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Neil Potter

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Blog Entries posted by Neil Potter

  1. Neil Potter
    This might turn out to be a protracted blog, but here's the story so far...

    The air con on the car has not worked in my ownership, which is the only mechanical bit which doesn't work. The receipts file shows a new condenser was fitted in 1997, and was converted to R134a at the same time, but that's a long time ago. I had a specialist look at it, and was told that the system was holding a vacuum (slightly surprisingly) and the electric part of it was working fine, but the compressor was duff and needed to be replaced.

    [b]Part 1 - compressor replacement[/b]


    I managed to source a second hand Sanden SD508 compressor from Ebay, for a bargainous £45. It came off a Saab 900 apparently. The compressor has an interchangeable backplate, where the hoses go in, and I was aware that the Sanden I had bought had two different hose ports, so the backplate from my old compressor would need to be recycled onto the new compressor.

    That necessitated new gaskets. I managed to get a gasket set from a company in Australia, but it took a bit of research. I think if you are able to buy the backplate with the flanged connections (as required to fit our hoses) from a Sanden dealer you may well get the required gasket included.

    IMPORTANT... You should note that the compressor actually has two different gaskets, one either side of the reed valve plate which sits between the backplate and the compressor body. If, when you are trying to separate the backplate from the body, you end up separating the backplate and reed valve plate from the body (as I did) you'll need both gaskets. If you do ever have to do this job, take great care to keep the valve plate attached to the body as gasket removal on these compressors is an ENORMOUS pain in the bottom.


    Remove the hoses before you remove the compressor, and you'll probably need lots of WD40 to free them off. My system was empty, but if yours isn't I think it's a bit illegal, and a bit dangerous, to remove the hoses and release the gas.

    Actually getting to the compressor isn't too hard, but I had already removed my alternator for rebuild. There are two bolts fairly easy to get to from the top, then another two you can get at below. You need to remove the belt tensioner to get at the final bolt.

    [i]Fun with gaskets[/i]

    If you need to replace the backplate, once you've got the compressor off, you will put it in a vice and start hammering away to get the backplate off. Use a chisel or something, carefully, to try and prise it. It'll be stuck like concrete.

    When you've got it off, you may well be faced with lots of old, gloopy, brown oil. Drain it out of the compressor body via the drain plug, and clean up the face of the reed valve plate before trying to get rid of the gasket material.

    Gasket scrapers were next to useless in this task. I ended up using a dremel sanding disk, got through about 6 discs for each surface. A very time consuming job, and not ideal as you'll remove some of the metal from the surface. I then cleaned up the surfaces with some fine wet and dry paper. If you've unintentionally split the reed valve plate from the body, you'll have up to four sufaces to clean up before reassembly...

    Use some PAG46 oil to lubricate the gaskets and surfaces before you reassemble.

    When bolting up the backplate, check the interweb for the useful Sanden SD series service guide PDF. This specifies the torque settings on the bolts, which are 14 ft lbs intially, then 24-27 ft lbs for final.

    [i]More fun, this time with pulleys[/i]

    Around about this point, I noticed that the pulley on the new compressor was different to the old one, to the extent it wouldn't work in the Esprit. The Esprit one has two grooves, whereas the Saab one has one groove at a different distance from the compressor body.

    This isn't too bad to sort. You'll have to:

    - use some bolts in the 3 threaded holes on the clutch plate, in order to hold the pulley steady and allow you to remove the retaining nut
    - prise off the clutch plate (I used a small bearing puller on the bolts I'd put into the threaded holes)
    - use circlip pliers to remove two circlips holding the pulley in place against the bearing (one "outty" around the compressor shaft and one "inny" against the pulley on top of the bearing outer race)
    - use a largish bearing puller to remove the pulley and the bearing

    I swapped the bearing from the Saab pulley to the Lotus one as it felt a lot smoother.

    Then do the reverse of all this to get it back together again!

    I think it's probably wise to install oil in your "new" compressor before reinstall, as the drain/filler hole is at 90 degrees to the vertical on the Esprit install. As I don't know the right oil I should be using, I'm leaving that to my specialist to install in situ.

