Project Elva: Figuring Out What We Have

We were a long, long way from a glorious return to Sebring. While our 1962 Elva Mk VI was largely all there, it was in horrendous condition.

First, it had been modified with many different engines, transmissions and braking systems over the years. Among the engines that had been forced into place—by bending or removing tubes—were most likely flat four Porsche or VW powerplants. We could tell because of the holes cut in the body’s decklid for vertically mounted velocity stacks. These holes, like so many others, had been badly patched over. Many of the modifications and repairs made to the body were done hastily, probably at events along the way.

While the frame seemed largely straight and rust free, the years had been hard on Elva MK VI #60//13. The body was even more deplorable, with every piece of fiberglass being butchered and or damaged. Finding white paint underneath the weathered red paint and the remains of where headlights had been installed for international racing at night, helped us quickly determine that both the body and chassis were original to the car and needed to be saved for an authentic restoration. A rebody was not in the cards. Thankfully, if you are willing to do the work yourself, fiberglass work, while messy, is relatively cheap and easy to do. Mechanically, the original engine and trans were long gone. We did receive a Coventry Climax fire pump engine with the car and what we thought was the original, early Hewland five-speed MK III gear set nestled in a swing axle VW Beetle case. Our super trick and expensive transaxle turned out to be nothing more than a battered Beetle transaxle.

And to really kick us while we were down, the early fire pump engine was largely useless, as they are difficult to convert into racing engines. In later years, the fire pump engine design was modified into an automotive engine and was used in Lotus Elites and a variety of sports racing cars. All the ancillaries surrounding the engine were also long gone. We had no intake manifolds, no Weber DCOE 40 carburetors, no charging system, or header and exhaust system. The windshield was broken, four 4” wide front Elva wheels and none of the 5” rear wheels that would have come on the car were present.

On the plus side, the original seats, steering wheel and column, most of the gauges, the dash, fuel tank and most of the unique cooling system did come with the car. The suspension and steering were also all intact. Sadly, the original inboard rear and outboard drum brakes were long replaced. None of the disc brake parts that came with the car were at all appropriate. The later cars were converted at the factory to disc brakes and many of the earlier cars were thus retrofitted, so we could be correct in using the production car front disc and rear inboard disc brakes if we wished. The brakes we got were too large for this car, however.

The final disappointment came when we realized that none of the bespoke pieces to mate the engine to the transmission, including flywheel, clutch, adaptor plate and bellhousing were present. They had been scrapped long ago, during one of the cars many engine swaps. So, while he had a real mess on our hands and a rather tough project ahead of us, we decided that, given its history, the car needed to be saved and we would get started.

While a bit beaten up, most of the original suspension, cooling system, shift linkage, and fuel cell were all included in the sale.

The original dash (with serial number in place), steering wheel and at least one original seat were included.

The correct style of engine (although not an automotive version) and VW transaxle were also included when we bought the Elva. The frame was also not rusty and was largely undamaged.

While none of the fiberglass body was missing, it was all badly damaged. We would later find out that the tail section (shown here) had been widened at some time in the car’s career to fit larger rear tires and wheels.

Speaking of wheels, we were blessed to find four original Elva-specified 4” wide wheels with the car. We would need to find the 5” wide rear wheels.

The distinctive shark like nose, reminiscent of Ferrari race cars of the period, was badly damaged too.

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californiamilleghia HalfDork
9/26/19 10:58 a.m.

Do you have any photos of one back in the day ?

Looks like a cool project , what motor are you planning on using ?

RoddyMac17 Reader
9/26/19 11:17 a.m.

Converting the motor to racing use is expensive, but it can be done.  The pump block needs boring to accept the FWA liners and pistons, and the center main cap should be machined flat to accept a steel strap.  It also requires two holes and fittings added to the manifold side of the block to allow an external oil filter.  The oil pump can either be replaced with an FWA unit or you can get the taller gears and machine a spacer.  The timing gear on the jackshaft needs replacing with a steel unit, the distributor drive gear should be replaced with a bronze gear (but the stock steel one will work).  The crank pulley will need replacing, along with the crankshaft, the pump crank is good to about 6k rpm but an FWA crank should really be used.  The rods need swapping out for either FWB rods or billet.  The flywheel needs replacing.  

The head is somewhat useless for racing use as the combustion chamber is the wrong shape.  You can shave the head to bring the compression up, but that requires shims under the cam carrier.  Also, if you use the pump head, you will need to weld on a mounting plate for the dynamo mount.

All in all, I would look for an FWB style pump if you're wanting to convert one.

I do have an FWA block (bare, no bearing caps, no liners) and an FWA head (bare, no valves, no springs, etc).  Both have been welded, and appear to have lead hard lives.  They can be yours for a small amount of beer tokens.

Billbagley New Reader
9/26/19 6:43 p.m.

Sent some pix, called an old guy, I am 82, said he tried to call U.  .’rebuffed.’ Was his statement. has one, I  guess looks the same. P.  Last I knew his still ran, well around his, I would call it, compound. 

Best I can do,

My current project involves your, Alfa, mine has ‘compression  181-183. 2 40dcoe.

 Interested in your next move, at 82 with my facility’s your suspension program, great. BUT.

Gotta find a big friendly lift.

good luck, u are doing a great job.


Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
9/26/19 7:03 p.m.

Oh boy! A new season of "Restoration Impossible" - Yay! smiley

slowbird HalfDork
9/26/19 7:31 p.m.

While you're at it, maybe you can make molds of it and start selling Elva replica bodies. laugh

Really cool project though.

mazdeuce - Seth
mazdeuce - Seth Mod Squad
9/26/19 7:44 p.m.

I can't wait to see the pictures of this coming apart and going back together. I'm glad that people still take on these projects and make them back into cars. 

ElvaRacingRoger New Reader
9/27/19 4:20 a.m.

Good to read that you are making some progress with the rebuild of Mk.VI 60/13 Tim, but a couple more corrections .. 

The cars do often have a hard life in the hands of various owners, some experienced and very technically competent, others the opposite!  Finding Climax engine expertise is far from difficult albeit at a cost, and parts not difficult either. Designer of the Mk.VI Keith Marsden did not believe that disc brakes on such a lightweight car were warranted and only one car was factory fitted with FRONT disc brakes, otherwise 9" & 10" Al-Fin drums were the norm.  Where did the comment of factory retro-fitting come from??  These would have been owners thinking discs would make the cars more efficient in braking.  Doubt it made any tangible difference.  As for being 'blessed' by having the original ELVA 15" magnesium wheels, treat with caution!  Some years ago I organised the remanufacture, via my company ELVA RACING, of a large batch of these wheels due to the deterioration of the originals.  All were sold to grateful owners.  I later sold the patterns and new wheels were offered Stateside by Lee Chapman. If you can find new wheels buy them, but the car will handle perfectly well on 4" rims all round with a capable driver.  Good luck with the rebuild and keep us in touch over the coming months. 

stroker PowerDork
9/23/22 4:11 p.m.

I hope GRM publishes some photos of the fully restored frame (rolling chassis) once it's been cleaned/welded and then painted/powdercoated before the process has gone too far.

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