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Lotus Elite

Lotus Elite Published: 28th Nov 2016 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
Lotus Elite
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Do you drive this great classic or are thinking of buying one? Here’s how to ensure that you get the best out of your car for years to come

Still regarded as the cheapest way to own a Lotus, but a good Elite, and especially the latter Eclat and Excel spin offs, not only have price very much on their sides, but they also make excellent genuine cut price supercars that are more in tune with modern motoring than the iconic Elan or Europa can ever be. And with some TLC and a bit of tweaking here and there, you can make a good one even better. Here’s how with top advice from leading Lotus experts!

1. Engine output

Mod

This already highly tuned 16 valver can see 200bhp by way of head (improved in 1985) and camshaft (try L14) upgrades before looking at larger 45 Dellorto carbs. You can fit Esprit Turbo to enjoy 215-264bhp in standard tune or up to 300bhp tweaked. Cheaper but effective mods are sports air filters and exhausts along with electric ignition. Add a rolling road tune up to set the carbs and ignition exactly.

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25,000 mile cambelt renew critical as breakage will smash pistons and valves. Top end noise common as are cambox oil leaks, particularly pre ’77 engines – crank oil seal replacement is an engine out job. Cooling should be improved with an uprated rad and second fan if intending to highly tune. Engines are fairly cheap to pick up secondhand – later 1980 2.2 unit yields more torque.

2. Bottom end

Mod

Can be stretched to 2.5-litres by way of special crank but these are rare and expensive finds. It’s tempting to think about using the Vauxhall 2.3 block and rebore this out but, while it was used to develop the Lotus 907 engine, is completely different, apart from the crankshaft (uses different material anyway!). Fitting Lotus head needs serious machining work. Engine bay accepts V6 and V8s with ease; used to be Rover unit but Audi and Lexus ones are also now favoured.

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Excel engines are the most troublefree, but their Nikasil coating on the cylinder walls wears away and that leads to worn pistons and liners. Can be retreated (around £500) or use cast iron cylinder conversion instead (£800+) from Lotus expert QED, but all demand a full strip down so budget on £3000 for a proper job. Oil pressure should be around 40-45lb on the move and no less than 14lb idling. It’s not unknown for the cast exhaust manifolds to crack.

3. Transmission

Mod

Four-speed Eclats used Granada gearbox and axle, five-speed ones relied upon Austin Maxi 1750 cogs until ’80 when Getrag unit replaced it; Excel’s Toyota ’box is the best of the lot but isn’t quite a simple bolt on unlike Ford Type 9. Automatic was a B/W three-speed affair on Elite and Eclat but a four-speed ZF, as used in the XJ-S, Volvos BMWs, and Excel was fitted; good swap to earlier cars as extra cog transforms the drive. Fit stainless steel clutch cable when it requires changing.

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Transmissions are quite hardy but if you need an axle, consider a limitedslip diff (from http://www.lotusbits.com) at around £800. It also sells manual ’boxes for £400. Ford axle ratios are 4.1:1, 3.9:1 and a 3.73:1 as used on early Elites with the Excel employing a Toyota Supra unit. Maxi transmissions give trouble on 2/3 gears. Can fit Excel gearbox, but this is involved as you have to convert clutch to hydraulic operation and modify the chassis in certain places. Clutch cables snap on Elites mostly.

4. Brakes

Mod

Pre-Excels use a Jag disc (front) and MGB drum arrangement with these mounted in-board. The intervention of Toyota saw out-board discs all round but you can’t convert. For many, just fitting uprated from pads (try EBC or Mintex) suffices but you go further with EBC upgraded discs. PNM Engineering and Lotusbits sell two big brake kits for around £700 (Wildwood and Ultralite) depending upon kit. Lotusbits has four and six pot callipers kits ranging from £1000-£1200.

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Due to being in-board, the rear drums suffer from a lack of maintenance and seize up as a result. Lotusbits says a spongy brake pedal is fairly common and if the usual bleeding and adjustments doesn’t help (particularly on the rear drums), then look further afield and check the front wheel bearings for slackness; ditto check and adjust the linkage to the servo. If there’s still no joy, consider braided brake hoses for a firmer pedal feel.

5. Steering & suspension

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Pre-Excels employed Chapman’s familiar Triumph-based trunnion design and if in good nick will still handle extremely well. Adjustable damping is the first step followed by sports springs and poly bushing although some Lotus specialists say that the latter spoils the car preferring standard Lotus replacements instead. Speak to Spyder Cars, Lotusbits and PNM Engineering for advice. Power steering was made available and can be retro fitted – or go electric?

