Lotus Elan

Restoring a Racer

PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Tue May 30, 2023 4:51 am

Hello all,

Boy have I gotten myself into a big project! I made a small introduction post in the newbie section, but I wanted to start one here as well to properly chronicle the restoration I'm beginning.

I've just recently purchased Tom Walko's old SCCA C/P 1966 race car! It is a serious project in its current state! Currently the car is a non-rolling shell; it has (among many other missing parts) no engine, trans, front brakes, driveshaft, diff, axles, wheels, tail lights or much at all really aside from the body and frame!

I'm hoping to restore the car back to the way it would have raced in the mid-70s, but I'm at a bit of a crossroads... I'm wanting to get the car running as soon as I can, but I don't have the funds to acquire all the proper, period-correct running gear. I've had what may be a bit of a harebrained idea I'll float to y'all. I race an SCCA Pro-7 prepped FB (first gen) RX7 and as such I have spare 12a rotary engines and 5-speed transmissions laying around. I'm hoping it's possible to throw an RX7 drivetrain into the Elan without any permanent modification to get the thing drivable before a complete frame-off restoration is undertaken. I've looked all over this forum and the internet in general but I've found little detailing whether the swap will work. What do y'all think? I'm hopeful it won't need much more than custom motor and trans mounts and a custom driveshaft to be able to make it work.

In the meantime my priority is trying to find a set of k/o wheels if for no other reason than to be able to roll the car around if needed.

Lastly, as someone who finds great amusement and attachment in naming projects and cars I've already named this project. I already have a 1967 Lotus Europa project, and seeing as the two feel like a quirky English pair to me they've naturally been christened Wallace (Europa) and Gromit! :lol:
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1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
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PostPost by: The Veg » Thu Jun 01, 2023 4:31 pm

Seems like the Mazda components should physically fit in the space, especially given the compact dimensions of the rotary, but I don't know enough about the specifics except to say that you'll want to make sure that the gear-lever will be in a conducive location.
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PostPost by: Donels » Thu Jun 01, 2023 5:33 pm

I have seen the twincam engine replaced with a Mazda rotary in a Lotus 7. It was called a Rotus. I think several have been built and there are some on YouTube. Not seen an Elan with a rotary but it's smaller than a twincam so it should be possible. Just don't tell the Originality Police....... :lol:
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PostPost by: StressCraxx » Thu Jun 01, 2023 9:17 pm

There's someone now in Washington with a +2 who installed a 12A in an Elan +2. It worked really well. A local muffler shop fabricated the exhaust manifold and adapted a Racing Beat muffler system in the OE spot under the boot. I saw the conversion when he lived a few blocks from me here in the Bay Area.
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PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Fri Jun 02, 2023 4:38 pm

Donels wrote:I have seen the twincam engine replaced with a Mazda rotary in a Lotus 7. It was called a Rotus. I think several have been built and there are some on YouTube. Not seen an Elan with a rotary but it's smaller than a twincam so it should be possible. Just don't tell the Originality Police....... :lol:


I've definitely seem one or two of those! I've also seen one or two done in a Europa . I know the 3 cars are shaped slightly differently but I figured that if it fits in the others it should fit in an Elan as well. That being said I've never seen an Elan or a +2 with a rotary swap so I was wondering if there was something about the packaging that didn't work. I'd like to through a twink in it eventually in order to restore it to as-raced-specification , but as a friend once told me, a car that doesn't run is just strange furniture!

StressCraxx wrote:There's someone now in Washington with a +2 who installed a 12A in an Elan +2. It worked really well. A local muffler shop fabricated the exhaust manifold and adapted a Racing Beat muffler system in the OE spot under the boot. I saw the conversion when he lived a few blocks from me here in the Bay Area.


Oh that is awesome! I'll have to try and do some more thorough internet searching to see if I can pull anything up on that!

The Veg wrote:Seems like the Mazda components should physically fit in the space, especially given the compact dimensions of the rotary, but I don't know enough about the specifics except to say that you'll want to make sure that the gear-lever will be in a conducive location.


The shifter location has been my biggest concern over this idea. The RX7 trans is pretty long and I'm worried that a new hole may have to be cut in the frame to allow the shifter to be accessible if a swap is done. That seems pretty minor all things considered and that nay be the only modification of that type I'd be willing to do.

