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S3 renovation

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Hi Richard,

Esprit came first - bought from that nice Mr Matty @ the Lotus Donnington show in 97 - Elise followed in 2001 and is my daily driver - now on 120k miles - still running brilliantly - and I love it to bits :)

I've not driven an n/a - I quite fancy an S1, or S2 one day - but I have looked at a few n/a S3s with acquisitive thoughts - but, no, I mustn't... :)

Well - I was pondering on this earlier this year whilst car was at SJs - I'd always planned on getting everything colour coded - really glad I didn't. I think it was seeing pics of Dodgy's Silver S3 Turbo that made the decision for me...

I posted a thread over here whhich probably explains...

Should I Spray, or Should I Go - How Original?

Oh - and, yes - more muscular/aggressive IMHO :)

I bought mine in 96 and the elise in 98. I only bought it because I managed to con my way onto a really short waiting list (was 18 months at one point - I got it in 3!) and then forgot to sell it....

That thread crystalises a load of the thought processes I have gone through. I think you can colour code the turbo, as the skirts and the rest of the extra bodywork hold the effect well, but to my mind, the effect on a N/A seems to say 'wannabe'. I feel now that colour coding the bumpers dilutes the muscular/aggressive look of the S3. So thanks for that Iain, I'm crystallised now :)

Out with the WD40 for the bumper bolts, I think

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Yeah, not that I'm a fashion victim - but this year Black seems to be the new 'colour coded' - IYSWIM :)

Hmmm - actually - may not be that daft the more I think about it....

Fashions go in cycles - and with 70's, early '80s stuff coming back into fashion perhaps 'G' cars with Black Bumpers are going to be 'the' automotive fashion statement of summer '07 :yes :):)


"... the Lotus Turbo (Esprit) owner will not only be comfortable in fast company, but will find, more often than not, that he has no company at all!" Road and Track magazine

1983 Turbo Esprit - Silver - 'Lottie' Featured in Classic and Sportscar Aug 2008 and Wheeler Dealers.

1999 Elise - Norfolk Mustard - 'Liz' Daily driver - 221,000 miles and counting!

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Yeah - what Si has managed to do with Spraycans is simply stunning - as we witnessed at Supercar Sunday... :)

"... the Lotus Turbo (Esprit) owner will not only be comfortable in fast company, but will find, more often than not, that he has no company at all!" Road and Track magazine

1983 Turbo Esprit - Silver - 'Lottie' Featured in Classic and Sportscar Aug 2008 and Wheeler Dealers.

1999 Elise - Norfolk Mustard - 'Liz' Daily driver - 221,000 miles and counting!

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Its managed to dump the contents of its gearbox over the garage floor by way of a thank you. The washer seems to have perished.

What gearbox oil do you generally favour, and whats the oil capacity of the box?

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As I mentioned, the gearbox had dumped the remains of the oil after its maiden run back from the MoT, and thats why I replaced the drain plug and washers. Well, last night, after filling it, I could see where the leak was coming from and it wasn't from the plug - although thats where the leak was dripping from. There are two bolts that attach the exhaust mounting to the gearbox. Both of mine were loose - I mean, ready to fall out loose. And thats where my leak was coming from. I tightened them up and I'm now back to the small oil teardrop on the bottom of the drain plug, which as Mat says, TADTS....

I'm doing some more stuff on her this weekend. I seem to have picked up a nasty habit of spending money at Machine Mart, so I guess its about time I put some of my shiny new stuff to good use :wallbash:

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This weekend I decided to get some basic cleaning and servicing stuff done. So I armed myself with my new creeper, wire brushes and goggles. I forgot to take some of the 'before' shots so bear with me. I'll describe it as caked-on layer of silt like mud (we lived at the end of a half mile long track when this car was last used - so you can imagine the state of the underneath), which then gave way to good old flaky rust. You can get a good idea of the 'before' from this picture - the gear selection shaft has been left alone here, but all the steel looked like this rod.


So I stuck the car up on stands, and to my disgust, found that my trolley jack doesn't have enough lift to get the car onto my nice shiny new axle stands. Bah - back to the old faithfuls then. A word to anyone contemplating a bit of esprit DIY, get as tall a lift as you can afford - 500mm is good. Still - for my next trip to Machine Mart (mmmmm....bench grinders) perhaps I can get a newer trolley jack.

