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    Richard Knowles
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    1983 Excel
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  1. Hi Pete, I am in Surrey, but dont mind travelling (or shipping) a bit
  2. It has been a while since I updated this thread, and I havnt been completely lazy. After replacing the crash panels I decided that I could not avoid it any longer - it was time to take the engine out (albeit slowly. The details below took place over about 6 weeks, with a delay while I couldn’t open the garage doors as we had a skip in front of them). First - remove the gear lever. As the interior has been in and out more times than I can remember it was quick to remove the tunnel trim to get access to the gear lever. I then found that the rubber gaiter had a few splits in it, but was present. 4 bolts undoes the ring around the outside of it, then it can be slid up out of the way. Another 4 bolts undoes the cover attaching the gear lever to the gearbox itself, then this can be slid up too and the gear lever lifted up and out. I believe there is meant to be a plastic seat that the ball on the base of the gear level fits into and rotates. Mine was just a mass of decomposed oily 'stuff'. There is no other word for what is was really. This also explains the unknown lumps in the gearbox oil, although the silvery sludge is a little worrying. Does anyone have any suggestions for the gearbox - is it rebuild time? Then it was a case of disconnecting everything attaching the engine to the car. I wont go into details here, as there are plenty of other threads on it. The particular challenges I has was that the speedo drive nut was larger than the hole in the gearbox cross member, so I had to remove it from the back of the speedo and feed the whole cable through the cross member hole. The exhaust downpipe nuts are another pain - access is incredibly tight, and the nuts were really rusted onto the studs.I did manage to get them undone, but it involved penetrating oil and a hammer on the end of the socket wrench. To be honest the rest of the exhaust was equally rusty and hard to undo, so it is all due for replacement when the engine goes back in. Talking of access, getting the pipes off the power steering pump was also hard work. I ended up disconnecting one of the pipes at the rack end and removing it from the pump once the pump was off the engine. Finally the time came to take the engine out of the car. I did this alone and it was not too difficult. I had the car raised about 6 inches on wooden blocks, and my engine crane fitted nicely between the wheels, and was long enough to reach the engine. I used a chain around the 2nd and 3rd inlets on the manifold to lift from. I may try to get a load leveler to replace the engine, as although the balance was pretty good, the engine does need to change angle as it comes out and the gearbox gets fed along the tunnel. I used a trolley jack under the gearbox mount to keep that raised, and allow it to move forwards as the engine was moved forwards. As I was by myself I found I was moving the engine a small amount forwards and sideways from the front of the car, then reaching underneath it from the side to keep the propshaft slipping off the gearbox splines without hanging up on anything. It would be easier with 2 people, but wasn’t hard with one, With the engine out I removed the distributor, starter motor, alternator and taped up all the orifices. Then I used copious amounts of de-greaser to try to remove years of baked on oil, and the jet wash to transfer that baked on oil onto the driveway and myself. Feeling hungry by this point I pushed the engine an gearbox back into the garage and dumped it in front of the car. I now need to separate the engine and box, and build some sort of frame so I can move it out of the way. The other thing I need to do is find someone to rebuild the engine. Does anyone have any recommendations? Does anyone know of Gary Kemp, and Kemp High Performance Engines? He is a long way from me, but seems to have a good reputation.