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For optimum handling, the basic set up should be spot on first such as wheel bearings, geometry, tyres etc. Running gear is typical Triumph design; links are £125 a go, wishbones £40, trunnions £17 and bushes under a fiver from Lotus experts SJ Sports Cars. The superior Excel set up is very reliable although wear in the numerous joints in the power steering can take the edge of it plus the unusual geometry features on the later car results in a characteristic low-speed juddering.

6. Rear suspension

Mod

The usual dampers and spring upgrades apply here as does fitting harder compliance bushes. Don’t forget to have the geometry adjusted by a Lotus bod. Adjustable dampers are available off the shelf with AVO, GAZ most advised. Springs for the Excel are not of a standard length or diameter so changing their firmness is not easy – unless you move to a 2.5 inch coil-overs advises Lotusbits. Excel (Supra axle) comes as standard LSD or an even tighter alternative.

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Driveshaft also acts as the top link of the rear suspension. It’s important to keep the universal joints in proper order otherwise, excessive rear wheel movement occurs; most cars now require new ones to cure twitchy feeling. Do not use normal LM grease for the wheel bearings; high performance ‘rally’ wheel bearing grease – Castrol BNS or equivalent is best says Lotusbits. Diff’s nose bracket is prone to breaking but an uprated replacement is viable for £180.

7. Electrics & things

Mod

It pays to give the electrics a through going over and consider a rewire to rid the car of the past bodges. Early Excels used a lethargic (Lucas) starter motor but later Motorola replacement cures this and is direct swap. Series 1 cars featured vacuum-operated headlamp pods, S2 and 2.2 cars, along with the Excel, had electricpowered units. The later cars don’t generally give problems (if they do then it’s only bad contacts) but earlier ones do, thanks to air leaks. Why not convert to banish fault?

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You can make the vacuum pop-up headlight light works, if you isolate the set up from the heater which shares the same system plus install two tanks and valves. Regularly inspect the wiper wheelbox. Replacing this properly means removing the dashboard, although some owners merely cut a hole in the bodywork, replace the box, then fill it all in again! The original windscreen electric bonding process wasn’t reliable and still the only cure is to remove the windscreen and re-bond it.

8. Trim

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Most of the trim is interchangeable between Excels and earlier cars but you may need a professional retrim to get it back to ‘as new’ state and this could outweigh the car’s worth. It’s claimed that XJ-S front seats fit nicely and are comfier. Good idea to modify door hinges before they seize (as they do) fitting grease nipples to ensure they don’t says Lotusbits! Excel door linkage rods far better than cheapskate earlier types.

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Even Excels are hardly of Porsche quality and trim highlights this. Most will be pretty worn, especially the seats and dash tops; Excels are a bit better but it still becomes unstuck. Water leaks common and regularly check drainage channels, including doors. Hinge and lock linkages are quite nasty and fail as a result. Poor pedal box design gives rise to clutch and throttle problems with cables snapping.

9. Body & chassis

Mod

biggest and best mod is to convert earlier cars to an Excel chassis and it’s not the major job you’d expect. Key issues to alter include the shell around the rear axle, plus you need to modify the fuel tank so that it clears the rear dampers. The front anti-roll bar needs slight relocation, too and you have to convert the clutch to hydraulic action. But the benefits are massive: outward disc brakes, better suspension (no more trunnions!) and PAS. It’s going to be costly as you need a donor Excel.

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Chassis rots in true Lotus tradition! The worst area is the rear crossmember, which runs between the damper mounting points but is almost completely hidden by the body. If this area is bad, the only way is to remove the body to repair it; something that will usually cost more than the car’s worth. Post 1980 frames are galvanised. Excel’s bodywork is much better, the only real worries stem from poor accident repairs. Lotusbits sells new Excel frames for £1000, s/h around £500.

And another thing…

According to Warc-based Lotusbits (http://www.lotusbits.com), enthusiasts are starting to spend fair wads on their wedges, witness a recent £30k restoration it carried out on an Elite. Parts supplies dried up from Lotus ages ago but all you need is out there – somewhere – plus, as Lotus pick and mixed from other makers, interchangeability is wide and varied. While Lotusbits has carried out engine conversions, it is dead against them, saying it spoils the car’s character and originality both which will count in years to come (besides the engine can produce up to 300bhp, reliably). Check out thelotusforums.com and lotusexcel.net for help and advice.



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