Figuring Out What We Really Have

Dec 22, 2015 update to the Lotus Elan project car

With the outside cleaned up a bit, the parts neatly laid out, and the interior cleaned up, what we have is still a mess.
The fact the car has a glove box door is odd, as Series 1 cars typically did not.
The hit to the left rear was bad enough to bend the frame, crack the left rear upright, bend the shock housing, rear A-frame and left rear axle.
The engine, transmission and original Weber carburetors were stored inside and seem complete right down to the generator and starter.

With the outside cleaned up a bit, the parts neatly laid out, and the interior cleaned up, what we have is still a mess.

On the outside, the car was originally bright red with silver bumpers. Someone repainted it black with gold bumpers—presumably in the mid ‘70s.

It has been left outside—again presumably from the late ‘70s—as there is a registration and insurance card in the glove box from 1978. The Michigan license plates on the car are from 1976. The fact the car has a glove box door is odd, as Series 1 cars typically did not. Since this is a late Series 1 car, we assume Lotus was beginning to add some Series 2 features when our car was produced.

The paint is so bad on the top surfaces that it is mostly gone, taking the gelcoat with it. There is mostly raw fiberglass showing on the hood and all over the top of the body.

The side surfaces are less damaged. The windshield is broken, as is the passenger side glass.

The top frame and window surrounds are present but damaged and rusty. The gauges are present, and not in bad shape. The wood in the steering wheel is absolutely toast.

The seats were bad. At some point snow had crushed the top after the frame rusted. They had to be taken out with a scoop. Even the frames are not salvageable.

The wire mesh that is bonded in and supports the body also has some areas that have rusted through. The interior door panels are also rubbish and were recovered in hideous green/gold velour sometime in the ‘70s. Awful shag carpeting was installed over the original vinyl flooring at the same time

As for body damage, it is extensive. The hit to the left rear was bad enough to bend the frame, crack the left rear upright, bend the shock housing, rear A-frame and left rear axle.

The entire trunk area and rear deck lid are missing. Oddly, the tail panel and lights are intact and in relatively good shape. The left rear wheel is bent beyond any practical repair.

Up front, the engine compartment is in relatively unscathed and unmolested condition with everything—save the addition of a tacky air horn. The radiator and air cleaner are missing. The grille and hood are present and the other three original wheels are present and seemingly unscathed. One of the original hubcaps is okay. One was so badly rusted that the chrome was intact, while the steel it was attached to, is totally gone.

The engine, transmission and original Weber carburetors were stored inside and seem complete right down to the generator and starter. We were told they were rebuilt, but the overall grease and grime on the engine do not help validate that claim.

Underneath, the floorpans are quite intact and the frame surprisingly does not appear to be rusty.

All in all, the situation is quite desperate. The smart move would be to quickly part the few remaining good parts and the drivetrain, make a tidy profit for our troubles and use that money to purchase a restorable Elan.

But that doesn’t make near as fun a story series, so we are going to move forward and begin to find the parts and expertise we need to restore this seemingly unrestorable late Series 1 Elan to concours condition.

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Reader comments:

dculberson
dculberson UberDork
Dec. 22, 2015 3:30 p.m.

You guys are completely insane.

oldeskewltoy
oldeskewltoy UltraDork
Dec. 22, 2015 5:12 p.m.

timing......

I was selling "for a friend"" a bunch of Lotus elan parts earlier this year.....

gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
Dec. 22, 2015 6:41 p.m.
Tim Suddard wrote: But that doesn’t make near as fun a story series, so we are going to move forward and begin to find the parts and expertise we need to restore this seemingly unrestorable late Series 1 Elan to concours condition.

Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. If it were mine, I'd be doing the same.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
Dec. 22, 2015 7:14 p.m.

This is officially my favorite thing in the magazine ever.

Dusterbd13
Dusterbd13 UberDork
Dec. 22, 2015 7:47 p.m.

You know it's British when the fiberglass rusts.

TRoglodyte
TRoglodyte SuperDork
Dec. 22, 2015 7:57 p.m.

Channel your inner Chapman, you know he's there.

frenchyd
frenchyd Reader
Dec. 23, 2015 8:41 a.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard: Bondo the body as straight as you can and use it to form the pattern for the molds to remake the Body. Only instead of chopped fiberglas make the body in carbon fiber. Do a hand layup of carbon fiber (Don't buy prepeg) and out-lighten Chapman.

AngryCorvair
AngryCorvair UltimaDork
Dec. 23, 2015 9:09 a.m.
Dusterbd13 wrote: You know it's British when the fiberglass leaks oil

That's the other way to tell.

T.J.
T.J. UltimaDork
Dec. 23, 2015 9:56 a.m.

That'll buff out.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
Dec. 23, 2015 10:19 a.m.

I think it's a goofy idea. You're basically going to restore a VIN. I think Chapman would have been too much of a pragmatist to go ahead with this.

TR8owner
TR8owner HalfDork
Dec. 23, 2015 9:48 p.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard:

You only get bragging rights if you turn a profit on this. You might get more profit just selling off the parts. But......whatever way it goes it will be an interesting read.

