These pages relate the saga of getting an early 1967 Lotus Elan S3 S/E DHC back in circulation. Let’s pretend that some planning may be helpful first, although I know that my implementation will mostly be ad hoc, at the whim of the moment.
The goals of ΦI are to get the ball rolling and initiate acquisition of items with lead times (also known as psyching up phase, or perhaps over-thinking the problem phase).
Two tasks begin in parallel:
- create a workspace
- plan for ΦII and order materials.
We recently moved and the attached garage has still not had all the residual junk sorted. My work space will be one half of a generous two car garage. Tasks are:
- cleanup so only Lotus-related stuff is in the working half
- reconfigure work benches and tool storage
- reconfigure lighting
- freshen up with paint
Tools that need to be ordered:
- small air compressor
- wire basket strainer for immersing small parts in solvent
Cockpit concerns are UV and moisture resistance. Materials tasks are:
- Select and order a dash.
- Select and order UV-resistant black carpeting.
- Devise way to repair cracks in plastic console cover and under dash valance.
- Find a UV-resistant black dye for coloring the carpeted kick panels on the doors.
I am retired, so I don’t need a schedule! My only plan is to get it running before I die. 🙂 Everything will happen when it decides to happen. (For example, it took 2 years to accomplish this ΦI.)
A large time burner is sorting through junk and clearing the work space. I carry my work bench configuration wherever I move (just the laminated tops that I made over 40 years ago). I am getting proficient now at putting up the bench superstructure on which these tops sit. The small one sits low, holding my heavy vise. The large bench is my main work task bench, elevated 10″ above the low surface (current benches shown in last picture).
The rolling tool chest was cleaned out and re-populated with mainly the tools I expect to use. Garden tools are hung out of the way. Electrical and lighting is reconfigured to make a suitable task environment.
Prepping the Elan for Work
The little car is more easily accessible if it is raised a little. A used chain hoist and lifting sling from eBay, some reinforcement above the rafters, a handy-dandy sling spreader plank of my original design, and I have the capability to lift each end of the car to enable sliding jack stands underneath. It will also serve as an engine puller if I ever get ambitious.
The starting condition is illustrated at the surface level in the following images.
The original dash was modified early on. I decided I disliked having dash space allocated to a cigar lighter and ashtray and removed them, adding two new small gauges in their positions. This enabled me to archive the original and trouble-prone combined oil pressure and water temperature gauge, replacing it with separate mechanical oil pressure and electrical water temperature gauges, and also adding a voltmeter.
I then crafted a leather dash covering, modified the old dash accordingly, and covered it myself in padded leather. It looked cool, but it was not quite professional enough for my taste. Also the radio opening was enlarged for a specific old 70s cassette player and would need to be redone or eliminated.
Initially, I considered renovating this customized dash, and studied whether to apply a wood or carbon fiber veneer. It appears that carbon fiber veneer is in the same price range and has similar ease of installation as wood. I posted on the main Lotus forum (www.lotuselan.net/forums) regarding dash veneers. The responses I received seemed to favor wood, although a couple had used red/black vinyl. No one thought carbon fiber would be acceptable, one pointing out it was not in keeping with the period. I have always thought the Elan transcended its period. But wood seems to be a more acceptable and flexible option.
On removing the leather cover and pad on the old dash, revealing its tatty condition, my thinking changed regarding renovation. It would be a major project to refinish, likely exceeding my capabilities in rendering a professional look. The ready made option in wood was looking much better.
After reading on the forum that Sue Miller still provided dashboards, I requested her catalog. The catalog contained a short exclamation that an Elan dash must be refinished in a straight grained wood, preferably teak; figured (burl) wood was deprecated. ‘nuf said. Wood it shall be. The SE versions came with straight-grained walnut, and that is how I will restore it.
I requested a price quote from Sue for a custom dash configured as my old one. She replied that customization could be provided, but her supplier crated each dash for shipment, and its weight would cause USA shipping fees to likely exceed the cost of the dash itself. So that remains an expensive option.
On the Internet, I found Madera Concepts (www.maderaconcepts.com) in Goleta, CA; they do vintage wood restorations. Jeff responded that a custom dash could be made. I sent him a drawing and awaited a quote
Contacting Dave Bean Engineering, Inc. twice by email produced no replies. I hope the Lotus community hasn’t lost such a valuable resource.
I contacted rdEnterprises (www.rdent.com) in Quakertown, PA; Ray responded that they no longer supply dashboards, but referred me to three suppliers he knew of here: Madera Concepts, Jim’s Dashworks (www.jimsdashworks.com) in Grand Rapids, MI, and Prestige Autowood (www.prestigeautowood.com) in San Jose. I sent queries to the two new suppliers from his list.
Jim replied immediately that he could make a walnut or similar dash to my specification, requesting my old dash for a template. Jim did not have any of the metal fittings: glove box hinges, metal mounting screw bushes. He wanted me to send him my dash and hardware. But I found it difficult to risk sending away original bits that would be extremely hard to replace, so I left the dash acquisition open.
Randy at Prestige also replied the same day with complete details and pictures. His shop clearly has the experience to do a fantastic job, and his responsiveness couldn’t be beat. But his delivered price was the highest of all quotes; I just wanted a dash, not a piece of fine furniture, so couldn’t justify the cost. I did not hear back from Madera for over a year, ruling them out.
After a lapse of two years, I again checked the Internet for dash suppliers. Unfortunately, Jim Degraaf was deceased, but Carrie at Jim’s Dashworks still had some dashes in stock, including a walnut burl early S3 LHD dash. It is almost a stock dash, and maintaining authenticity is not such a bad idea. I showed the picture to Debby and she thought it would look better than teak in the yellow car, so I ordered it straight away. Unfortunately, the quality was sub-standard, so I had to send it back for a refund. Jim had probably not intended it for sale.
