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About TrapperJohn

  • Birthday 15/11/1956

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  • Name
    John O'Rear
  • Car
    90 Esprit SE

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  1. I've recently acquired a new project, a 1985 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16, with the Cosworth engine. Picked it up for a song (well, USD$1500) because it's previous owner, a fellow interesting car collector, had passed on and his widow needed it gone in it's non running condition. (engine not getting any fuel) The more I dig into this little jewel, the more I come to appreciate the Lotus philosophy of 'keep it simple'. The Merc has a most interesting FI system on it, a semi-mechanical continuous injection system specific to that engine, but is it ever complicated... same for the self leveling rear suspension, intriguing, but complex. In fact, just about everything about the Merc is complex, and just about every part has to be custom ordered from M-B. Even mundane parts, like the mechanism from floor pedal to throttle body, are complex. This is over-engineering: additional complexity, without a substantial performance gain. Driving? The Cossie Merc is more like a BMW M3 - fun, toss it around at low speed, razor sharp steering, but not quite the explosive power or ultimate adhesion in high speed turns of the Esprit. It is more forgiving of error in that quick steering movement doesn't translate into understeer, but ultimately, it doesn't have the potential to reward a smart driver that the Esprit has. It's a fascinating vehicle, but the more I work on it, the more I come to appreciate how Lotus keeps things simple. I'll never complain about Esprit maintenance again. It's parts may be a pain to get to, but most of them are inexpensive, and most of them are remarkably easy to understand and diagnose. For all the complexity of the Bosch K-Jetronic FI system, it's 2.3 engine is still about 100hp less than the Esprit with its simpler and easier to maintain GM system. Nice to get a reality check, every now and then.
  2. I went the granite route. Expensive, USD$4500, but it's the last countertop I'll ever buy. My wife is quite the pastry chef, so this gives her the largest possible surface for rolling dough. It would seem that is best done on a cold, hard surface. On the other hand, I look at that countertop on occasion and see a respray and set of Saturn wheels... oh well.
  3. One big objection I have to texting is, you're getting royally stiffed on the price right now. Maybe it's the onset of old geezerness, but personally I find the abbreviations appalling. Technology is dismantling this beautiful language, and I suppose it's doing the same to other languages as well. But, we will find a way to adapt. We always have. The flush toilet was a radical change from the earth closet, and not a moment too soon. Email seemed to be an impersonal substitute for a handwritten note when it first came out, now it's almost old school itself. Even the Elan and Europa owners must have looked askance at the almost luxurious Esprit at one point. Giving it explosive power with a turbocharger helped put some of that to rest.
  4. A little OT, but the dizzy problems... I was having an issue with feeling woozy after physical effort. Used to be I could ride my bicycle all day and just get tired. In the last year, I started getting dizzy after a few miles, long before I got sore. Same for sawing up fallen trees on my farm for firewood, was getting dizzy, not a good thing when you're holding a large running chain saw. Finally found the problem - caffeine overload. Granted, I was hitting it pretty hard in my day job, but when I gave up caffeine, the dizzyness went away. After a bit of experimentation, I found I could have one cup of coffee in the morning, and no soft drinks during the day, with no ill effects. But, the days of the large coffee with a shot of cappucino, and steady soft drinks all day are over. Sleeping a lot better than I used to, as well. This aging isn't all it's cracked up to be, but it's better than the alternative.
  5. All fine and well, until an adversary figures out how to jam the signal to control a UCAV. Remember that the drones in use over Pak/Afghan are not autonomous when used for attack, a human is in control, and actually fires a missile once another human has confirmed the target. And even then, they don't always get it right. Autonomous attack capability is a long way off, if for no other reason than what could happen if it goes wrong. And it will go wrong. If the RN is going with the naval and not STOVL version of the F35, that would explain retiring the short deck carriers - the naval variant needs a full/angled flight deck to land. In the end, the naval variant with a new carrier might be cheaper, especially considering the high Harrier losses during training - it's a tricky little beast to fly. How long would 40 STOVL F35's have lasted during training? The aircraft carrier has proven to be a very effective foreign policy tool. Just parking a carrier off of an offensive nation's coast is a very visible symbol, it lets them know that you're capable of raining all sorts of bad things down on them, on very short notice. And remember the Falklands - it wasn't the value of that pile of rocks, it's what the other tinpot dictator nations might have done had the UK let that blatant act of aggression stand. They're like jackals - they'd have been attacking UK interests at every opportunity, just for prestige reasons, if they thought that there wouldn't be any military response. Without on the site air support, the RN probably couldn't have taken the island back. Are carriers a cost efficient approach? There's no way to establish how many small wars have been prevented by carriers, but it is known that they have prevented conflicts from starting. One thing is for sure: they're a lot cheaper than actually fighting a war, both from a monetary and especially a human life perspective.