If you guys actually pull this off then I'll renew my subscription for sure.

CertifiedLotus
CertifiedLotus New Reader
Dec. 25, 2015 8:39 p.m.

I think your crazy trying to restore this car. It's too far gone. Salvage the parts that are worth it and find another S1 that is in need of restoration that you can use some of your salvaged parts. All that being said, I'm interested in seeing what you do with this car, despite the number of hours of labor and cost to make it right.

I'm on my second Elan restoration and I'm looking like a whimp compared to what your attempting to do. Good luck! Your seriously insane ;-)

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Dec. 26, 2015 5:21 a.m.

I got the car mostly disassembled yesterday. Honestly, it isn't that bad. Did I really just say that. I didn't break a single bolt. I had been having nightmares of breaking every bolt.

And so far, the frame doesn't seem that rusty. I am not sure, this is that much tougher than the Mini or the Tornado.

wheelsmithy
wheelsmithy HalfDork
Dec. 26, 2015 7:10 a.m.

I am watching intently. The fact that people keep saying it can't/ shouldn't be done makes the anticipation all the sweeter. Climb your everest, Sir. Thanks for taking pictures so we can come along.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Dec. 30, 2015 6:57 a.m.

We took the body (parts) to Blast Masters and began scraping and then soda blasting the old paint off the body.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Dec. 30, 2015 6:58 a.m.

And somehow, the underside of the car and frame had virtually no rust. I can't believe I got the whole car apart with only a couple of fasteners that had to be drilled out and retapped.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
Jan. 4, 2016 10:03 p.m.

When people ask me why I want to restore my 1800ES, I shall now show them this thread. "One Wheel in the Crusher"

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
Jan. 5, 2016 9:30 a.m.

Done a couple of Lazarus projects and I confess to getting something out of them. But mostly what I have gotten out of them is the urge to do any more out of my system.

What I retain of value from the exercise is the skills and confidence to do just about anything when it comes to a car project. And one hell of a tool arsenal. And don't discount the grapevine that comes from doing such projects.

The Molvo makes no more sense than this Lotus effort, yet I am having a lot of fun. I will take a break in the spring to do the tin work on this cherished MGB just because I like to push my limits. All it needs is two rear quarters, a bonnet two front fenders and a trunk lid and front and rear aprons. And a light frame pull.

By the way...the owner no longer endorses the use of a rollbar in a car where you do not wear a helmet.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
Jan. 5, 2016 9:55 a.m.

The Molvo is creating a car that did not previously exist. Selling it for parts and buying a better candidate wasn't really an option.

When you do the MG fix, are you going to upgrade the chassis at all? From what I remember, there are some relatively simple things you can do such as weld in a vertical piece of box in front of the doors.

Rupert
Rupert Dork
Jan. 5, 2016 10:22 a.m.

In reply to NOHOME:

Got your bell rung! I did the same thing in my rally setup 240Z!

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
Jan. 5, 2016 11:15 a.m.
When you do the MG fix, are you going to upgrade the chassis at all? From what I remember, there are some relatively simple things you can do such as weld in a vertical piece of box in front of the doors.

Not my car, (or bell that got rung) just helping a guy out who has a lot of sentimental attachment to the car. Its an Australian built MGB and it has seen a big chunk of the world during the owner's military career. I seem to have a soft spot for guys who go to war on my behalf! The Bugeye was another case in point.

But to the brace point, "Frog Arms" for the MGB, might be a concept!

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner MegaDork
Jan. 5, 2016 11:19 a.m.

Ah, here's what I'm thinking of: http://www.britishv8.org/articles/britishmotorheritage-competition.htm

NOHOME
NOHOME PowerDork
Jan. 5, 2016 12:03 p.m.
Keith Tanner wrote: Ah, here's what I'm thinking of: http://www.britishv8.org/articles/britishmotorheritage-competition.htm

Got it. I had seen that before. As I try to avoid project creep in any project, I wont even mention this stuff to the owner.

And by the way, the Molvo is really just a floor-pan repair panel in my estimation!

Lotus14
Lotus14 None
April 14, 2017 9:32 p.m.

I have a very early Series 1 car (Bourne Body) which I'm restoring also. I have the glove box door too, so it might be earlier than you think. If interested I have a very dirty copy of the original illustrated parts list; if you feel like you would like a copy for your restoration, I'll try to scan it. My car was a "Kit" car, Lotus Components I.D. plate, so the manual has what could be called assembly instructions... similar to the early Elite (I have one of those too). You also might also look to the UK for parts...you can just about build a complete car from suppliers there.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
April 26, 2017 7:07 a.m.

Lotus 14. Thanks, but I already have that parts list.

wannacruise
wannacruise New Reader
April 26, 2017 8:07 a.m.

From Keith Tanner:"Ah, here's what I'm thinking of: http://www.britishv8.org/articles/britishmotorheritage-competition.htm"

A friend of mine bought one of those MGB bodies about 2 years ago. In the process of his rebuild he found it to be a very good copy and nicely built.

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