    One Esprit-ready compressor, ready for action.

    Fitting it back in the car is pretty straightforward, but it probably helps to have someone hold it while you start securing bolts.
  2. Neil Potter
    August 2013

    The choke cable which came with my car was loose in the dash, and didn't seem to move the cams on the carbs very much even when I held it in place. The light on the dash didn't work either. Hardly an urgent fix, but an annoyance I got round to looking at over the summer.

    The cable itself was, I think, original and definitely well corroded. In the engine bay the outer cable had been cut off at some point and a new outer gaffer taped on to the old one. I found that the plastic barrel of the old choke control had broken near the knob, preventing it from being fitted properly using the clip I'd managed to source from SJs (who unfortunately didn't have the control itself). When I removed the control and cut the cable, I found that the inner had rusted and ballooned near the control, making it sticky and adding slack to the whole thing. Full replacement was the only option.

    [i]Sourcing parts[/i]
    It turns out, after a bit of research, that the control itself is also used on late original Minis, and is known as a "ratchet type choke control". Available from the venerable Mini spares community. I think I paid £12.50 for mine from [url=""]this place[/url] or similar. This DOESN'T come with the micro-switch for the telltale light, which the Esprit control has clipped to the control barrel, but it DOES come with a plastic clip in its place. You'll need to swap this with the original microswitch. The only real problem is that the cable the new control is attached to is far too short for the Esprit!

    So I also bought myself about 4m of stainless bike gear cable, and the same length of teflon-coated outer cable (Jagwire brand). I think I went for 1.5mm diameter inner cable. The Jagwire outer comes in loads of different colours if you're inclined to have an odd-colour cable in your engine bay. Think I've said it before, but Ebay is an absolute godsend to anyone looking for small quantities of odd things to put on old cars.

    Then I had a think about how to connect it all up. Not my area of expertise...

    I had a think about cable connectors, but didn't think the cable would work properly unless it was one length of inner and outer. Eventually I looked into silver soldering; which is heavier duty than the electrical soldering I'm familiar with. I bought some solder, some flux and a small "creme brulee" blowtorch in preparation.

    What I ended up doing was cutting the inner cable on the new choke control at the end of the control rod itself (the metal rod with the cable at one end and the knob at the other, which sits in the holder). Then I used the Dremel to basically gouge out the cable where it was welded into the tip of the rod. I was left with a deepish groove, which could accommodate the new cable. I laid in the new cable and covered it with flux and pieces of solder, and heated it all up. Took a while to get the solder to melt and run properly, but eventually you end up with a strong joint. It needs to be flush to the rod so as to refit to the holder.

    Once you have the long cable attached to your new control you can go ahead and take trim pieces out to get the outer cable threaded through from the engine bay into the cabin through the bulkhead grommet behind the map pocket. The new outer will run aong the top of the transmission tunnel and down one of the gaps at the bottom corners of the HVAC assembly, into the innards of the dash. After a bit of faffing in the Lotus position, you'll have it somewhere near where the choke control should be.

    Now you're on the home straight - just thread the end of the new inner cable through the hole in the dash, into the new outer, and through into the engine bay. I connected the end of the choke cable outer to the end of the new outer with duck tape - not ideal but does the job. You may want to cut the choke control outer down to size so this connection happens where the cable runs fairly straight.

    You can now fit the control into the dash and secure it with the retaining clip. This isn't a totally satisfying fixture by the way, the control seems to wobble a bit, but much better than letting it dangle in the hole. There's a blue and white wire with a crimped terminal to connect up to the microswitch.

    All that remains is to take up the slack in the engine bay and fiddle with the 7mm bolts on the choke linkage across the carbs in order to fix the inner cable in place. There's also a clamp for the outer. Cap the inner with a crimp-on cable ferrule if you can, will stop it fraying.

    All works, and a nice new dashboard fitting. Using the choke does boost the idle when cold starting, but isn't exactly necessary.

    But it's still worth doing IMO. If you have carbs in your car you should be rightly proud of the old tech and relieved you won't have to buy new cats one day. You should carry with you the faint whiff of petrol and enjoy the need to balance the carbs every few months. If the apocalypse hits you'll be one of the last cars on the road as the EMP will fry everyone else's ECUs. You should most definitely celebrate all this with a nice new choke control if you need one!

