Lotus Elan

1969 SE


My first Lotus Elan, a 1969 SE.  The story behind the car was that it was purchased by an US Air Force pilot stationed in London back in 1969.  The car later was transported back to Alabama when the owner returned and somehow it was abandoned since 1974.  The car was complete and original, but the savages of time and the elements had taken it's toll.  The frame was a complete write off, with the rear A arms separated from the frame.  Gearbox was stuck and engine seized.  It was later found out that the car was submerged in 2 ft of water as a tell tale water line was found on the body and interior.  Everything I touched on the car that was made from sheet metal was crunchy if not falling off.  Having seen the car the first time, I walked away.  But after a week, I was on the phone with the owner negotiating a deal.   



Back home in the driveway.  Further investigation of the car showed everything I had suspected, albeit pretty complete, but lots of rust.  I had intended to leave it alone until I got the title sorted out, but the urge over powered me to start to take it apart.  The deconstruction yielded several surprises.  I just assumed almost everything was a loss, but the steering wheel, a Colin Chapman signed wheel was in great shape after a little cleaning.  So that came off.  Then I started on the doors, assuming the internals were completely rusted out, but was surprised to see they were intact and in not bad shape.  So better take them out before they got any worse.  Then the radiator was still solid, so that came out, the seats, then the console, and by the time I knew it, I had almost disassembled the entire car.


The car was like a model kit, but in reverse.  Parts kept on coming off and the rust was the only stumbling block.  Much of the nuts and bolts were rusted in place after almost 40 years of oxidation.  Many of the bolts had to be drilled out, persuaded with heat and lots of PB Blaster.  Only when the bolts were in bedded in the fiberglass, that things became tricky.  Prime example was the phillips head screws holding the dash on to the body.  Can't use heat for fear of burning the glass, no impact hammers, nor twisting too hard to break the threaded bung in the fiberglass.  Luckily, the dash was a loss.  It was so bad, it had delaminated in place.  Each layer was like a leaf in a book.  So I just started to peel it away, layer by layer.  this exposed the screws which allowed me to soak it in penetrating oil and lock a pair of vice grips on the head and slowly work it loose.



With the interior and doors off the car, the next logical step was to remove the body.  There are 16 bolts holding the body on to the frame, not to mention a few cables and electrical wiring.  A few hours later, everything was disconnected.  But I had to first find a place to put the body.  I decided to build a rolling cart so I could move it around easily and get the body to a manageable height to start on the body work.  I used two hydraulic jacks on either sides of the car and lifted in a controlled manner.  Still took 3 able bodies and a spotter to finally get the body on the cart.  



By the time I had everything clear of the body and finally coaxed 3 friends to come over, it was quickly getting dark.  With a bit of effort the body was raised and rested safely on the cart I built.



After the body was removed, you can see how extensive the rust had rotted out the frame.  Sections of the frame was completely gone, the diff section was rusted in half, and you can see from the slant of the engine in the above picture, the engine frame mount had completely disintegrated. 



The next day I started to remove the drive train and strip down the suspension from the frame.  I had to cut apart the rest of the rear frame to get the diff out.  But outside of the frame itself, the parts looked in good shape.  I was surprised that I did not see any water in the engine or gearbox as only oil poured out when drained.



The two months in finding the Lotus and stripping it down went quickly and it was time to go back to work.  Will be back early November to vote and start on the restoration.  With my other 70 Elan safely tucked away in the garage with all the bits from Eagle, and the body securely on the cart covered and strapped, it was time for my 15 hour flight to Shanghai. 



The Restoration Begins

11/6/12 - 1/11/13

UPDATED 6/15/13-7/31/13 

(Click on Picture)