  3. Hi Dan, Im also looking for an engine rebuild specialist. Has anyone on here any experience with Lakeside Engineering ( They are local to me and I was considering using them. A friend has used Max at Max500 ( to rebuild his Elan engine and was very happy, so you could try there as well. Richard
  4. After waiting 3 weeks I called Lotus Bits to check on the state of my order for the crash panels, only to find out that they could not get any marine ply, and didn’t know when they would have panels available. It’s a pity they didn’t tell me that when I placed the order! I cancelled the order, and the next day went to my local builders merchants who had a large stock of marine ply. One sheet of 12mm ply was purchased, and cost the same as the pair of panels - but will be enough to make at least 8 panels. Mike's excellent blog (here) has a link to the dimensions for the panel template, so I knew I would be able to make them myself. In practice I found that following the instructions and dimensions a little confusing and wasted quite a bit of cardboard, so after I made up my panels I have drawn up their dimensions in a different format and include them here for anyone else making their own panels. I did find it best to make up a cardboard template first to check the size - going straight onto the ply wood is likely to cause wastage if the template is slightly the wrong size. The template is identical for both sides, but once the wood is cut I trimmed them to fit, including recesses for the wiring loom, and to clear access to the chassis mounting bolts. These can just be cut during a trial fit of the ply panels. A lot of the panels have straight edges, there is only one or two curves, so what I have put below is a list of the 'points' that need to be drawn in x,y co-ordinate form - a bit like plotting a graph, so all measurements are from the bottom left of a rectangular piece of paper (a bit 60cm wide (x axis) by 40cm tall is big enough (y axis)). To draw the outline of the panels the points to join up with lines are: X(cm) Y(cm) Notes 15.4 0 44.5 0 55.1 6 45.7 32 24.8 40.1 start of curve 24 40.2 curve 23 40.4 curve 22 40.5 curve 21 40.5 curve 20 40.5 curve 19 40.3 curve 18 40.1 curve 17 39.7 curve 16 39.2 curve 15 38.7 curve 14 38.1 curve 12.6 37.2 end of curve 11.7 34.4 4.2 35.7 0 10.3 7.3 9.8 10.2 6.9 15.7 6.3 18 15.3 Hole for horn mount (drivers side only) 10.3 16.7 Hole for horn mount (drivers side only) The picture below shows these points plotted out onto card (in black pen), and in green pen you can see where I trimmed the actual panel for the drivers side. The passenger side panel has less trimmed, but in the same places. I cut the template shape out of an old cardboard box, then after checking it fitted (and trimming it as needed), I transferred the outline to the plywood, then cut the panels out of the wood with a jigsaw and circular saw - not forgetting to drill the holes for the horn mount (which I had not done when taking the photo below). I then trial fitted the wooden panels, and trimmed them to get a reasonable fit. Then it was 2 coats of marine undercoat, and 2 coats of marine gloss - mainly because that’s what I had in the shed. I had previously removed the thin fibreglass 'brackets' from the centre of the car, so fitting the panels involved putting them in place against the remaining (outer) 'brackets'. I then used sikaflex to bond the panels to the body, and replaced the outer fibreglass 'brackets' with new ones. The actual fitting of the panels was fairly easy - made much easier by having the car up on the lift and working from inside the void where the radiator duct would have been. There is a lot to be said for being able to lift the whole car up about 1.5 meters.
  5. It is indeed. I think it was given to me by my granddad many years ago. He was a plumber who loved tools. Interestingly I went to the Weald and Downland museum a few years ago and saw a shed that looked and smelt like the inside of my granddads. I found out afterwards that a lot of his tools were donated to the museum when he died. No wonder they looked familiar!
  6. The crash panels will take a couple of weeks to arrive, so I cracked on repairing the damage. A couple of layers of chopped strand soon joined the top and bottom of the shell back together, with filler in the remaining join on the outside. I used the same approach on the passenger side, but with 2 layers on the inside of the well, and 2 layers in the wheel arch as well. Hopefully this will hold - it certainly seems to already. And while I was in the garage I stripped down one of the pod motors, cleaned up the commutator, re-greased the gearbox, and gave it a coat of paint. The other motor looked like a newer replacement, so Ill just test that one before re-assembling everything.
  7. A few more weeks have passed so its time for another update. Bolting the bumper back on was uneventful, and not worth a photo - but with the new fuel tank vent fitted and the new fuel pump the smell of petrol has completely gone from the boot. So with that done I moved to the front of the car. Given the state of the rest of the car I had no doubt that the ply crash panels in the nose would need replacing, so I set about taking a look. First off I removed the bonnet and headlight pods - pretty easy by pushing them down slightly and un-bolting the top of the actuating lever, then removing the (stiff with corrosion) M8 bolts that act as hinges. With the pods out of the way it was clear there was very little Ply remaining, so next was to create some space to work. The headlight pod motors were easy to remove as was the lower radiator duct. Then came the radiator - removed from below with the car up on the lift (which makes working on any car so much easier). The upper radiator duct was not coming out without the bumper being removed too, so off that came (one bolt in the centre, and 3 'screws' on the outside edges. Then the duct could be dropped down. On the drivers side there was a small amount of the ply crash panel left where the horn compressor mounts, but the lower part had rotten away. I cut away the fibreglass 'L' sections mounting the ply from the centre of the car and ripped out the remaining wood, to leave a clear space to fit new panels. I also noticed that this corner of the car had been repaired in the past, and the top and bottom parts of the shell were not really attached to each other. A cutting disk in a dremel soon removed what fibreglass was partially holding the shell together - hence being able to see daylight through the join in this picture. On the passenger side there was no ply panel left, so I removed the mounting tab from the centre of the car too. I also noticed a crack behind the headlight pod motor heading towards the chassis mount (the picture below was taken before I removed the radiator duct). After hitting the area around the crack with a wire brush there was evidence of a good repair to the left of the crack and around the chassis mount. I suspect this bit was not considered significant enough to need repairing. However once I hit it with a wire brush it definitely needed fixing - as can be seen when looking from inside the wheel arch (The 3 holes at the top are for the headlight pod mounting bracket, but the jagged holes above the large access hole are not meant to be there). So having made a mess of the front end of the car I now have to order some new crash panels, and get the fibreglass back out again.
