Project Elva: Our Steering Wheel Gets Rebuilt

While we gather parts and pick away at the engine, transmission, body and frame, we are sending out various parts to experts to get restored and repaired.

One of the bright spots on our badly ravished project, however: The original steering wheel came with the car. How do we know it’s original? The age of the wheel itself, backed by period photos. 

While original, it was in rough condition. It was also wood-rimmed, which doesn’t cut it in today’s racing. 

Still, since we plan on entering a concours or two with this car before we race it, we wanted to save the original wheel.

Fortunately, we knew someone who could help: Sarto Rocheleau, who owns the company that makes the Knock Off Spinner Tool. He also collects and restores vintage steering wheels.

Previously, he restored the wheel for our Lotus Elan. As that wheel came out perfectly, we figured that he’d be perfect for the Elva wheel.

Here’s his report on our wheel:

The wheel arrived, and it had more delaminating than I expected. As I cleaned off the old finish, more splinters appeared. It may have had been exposed to water. 

I was able to sand down the metal spokes, thus removing most of the pitting. I glued the wood rim back the best I could and stained it to the color that was under the taped portion that held the wheel in place. I was able to stain the wood showing a worn patina, which I think has turned out pretty good. 

I'm now coating multiple coats of semi-gloss finish. It takes one day between sanding and re-coating.” 

As you can see from the pictures, Sarto has understated his abilities. We were very pleased at how well he was able to save this wheel. His price to restore a wheel is in the low hundreds, depending on size and condition. He can be reached at (707) 481-6700.

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View comments on the CMS forums
mrichlen New Reader
3/25/20 2:35 p.m.

Wow! that really came out nice.  I had not planned on restoring the steering wheel on my early 50's sports racer, but I may have to rethink a bit.  I plan on using the car for autocross (have to excercise it somehow) so I really should not use it.  My steering wheel is very similar to yours. 

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
3/26/20 7:28 a.m.

You might want to give Sarto a call. You guys know that we do almost everything ourselves here at the CMS workshop, but sometimes you need to kniow when to fold them, and send stuff out. This guy is really good at this. He only charges $200-300, as I remember, depending on the wheel.


noddaz UltraDork
3/26/20 6:47 p.m.

Very nice restoration!  And that leads me to ask, is there some sort of modern plastic (*GASP*) that can be used that looks like wood and therefore allow the car to be raced with that wheel?  Or is it better to race with a modern wheel and replace with the facory wheel for shows and such.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
3/27/20 4:50 p.m.

Different organizations have different rules, but for racing... wooden wheel = bad idea.

I would show the car with that wheel, or maybe run an exhibition, but if I were to get serious, I would switch to something else. Damned shame, as it is so lovely.

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