Restoration Impossible: A Look Inside the Elan’s Engine

Jan 20, 2016 update to the Lotus Elan project car

With the cam cover off, Twin Cam Sportscars' Steve Smith determines the cams are to Sprint spec and are in great condition.
Your author—at left—removes a pulley while Steve continues to inspect every part removed from the engine.

With some other projects nearly done and a bit of time off at Christmas, it was time to actively get started on our project Lotus Elan.

We decided to start by taking our engine and transmission to Twin Cam Sportscars.

Noted Lotus expert and shop proprietor Steve Smith had come very well recommend and agreed to teach us a few things about Lotus twin cam engines that we can use in our magazine story series which will start shortly.

When we had bought the car, we were told that the engine had been rebuilt. But we were suspicious, as the entire engine was covered in grime and some ugly yellow paint.

When we pulled the engine apart we were pleasantly surprised. While the bore was still stock, the main bearings and crank were “ten under” and everything was in very good condition. The only red flag being the piston-to-ring clearance was in excess of what Steve was comfortable.

The cams had also been changed to the more desirable Sprint spec.

All in all, nothing was really damaged, and except for incorrect torque specs, the engine had been rebuilt and apparently it had been done pretty well.

Steve’s advice was to move to the later 125E rods, freshen everything up, get some new pistons and rings, and then we would be in great shape with a hot street engine that would make about 125 horsepower.

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Reader comments:

Jerry From LA
Jan. 20, 2016 11:41 a.m.

Those cams run in tiny little shell bearings, yes?

jr02518
jr02518 Reader
Jan. 20, 2016 12:46 p.m.

Are you going to update the water pump? Now might be the right time.

CarLava
CarLava New Reader
Jan. 26, 2016 9:35 p.m.

good thing most of the parts are still in a good condition

gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
Jan. 27, 2016 6:32 a.m.
Jerry From LA wrote: Those cams run in tiny little shell bearings, yes?

Yes

roblamoreaux
March 9, 2016 1:47 p.m.

JE pistons are great. I had 20 over ones in the engine that got hit by the right hand corner oil pickup problem. Also if you want to really get it breathing, John McCoy at Omnitech Engineering has an excellent high lift cam grind and porting that can give around 150hp@7,000 while still being nice on the street and autocross.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
March 10, 2016 5:53 a.m.

roblamoreaux - the engine had SE spec cams in it that were in good shape, so we kept them. The engine is now all rebuilt, as is the transmission.

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