footwells next to where the door hinge nuts are found. Often you find a split that runs round the front and bottom edge of the door aperture i.e.on the inside between the inner sill skin and the outer shell. Weakness here can be identified if u open doors fully and then lift them a little & watch the two part company ! All these things are potentially DIY with a decent GRP fibre repair kit .
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PostPost by: RichC » Wed Sep 16, 2015 6:55 pm

vxah wrote:Strange about the ornamental handbrake ;-) I have owned my car for 32 years and it never bugs me? The electrics however are another story! I have fitted hidden relays and re-made the harness with heavier cable for the headlights and windows together with a bigger alternator, just so that i can open a window while ticking over with the lights on!

Ah Cambridge is verrrrrrrrrrry flat !!!!
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PostPost by: Sea Ranch » Thu Sep 17, 2015 1:59 am

Have to agree with Rich on body shell rigidity.

Just sprayed 2k urethane primer this past weekend (BESA - Bernardo Ecenarro), which signals end of the bodywork phase (13 months) and beginning of paint stage. My car's shell has been on a rotisserie for 12 months. The rear and nose are indeed less supported when shell is off the chassis and resting on rails under the sills. But still plenty strong enough when it's in proper shape. And I have to say, I would not choose to do the bodywork any other way. Just my personal experience, having now used a rotisserie. (Note, if you weren't aware, that new sills must be installed before lifting the body shell, unless current ones are really good.)

However, agree with Chris on the original chassis. Will be doing everything in my power (and the local pro welder's) to preserve my car's chassis (for originality, but also for cost reasons, as shipping over a chassis to the west coast of Canada is very pricey) :mrgreen:

FWIW . . . :mrgreen:

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PostPost by: jono » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:05 pm

I went option 2 on mine as I wanted a car that I could use everyday. The cars look standard except for Minilites, but under the skin includes:

New wiring harness with modern relays and fuses
Wasted spark ignition with mappable ECU (no dizzy to worry about/reduced fire hazard)
Polybushed suspension
Goodridge clutch and brake hoses
Bronze bushes to pedal box
Electric headlight lifters
narrow springs and suspension fully height adjustable - TTR front and Koni rear
Closed circuit fuel system breather
FI tank
Wider dense cored radiator with twin puller fans and Revotec controller
Uprated alternator and Wipac quadoptic headlights
QED 360 engine with free flow exhaust
Spyder chassis (actually fitted to the car in 1988)
3.54 diff

I could not be happier with the above mods, all of which are fully reversible and add to the usability of the car.

Over the winter I am going over to full fuel injection for better town manners and, hopefully, economy.

The purist may cry foul but I am very happy and no one would ever know about these mods from an external viewing.

Image11.jpg and
Image5.jpg and
Image3.jpg and
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PostPost by: Certified Lotus » Thu Sep 17, 2015 2:55 pm

Very nicely done Jon.
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PostPost by: vxah » Fri Sep 18, 2015 12:37 pm

Jon, just a small observation, I see you have a toothed belt setup for the waterpump and alternator with quite a small speed up ratio for the alternator? One of the annoying things i found with my car was the almost total lack of charge at idle with lights etc on, does that pully setup workout ok?
I made up a set of "multi v" pullys with the smallest pully I could find for the (larger) alternator so that the overdrive ratio is stepped up. Not tested it out yet but we will see..
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PostPost by: TonyCaldwell » Fri Sep 18, 2015 7:25 pm

Hello Ned, all,

This is interesting.

Although, I certainly am not an 'expert' I was lucky enough to acquire my 71 built Elan Sprint from my relatively very wealthy friend who had had the car from new, who used, cherished and loved it; money no object.

It has to be one of the most original around, with everything documented how it left the factory. However, not sure it was ever option 1? From the beginning my pal wanted leather seats and very quickly he upgraded to larger radiator and then kenlowe fan.. and then alternator and electronic ignition.. (not to mention the 'latest' immobiliser, car-phone and 4 speaker cassette STEREO radio with electric aerial! - All of this as, or shortly after it left the factory.

I'm totally for originality but, sensible period mods improved the cars no end at the time? - On an end note perhaps I should mention that I run / rally an entirely original 50's sports car which I will not change; I love it but the Lotus feels and drives 50 years advanced (with the mods - and when it is on song) rather than the actual 10-15.. Interesting old subject this one!
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PostPost by: jono » Mon Sep 21, 2015 10:17 am


The toothed set up is from Burtons - works well and no issues with charging. It drops slightly into 'off charge' on the gauge at idle but this has no effect on anything (perhaps they all do that?).

The beauty is you can keep the belt quite slack and save the waterpump.

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