    I'll go find me coat.
  3. Neil Potter
    [u]November 2013 - January 2014[/u]

    As this is the most recent and most extensive work I've done to the car myself, it's time to record what went on for posterity. Doubtless photos will follow when I can face crawling under the car again!

    When the car went in for suspension work to SJs back in the summer, it also underwent a quick tuneup. The result improved the low end torque but didn't cure the hesitation I'd had, on and off, but usually when hot and at about 3000 revs. The temperature would suggest ignition, the revs suggested fuel. Steve suggested I look at the carbs as I'd put new leads and coil in fairly early on.

    Now, I knew that the carbs had been "refurbed" back in 2010, but this was by the garage which was also responsible for the drivers side seatbelt replacement (with something which looked like it came from a 1970s van) and one or two other unimpressive repairs. I was keen to get into the carbs and see how they worked, so, armed with Des Hammill's excellent book on Dellorto and Weber sidedraught carbs, I set to work. Off came the turbo plenum, the trumpets, the throttle cable, the choke cable I'd only just replaced, and the fuel pipes.

    As an aside, don't you just love the names of some of the things which go on these cars? To tell people your car has a Pertonix Ignitor, or a set of auxiliary venturi, makes it sound very sci fi.

    The carbs eventually came off, dribbling petrol over me, and I got my first proper look at the distributor. I'd only ever felt it, vaguely, while replacing the HT leads - a job I'd initially thought was impossible. Now I had access, it seemed daft not to give it some attention too. I knew that centrifugal timing springs rust up and affect the timing, and wondered if this was part of my hesitation problem as well. So the dizzy came off too.

    These actually proved to be the least of my problems. They weren't in bad condition internally; some varnish at the bottom of the bowls but not too bad. The choke pistons were very stiff, as I knew. Gaskets looked OK. All the jets/correctors seemed clear and were all original spec. Nonetheless, the carbs were stripped (except for the butterflies/spindles) and sent off to I Cleenz Macheenz near Croydon for a proper ultrasonic soak, while I ordered a rebuild kit from Eurocarb.

    The trickiest bit was unscrewing the large brass countersunk screw which fits around the camshaft which works the choke pistons. This needed tapping with a screwdriver and hammer as you can't turn it (the face of the screw is a circle with two notches cut into either side). Watch out for the ball bearings behind the rod weight when you tip out the accelerator pump one-way passage.

    When the carbs came back from the clean, expertly packed, they looked great; like new actually. The rebuild was very satisfying work, as I'd taken photos of all the bits as I'd removed them, and bolting it all up again was like making a Lego model. I polished the brass bits and copper-greased the choke piston. Pretty impressed with the quality of these carbs - not that I'm an expert, but there didn't seem to be any gaps or pointless aspects of the design.

    One thing you don't get in the Dellorto kit is the sealing washer for the fuel connection. What you want are 2x M12 "Dowty sealing washers" available on Ebay for pennies.

    When bolting back to the manifold, put some new rubber O-rings in to the mounting plate - one on either side of each plate, so 8 needed. They're 50mm diameter 4mm cross section. Again, Ebay is your friend.

    When refitting the choke cable and the connecting rod, do this before you refit the turbo pipe to plenum. Otherwise you'll be taking it off again or fiddling about with the tiny bolts which hold the connecting rod to the choke cams.

    [u][i]Fuel system[/i][/u]
    At the time the carbs were off, I'd intended to replace the (original) hose running to them from the fuel regulator. Then I read an article about E10 petrol corroding old rubber, and resolved to take the opportunity to replace all the hoses in the system. I knew the fuel filter looked old, and the Unipart part number was no longer available. Additionally, the tanks were new alloy but the connecting pipe was old, rusty-looking steel, and for some time I'd had a suspicion that rust from the old tanks might still be affecting the fuel filter and pump.

    After using the pump to drain the remaining petrol into an illegally-sized jerry can, I set to work.