  8. Next up was to investigate the fuel leak from the pump. On investigation it was clear that fuel was coming out of the back of the pump, meaning that the diaphragm must have split. New SU pumps were out of stock everywhere I tried (the pump is the same as an MGB, so fairly easy to get hold of). After a bit of reading I decided to try a pump from Ecco (one of these) as they are half the price of the SU, and claim to have the same fittings. I also decided to add an extra fuel filter before the pump as I know contaminated fuel will kill pumps. While I was there I thought I would take the tank out to paint it, and also make space to clean out the main fuel filter, and replace the fuel vent hose which had gone the way of most and was in several pieces. The Ecco pump is a direct replacement, but the fittings on my fuel pipes were too long for the pump. I had to cut them down a little to reduce the number of threads, and so allow the sealing washers to be squeezed between the pump and fitting. Typically while getting the tank back in the boot I scratched the new paint. At least it will be hidden by the trim panel. Finally replacing the vent hose was fairly easy. I used a length of 6mm ID fuel hose and followed the original routing across the top of the boot opening, down the drivers side and to the rear lights. It then leaves the boot through the light opening to the centre of the car and down to exit out a vent hole in the bumper. This meant taking the bumper off. I only had one bolt that needed cutting off, and therefore replacing the jack nut in the bumper. At least access to the bolts in the boot is pretty good to cut the head off it. I have ordered stainless replacements since all the bolts on this car seem to attract rust.
  9. When I took the dashboard out I realised just how bad its cover was. The leather was in really poor condition with lots of splits and as dry as paper. I did contemplate just putting it back in the car as it was and refurbishing it when I tackled the rest of the interior, but since it was such a fight to remove I thought I would avoid that pain twice, and re-cover it whilst it was out. I may yet regret this decision, as it means I will be doing other (dirty) jobs with a new dashboard cover. I looked around at where I could get the dashboard re-covered, or who sells new covers and in the end decided to go with a cover from J-F Customs on ebay ( I had read some reviews on their products – some were complimentary, and some were not, however when I contacted them to ask for some information and leather samples they were very prompt to respond and very professional. I started by dismantling the dashboard into its component parts. The glove box and instrument pods were already separate as they need to be removed to extract the dashboard from the car, but I also had to take apart the glove box door and base. Next I had to remove the old cover, identifying which sections had foam underneath, and which didn’t. Through trial and error I worked out that the best way to remove the old cover is with a combination of just ripping it off, and using a flexible paint scraper on the sections that remain. The cover was very securely glued on, and getting both it, and the foam layer off was slow work. For the foam I also experimented with thinners hoping to soften the glue, and it did speed things up a little, but not as much as I hoped. I then cleaned up the fibreglass surface, removing as much of the residual glue as I could and sanding it down. I also put some new glass fibre on the back of the dashboard in a few places where it was split or cracked, filling the cracks on the front. The glove box base is metal, so that got the rust removed and a coat of hydrate 80. In the mean time I had ordered the new cover in dark grey as I think a change to the interior colour is called for (to go along with the partial interior I picked up in light grey leather a while back). This arrived about a week after ordering – pretty prompt I thought. As delivered the main cover itself gives the impression of being a floppy spidery thing – it seems to have arms and legs. Of course that is because the dashboard is a cross shape, with the centre console, and the two arms out to each door. It did make me realise that fitting it could be a challenge. I started fitting the small pieces first, and to be honest they were not as difficult as I expected, even the glove box and instrument pod. I would that spreading contact adhesive on part of the cover and dashboard at a time, then waiting and doing another small section was the best approach. I started by gluing the stitching line to the fibreglass and getting that straight, then gluing the outer side of the cover on, then finally the inner side meant that I didn’t end up with glue in places I didn’t want it. I did have a couple of issues with the cover set though. The steering column cowl cover is supplied in one piece, but my cowl is in two pieces. I messaged the vendor to ask about this, and they very quickly came back saying that their pattern was taken off a car with a single piece cowl (an Eclat I presume, whereas I have an early Excel). Their response was good though – send them my cowl and they would re-make the cover to fit. So that is what I did, and about 10 days later they returned the cowl with the new cover already fitted - at no charge. The other area I had problems with was the drivers side ‘arm’ of the main dashboard. The cut out for the ignition key is in slightly the wrong place (too far towards the steering column), and also the leather seemed to be twisted at the join to the centre console piece – no matter how I arranged things I have not been able to get this area flat and straight. This is visible in the car, however it is mostly covered by the instrument panel. My car was missing the 'filler'pieces between the dashboard and windscreen, so I made some up from scratch using 10mm closed cell foam, with 5mm scrim, and then covered in leather. These are squishy enough to be pressed into the gap left by the windscreen. To finish things off I replaced the 'wood veneer' (actually sticky back plastic/vinyl wrap) with new. I thought that for the £2.50 cost if it looked tacky I can do something nicer later. The leather of the cover itself feels very good quality, and the stitching is very well done. I suspect that the issues I have seen are a result of the pattern coming from an Eclat, and my car being an early excel. I think if I was to do this again I would offer to take my dashboard to them to use to check the patterns. The only problem now is that it really shows up the rest of the interior! Well, its a lotus so that actually isnt the only problem. A bigger problem is that whilst testing my wiring with the ignition on the smell of fuel became very strong. I traced that down to a fuel pump that was leaving more fuel in the boot than in the engine!