  6. FWIW: I went through a cam belt change for the first time last summer on my 90 SE. Wasn't really that hard to do, nothing that can't be done on a weekend with hand tools and colorful use of language. Get one of those little 1/4" socket sets, you'll need it to get into tight spaces. Grind down an 8mm hex wrench to loosen the vacuum pump, one of the hex bolts is right behind a pulley. Some instruction sheets recommend putting a wrench on the crank pulley and bumping the starter to loosen the bolt, but that scared me - might break the starter, and if the wrench comes loose, it can flap around and tear things up. I put the gearshift in 4th, locked the parking brake to hold the crankshaft, and used a brass mallet to tap on the wrench on the pulley bolt to loosen it. Worked fine. There isn't room to get an air wrench in there. Change that belt, immediately. With the 4 pot, life begins at 5k, and just gets better. You don't want to worry about the belt when the power kicks in.
  7. I spent a delightful afternoon tooling around in what was called a T Bucket - back half of a model T Ford body, with the engine and radiator out in the open. Steering wheel was almost straight up and down, just like the original. It was... a challenge. Bags of power, instant response, very slow steering, a real snarl from the small block Chevy engine, and the 'personality' of a live front axle. Hitting a bump in the road became an adventure. Which way will it go, and how much wheel jitter will you experience? Just don't try to turn quick at anything higher than jogging speed because it wouldn't. Terminal understeer took on a whole new meaning.
  8. What I remember were those clear plastic seat covers with the bumps all over them. Uncomfortable, hot, sticky, and when a little boy fell asleep on the back seat during a long drive, his face looked like it had been worked over with a waffle iron.
  9. Don't hold your breath. Mexico is sitting on some pretty fat crude reserves, but a culture of corruption has insured that it hasn't contributed measurably to a stable life for their citizens. Already, China is all over those Afghan mineral reserves. And they have no qualms about greasing whatever palms they have to, or leaving behind whatever environmental or governmental wreckage they have to, to get what they want. It would be a shame to see that happen, after both the US and UK have sacrificed so many of their young soldiers to try and stabilize the place. Sad fact is - democracy is more than a constitution and a series of laws, it's a state of mind on the part of the citizens. Easy for us to say, with centuries of democratic institutions that we have come to place faith in. For countries that have not had democracy, it's a long and painful process, and the people don't always recognize the responsibility that comes with choice. Theoretically, the Palestinians in Gaza were free to vote for whomever they wanted. Realistically, when they elected the radical and violence prone Hamas, they bore the responsibility for how that government conducted itself. Exercising free will is the first step in democracy. Choosing wisely after suffering the consequences of a bad choice is the second step.
  10. My 1 ton diesel truck (Ford F350) has backup sensors and a rear camera, and needs them - it's 24 feet/7.5 meters long. But when I think of enhancing the Esprit, backing up and parking aren't the first things that come to mind. I also use the 'raise the headlamps' method for pulling into the garage.
  11. I've had the same thought myself, as my poor SE looks sunburned with the clearcoat peeling off. Good spray jobs aren't cheap, cheap spray jobs aren't good. Don't know if this holds true for Esprits, but with the Europa, if you sanded past the gelcoat you'd expose the fiberglass and have all sorts of pits forming in the paint if you didn't reseal. And practice, practice, practice. There's a fine art to getting the 'wet spot' going, and keeping it going without having it run. Practice moving the paint gun in a straight line while maintaining the same distance from the target - first timers tend to move the paint gun in an arc, so that you get a run in the middle, and not enough towards the sides. Watch the wet spot, with enough practice you can tell when you have the right amount of paint on. With all that in mind, I went out and found a local paint operation that was reasonably sympathetic. I'm doing the disassembly/reassembly, they're doing the rest. Going to end up being around $USD2.5k to get a 2 part pearl white plus clearcoat put on my SE, and redoing the flat black sections as well. Wish I could find the S4 or later front bumper, but here in the USA, they're a bit difficult to come by. Of course, that's a lot of disassembly to do, once you look around and see what has to come off. Bumpers, mirrors, wing, doors, sunroof hardware, everything under the front bonnet, and I've yet to figure out how to get the front, side and rear name badges off. Are they glued on? I figure it's a good time to pull the quarter panel windows, redo the black on them, and reseal them properly, too.