I hit each side as best I could with a wire brush in a drill which got rid of the silt, and once that had gone, I set about getting the rust off the steel bits and cleaning up the hub carriers. Once I had finished each of the parts (the top links are real fun to get to) I sprayed WD40 on the suspension bolts, as I have an idea that I want them all to come off to replace the bushings and rear springs in the near future. According to my documents, the shocks were fitted in 2000, and look to be ok.


I noticed that the chassis is finished in a sort of a rubberised paint which is flaking off in places, but amazingly, a quick wipe with a wd40 impregnated rag blings it up a treat. Look at the picture for an example. This is going to set the schedule for next weekend's work - now its all cleaner, I can get a clearer idea of what I want to do. Was this a factory finish?


So that was all day Saturday. On Sunday, I thought I'd limit myself to changing the air filter and changing the oil and filter. A couple of hours at the outside I figured.

Wrong. First of all to get to the oil filter, you need to take off the airbox. Mine seemed to be held on by one catch and the other three seemed to be broken. An hour to fix them. Then I took the rest of the airbox off. Some bodger hadn't put the top left hand bolt in...(I know why now....) so I spent another hour doing that 'lego box' thing you do with a box of nuts and bolts trying to find a match. Anyway - it was getting on for three hours before I was ready to start changing the oil. The sump plug looked a bit worse for wear, so I used an adjustable spanner, the sockets didn't sit right on it. So while the oil was draining out, I figured I'd use my new tool to get the oil filter off. Another hour later, wrestling with a tool that is supposed to make life easier, I decided that it was a pile of poo, and that a chain wrench would have done it quicker. Actually, smashing a big screwdriver through it and turning it that way worked best for me, and it was all over in 1 minute. So if you are tempted by this pile of poo, don't bother. I'm sure its fine on a Ford Pubic [0] or something but its not a tool for the esprit...


On went the oil filter, and in went 6.5 litres of the finest cheap stuff money can buy (I plan on another oil change in 500 miles or so to get rid of the crud). Then, as they say, refitting is the reverse of the dismantling process. Ah. This was where I got to find out why I was missing a nut and bolt off the carbs. The top left airbox nut and bolt required the 10 inch quad-knuckled fingers, and it took me the best part of an hour to achieve. In the end a bit of grease on the end of my finger held the nut.

I was hampered by the fact that I still haven't managed to get the remaining bit of engine cover off, as all my rawlnuts have started spinning in their mountings.

I cleaned up the airbox a bit and refitted it.


Anyway - it took me all day just to do what I figured was an hour's work. I'm learning that you multiply your initial estimate by four, and then double that to account for Sod's law. The oil that came out is the foulest muck you could wish for. I'm glad I wasn't planning on using that for much longer. She sounds a lot less top-endy now (hardly surprising as there were 2.5 litres missing from the sump by my reckoning) but the carbs are certainly out of balance, so I'm going to have to learn a new trick or two.


Next week (maybe this week, who knows) I'm going to clean the rest of the chassis in the engine cradle and the front suspension is going to get the same treatment. Then, once I can figure out how to get the rest of the engine cover off, its the timing belt.

[0] Made out of old corsairs....Boom boom. Get it Mr Derek?

Edited by RichardS3
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Looking really nice. Can you get to Nick Whale with the NMEG guys later this month? Love to see the car. Also CD of sounds on its way to you this week, hadn't forgotten our messages, just been really busy.




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Nice pics - takes me back three years. I wore leather gloves after 1 sec with a wire wheel.... :(

ps - note the damaged brake line. I asked my mechanic what is after the canvas coating and he said 'fluid'.



Edited by iainskea
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well for gearbox oil you culd go up a grade in terms of looking after the gearbox, i spoke with guy at opie oils about using either redline mt90 or royal purple in my gearbox, the redline mt 90 is designed to improve gearbox performance and at the same time make gearchanges better and to take the notchiness and crunching away, i used it on my old fairlady as there was slight noize frome the 16 year old gearbox, i dropped the oil and refilled with that stuff and after a day or so driving the oil had got to work, no noise, crunching or anything, changes felt smoother also. as for royal purple its very expensive but it does what its supposed to and your gearbox will feel totally different, you can get it fr the engine also, and it claims to help imprve fuel economy and efficiency in the engine, how i dont know, but many users of the stuff have agreed that it does.

when i change my gearbox oil im going to go with the redline mt90 first, the one ofter that will be the ryal purple and i will then stay with that, i may use ryal purple for the next engine oil change also.

on another note, if your feeling really bored you could take the dampers and springs off and clean them up and paint them :(

Edited by bigsi
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on another note, if your feeling really bored you could take the dampers and springs off and clean them up and paint them :w00t:

Paint the springs? Don't think I didn't think about it :P A slippery slope, this cleaning lark...

