Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

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Sunerou
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Joined: Sun May 08, 2022 00:25
Model: Elite
Colour: Red
Year: 1975
Location: Liss, Hampshire

Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

I recently (as of about a week ago) became the owner of a very tired 1975 Elite. A quick rundown of the vehicle's condition is... questionable. It has the original Elite Chassis, though it's rusted to near nothing, full interior, though the headlining is sagging, the seats are growing mould and the drives seat has collapsed, and i have no clue if any of the gauges work, it has the 907 engine, which is in need of a rebuild, the passenger door won't open from the outside, the gearbox and fuel system are in unknown condition and the paint is faded, flaking off and a total mess. On the upside, it came with a whole host of spares, it has all the aluminium trim, three of the tyres hold air for more than 24 hours and although every inch of the car is tired, it is, to the best of knowledge, complete.

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The plan for the car is to scrap the chassis (if anyone wants any elite "chassis" parts such as diff, brake drums, shocks, springs etc in unknown condition let me know). I'm collecting a rolling excel chassis, and all the parts to refresh it in a couple of weeks. Once that's been done, I'll rebuild the engine, and get the thing back together.

I guess given that it's taken me a little while to get round to signing up and making this post, I'd better get you all caught up.

In preparation for the trailer journey home, I had to remove some loose pieces of window trim, along with both rear side windows, as they were fairly loose, the windows have now temporarily been stuck back in to help keep water out as the car is stored outside under a car cover and i want to play it safe with water ingress.

With the car back home, and safely on the driveway, I set about emptying the car of the bags of spares (still need to go through them), coating the interior with mould spray, and making plans to start the restoration. Before collecting the car I managed to find a PDF of the Elite workshop manual which has been helping me a great deal work out how to go about working on things.

The plan is as "simple" as this, first lift the body, this will give easy access to pull the engine and gearbox.
Strip the elite chassis for any salvageable parts, collect the Excel chassis, refresh the Excel chassis, rebuild the engine and do any gearbox work needed, bolt it all back together, drop the body, refresh anything needing love on the body, get it road legal, go have some fun! Worry about making it look pretty with a nice paint job later.
I anticipate all this will take a couple of years, of course, with all projects, aiming for roadworthy in two years, will translate to actually being roadworthy in 5 years.

So, step 1, lift the body.

Pretty much all the bolts came out easily, for better access to the bolts in the nose I removed the radiator (as it would need to be taken out and checked over / repaired / replaced later on). The only issue I encountered is the bolt holding the body to the front right side shock tower snapped, but, the remains of the bolt seemed pretty long, so I hoped it had broken in the shock tower and was clear of the body (foreshadowing anyone?). I then set about removing the "soft" things that run from the body to the chassis, brake lines, fuel line, clutch and throttle cable etc,

with all that done, time to lift the body. I got a section of scaffolding board under the floor and started to very slowly jack the body up, but, it quickly snagged on the front right shock tower. So, body back down, lift the front of the car, take the wheel off and take an angle grinder to the shock tower (the chassis is so rusty that it's no use to anyone, i was careful not to hit the spring or damper though).

Image

Job done. Then go to lift the body, and realise, as people who have done this before will know. The engine fouls the body, so, body back down, time to remove the engine I guess. So, make sure everything is disconnected from the engine, removed the carbs, disconnected the propshaft from the diff, removed the gearstick from the gearbox and start moving the engine out.

I borrowed an engine hoist from a friend, and with some swearing managed to get the engine somewhat stuck, off its mounts, and forward in the engine bay, but couldn't seem to get the angle to lift the engine with the gearbox attached as the workshop manual says to do, so with the engine half out, i supported the gearbox with a trolley jack, and removed it from the engine. Carefully lowered the gearbox to the ground, with the gearbox removed, I was able to remove the engine

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And, that's about it, The engine is now sat in the "garage" (used as a storage room and workshop, there's no space to swing a cat, let alone park a lotus) on a wooden "skid" I made to cart my toolboxes top box about, The engine stand should've been delivered Thursday or Friday last week but got lost in shipping, the replacement is due to be delivered tomorrow.

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Personally, I don't think the progress is too bad, given I've only had the thing for 8 days, but I'm yet to actually start tearing into anything properly and see the extent of the damage.

One question I do have for all you fine folks is, with the engine out, and once the body is off, is there anything that is worth replacing or reconditioning?

The Excel chassis will be getting a coat of Galvafroid to "top up" the factory galvanizing and some durable paint to protect it, along with new shocks, brakes, fuel lines, brake lines and a rebuilt steering rack.

I know the wiper motor can be a real pain in the arse to deal with, so may look at that whilst it's all apart.