I haven't made a choice yet. I may try and hold out for an original drivetrain. It'll depend on how much I can set aside, and how impatient I decode to be. We'll see how this all goes! :D
1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
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PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Tue Jun 13, 2023 5:35 am

Small update for y'all: I've acquired an engine and gearbox! The engine is a Stromberg equipped Big Valve Twin Cam from an autocross prepped Lotus Europa. It has a dry sump set-up which is a great plus, but a leak-down test on CYL 1 was a bit of a failure, so I'll have to take the head off to check it out. I'm assuming valve seat issues but we'll have to see...

The transmission is complete, but its fully disassembled and in a Costco storage box! I've never rebuilt a gearbox before, so I'll have to decide if I'll take on that challenge myself, or if I'll farm that out.

It's a big step in the right direction, but the components will need quite a bit of work. I've also purchased a lightweight fiberglass front clip that was a spare for the Bill Young 26r from the previous owner of that car. I'd like to get that on my car one day, but that's far from the top of the priority list right now.
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1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
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PostPost by: 2mAn » Wed Jun 14, 2023 4:12 pm

Im going to enjoy this!... Did you find the roller wheels?

Where in SD are you?
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PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Wed Jun 14, 2023 7:08 pm

Yes thankfully someone who lives in SF contacted me on here and is sending me a set of wheels! They won't be suitable for anything other than rolling the car around a shop from that I've been told of their condition, however. I may need to get some tubes for the tires in order to allow them to stay inflated. The car is located near downtown
1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
DreamsOfA26R
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Posts: 39
Joined: 29 May 2023
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Thu Jun 29, 2023 6:41 pm

Hello all,

I finally got some roller wheels on the car! Thankfully the tires from my old Europa wheels were still usable as rollers as it saves me the money on tires for wheels I don't plan on using short term. I also spent (read wasted) money on an OMP made Lotus-to-Momo adapter and the the wheel that I really wanted. It's very small progress but the car is now a proper roller! Next I want to focus on the drivetrain. I've been allowed to borrow my neighbor, Robbie's, Elan service manual so that'll aid me in rebuilding the transmission. I'd like to endeavor to begin that process soon. I know I'll need a couple parts, mainly bearings and seals, so an RD Enterprises order is in my future.

The trans seems pretty straight forward; all the components seem to be in proper shape and it's essentially just a reassembly job. The engine and its health is what is most concerning to me and what I'm really wanting to tackle next. The previous owner said that the engine seems to have a healthy bottom end when turned by hand with a wrench. However Cyl 1 failed a leak down test and after that discovery he didn't bother to test the other cylinders. From what we can recall, the engine was running fine when pulled, and was only pulled to facilitate an engine swap. I'm worried it's a problem with the valve train, but Robbie thinks it may be stuck piston rings due to the engine having sat for any years. What do y'all think? I'll likely be starting a thread in the engine section for specific questions but do any of ya'll have nay advice for me here?
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unnamed-2.jpg and
unnamed-1.jpg and
unnamed.jpg and
1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
DreamsOfA26R
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Posts: 39
Joined: 29 May 2023
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPost by: 2mAn » Thu Jun 29, 2023 6:47 pm

Looks great! Definitely a lot nicer to have a roller than an anchor.

LMK When you are done with the rollers as I will need some soon.
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PostPost by: DreamsOfA26R » Thu Jun 29, 2023 6:53 pm

2mAn wrote:Looks great! Definitely a lot nicer to have a roller than an anchor.

LMK When you are done with the rollers as I will need some soon.


I'll definitely let you know! They were gifted to me to get the project going, when I'm done with them I'll gladly pass them along!
1967 Lotus Ean Racer project
1967 Lotus Type 46 Europa
1983 Mazda RX7
1982 Mazda RX7 Racer
Vintage Lotuses and Mazda rotary engines!
DreamsOfA26R
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Posts: 39
Joined: 29 May 2023
Location: San Diego, CA

PostPost by: StressCraxx » Thu Jun 29, 2023 9:26 pm

Nate,

If that engine has been sitting, it's time for pouring some Marvel Mystery Oil into each cylinder down the spark plug holes. If it's sticking rings it will help free them. Stuff works really well if it's a stuck ring.

Next time you do a leakdown test, listen if you hear air coming from the carb or from the exhaust too. That might tell you where the leakage is.
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