I thought they had to be powder coated to cope with the flexing? You suggesting I can hammerite them? <wind-up>

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Good progress Richard,

Ah the slippery slope is starting to happen, you will soon be cleaning and painting

everthing :P which is a great thing as your car is looking a lot better for it!

Good luck with the rolling restoration and keep the pics coming

regards danny :w00t:


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  • 3 months later...

About that slippery slope everyone keeps on about...

I changed the cam belt, and that was all fine, back in July, and then work got in the way. I've been grabbing an hour here and there to tidy stuff up underneath over the alleged summer, and noticed a couple of things that disturbed me. First of all I'm missing an exhaust manifold stud, secondly my water pump looks to be weeping, and thirdly, my fuel pump replacement has a leak at the unions that doesn't seem to be cured by nipping it up. Cough - olives.

Add to that, I still need to change the belt tensioner pulley, install my new fuel tanks, clean the stuff I can't normally get to and generally overhaul the fuel system with new pipes and you can see the inevitable conclusion I've reached, and thats that the engine has to come out. Its for my own peace of mind more than anything, so I was wondering, has anyone done a guide to the best and quickest way to get the engine out?

Ideally, I want to get this done over one or two weekends - I really do not want it to turn into one of those year-long things.....

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I have seen a guide somewhere , can't remember where though.

I could knock something up, but there are quite a few permutations depending on what car you have (ie S1/S2, S3, turbo, carbs, Bosch EFi), but fundamentally they are all the same.

If it helps I could try and get something written over the next few days.

Getting the engine out, doing the work and back in again in a single weekend will be a challange if you haven't done it before, more like a 2 weekend job.

For an 1981 - 1986 S3 the basics go something like this: -

Remove tailgate

Take out battery

Take off engine covers

Remove air box

Remove exhaust

Disconnect wiring

Disconnect fuel lines

Disconnect gear linkage

Disconnect oil cooler

Disconnect coolant pipes

Disconnect clutch slave cylinder hose

Unhook driveshafts from gearbox

Remove brake discs (helps clearance past the chassis)

Remove chassis cross member

Have a cup of tea

Undo engine and gearbox mount bolts

Whip out engine and gearbox

Pat self on back

Jobs a good'un :D


Edited by hilly

1981 S3 4.2 V8 6 speed (The Mutant)

Mutant V8 Conversion Thread

Knowledge is power .................... apparently.


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Cheers, Hilly. I'll photograph it all as I go along, maybe a joint wiki document beckons....

'Unhook drive shafts from gearbox'

That involves unbolting stuff, right - is that what Shane had - cough - issues with on his? I've been out with the WD40 again. Hose clips, exhaust bolts - they've all had a dose, and they'll be getting more over the coming week.

I'm planning on starting it this weekend, so that I'll at least be able to say its in a position to come out by the sunday. Of course, changing the oil took the best part of an afternoon, so I'm not banking on that...

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'Unhook drive shafts from gearbox'

That involves unbolting stuff, right - is that what Shane had - cough - issues with on his? I've been out with the WD40 again. Hose clips, exhaust bolts - they've all had a dose, and they'll be getting more over the coming week.

Yeah, the hex bolt on the drive shafts have a habit of being a bit tight.

I have a 1/2" drive hex key set which shifts them no problems, a 8mm Allen key may bend a bit though.

The tip with the hex bolts is to put the driver in and then give it a whack with a hammers ast this does 2 things.

1) it potentionally shocks the bolt loose a little

2) More importantly it knocks the crud/rust out of the way to allow the allen head to fully engage in the bolt otherwise you make end up knackering the bolt head.


1981 S3 4.2 V8 6 speed (The Mutant)

Mutant V8 Conversion Thread

Knowledge is power .................... apparently.


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  • 2 years later...

Oh look - it has been a while, but life tends to get in the way of cars, doesn't it. Checklist below....