  10. Thats very true. There were a number of dry joints and bad connections just caused by age and conditions. It is good now knowing that if something doesnt workthe fault is unlikely to be behind the dashboard.
  11. After putting the heater box back together I decided I couldn’t put off fixing the wiring any longer. I have since discovered that I didn’t take many pictures of the work, and of those I did take one picture of some wiring looks very much like another. The first think I did was to assess just how much of the loom was damaged. It looked like one or two of the wires were completely burnt through, and several others had got hot enough to melt the insulation and leave it thin or damaged. Someone had obviously been behind the dashboard to ‘fix’ the damage as there were a number of bodges to get things working again – primarily around the fog light switch which took its power jumped from the headlight switch. This is a 1984 car, and from the factory didn’t even have front fog lights, so these must have been fitted by a previous owner. I wasn’t sure if the current ‘fix’ was the cause of the damage, or put in place to make things work again. I decided to restore the loom back to its factory spec, and would work out a better solution for running front fog lights later. I took a note of the color of all the damaged wires and ordered up a meter or 2 of all the cables I though I would need from Auto Electrical Supplies who I have used in the past. This included a load of pre-insulated, glued but connectors that I would use to splice in new cables in place of damaged sections of the old cables. I then set to work, sitting in the car cutting out one cable at a time and splicing in a new section. This was around December/January time and putting a fan heater to blow into the car, and occasional use of the hot air gun on the heat shrink connectors made working in the car quite warm. I was testing each cable for continuity from end to end as I went, so I was fairly confident everything would work afterwards (which it did), but I could only test it once I had finished and re-connected the battery and all switches. I found some very odd ‘fixes’, including the choke switch taking power from the radio supply and being grounded to the (fibreglass) dashboard, the radio taking power from the cigarette lighter, the radiator fans not being connected to the loom at all, and most of the fuses being of the wrong rating. I have left the engine bay wiring (including to fog lights) alone for now, but will move on to that after ive finished with the dashboard. In preparation for that I have run a new (fused) power cable alongside the loom to the engine bay connector and will use this to power the fog lights, I will probably take a signal from the main beam cable through a relay to turn them on when putting on full beams. Once I had everything connected back up again I wrapped the loom in new loom tape and reattached it to the scuttle. To be honest it looks pretty similar to before I started work, but at least there is smoke back in the wires now.
