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USAndretti42

How reliable can a S1 Elite/Eclat be?

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I had a S2 Esprit. These cars have a terrible reputation for being unreliable but mine was very reliable. It never let me down although it did have some niggling things play up such as a window switch which sometime refused to work, or a headlight that would not raise itself, that sort of thing.

The early Elites and Eclats had a similar, if not worse, reputation but I wondered how much of this is deserved. I did once read a blog by a guy with an Elite that seemed to break down every time he took it out but is this typical if one takes care of ones car? I know from experence with my Esprit that the engine can be reliable and robust. What troubles do you guys who run their Eclats and Elites have with your cars? For example, are the Lotus gearboxes really bad, are the electrics a disaster, does the trim self-destruct and can you expect the headlining to droop around your head at any time?

Or, with a bit of care, can they easily be a reliable daily driver?

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Very reliable.

My S1 didn't get used much, but when it did it was always ready to go. My cars are always home maintained and in those days didn't get much money spent on them. They are comparable to any other british made car of the 70's.

My first eclat was more reliable than its Triumph predecesor.

D

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if you want reliability and it is a prerequisite don't bother with any elite or eclat that does not have either a ford 4 speed, getrag or auto box fitted and the back axle modified to fixed upper links, buy an excel instead. no amount of care will prevent the lotus box giving way or a diff oil seal failing. the reputation, well deserved, of these cars has rubbed off on the excel and so far has kept the price of even the very best excels at the same level, people including motoring journalists do not realise that the excel is a very different car which shares only one major component, the engine. with its predecessors. however this is changing, see this months classiccars magazine article " a reliable lotus ? yes if you read our excel guide." compare the sentiment expressed in that title to the statement in a recent classic car weekly in which the writer stated, in a barely literate article, that the excel was basically the same car as an eclat.

Edited by mistynes

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i forgot to mention that if you know which body parts that lotus put on the excel to make it slower than contempory esprits, the hc na, take them off and the car will probably out perform any esprit that does not have a turbo. after all it has more power and a lower cd than esprit hc na( which was the most powerful esprit0 and is only very slightly heavier. i did not make this up i was told by a lotus employee.

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Alan

Unfortunately we didn't get the Excel here in the States. So Trevor will be looking at the Elite or the Eclat.

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An Eclat S1 or an Elite S1 is a reliable car, if it is well maintained and not driven very hard. If you do racing, the weak parts will occur: Gearbox is weak (synchro mesh and bearings), front suspension is weak (from Triumph Herald), driveshaft is weak, rear axle: upper links are often worn, clutch is weak (cable breaks quite often) Engine: oilleaks at the camshaft covers, cambelt set has to be replaced regularly, distributor is often worn, electric fans on the cooler are often not working (overheating). Check the water pump. The door hinges are very weak (heavy door). Retractable lights are often broken. The dashboard lighting is very weak. Watch out for corrosion on the steel frame! Sometimes the electric cables are a mess.... Interior: the glued fabric goes off very often (headlining!).

My car had many of these problems when I bought it. But if you look after the car, the car pays it back with reliability!

Edited by lotide

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At the Peter Stevens talk at Dunstun Hall a while back I'm sure I remember him saying the aero mods were done because the toyota gearbox wouldn't take the theoretical top speed of the car. There again I've just had a serious night on the beer and my memory could well be playing tricks right now!!

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Hi Matthias,

Thanks for your input on this question, I've used your answer as a check list for the work in progress on my '76 Elite.

I looked down your comprehensive list and I think I've dealt with many of these problems, largely due to my location.

I won't have those engine, gearbox, clutch or driveshaft problems - they will all be BMW.

This also takes care of things like the distributor/water pump & so on.

All electrics, including internal/external lighting will be replaced by uprated Japanese items and all wiring replaced.

Headlights are now motor driven

All motors/fans etc in the A/C unit have been replaced likewise. All radiators and petrol tank have had replacements custom built here.

The steel frame has been cleaned, rust proofed and painted.

The Interior is full leather, so should be OK, particularly using modern high temperature adhesives..

The door hinges now have new bushes and grease nipples as recommended by LotusBits Mike Taylor.

There is a new headlining which will be installed over insulation in view of the high temperatures we get.

That seems to leave front suspension, mine seems OK now and I believe there is a fix for that preserved in the old website archives.

Note to BIbs - I hope you still aim to try and move these over some time!

Finally it's that rear axle upper linkage - I've left that to run it's course.

I can't justify the costs of the recommended upgrade as I intend to use the car as I think it was originally intended -

as a Gentleman's Sporting Carriage!

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Hi Rex,

youve got almost a new car! Wow.

I run my Eclat on a historic number plate here in Germany. This doesnt allow any major changes on the car. The car has to be as original as possible.

In my case I just changed the mechanical distributor to an electrical one (123 ignition).

In my experience the Elite Eclat is even with its weaknesses a reliable car if you check it regularly. And of course a 33 years old car shouldnt be driven in every days traffic.

Rex, have you got any new images on your car?

Edited by lotide

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Hi Mattias,

There's no special treatment for historic cars in Thailand, as even new cars age they get a lower rate of road tax. A roadworthiness certificate is required when a vehicle has seen 7 summers, the test takes about 8 minutes on average.

But Insurance premiums rise after a car is about 10 years old and after 20 years only third party cover is available for the most part so you tend to be careful!

Many "Classic" cars here get an engine change and customising is all the rage - hence the change in my sills/rocker covers (see "I face a Dilemna").

Classic Car Association of Thailand and the Thailand Vintage Car Club do seek originality, but cars with matching numbers here are as rare as Hen's Teeth.

There are two of us in Chiang mai who had different Alfas all correct, but most of the other older alfas are running on Japanese engines.

The last photo I took of the Elite was following a respray of the sills, here it is. The work is now almost ground to a halt.

The engine and supercharger are at the machine shop where they are attempting to copy a certain proprietary supercharger installation kit. They have built the new inlet manifold and fitted the s/c and bypass valve and are now attempting the return section to the throttle controls and filter. This requires multiple curves and angles and the fitting of various access points for vacuum tubes and various sensors. They are finding this bit tough going.

Until we have this complete and test bed driven no further work will be done on the car, you may imagine I am consumed with impatience.

Edited by saraphee

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Alfas with Japanese engines in Thailand? I guess this is for maintaining reasons?

Looking forward to see your car on the road again.

Edited by lotide

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