Insurance - check

MoT - check

Taxed for 6 months - check

New cambelt and tensioner - check

New fuel lines - check

Mouse nest removed from NS headlamp - check

New horn & wiring to replace original used by mouse for above - check

Collect from Strattons - check

Drive 10 miles and have OSF tyre blow exiting a roundabout (additional nasal education thrown in - I now know what adrenaline smells like) - check

Find spare too flat to put on car - check

Find wheelbrace is the wrong size - check

Find jack missing it's handle - check

Side-of-road improvision exercise - check (aren't people helpful to Lotus drivers in distress?)

Two new front tyres, valves and proper balance - check

Drive remainder of A140 in a state of mild panic and heightened sensitivity, having forgotten the 1970's brakes, the smells, and electrics - check

Grin on face after this tumultuous day as I opened her up on the A14 - priceless.

50 miles in 10 years. I think that is going to change in very short order, lads.

Things I've noticed - carbs need a balance, electric washer motor keeps going off randomly (lucas, prince of darkness making his presence felt), my sunvisors have perished (how does that happen?) and my handbrake light switch needs adusting. Apart from that, wheeeee!

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Well done- very similar to my situation.

I have an S3 n/a too thats been off the road 5 years, cam belt 10 years,

needs an MOT, trouble doing the oil change and I want to spray the currently

colour coded bumpers black with no explanation as to why I think it would look

better- I just have to do it!!

I also have an urge to fit S1 X19 rear lights as my SD1s

are worse for wear- is it possible (I'm going to Beauleau Autojumble next weekend

and can visualize finding a pair for a fiver!)


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Mark, you just have to set to and do it.... :construction:

So, I'm back to where I wanted to be 3 years ago - taxed, MoT and on the road. I decided to bite the bullet today and sort out the lumpy idle. Pulled plugs 3 and 4 with the engine running. No effect. This was the point where panic set in - I had visions of internal damage. I settled my nerves with a quick bit of retail therapy. One compression tester later, I pulled the plugs and did the test. This is the one time in my life I wished I had a remote starter button in the engine bay :)

Panic over - results were 181, 183, 184 and another 183. S'okay enough isn't it?

Compression test ruled out internal issues causing the lumpy idle, so next suspect was the carbs. Stone me, one carb had an airflow that was 20% of the other one. I figured it couldn't hurt to introduce the idle jets to the compressed air and carb cleaner. A quick twiddle and bingo, an idle that would grace an EFI engine. Well, like to think so, anyway....

That was a couple hours well spent, so I went for a short test drive. I thought, maybe 15 or so - a quick blast to Felixstowe and back.....I got a bit carried away - 105 miles in the end. So much better in traffic, tractable and very usable.

I'm getting there. Next, I have to do something with my disintegrating sunvisor, a cooling system overhaul and return the bumpers to their natural colour. Running out of summer, though....!

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That sounds very satisfying indeed.

What are you going to do with the cooling system?

The end of the summer is a shame, but if you have a garage with light and a thick jumper, I'm sure you can make progress still. Its a time for those 'non-rolling' projects to be done eg suspension etc.

"Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them." Albert Einstein

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Yes it is satisfying. Each improvement brings it closer to how it was the day I got it. Wasn't perfect then, but sound. It isn't perfect now, but still sound :)

I was figuring on a new rad, new hoses - possibly a new water pump. I know their provenance in that I haven't touched them in 13 years, so a bit of preventative maintenance will be a good thing. Same with the suspension, I think - new bushes all round....

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  • 1 year later...

At the end of last year, two thieving be-hooded ragbags tried to steal the Esprit. They failed, thankfully (I leave the battery disconnected) but their ingress left me with a bent driver's door frame, and broken door glass.

That wasn't the whole story though. Once inside, they attempted the old 'wrench-the-wheel-to-break-the-steering-lock' trick and instead of the steering lock breaking like it might on your average 80's Ford, the steering wheel parted company with the column [*]. They actually managed to shear the splines off the top of the column! I'm not sure what this says about those components, but...

It comes back tomorrow, new steering column, new door frame/glass and a new master cylinder.

[*] This is the bit that I would have sold my firstborn to have seen

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Guest allgoodpeter

Don't you just wish at times like that that your car was "Burglar Protected" as per Mr Bond's. A bit of a pyrrhic victory I suppose but it'd be worth it to rid the world of these scumbags. Two nights ago and uncomfortably close to my home six cars torched in half an hour.

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