How To Straighten a lotus Elan Frame

Jun 14, 2017 update to the Lotus Elan project car

Notice we are writing numbers down right on our frame so we can easily measure again when we lay the new frame pieces in place.
Detail of the rear frame damage. We used heat and a hammer and dolly set to get this section perfect again.
At the end of the day we had a complete Lotus Elan frame.

Next on our list of to-do items on our project Lotus Elan is figuring out how to repair the frame. The quick and easy—if not cheap—way to do this would be to purchase a new frame. However, our stated goal was to keep as much of the original car as possible, so we opted not to just replace the frame.

Once we really looked our original frame over, it became obvious that while it wasn’t really rusty, it was badly bent.

As we were collecting parts for this project we were lucky enough to obtain two additional Lotus Elan frames for little or no money.

Since Lotus originally sold replacement parts for these frames—as well as dimensions to be used for frame repair—we decided we would combine the best of the three frames to make a perfect one.

While carefully drilling out spot welds is tedious, it costs nothing and is a perfectly acceptable way to repair a frame. You just have to carefully measure and recheck your measurements as you go.

We took the front uprights off of one frame and added it to the center section of another. We then used pieces of our original frame to repair some slight damage at the rear of the primary frame we would be using.

While a Lotus frame is considered a subframe and not really a separate component to the body, the frame is marked with a serial number. We made sure we kept the section of the our original frame with that serial number, not to deceive, but to keep the car as original as we could.

This also prevents someone later on from claiming our serial number. While not yet a problem in the Lotus community, on more valuable cars like Cobras and Ferraris this situation has led to problems.

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Reader comments:

gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
June 14, 2017 2:00 p.m.

Absolutely, it's the right way to do it.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
June 15, 2017 2:54 p.m.

I'm enjoying being wrong immensely.

jr02518
jr02518 Reader
June 15, 2017 9:18 p.m.

Tim,

Isn't there something about the front box section of the frame and holding a vacuum to keep the head lights up when in use? The series one cars are different than the later cars.

David

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
June 17, 2017 6:28 a.m.

jr02518,

Yes, absolutely, the front cross member holds the vacuum for the headlights and cannot have any holds in it.

wheelsmithy
June 17, 2017 8:09 a.m.
Tim Suddard wrote: jr02518, Yes, absolutely, the front cross member holds the vacuum for the headlights and cannot have any holds in it.

Freaky. Efficient, but freaky.

stu67tiger
stu67tiger Reader
June 17, 2017 11:28 a.m.

Was it the old "birdcage" Maserati that had the tubes in its tube frame all pneumatically interconnected, and pressurized, so that if a crack developed somewhere, the pressure would drop and the driver would be warned? Well, if you start to have problems with the headlights drooping... A safety feature, but intentional or unintentional?

Stu

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