Panic Ensues as We Meet Another Impossible Deadline With Our Project Lotus

For the third (and last) time, we have agreed to have a car on the field at the Amelia Island Concours before starting to restore it.

The two previous times we agreed to this folly, we had less than a year to do ground-up restorations, working mostly nights and weekends. The first was a Group 44 Racing Triumph GT6, followed by a Tornado Typhoon that event founder Bill Warner asked us to bring when fiberglass specials were featured.

This time we would be smart. We would give ourselves an extra six months of leisure time to finish recreating the Lotus Elan that we found broken in half in a northern Michigan field, where it had rotted away for nearly forty years.

In every restoration, there are a few inevitable truths.

First, things will take longer than you think. If you had told us two years ago that it would take nearly half a day to properly refit the glove box door (a job that seems like it should take five to ten minutes), we would have said you were crazy. Today, we would tell you differently.

Another truth is that things will always go wrong. The old saying “two steps forward, one step back” is never more true than in car restoration.

As of this writing, the big event is just three weeks away. Two weeks ago, the car was nearly done. Then, while trying to force ill-fitting reproduction molding around the back of the cockpit, we noticed a six-inch-long crack in the paint on top of the bulkhead.

Unbelievable! We would have to repaint the entire rear half of the car.

We quickly took apart much of what we had lovingly spent the last few weeks assembling and rushed the car back to the paint shop.

After much begging, bribing, and overtime, we got the car back after just a few days and spent the better part of a Sunday hurriedly putting the Elan back together.

While this crisis was averted, we have no room for further error. If just one more thing goes wrong, or we need one more part, we’ll miss the field at this year’s Amelia Island event.

So what does it matter?

Compared to eradicating disease or ending world hunger, none of this matters. But this is an important event in our world, and we are going to make sure there’s no empty spot on the lawn where our car should be.

It’s a great honor to have a car invited to the Amelia Island Concours and, frankly, it is a pretty darned cool way to spend a weekend. Entrants receive VIP treatment, and having thousands of people admire your work provides quite a bit of vindication.

And then, of course, in the rare instance you should win an award, the trip through the grandstands into the winner’s circle is something no car enthusiast will ever forget.

So Why Put Yourself Through This Stress?

We could argue that magazine deadlines require a rigorous schedule similar to restoring a car in months instead of years.

While partly true, the larger truth is that our personal weaknesses require this schedule.

Car restoration is arduous and laborious. There are many nights and weekends when going out in the boat, hanging with family, or just binge-watching TV are more attractive.

Without a deadline, either real or imagined, it’s easy to slack off and leave your project unloved and unfinished.

So How Does This Story End?

Come hell or high water, we’ll get the car done in the next couple of weeks and have the car on the field at Amelia.

If history has taught us anything, we’ll be so frazzled and tired that we won’t enjoy the experience as much as we should.

And after swearing that we’ll never do it again, we’ll most likely dive into the next project, throwing caution and common sense to the wind once more.

We’ll tell you how it all turned out in the next issue. For more immediate updates, check out the many, many posts on our website as we document every part of the restoration.

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View comments on the CMS forums
gjz30075 HalfDork
3/1/18 6:46 a.m.

AGGHH!!     I'd be worried that more cracks might surface.     If you miss Amelia, you'll have it at the Mitty, right?

Rhodyspit75 New Reader
3/1/18 7:32 a.m.

Keep plugging away Tim, I’ll be looking for it on the field a week from Sunday.  I’m sure it will be as nice as the ones you have done in the past.  Ernie 

wschaub New Reader
3/5/18 5:04 p.m.

Looks great and you have now left my restoration in the dust although I am targeting Log 38 in August.  Nice work.

Dirtydog HalfDork
3/5/18 8:39 p.m.

Nice work.  When I first saw this, I was unsure of the blue.   Now that it is coming together, I like it.  

Just be careful with that assortment of hammers around the car.........Ask me how I know.

JoeTR6 HalfDork
3/6/18 11:40 a.m.

Wow, that is turning out nice.  Good luck with the schedule.  Deadlines are a bitch.

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
3/6/18 7:47 p.m.

Did you ever figure out what caused the crack?

Danny Shields
Danny Shields Reader
3/7/18 5:33 a.m.

A well-placed Classic Motorsports sticker should take care of the paint cracking.  wink

The car looks great in the photos. Amazing project! Looking forward to seeing it on the fairway.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
3/7/18 5:51 a.m.

We do have it done and it is parked at a reader's house right near Amelia.

When we were doing a lot of the body work it was mid summer here in August and we are wondering if humidity and some bad filler caused the problem. It seems to be perfect now.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
3/7/18 5:52 a.m.

And yes, we have every intention of the Classic Motorsports Mitty being the second place we show the Lotus!

4/26/21 9:57 a.m.

Thank you for posting this incredible guide to the Elan. I decided I'm not up for it and had to post my similar find on Bring a Trailer. What a great car and project. I wish the new owner of mine good luck - I'm sure they will rely on this guide and your recommendations to speed the recovery! 

No Reserve: 1965 Lotus Elan S2 Project for sale on BaT Auctions - ending April 29 (Lot #47,077) | Bring a Trailer

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