Anyway, apologies for the long post, hopefully I managed to add the images correctly, and I'll try to remember to drop updates here as things progress.

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Excel SA
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Excel SA »

Looks like this will be another fun and interesting project! Everyone likes pictures and updates :D

Neil.

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MetBlue
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Model: Elite 74 & Excel 92 (SEish))
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by MetBlue »

Congratulations on both your project and mastering picture posting first time.
If you can post pictures, you'll have no trouble with work on the Elite, ------ except perhaps changing the wiper wheel box......😠.
Welcome to the forum. You'll find much help and advice.
Tony

P.S. Can you PM me the reg and chassis / engine no's. I'm building a data base of the wedges and would be good to include .
What goes together.... Must come apart.

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Lotus-e-Clan
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Lotus-e-Clan »

Good to see.

I had a 76 Elite 501 for 10 years during the eighties.

The '76 907 engine had the 'E' cams (with matching dizzy and jetting changes). They are so much better than the previous 'D' cams in terms of tractability /mid-range torque.

A worthwhile upgrade if it's to be a driver's car rather than chasing potential investment requiring absolute originality.
Peter K

richardw
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by richardw »

Welcome and congrats on your acquisition. I like your no nonsense approach, and you will make a great car. Keep posting with your progress - as you’ve already seen, there is lots of help and experience here.

Cheers, Richard
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TAR
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by TAR »

I'm going to subscribe and follow your progress.

I assume you know that the body will need quite a bit of fettling to fit onto an Excel chassis? The rear end where the backbone ends is quite different.
:)

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Sunerou
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Year: 1975
Location: Liss, Hampshire

Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

MetBlue wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 07:17
Congratulations on both your project and mastering picture posting first time.
If you can post pictures, you'll have no trouble with work on the Elite, ------ except perhaps changing the wiper wheel box......😠.
Welcome to the forum. You'll find much help and advice.
Tony

P.S. Can you PM me the reg and chassis / engine no's. I'm building a data base of the wedges and would be good to include .
Oh yes, I definitely master posting images first time... definitely didn't need to go back and edit the post about 5 times to get them to work! :lol:

I've now heard of issues with the wiper system several times, I'll have to look into making sure its good before putting the car back together... hopefully the body being off will give better access, I'll take a look in the service manual and find out.

I'll get the info off the car next time I'm working on it, although the VIN plate on the wing should have the number on, I have no clue on this car's history, if it's had an engine replacement or a chassis replacement in its life before, I suspect not, but I shall also get the number stamped into the chassis after the body is lifted (hoping to do so on Wednesday evening). I'll make sure to get the number of the Excel chassis once I've collected it from LotusBits.

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Sunerou
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Model: Elite
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Year: 1975
Location: Liss, Hampshire

Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

Lotus-e-Clan wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 07:45
Good to see.

I had a 76 Elite 501 for 10 years during the eighties.

The '76 907 engine had the 'E' cams (with matching dizzy and jetting changes). They are so much better than the previous 'D' cams in terms of tractability /mid-range torque.

A worthwhile upgrade if it's to be a driver's car rather than chasing potential investment requiring absolute originality.
Thanks for the info on the engine differences, I'll bear it in mind when I start work on the engine and look into the cost of replacement cams, though like all things in life, it very much comes down to money.

I'm very much building this thing as a driver's car, originality is nice and all, but I have no intention of selling the Lotus, whereas I'm already being bugged by friends with a MK1 MX-5 and an 80's mini with a 1380cc engine to "hurry the f##k up and get it running, so we can road trip to Wales, Scotland and Europe" they are possibly jumping the gun a little on planning these trips if they want me to bring the elite.

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Sunerou
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Model: Elite
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Year: 1975
Location: Liss, Hampshire

Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

TAR wrote:
Mon May 09, 2022 22:24
I'm going to subscribe and follow your progress.

I assume you know that the body will need quite a bit of fettling to fit onto an Excel chassis? The rear end where the backbone ends is quite different.
:)
Well now I'm worried, You're expecting progress, The pressures on all of a sudden. :lol:

I've talked a fair bit with Mike from lotus bits, he's warned me the body will need some modifications to fit, but nothing too major (from memory a couple of holes cut in the rear where it sits on the cross member to allow for the strut tops), thanks for the heads-up though. Once I get to that point, I'll be phoning Mike for like the 300th time to get as much info as possible on where and how best to modify the body. But for now that's a problem for later me to solve. The me of now is focussed on getting the body lifted, and elite chassis stripped and scrapped. :)

Pete Boole
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Pete Boole »

Late welcome to the Forum from me too! There are several Elite projects/restorations going at the moment - great to see another! Will be following with interest. Early cars have a small plate welded to the chassis with the number on as well as the engine bay plate - look out for it before cutting up the chassis - it's on top of the "Y-shaped" section on the right about level with the bell housing.