  12. Having pulled the dashboard out to fix the squealing heater I thought I had better start there. The first challenge was extracting the heater box from the car. It is held in place with two fixings through the bulkhead accessed through the fresh air plenum, and two fixings down through the scuttle panel at the base of the windscreen. The heater scuttle panel fixings are hidden under a plate that closes off the airflow, directing it to the screen air vents. The panel itself is simply screwed down onto the fiberglass scuttle, however this was obviously done before the windscreen was fitted as the angle of the screws just does not work once the screen is in the way. With a screwdriver bit and some flexible ratchet extensions I managed to get 3 screws out, but the other 2 were rusted solid. After escalating the brute force required I finally won by grinding the top off the screws with a dremel. The heater fixings that go through the bulkhead were equally stubborn. These surface in the fresh air plenum at the base of the windscreen by the bonnet. There is very little room to access the nuts in the plenum. I found mine were simply spinning, and not undoing the nuts. Having got the heater apart I now know that these nuts are onto studs screwed into the heater - I thought they were bolts and the inside was just spinning. In theory I could have continued trying to undo them, and the studs may have come out of the heater. However I eventually went with brute force and used a reciprocating saw to cut through the studs. After moving all the wiring out of the way I had the heater out of the car. Once out of the car stripping the heater box down is straightforward. There is a top cover that has some flaps in it to allow air to enter from the exterior fresh air plenum, or under the dashboard for recirculating air. There are two covers for the heater motors, and the main box itself splits into a top and bottom part. All these parts are held together with screws and clips, so pretty easy to undo. There is soft foam in various places in the heater box to stop air leaks. This was showing its age after 35 years, so I replaced it with new. The reason for taking the heater box apart was to get to the motors. One was stiff and the other seized. I spent quite some time googling to see if there was a modern alternative available. It turns out these motors are also used in Opel Monza 'b', which in the UK was also the Vauxhall Cavalier, so I started investigating those. I came across a posting suggesting that VW Polo Mk2 fan motors can be made to fit ( ). I thought this was worth a try so purchased a fan assembly from ebay for very little money. The first step was to strip down the existing fan and motor assembly, carefully because if the Polo motor didnt work then I would need to re-use the origiinal motor. Having stripped both fan assemblies down it was clear that the Polo motor was longer than the original, both the shaft and the motor itself. The shaft I was expecting, but I didnt know if the motor length would be a problem. The shaft is also wider than the original, so the fan doesnt fit onto the end of the shaft. This was fairly easy to deal with though - I stripped out the shaft from the motor and put it into the lathe to reduce the diameter of the shaft, and also to cut the end off it. Once shortened I reassembled the motor, and the fan onto it. I then had to reassemble the whole heater box to see if it would fit. Only when the top cover goes on was it clear that no, the new motor is too tall. The flaps in the top cover hit the top of the new motor by at least 1cm. The original motor is a very close fit into the part of the flap where the corner is cut off, the new motor is taller and wider at that point so hits the flaps. Im pretty convinced that there should be a modern motor out there that is shallow enough to fit the Excel heater box - but there are so few sites with dimensions of the motors I have not been able to find one. The original motors are 11cm tall and 5cm diameter. The Polo one was 13cm (excluding the shaft since this can becut down). We need one as close to 11cm as possible, and no more than about 6cm diameter (to leave space for air flow past the motor). In the end I stripped the original motors and removed the rust from the shaft that caused then to seize. At least they are operational now, although one runs slower than the other so must still be rough on the bearing. If I find a suitable motor I may have another go while the heater is still out of the car - but now I have moved on to fixing the burnt out wiring!
  13. Finally just to make sure there is no danger of thinking I can drive the car again soon I decided to investigate the heater fan squeal. Who would have thought that a fibreglass car can rust so much. Of the 8 fixings for the dashboard I had to drill out 4, cut through two, and one was just missing. About 4 hours after starting I was at this stage. Heater still firmly attached to the car! I knew the wiring was a bit ropey, but I think this deserves some attention - it looks like the smoke has escaped. I think Ill try to trace the damaged wires back through the loom and replace them, and undo the bodges someone has done to bypass the damage. I may be some time
  14. The most recent bit of work started with good intentions, but I got lazy pretty quickly. I was getting bored of having to pump up the tyres every couple of weeks as they slowly went flat. Before I bought it the car had not really moved for many years (and it still hasnt!) - therefore the wheels had corroded and the tyres were not sealing against them very well. I had the tyres removed from the wheels and intended to use a wire brush on an angle grinder to remove the paint and corrosion, and then give them a paint with rattle cans. Stripping the first wheel this way took about 90 minutes - and at the end of it there was still plenty of areas that would need hand sanding. I decided I didnt have the patience to do all 5, so took them to a local firm to blast and powder coat. Interestingly the firm didnt want to remove the scratches and dings on the edges of the rims, so I collected the bad ones and smoothed them out myself. I had not realised that freshly blasted aluminium has a very rough texture - although it probably doesnt come out in the picture. And once back after powder coating
  15. After the door was back in one piece I moved on to the rear seat belt mounts. One of my lower mounts was missing, and the other very rusty so I purchased some new ones in stainless steel. Stainless is a good idea because they are about 5mm bigger than the body all around - and so will make an excellent mud trap. I painted the new mounts black just to make them a bit less bling, and filled them with sealant when re-fitting to prevent the mud making its way in any gaps. While I was there I also removed the upper mounts from inside the rear wheel arches so I could remove the rust from them and re-paint. Getting the top bolt out from inside the car is a bit of a fight - access is very tight against the C post. The mounts themselves are thick steel, so the surface rust on them was removed which left plenty of material for strength. My car doesnt actually have seat belts fitted in the rear, but at least I know that I can now fit some without worrying about what to attach them to. When I get around to replacing the interior I will probably get some rear belts.
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