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My very brown 74 Elite project


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Not to get too bogged down with backstory: I've been on an endurance racing team that runs a heavily modified Elite for about 9 years now.  The Elite has grown near and dear to my heart, so I've had a

While not that exciting, it's worth mentioning that tires for this car are difficult to find. To make a long, not-so-interesting story less long: I found that prioritytire.com (in the US) carries a lo

After everything was complete, I went through some basic tests - checked power at various places, made sure the pink/white high-resistance wire on the coil had the correct resistance, checked that lig

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Hey BK,

Nice find. Looks like a twin to my car, that is, when I purchased it in 1982. Same color but mine had the federal black, rubber bumpers and all which I took off and bought the better looking Euro styled ones along with the front air dam.

Mine is slightly modified in areas for more performance and a bit of cosmetics too with many hours into it but these cars as you know can really be a lot of fun to drive fast and were made to corner from the get go.

Look forward to what you do with it. 

I have some pictures in my album folder if you care to see them with my upgrades.

cheers,

Richard

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I do love a brown car and it suits the Elite. Wonderful.

I had a Mini 1275GT in Brazilian Bronze metallic, a unique colour on a Mini as it was a retirement present from BL (in 1975 for a long-serving employee). Matching brown trim. Boy it looked good.

I also had a very light brown coloured Merc 190 (80s thing). Unfortunately, I realised after a trip to Germany, it was the same colour as a Deutch taxi. A rare site in the UK but not so in Bonn. It was really cream not brown but the trim was brown and the chrome surrounds to the screens were metallic brown, a nice touch. 2.6 manual, rare but drank the juice.

Justin

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Interesting story and car, Brian. The brown is so period - in those days, everyone wore brown or beige, it was cool!!

I look forward to reading of your progress. If you hit any problems, there are plenty of people here who can help find answers.

Also don't be fooled by Elite 4.9's claim that his car is 'slightly modified!' It's a very professional (and one of the original) V8 conversions!

Richard

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The car arrived in Los Angeles on April 20th, 2019 (I may have stood waiting by the window for quite some time that day ;)). I had it delivered to my office and took the time to introduce the new siblings.

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Shipping was relatively straight-forward and reasonably priced.  For those in the US, I used montway.com - who are a broker (they don't own any trucks), but I've used them 4 times now, and with exception of a special-needs race car, have been happy with them.

Being that my house was still a construction zone, I did very little work on the Elite. I did, however, give it a good overall inspection which found that most of the suspension bushings were perished... as in completely gone... as in you could see light and sometimes stick a finger between the two bits of metal that previously had bushing material between them.  This car was last registered in 2003. I can't say how long before that it was last used, but I suppose very perished bushings was to be expected.  That said, aside from a little dusting on the surface, the chassis was completely rust free and otherwise in very good shape for its age.

House work took priority, so before starting real work on the Elite, I tried to keep it limber by driving it around the block on Fridays after work. It had been running surprisingly well until on one of those short drives, after being parked for a couple hours, it refused to start - not even ticking over, just dead.  I got it back to the office, fiddled with it, but without finding a solution, I left the car cocooned until I had a chance to put some time into it.

I've never been very good with electrics, but picked up a few things watching the other guys work on the electrics in the race car. Come December, with a head full of second-hand knowledge, I pulled out the workshop manual and started digging in to the electrical system. As you can see, time and heat had not been kind to the wiring in this car (these are all on the starter):

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I replaced the starter, made new terminals for all the wires, and moved most of the starter wires to a bus bar to de-clutter the main post on the starter (some wires have moved since this pic, and there is still tidying to be done, but I think this gets the point across).

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...after all of this, I still had intermittent starting problems.  While visiting an upholstery shop to talk about redoing the seats, an Alpha mechanic from the shop next door noticed I was having trouble starting and suggested I double-check the grounds.  Sure enough, it wasn't getting good ground - because with a temporary additional ground, it started right up.

Because I was at the upholstery shop, because we had agreed on a price, and because the car was running, I asked if they wanted to just take the car then.  They did, and that's where it sits today... and will sit for another day or two when I get it back with an all new interior.  Then I'll limp it back home and re-make all the ground points before moving on to the next big project: replacing most of the suspension.