I located a new supplier, CGwoodcraft, a cabinet maker with a wood dash sideline. They were responsive and their prices were competitive. I may buy from them when it’s time.
Meanwhile, I have reconsidered a DIY dash project and have psyched myself up to recondition the existing dash enough to enable successful veneer application. This approach will cost less than 100USD for the veneer (my labor is free), and also serve up a lot of personal satisfaction. The worst that can happen is that I fail and go buy one.
Two responses to my dash post on the forum suggested that multiconnectors be used to facilitate dash removal. Sounds like a little more upfront work, but I am pursuing that approach. From the Internet, I found a source of sealed, weatherproof Molex MX150 series connectors. A pair each of male and female 16 pin connectors and the requisite 18 AWG pins were found at MN-based Waytek (www.waytekwire.com). I need to count connections and see whether the 12 pin version will do.
Of course the sensible thing might be to order a complete new loom, but I will wait and evaluate the quality of the original wiring first. Odds are it is just fine.
Carpeting inquiries revealed that Sue Miller still makes them, but it sounds like shipping would be prohibitive from UK. Dave Bean used to offer them, but no reply received to date. Ray at rdEnterprises offered two levels of quality: $500+ for top shelf, ~20% less for average quality. I have the old carpet to use as a pattern, so may try as a first attempt to find some black raylon loop pile carpet and roll my own.
Interior Vinyl Door Panels
These have deteriorated, with some surface color flaking off, and the foam underlayment is totally shot. For a primo job, it will be necessary to send them out. Once I buy the carpet, I will save a sufficient piece for the carpeted door kick panels in case I end up sending the door panels out for re-upholstery.
The panels are good enough for now, but the kick plate carpeting is discolored. I will try to dye it black. I will get some foam and renew the underlayment.
Replacement plastic console cover and under dash valances are available, but pricey. I will try to repair my cracks via application of fiberglass mat backing behind the cracks, after first tacking the cracks closed with a minimal use of super glue. I expect that’s a losing battle and failing that, I will order a replacement.
Early on, I had some re-plating of chrome bits done, and some failed. I bought a new set of trunk hinges many years ago, and in 2016 I found exterior door handles and exterior mirrors.
Unboxing and Sorting Parts
The Elan cockpit and boot were filled with pieces of itself, and there were some other boxes and bags with old carpets and parts. These have all been unpacked and a first pass sort applied. Some bits are not relevant anymore and have been retired to the deep parts bin (attic). The rest have been spread about in nooks and crannies so as to be visible but not in the way.
And now for a big Hooray. None of the big pieces have gone missing, except for the original jack, which went missing in the dust bin at least 20 years ago; it was a piece of junk (I know this because it broke). As a replacement, I since have purchased a high-quality aluminum scissors jack.
The original S/E 4-2-1 cast iron headers were apparently scrapped when switching to tubular headers decades ago. That was a strategic blunder, although tactically I had no use for them. I did keep the original generator and bracket and the original two-bladed engine fan. There’s a variety of small fasteners and bits to sort and identify, although not as many as I expected. Hope that doesn’t turn into a big oops! I found two carb rebuild kits that were bought some years ago, apparently without the mounting washers and o-rings though, so added them to the buy list.
The following parts have been acquired as part of this restoration activity. Sourced items are new or NOS, except those marked ‘*’. The list does not include mods and repairs made while the car was still a runner.
Rennovation Parts Acquisition Summary
|rubber shift boot||Dave Bean||10|
|*RX7 aluminum scissors jack||Craigslist||10|
|Toyota crank jack handle||Amazon||15|
|Hillman Imp boot hinges pair||Ebay||45|
|Austin 1100 external door handles pair||Ebay PartsFromCyprus CY||100|
|Vitaloni Sebring external mirrors pair||Ebay FiatShop DE||95|
|Camco group 24 polypropylene battery box||Ebay||16|
|Dorsett raylon loop pile carpet: 8.8 yd.2||OCCarpets||230|
|iClever HB01+ Bluetooth/AptX wireless I/F||Amazon||40|
|DROK Micro TDA7377 20w+20w amp board||Amazon||13|
|*Auratone 4″ midrange driver replacement||Ebay||20|
|Smiths voltmeter||Holden Vintage & Classic||62|
|Smiths water temp gauge (electrical)||Nisonger (1973)||10|
|Smiths oil pressure gauge (mechanical)||Nisonger (1973)||14|
|Miscellaneous supplies||Ebay, Amazon, Lowes||50|
Normal Service Parts Acquisition Summary
|Deka USA 31Ah Miata AGM battery (24lbs.)||Amazon||100|
|KeyLine 1.25A battery charger/conditioner||Amazon||25|
Tool Acquisition Summary
|*Harrington CF-010 1 ton hoist||Ebay||61|
|4.75 ton winch shackle||Amazon||11|
|*polyester 14-ton lifting slings pair||Ebay||28|
|Crain 300 loop pile carpet cutter||Amazon||32|
|Weller 7235 solder gun tips pair||Amazon||7|
|3 ton jack stands (2 pair)||Ebay||~45|
|2-in-1 convertible rolling creeper/ rolling stool with tray||Ebay||~55|
After two years of mostly inactivity, ΦI is completed sufficiently to go on to ΦII.
A move in late 2012 delayed the project another three years, causing some of ΦI to be redone: building out a new workspace in the new garage, ensuring all bits made it to the new space. Also illness and other activities intervened.
Here is the Elan in its new space. Seeing how time slipped by in large chunks for the last five years, 2016 is entered with new urgency for project completion (but still no stinking schedule).
Proceed to Restoration ΦII.