    Be warned, when disconnecting the balancing pipe and hoses, you WILL suffer a small deluge of petrol, even if the tanks have been pumped out and the fuel pump connection is dry. Not a lot you can do about it except have a pan handy.

    Here's what I put on:

    Fuel filter - Mann Filter WK830/7 about £6
    Fuel pump - [url=""]This[/url] generic lookalike from Ebay, £40 and works fine
    Balance pipe - alloy tube 25mm diameter, I think it was 55cm long, but I had to cut it down a little about £15 I think with the beading added
    Balance pipe grommets - 38mm diameter £pennies
    Hose clips - JCS Hi-Grip stainless £1.40ish each but worth it
    Hoses - a few different diameters and grades, all nitrile and SAEJ30R9-or-higher compliant:
    Tank to balance pipe [url=""]25mm marine reinforced fuel hose[/url] which is very heavy duty and hard work to bend to fit. Not totally happy with it to be honest, but it is secure and does the job. The alternatives I could find weren't as ethanol proof, but I probably could have looked harder.
    Tank to pump 12mm
    Pump to filter 7.6mm
    Filter to fuel pipe 9.5mm. This one could have done with being narrower at the filter but I couldn't get the 7.6mm to fit onto the pipe. The larger pipe is secure at the filter.
    All the rest are 9.5mm

    I also replaced the plenum to purge pump hose, although it didn't really need it. 9.5mm hose was really tight on the plastic connector to the plenum.
    Not much fun grovelling under the car in a cold garage in winter, but I'm happy with the results. The old pump and filter were full of rusty flakes, so I'm glad to have replaced. Check the fuel pressure once you've replaced the pump and/or filter - the new pump had much more oomph and I needed to reduce it down by adjusting the regulator. The old balance pipe was pretty rusty on the outside but not too bad inside, so could probably have been repaired. Worst part was getting to the old hose clip on the top of the fuel pipe - tricky access. Once all the petrol has gone just cut off stubborn clips with a Dremel rather than muck about trying to unscrew them.

    Have to say, I'll be happy never to see the distributor again. I haven't ruled out going for a crankcase sensor/coil pack/programmable timing option in the future purely to avoid ever having to go near this again!

    I sent mine off to Martin Jay, the "Distributor Doctor" for a refurb. Took a while (6-8 weeks) and isn't cheap at £230, but it comes back like new and you know it's done properly. You also get a cool graph with the timing curve shown. I was tempted by the Aldon Amethyst device, but wasn't sure I wanted to trust my engine to it and you still need a distributor sparking away under the carbs, so it didn't seem quite right to me. I have been more-or-less keen to preserve originality where possible.

    At the same time, I bought a Flamethrower coil to go with the "new" dizzy and the Pertronix Ignitor which was already fitted. I'd heard that the Lucas gold coil (mine was new) wasn't always to be relied on.

    During the travails with the dizzy, I refitted it without the carbs (easy), and with the carbs in place (OK). It's much harder with the plenum backplate/trumpets fitted, and I found it impossible with the plenum in place. It's easier to remove the cap first, then guide the dizzy out trying not to snag the vacuum capsule or knock the rotor. I managed to knock off one of the terminals on the oil pressure sender, requiring lots of swearing and some soldering to repair.

    [i]Flamethrower coil causes problems[/i]
    These bad boys are expensive but top quality. You can gap your plugs an extra 0.1mm due to the extra voltage, which intuitively is a good thing. BUT, what I found (the hard way) is that they don't work with the standard Lucas rev limiter fitted to my Esprit. Don't do what I did and assume that your intermittent spark from the coil to the dizzy is due to the electronic ignition failing. I thought I'd managed to fry my Petronix at some point (although I removed it and it tested out OK on the bench), and ended up destroying it trying to fit an Accuspark module to the Pertronix baseplate. That plan failed, and I ended up with a new Aldon Ignitor I shouldn't have had to buy.

    Most irritatingly, I'd got it running OK without having connected up the rev limiter, then put the plenum back together, made gaskets etc, before finding it barely coughed when I tried it all out having connected up the limiter. So as well as getting an unrequired Ignitor, everything got dismantled again for the sake of the rev limiter not liking the coil.