More to come...

Edited by BrianK
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Almost forgot: I discovered that plastic is a sub-standard material for fuses.  These are replacements and were replaced again with bakelite fuses that have, since, *not* melted.  :) 

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I have a workshop manual from Dr. Christopher Jacobs an electrical engineer from back a few years. The name of the book is call "optimizing your ignition" and he tells all the secrets of his trade to maximize what you have, for most power and efficiency. He said 90% of all electrical problems on cars are bad grounds which you found. Great job!

My Elite, when I purchased it, had a good number of melted wires, mostly under the dash. Not the optimum of electrical design with only 28 k on the OD and less than 10 years old. I, like you, just ran new wires. 

What kind of new upholstery are you going with? These cars came with a cloth originally and then leather was an option some time later which is the way I went. But there is a lot of interior in this car so it probably won't be cheap to do. Are you keeping the same color exterior and what did you pick for your interior color?

Not too many of these cars are in the US and running so this is going to be somewhat of a rare one. In my Lotus club we only have 2.

atb,

Richard

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4 hours ago, Elite 4.9 said:

My Elite, when I purchased it, had a good number of melted wires, mostly under the dash. Not the optimum of electrical design with only 28 k on the OD and less than 10 years old. I, like you, just ran new wires. 

What kind of new upholstery are you going with? These cars came with a cloth originally and then leather was an option some time later which is the way I went. But there is a lot of interior in this car so it probably won't be cheap to do. Are you keeping the same color exterior and what did you pick for your interior color?

New wires all around... In fact, I ordered a full new main harness from BritishWiring.com back in December. It should be here in the next week or two, but I'm running short on time, so that may be a summer project.

My car came with cloth seats, with a ribbed fabric that I'd call corduroy (not sure what Lotus called it?) in the center panels and standard cloth on the bolsters. (I think this is pretty common, as the 3 I've seen in the US had the same seats).  I wanted to keep it original, and I like the 70s-corduroy look, so after a lot of searching by both myself and the upholstery shop, the shop found a suitable replacement with slightly contrasting colors between the two materials.

As for the carpets: the originals had mostly deteriorated. Vertical surfaces were acceptable, but the horizontal panels had been worn through. I was planning on ordering a set from Coverdale in the UK - I even bought samples from them. While talking about seats with the upholstery shop, I found that they also do carpets.  Their price, installed, was about $100 more than the carpets, alone, from Coverdale, so I had them do the carpets as well.  ...and then up-sold myself on higher quality wool carpet and sound deadening material as I was walking out of the shop.

This is what it looked like when I dropped it off. I should note that the passenger's seat would not move or recline when I took this pic, and there was a bit of seat frame poking through the vinyl on the back of the driver's seat.  The upholstery shop has fixed all of those issues... They've been great, I'll post their info when I show their work.

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Edited by BrianK
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I cannot wait to see the completed interior.

Do you have any Excel in the US? I love the Elite and Eclat but went the easier route of Excel, which was pretty well sorted from the get-go. 

Justin 

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Jep: We didn't officially get the Excel, though I think I've read that 2 or 3 were sold here new, and there are a handful more floating around.

 

This morning, I received an email from Andy Graham with this little gem: :) 

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The accompanying letter also mentioned "Your car is the 91st out of 438 cars" (speaking about S1 Elites sold in the US) - with a few disclaimers about that 438 number (Along with lots of other interesting tidbits).

I imagine everyone knows this "Certificate of Provenance" is available, but in case not: https://www.lotuscars.com/en-GB/en-GB/certificate-provenance/

For the S1 Elite, they are £44. Andy explained that there isn't much information available for the Elite (beyond what's above), so the certificate is less expensive than it is for other Lotus models.

Side note: I love that when you contact Lotus about this sort of thing, you get Andy.... Not a department, not a random selection of interns... Just Andy.  Every time.  (Granted, I say that after contacting Lotus exactly twice in seven years, so maybe I just got lucky).

Edited by BrianK
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Gotta to love Andy Graham. Always helpful. He can also sort NO2 info on Elise to ensure your car can (perhaps) go to cities with low emission zones. S1 Elise is below emission level but TFL website lists it as not. Cert from Andy will get this sorted. 340R also. 

