Restoration Impossible: Rebuilding the Front Suspension

Sep 1, 2017 update to the Lotus Elan project car

Here you see the front suspension complete and the engine installed.
We removed old bushings and installed new ones with a hydraulic press.
Our front end components after being crack-checked, painted with Eastwood Chassis Black and prepared for reassembly with new bushings and bearings from R.D.Enterprises.
There is no better feeling in a restoration than when you start bolting clean, restored parts back onto the car.
Our car came with Koni shocks (not originally), so we asked the folks at Koni, who we know well, to look them over and see if they were good.

We will dedicate more space and photos to the front suspension in the print version of Classic Motorsports. In the meantime, we cleaned, media blasted, straightened, and crack-checked every component before painting most of the parts with Eastwood Chassis Black paint. From there we assembled the front suspension with new wheel bearings, trunnion bushings and hardware—most of which we acquired from R.D. Enterprises.

We sent our original shocks back to Koni, who generously tested and refurbished them. These shocks, date coded from the early 1970s, were still in surprisingly good shape.

We went through the front brake calipers, as we did the rears (explained in this update) and rebuilt the steering rack That entailed disassembling, cleaning, checking for defects or wear (there were no problems), and then painting, lubricating and reassembled the steering rack.


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Reader comments:

gjz30075
gjz30075 HalfDork
Sept. 1, 2017 4:12 p.m.

In reply to Tim Suddard:

Tim, a fantastic resto and I hope to see it at Amelia next year.

A bit of a deviation from stock: shouldn't the oil pump be a cannister type and not the spin on type? Just a nit. Thanks.

Stefan
Stefan MegaDork
Sept. 1, 2017 5:23 p.m.

Also, I'm concerned about the use of a Fram filter, they aren't known to be well constructed. Often Fram filters tend to cause oiling issues on many engines.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Sept. 2, 2017 6:27 a.m.

We will change the filter once we run in the engine.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
Sept. 2, 2017 7:00 a.m.

Maybe it's just the way you're documenting the process, but it seems like this car hasn't been quite as "impossible" as you originally thought it would be.

I find it amazing those uprights were still usable after 40+ years of sitting in a upper mid-western field.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Sept. 4, 2017 2:58 p.m.

Ian,

I am not sure what is impossible anymore. Got most of the running lights done today. I feel like the project hasn't been that difficult, but then I look back at photos of what I started with and just shudder.

Ian F
Ian F MegaDork
Sept. 4, 2017 3:26 p.m.

Oh yeah. I remember when I first saw the field photos, I thought you were nuts.

But a restoration like this gives me hope my ES isn't a totally lost cause.

Woody
Woody MegaDork
Sept. 4, 2017 3:38 p.m.

How the heck do you compress those cool springs?

Jerry From LA
Jerry From LA SuperDork
Sept. 6, 2017 6:04 p.m.
Tim Suddard said:

We will change the filter once we run in the engine.

....and replace it with a WIX, winner of the 1985 (or 6 or 7) GRM Oil Filter Challenge.

dherr
dherr Reader
Sept. 7, 2017 3:26 p.m.

Awesome job Tim, not unexpected seeing what you guys have done in the past, but considering the condition of this Elan and where you have taken it, it has been really great to watch it all come together.

So Koni really will recondition old shocks back to original condition as part of the lifetime warranty? My latest project has new Koni shocks on it, but it sat for 35 years in a garage so would love to have them check them out before I use them on my current build. Shocks are cosmetically in fine condition all things considered, but internally I have no idea. I am pretty sure they were installed but never driven on the road.

Ransom
Ransom PowerDork
Sept. 7, 2017 3:33 p.m.

In reply to dherr :

My understanding from the recent GRM Live interview is that they'll rebuild them, but that's not really a warranty thing if they're worn out/ancient, and that unless they're something unavailable any more or need custom valving, it's cheaper to buy replacements.

I'm not precisely sure how to interpret the "generously" or "tested and refurbished" bits above; sounds like maybe they were able to verify them functional and shoot them with some fresh paint? You'd think they'd need seals, but I've got no idea. Hopefully Irma dies out fast and Tim can give a real answer soon...

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
Sept. 27, 2017 9:56 p.m.

Good questions. We got through Irma and I am on the way to the SCCA Runoffs. Koni no longer rebuilds shocks for the public. This is now handled through their service centers.

Thankfully, mine tested out very well. because they no longer have all the parts for these old style shocks. Still, it was nice to confirm that they were working and things cleaned and checked and new parts installed, where still available.

roblamoreaux
roblamoreaux New Reader
Oct. 3, 2017 3:39 p.m.

I tried outing a WIX filter on my Elan once. A complete waste of money. It was so poorly constructed that the outer rubber seal did not seat, making it unuseable. Either that or all their literature had the wrong filter for Ford kent engines.

Sure Fram has some cheap filter, but they also make some pretty decent ones if you pay more money. I generally buy based on features not brand.

roblamoreaux
roblamoreaux New Reader
Oct. 3, 2017 3:43 p.m.

In reply to Woody:

I don't know how TIm did it, but I have a very nice tool I got from a guy in Chicago who was retiring and selling his tools. It has two plates, one for each end. The spring retainer end away from the tube is big enough to pull down the retainer, allowing you to remove the keeper. It uses two threaded rods to compress the plates together and works great while being fairly safe.

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