    So, having got the new Ignitor, and before I worked out the rev limiter problem, I ran into another problem. Although the Pertronix and Aldon ignitors seem to be the same product, the module is positioned differently on the baseplate and the magnetic collar fitting on the rotor shaft IS NOT THE SAME. The magnets are in different places, as I found out after yet another frustrating attempt to get the car to fire up with the new ignitor and (stupidly, in hindsight) the old collar.

    EVENTUALLY, I got it fired up again and connected up the rev limiter with the engine running. It killed it pretty quickly, and so the module is now in the "posterity" box. Oddly enough, if you unplug the wiring from the module but keep the wire connected to the coil the rev counter works...

    [i]Job done[/i]
    It's relatively easy to set the timing at 10 BTDC at this point. Then you can balance the carbs (no substitute for the Morgan Carbtune I think) and have a go at setting the mix using a gas analyser.

    I then went for a spin and found my throttle cable had got sticky over winter. BUT, the car ran well, never missed a beat, and somehow I've managed to fix the hesitation issue which has plagued me for ages.

    Happy with the results and the knowledge that my fuel and ignition systems shouldn't require attention for a long time.

    I'd advise anyone thinking of doing similar to try to do the carbs and dizzy separately, so you can rule out problems with one when troubleshooting issues with the other. I reckon a starter button in the engine compartment would be a good investment too.
  4. Neil Potter
    Been a while since I posted anything, but while my engine undergoes its rebuild I've been reflecting on the various works done to the interior over the winter.  The dash came out (there are 4 nuts holding it in, and I defy anyone to get them all back in without the aid of extension bars, universal joints, magnets and lots of swearing), along with all the leather panels for reconnolising and repairs.
    While all this was out, I:
    - put in an electric aerial
    - wired in some footwell lights
    - wired in Spiyda Design's anti-slosh module to the fuel gauge and light
    - fitted a delay box to the circuit feeding the dome light, so it dims to nothing rather than just switching off
    - treated some minor rust to the chassis door mounts and the scuttle beam
    - refitted the choke control - the little clip that holds it in place is an absolute pig to get in properly and I don't believe it can be done with the dash in situ
    - tidied up all the wires with loads of cable ties
    - retrimmed the steering column shroud
    - put new black leather on the dash below the windscreen
    - replaced the rusty steel air vent on the passenger side below the windscreen
    - replaced the rusty sun visor pivots
    - broke the rear view mirror but sourced a second hand replacement (off a Hillman Hunter apparently)
    Hopefully I don't have to do any of these things again for a very long time...
    Anyway, the main purpose of the blog entry is to document how I put in a new console piece, just above the radio aperture.  On my car, this is just a blank panel covered with a strip of leather.  For some time I've wanted to put something in there with buttons and lights and things.  As a fan of Knight Rider in my youth, you can never really have too many of these things.
    Panel design
    Reigning in my desire for a funky but anachronistic air/fuel mix gauge, I realised it needed to not be too crowded to look sensible.  I looked at what I needed in there; and settled on a switch to override the otter switch and control the rad fans, a yellow light to show me that the fans were working (as opposed to the "fan fail" light, which may or may not show me if the fans aren't working, although has been known to come on when the fans do), a blue light to show me that the air con was operating (if I ever get it fixed) and a switch to retract the electric aerial without switching the stereo off.  This last one was needed because the replacement aerial cannot drain properly to the outside, it's just too big.  It has a drain hole at the bottom, but rather than fill up my footwell I prefer the idea of stopping and putting a rubber cap on the retracted aerial if I'm ever listening to the radio in a rainstorm!
    So 4 switches or lights.  At this point I decided I wanted rectangular items, which seemed to me to be more 1980s than any of the circular options.  Note that this is a much harder option than going for circular bits, which can have their apertures drilled.
    Suitable switches and lights were easily obtained from Car Builder Solutions.
    Plastic was much more of a problem, as if plastic is rigid enough not to bend on switch pressure, it's too brittle to work properly when you're trying to make a rectangular hole.  I found this out the hard way after cutting out the required size of black ABS (took numerous attempts with my rubbish jigsaw), using a soldering iron to melt out approximate rectangles, and then setting to work with craft knife and file.  Managed to shatter the thing pretty quickly.
    Further research yielded The Plastic People who offer a range of plastics cut to size.  The aperture is 185mm by 37mm on my car, so rather than rely on jigsaw and steady hand I got them to send me this sized piece in a couple of different types.  The best for this purpose turned out to be their "foam board" which is soft enough to have the rectangles cut out with a knife but solid enough (just) to act as a panel.  I did reinforce it with two thin strips of the original ABS along the back of the panel though.
    Here's what the plastic panel looked like with the holes cut and the lights test fitted:

    The font of wisdom
    At this point, I decided that unlabelled switches or ones made from a label maker were going to look a bit crap.  I needed something authentic but which Doing a bit of research on this forum, it turns out the retro-futuristic font in use on the Esprit up to about 1990 when the old HVAC panel was discontinued, was something called Microgramma.  This was also used on the Elan in the sixties, so is a nice link to Lotus history even if the font on the exterior of the car is different!  To try and match my HVAC panel, I downloaded a font file and mocked up a Word document with suitable legends (attached here).  This can then be printed out on sticky paper and applied to the panel.  Finally, I put on a layer of matt self-adhesive film to cover over the whole thing and make it look a bit more plastic than paper.
    Meanwhile, I'd managed to identify the wires needed for the switches.  Both lights are currently unwired, as the air con doesn't work and I think I need to run a wire from the rad fan relay to the dash to have the rad fan "activity" light work - a project for later.
    The aerial switch just interrupts the 12v signal wire from the stereo to the aerial.
    The rad fan override switch interrupts the yellow and green wire which goes from the otter switch to fuse 13 in the fusebox through a large block connector on the RHS under the dash.  It's not any of the binnacle connectors.
    Putting it in place
    On the home straight now, I used a dremel to cut an aperture in the blank panel forming part of the centre console trim.  This was just wide enough for the switches and lights, as I needed to retain some of the panel to receive 2 self-tapping screws.  This are not very tight (to avoid distoriting the switch panel), but secure it well enough.
    Here's the end result - terrible photo, will take a better one when I get the car back...

    Control panel.doc
  5. Neil Potter
    April 2014

    The mesh at the rear of the car has always bugged me. It's nice, woven steel mesh rather than the cutout alloy stuff. Sadly though, it's not stainless and after 26 years on the car, looks pretty rusty. Originally it was painted a satin black I understand. There are two pieces - one large and one small, either side of the exhaust, though my smaller piece was missing. Both are held in with alloy pop rivets.

    Last year I had a go with a wire brush followed by some brush-on Hammerite, which improved matters only slightly and I knew I'd have to revisit it if it was ever to look vaguely smart again.

    [i]Sourcing the mesh[/i]

    I got the mesh from here: [url=""][/url]. They have a massive selection of mesh in different metals and with different gauges/apertures etc. I'ver lost the receipt, but I'm pretty sure I went for stainless mesh with 3.33mm aperture and 0.9mm wire diameter. Cost about £50 for the smallest available quantity, and as you only need about a fifth of that it's worth a group buy. I still have some left if anyone wants some and doesn't mind picking it up from Oxford!

    [i]Shaping the mesh[/i]

    I removed the old mesh by drilling out the pop rivets using and a right-angled stubby drill bit. I managed to get the rivets to spin before they fell apart, creating scratches around the old hole and leading to me using bigger pop rivets to fit the new mesh.

    Use the old mesh to cut and shape the new mesh. It needs two bends, one a right angle and the other about 45 degrees. I used a spare plank to clamp the cut mesh to a workmate, and a mallet to bash the bends into it.

    The smaller bit requires the same bends, but from looking at original parts has a curve cut into it to accommodate the exhaust pipe gap, which is then edged with some kind of rubber. I simply cut a straight edge, and it looks OK.

    Try fitting the parts to the car before painting; you'll probably have to bend things around a bit more, especially on the smaller piece.

    [i]Paint it black...[/i]

    I looked into a few options for making the mesh the required satin black. I'm aware that it's not particularly easy to paint stainless steel. Tempting as it was to leave it unpainted, it would be quite striking, not quite in keeping with the subtle look of the car and not as Hethel intended.