Justin 

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10 hours ago, jep said:

Gotta to love Andy Graham. Always helpful. He can also sort NO2 info on Elise to ensure your car can (perhaps) go to cities with low emission zones. S1 Elise is below emission level but TFL website lists it as not. Cert from Andy will get this sorted. 340R also. 

Justin 

TFL is Transport for London by the way, which regulates which cars have to pay charges to enter London, which from April means quite a large area out to Dulwich, Putney etc... this will be coming to a town near you soon (Europe at least).

Sorry for the thread drift. 

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  • 2 months later...

Great work on the wiring Brian!  I can recommend the steering rack rebuild kit from Lotus Marques in Australia.  I recently did mine - it comes with everything you need, and help via email if you need any.

Pete

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On 05/05/2020 at 01:46, BrianK said:

..... All of which would be alot easier if my garage were bigger than a closet.  Ahhh.. to dream. :) 

Try working in a standard-size 8' x 16' English garage.  I miss the 20' x 20' US garages.

Great write up on the wiring.  Keep up the fight!

S4 Elan, Elan +2S, Federal-spec, World Championship Edition S2 Esprit #42, S1 Elise, Excel SE

 

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On 05/05/2020 at 05:47, EXCEL V8 said:

Great work on the wiring Brian!  I can recommend the steering rack rebuild kit from Lotus Marques in Australia.  I recently did mine - it comes with everything you need, and help via email if you need any.

Thanks for the tip, Pete.  I had been looking for a rebuild kit for ages, but was never able to find one. I had, instead, used a rebuild service for the race car's rack (also an Elite), which is an hour's drive (each way), and is $200 more than the rebuild kit.

For anyone else who comes across this thread, the rebuild kit is the "Steering Rack Overhaul Kit" on this page: https://lotusmarques.com/parts/catalogue/lotus/46-esprit-parts/305-esprit-steering-rack-parts.  It's for an Esprit, but the guys at Lotus Marques say that it is compatible with the Elite rack. According to Lotus Marques, they put together this kit - it's not an off-the-shelf solution.  It appears to be an upgrade, as well - the rack bush is copper (stock is plastic? I'm not sure - mine is missing, completely) and it includes a better set of bearings.  At today's exchange rate, the rebuild kit was just over $150 (US) shipped.

 

28 minutes ago, USAndretti42 said:

Try working in a standard-size 8' x 16' English garage.  I miss the 20' x 20' US garages.

Great write up on the wiring.  Keep up the fight!

Thanks! I feel your pain... (get out your violin - here comes my sob story)  Here's a pic of my garage from a few years ago.  I have to roll the Elite out a few feet before doing any work so I can get to the workbench. Because the garage butts up to the sidewalk, I have no driveway; and because it's built into a hillside, I can't expand in any direction. #firstworldproblems 😛 

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On 06/05/2020 at 16:22, BrianK said:

For anyone else who comes across this thread, the rebuild kit is the "Steering Rack Overhaul Kit" on this page: https://lotusmarques.com/parts/catalogue/lotus/46-esprit-parts/305-esprit-steering-rack-parts.  

Just a heads up for anyone who gets the idea to rebuild their rack this summer: double-check your shipping options prior to purchasing.  Looks like my kit has been shipped by Lotus Marques, but won't arrive for another month due to shipping delays related to COVID-19. 

Edited by BrianK
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If you want postal service to operate quickly in these COVID times, best use UPS or courier with their own planes. Royal Mail is hopeless at the moment. I sent a Lotus handbook to San Jose via RM tracked...20 days later, still no sign. And I had to go to PO to drop it off. 

I have used UPS via Transglobal Express and the stuff arrives almost as normal. They collect and tracking works. 

Justin 

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  • 4 weeks later...

And it's amazing what can be done with a trolley jack and a piece of wood👍.

Your inspection pit should have a cover (for safety as well as working on) - traditionally about a dozen 3" thick planks sitting on ledges, but maybe a substantial aluminium plate with castors that drop into the corners when fitted, or plastic rails that would allow you to slide it out from under.

Great thinking,  great progress 👍👍

 

 

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