The only really important part to get right with the front wiper is to try and get it water-tight. The problem on the early cars is that the front scuttle is curved and the wheelbox/fittings are flat!

Great progress so far :D

Pete

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Sunerou
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

Well, it took longer the expected, but after a couple of false starts I managed to get the body lifted today.

Due to a lack of space I need to suspend the body above the chassis, with enough space for me to work on the chassis, I have nowhere else to put the body.

So, step 1 was to separate the body and chassis, to do this (all the bolts were already undone via my previous efforts) instead of trying to lift the body off of the chassis, I jacked the car up, took the wheels off, put some scaffolding board under the body, supported by some axle stands and lowered the chassis away leaving the body in place. I can happily say it worked perfectly.

Image

After then throwing some more scaffolding board under the body, screwing them together (being careful not to screw into the body). We were then able to throw some slings under the scaffolding board, around a wooden stretcher bar resting on a folded up dust sheet to protect the roof, and to the hook from the makeshift gantry crane constructed from scaffolding and a chain block. With some careful balancing and manoeuvring of the body, we were then able to lift it about 5ft high and rest the scaffolding on some builders trestles and the wall. Luckily, I have a lovely neighbour who won't complain. :lol:

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And with that, the body is off the chassis, the engine and gearbox are safely inside the garage, the engine stand has arrived, but I haven't yet got the flywheel off in order to bolt the engine on the stand. but, the next step is to get the elite chassis stripped of useful (read, sellable) parts ready to then bring back the Excel chassis on the 21st.

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Tanz
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Tanz »

Amazing progress in such a short time. 8) You wouldn't happen to be a builder or roofer by trade i Suppose?
Cheers, Phil
Never take life seriously, nobody gets out alive anyway!

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MetBlue
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by MetBlue »

Great progress and loving you're improvisation to lift the body and work on the chassis.
Tony
What goes together.... Must come apart.

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Sunerou
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Sunerou »

Tanz wrote:
Thu May 12, 2022 19:17
Amazing progress in such a short time. 8) You wouldn't happen to be a builder or roofer by trade, I Suppose?
I'm actually not involved in the building trade at all, I trained and initially worked as a mechanic, but after a short amount of time realised that although I love playing with cars, I hate working on them as a Job, so I'm now in the process of re-training as a teacher. Most of the scaffolding poles came from a family member who "had them lying around", and the rest came cheap from Facebook marketplace, I think in total I spent around£200 to build the crane and support system, more than I would ideally like, but I can't really complain, it got the job done.

This weekend I'm off with a friend doing the London to Brighton Mini Run in his 80's mini, it's a bit of a wild thing with a high compression race engine putting 90hp to the wheels, straight cut gears and a gutted interior. So I had to spend most of this evening packing the essential stuff, then unpacking and repacking to get it as compact as possible. So I spent a bit of time on the lotus, mostly cleaning up the mess I'd made removing the engine and lifting the body before finally getting the engine on the engine stand.

In order to get the engine on the stand, I had to remove the flywheel, then lift it with the engine crane, in this process a fluid of some sort started pouring from the lower holes for the flywheel bolts, I'm not too sure what the fluid is, it's dark and looks like oil, but has the viscosity of water. I need to check the oil filler cap for milkshake to see if the coolant and oil systems are mixing, hopefully its a simple blown head gasket, and not a warning sign of much bigger internal damage.

But, with the engine mounted, I turned my attention to finding somewhere to store the gearbox.
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In an attempt to save space in the garage, I decided to put together a wooden frame clamping itself to the bottom half of the engine stand, and store the gearbox under the engine, it seems to work rather well me thinks.

When I start working on the engine I'll remove the gearbox and put a large metal baking tray there, to hopefully catch any hardware that gets dropped to avoid it being pinged off across the workshop, but for now, it's all safely stored and tucked away in a corner of the garage.
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And that's the update for now, On Monday I'm going to start stripping the chassis, my aim is to get the exhaust off and strip the front suspension, but we'll see how that goes. As previously mentioned I'm away this weekend, if anyone happens to spot a red mini travelling at ludicrous speed, give me a wave, I'll be the terrified person screaming in the passenger seat.

Pete Boole
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Re: Recently Aquired 1975 Elite in need of full restoration

Post by Pete Boole »

Yes - the holes in the crank that the flywheel bolt to are open the the crankcase/sump contents - might be worth moving the gearbox again and draining the sump to see what comes out!

Pete

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