    I looked at chemical blacking, but wasn't sure that the finish would be satin rather than glossy. I didn't go for powder coating in the end, simply for the inconvenience of taking an awkward, sharp bit of mesh to get treated. I thought I'd try etch priming and a spray can of satin black enamel, and see what happened:

    The results, after several coats of the primer and several coats of paint, were quite good, here's my test mesh:


    After a month on the car, I haven't noticed any chips as yet.


    This was my introduction to pop riveting. You will need 4.8mm alloy rivets with a much longer shank than you think - the best ones I found were 12mm I think. I went for large flanged ones to hide some of the scratches on the valance, with the result that I have large silver discs to paint over at some point, but actually they don't look too bad.

    The most difficult bits are all the lower rivets, as they don't have the outward-facing angle which allows you to get the rivet tool in. It's doable, but only just.

    Here's the end result, much smarter if you can ignore my wonky-looking exhaust:

  6. Neil Potter
    [u]February 2014[/u]

    Hello all! Here's my tentative foray into the world of blogging.

    I've had my Esprit Turbo for nearly 18 months, so why start a blog now?


    Lots of reasons.

    1. Having suffered injury, disappointment, diminished finances and frustration; I wanted to reassure the world of people contemplating ownership of an Esprit, or similarly rare and eccentric choice of vehicle for heart-over-head reasons, that, so far at least, IT IS WORTH IT.

    2. I've learnt some interesting things along the way, and wanted a single place to record these nuggets. Some of these blogs and the "Project and Restoration" threads have been sooooo helpful in working on my own car; I feel it's my civic duty to reciprocate.

    3. I wanted to honour some friends and acquaintances, and some specialists, who have provided excellent work and support in my quest for a sorted Esprit Turbo.

    4. Nice to have some public record of my efforts in the (unlikely) event of selling on!

    Now, allow me to ramble about my car:

    It's a 1988 model, one of the early Stevens models, chassis 147 out of the first 200 painted with the grey sills at Hethel. I bought it as a present to self on the occasion of my 35th birthday, October 2012, having coveted the Esprit since being old enough to have an opinion. This one is green, not BRG or LRG but a metallic shade of mid-green called Atlantic Green. No spoiler, original wheels.

    Advice note number 1: when buying Esprits they say drive as many as you can and don't buy a cheap one. THIS IS GOOD ADVICE. I didn't take it.

    I thought at the time I would buy a runner, enjoy it for a bit, get it out of the system so to speak, and sell it on. In short, I'd be one of those Dreaded Previous Owners happy to take a hit on the resale to get rid, who does little for the reputation of the car and the marque.

    But then something strange happened. The bug struck. It didn't take long either, it happened when driving home. First there was that odd sensation of skimming along the ground, peering up at Land Rovers from my leather cocoon. There was the old-school noise of the carbs, and the induction behind my ear. The 80s-chic cockpit dials and square telltale lamps. Then, on stopping for petrol I couldn't start it again. Embarrassment was looming and the courtship was fading. Then I remembered the immobiliser and, with relief, all was well. The dance resumed. The car felt quickish when the turbo came in, but had a slight misfire which seemed to get worse the closer I got to home. I went to sleep with mixed feelings - buyer's regret combined with the beginnings of infatuation.

    The next day I took a long look at my new purchase. The interior was tired and the leather had been redyed rather badly at some point. The carpets were original and very manky. The stereo was an early 90s tape deck attached to rotten speakers. The speedo was erratic, many of the dash backlights didn't work, the gearchange was better than the others I had driven but still couldn't be as originally intended. Electric windows very lethargic. Foglights were very rusty, and headlights weren't far behind. The bodywork was OK, paint actually surprisingly good after 25 years. In the engine bay the vacuum hoses were cracking, the header tank didn't look healthy, rusty bolts and clips abounded and there was a worrying smell of petrol I hadn't noticed before. There was a little bit of freeplay in the steering which seemed worse having now bought the car. It would be some months before it was warm enough to notice that the air con wasn't working.