  12. Okay, it flashed three codes at me: 24, 35, and 42. 24 - might be the speedo disconnected, I have the slipped magnet problem so I just pulled the cable. 35 - it has been exhibiting an iffy idle for the last few months. Some times it idled fine, some times it was low to the point of occasionally stalling, and I had to keep a foot on the pedal to keep it going in traffic. Thanks, computer. I already knew that. 42 - That must be the problem. Says it's running on ignition module timing, and isn't kicking over to ECM timing after starting. Unless the Esprit has a different meaning for that code... Sounds like a bad connection or loose wire. Going to be fun to find that. Thanks, Trou, for the reminder about shorting out the ALDL plug. I should have remembered that from when I had electrical trouble with an old Pontiac.
  13. My 90 SE isn't feeling well at all. It started with the check engine light coming on after startup, but it went out after about 15 seconds. Was like that for about a month, but nothing else seemed wrong. Last week I notice a brief stumble at low throttle, just the one chug, on the way home. Yesterday, it did not want to start. Not hitting on all cylinders, eventually warmed up and ran fine. Today, it is properly sick. Same startup: crank, splutter, feather the throttle, eventually warmed and hit on all cylinders, sure felt like fuel feed problems. but... after warming, it went sick again. This time, I could rev it, it would cut out, and the tach plunged too quickly before it started firing on some cylinders again. That looks like electronic/ignition problems. Yes, check engine light is on. So... I need to find freescan, and need to get the pinouts to make a plug, and see what that tells me. Where can I find that - was looking around, but didn't see it.
  14. The best Esprit is the one sitting in your garage. It's the perfect blend of performance, style, and especially... price.
  15. Another US Esprit owner here. Honestly, they're not that hard to work on. You just have to learn the sequence of pieces to take off to get to what you want. I find the 4 cyl's engine easier to service than my 2001 Mercury Sable wagon, where all the accessories are stuck on the bottom of the engine. The key is being able to service it yourself. An Esprit will eat you out of house and home if you have to pay someone else to do everything. If you do the service yourself, it's fairly inexpensive. In general, the Stevens Esprits are reliable considering what they are, but they are also high strung vehicles, so there's a lot of little things to attend to. Right now, mine has an intermittent heater fan, the radiator fan won't come on automatically (switch on AC in heavy traffic), clearcoat is peeling off the body, and both headlamp motors are out, but it runs like a scared cat, and all the important features are in top condition. It would probably be $3k-5k to pay someone else to fix the little things, when it's probably less than $300 in parts. Last spring, I went through the full C service, cam belt and all (and plan on replacing the cam belt on any 4 pot you buy, it's cheap insurance). Took me about three weekends, and I was taking my time and fixing a lot of little things as this Esprit had been sitting for a few years: wheels frozen on, had to drain the old fuel, replace the chargecooler impeller, water hoses, etc... With practice, the cam belt could probably be replaced in one day. Total cost in parts for this overhaul was around $600 (plus $700 for new tires) over half that was the pricey water hose set from JAE. Cam belt was $50, a Nissan Maxima part as I recall, and the new ones are good for 100k miles. Got to love Lotus for using off the shelf parts - Porsche or BMW would ream you for a custom part on something utterly ordinary, while I think the Lotus engineers just go out in their parking lot and start raising hoods until they find something that will fit. They put their design effort into the chassis, not the window motor. Turnip farmers aren't so dumb after all. With a good cross index list, you can replace most of the mundane components cheaply. FI computer is from an Olds Quad4, you might grab one or two from a GM warehouse if you can find them cheap. Not that they tend to go out, but other Esprit owners might need them. If you find a S4 and you can smell fuel in the cabin, don't worry. That's the vent hose between the twin tanks, it cracks and lets fuel vapors escape. Easy fix, and a great negotating point if the seller doesn't know what the problem is. It smells a lot worse than it is. Only pricey upgrade you might want to consider is brakes, they can fade under extended use. AP makes a great set, but they'll run you $3k-4k. Get the Esprit and see what you think first. Vague gearshift: it's not the bolt action rifle feel of my 1970 Corvette with M22 rock crusher, but it doesn't prevent you from selecting the correct gear. 2nd gear syncro is a bit weak on mine, I can beat it on a downshift every so often, just gives me an excuse to practice heel and toe. Be gentle with the gearbox and clutch, they'll last. Abuse them, they'll go out. Tires - I highly recommend Toyo T1R's. They stick like crazy.
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