    On the upside I knew that the exhaust manifold had been replaced, the cambelt was newish and the clutch was also recent.

    The journey started by spraying WD40 on the clutch pedal mech to fix the squeak. An easy fix, and an annoyance gone. The car was slightly better and that felt good.

    My fate was sealed...
  7. Neil Potter
    22 February 2014

    Since putting the carbs back I've suffered from a sticky throttle cable, which, whilst not affecting driving much, did make the idle too high and unpredictable.

    The cable on this car, and presumably all earlier models, is a bit odd to my eyes. Unlike the later cables routed around the engine where the inner cable actually pulls on the throttle arm through the intake manifold from the top, this cable runs up from below, between the carbs, and has the inner cable fixed on to the cam cover. The act of pushing the pedal effectively straightens the outer cable, and it is this action which pushes on the throttle. Took me a while to make sense of inner cable movement at one end but none at the other.

    The problem was that the outer cable had split and corroded about midway between where it emerges into the engine bay and terminates at the throttle arm. Disconnecting it over the carb refurb had probably disturbed some rust, which was now causing the stickiness. Nothing for it but to replace the whole cable rather than get away with threading a new inner through from the footwell.

    As it happens, when I replaced the carpets last year I expected to have to replace the cable, as the end of the inner in the engine bay was looking very frayed. I bought a new cable, and having found the grommet behind the map pocket managed to get it into position. But I couldn't work out how the cable got down to the footwell, as the existing cable seemed to disappear into the transmission tunnel. Rather than take apart even more of the interior at a time I was feeling pretty fed up with the job, I left the new cable partly fitted. MISTAKE! I'd have saved a lot of effort by persevering.

    It seems that Lotus started with the chassis and the throttle cable, then built the rest of the car around it.

    What I did
    The cable runs under the soundproofing foam along the RHS of the transmission tunnel down to a clamp which holds the outer cable in place against the transmission tunnel while the inner cable goes on to the pedal. The inner sits in a pivot which fits on to the pedal arm, which is held on to the arm but free to pivot with a nasty piece of bent wire acting as a cotter pin holding the pivot in place. This is very hard to access to remove, as it's right up against the tunnel wall. You can't get a Dremel to it unfortunately, so I can only advise that you persevere with long-nosed pliers. You'll need to improvise something as a replacement - I used flower arranging wire bent into an S shape using mine own hands and a metal thimble.

    To get access, I removed:

    -Map pocket
    -Drivers seat
    -Steering wheel
    -Top transmission tunnel trim panel
    -Two bolts from the LHS of the binnacle, and loosened the others, in order to lift it so as to remove...
    -The trim panel around the stereo/HVAC
    -The RHS tunnel trim

    Then I needed to peel back some carpet and cut into the soundproofing foam to get to the cable.

    The last sting in the tail was threading the engine bay end through the plastic sheath which sits in the throttle arm. Hard to do as you can't really see it, so I had the future Mrs P act as eyes as I tried to do it. I was terrified I would knock the sheath out of the arm and have it disappear somewhere. In hindsight I should just have removed the sheath and put it onto the cable before trying to get it in position, but then you have the long throttle return spring (attached to the throttle arm) free to get in the way...

    You might need to cut back the outer cable in order to have enough inner cable to run between the anchor point on the cam cover and the throttle arm. Then, once installed, use a helper to check you are getting full throttle and the pedal stop is acting at that point.

    All in all, a tedious and awkward job, where everything seems to get a lot worse before it gets better. So par for the course when working on the Esprit then! Probably took 4 hours.

    Having done this job, the results do make it worthwhile. In hindsight, the throttle had probably been a little sticky for some time, and now the car revs freely and under control. The slightest movement triggers a response, and the car feels MUCH more willing and twitchy - more like it should I think.

    Another tick on the list!

    Other notes
    The cable I fitted was a Lotus part, with a mild steel cable. On reflection you could easily make up a stainless cable with a Teflon coated outer which would be higher quality, you'd just need the stainless cable to have a nipple at one end to fit in a suitable pivot. I made up my own stainless cable for the choke cable, and was very happy with the result. That said, the first throttle cable did last 26 years so it did a decent job...
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