Monterey or Bust 2010
Monterey of Bust - the Sequel (2012)
I was digging through some old emails last night and came across messages I sent friends during the two tours I did in the Westfield that were wrapped around Monterey Car Week. I threw those together and updated the two photo pages from those tours with the story of each trip. Masochists can find the prose linked from the Tours page or via the direct links below.
Monterey or Bust 2010
Monterey of Bust - the Sequel (2012)
Tires are an issue for the Elan. Factory fitment for the first 3 generations is 145/80-13 and thanks to the mild flares in the S4, this was upped to a heady 155/80-13. Although wider tires will fit when narrower than stock springs are used like with my TTR suspension, classic Lotus tolerance issues means that what fits one car, may not work on another. And when you go too wide for a particular car, a mid-corner bump will create significant body damage.
Although wider sounds better, the reality is that only crappy All Season tires are generally available in Lotus sizes. The exception it the Michelin XAS and XAS FF. These are modern tires using the classic XAS tread and the FF designation means the substitution of a much stickier rubber compound. How sticky? Well, that's hard to say. Michelin doesn't publish a tread wear rating and wouldn't answer my question on that topic or identify the other tires in their range using that compound, but rumor says it's their R-compound. Based on reported wear rates from those using the tire, that sounds about right.
The downside to the XAS is weight. They aren't particularly light and they require heavy tubes. Compared to the tubeless, and very, very worn 165/70-13 Firestone M&S tires that came with my car, they are fully 4 lb heavier per corner. That's a lot, but it's not something felt when driving except through slightly weightier steering at high speed (not a bad thing). The ride is much better, and the handling is simply in a different league. The car now grips. A lot! They are also far more progressive and deliver better steering feel.
I also replaced the stock 11/16" front anti-roll bar with a 60% stiffer, tubular version from Kelvedon. It saves about 4 lb, and has reduced the body roll significantly. It still rolls more than my other cars, but not enough to hamper transitions.
Last on the list was replacing the Lotus 26R style steering wheel with a Momo Prototipo. The 26R wheel is slightly smaller (13" vs. 13.75") which is preferred, but the rim was too skinny for my tastes, and I don't like a wheel without thumb padding on the spokes. Aesthetically, I also prefer the look of drilled spokes to the 26R's slotted spokes.
The handling experience is now pretty special. Great steering feel and it dives for an apex in a similar fashion to the Westfield; Chapman was right about the benefits of adding lightness.
The Elan arrived missing the factory jack, which is specific to the Elan. Used examples seem to go for ~$700. Since I don’t plan to show the car, spending that much on a jack seemed a waste. Besides, the spare tire is almost 30 lb of dead weight. Adding in the jack, and tools to remove the center lock wheel, that’s a lot of extra pounds to carry around in case I get a flat. It seemed a better option to jettison all those items and take a page form modern cars and use an air compressor and tire sealant. After a little research, I came across a very small and light compressor intended for Motorcycles, and Slime tire sealant designed for tube tires like the XAS FF. Those two items weigh a combined 2.75 pounds! Next was deciding how to stow those items. With the spare tire out of the way, there was now a ton more room in the boot, but driving the car made it clear that the spare absorbed sound. To solve both issues, closed cell foam was layered in the spare tire well and cut outs were made to tightly hold the compressor, Slime, and a tool roll (it’s a Lotus. You need to drive with tools).
The Elan arrived with a few issues: dead driver’s side window, horn that honked on its own, and ½” of play in the steering. The horn was an easy fix. The contact plate that attaches to the base of the steering column had come loose and would complete the electrical connection when the mood struck. Easy fix.
The window was harder, as it required disassembly of the mechanism and a complete rebuild. It now works much better, but is still not optimal. Connecting the battery directly to the window motor revealed that the mechanism in the door works great, meaning the problem lies in the wiring between the battery and the motor. Searches on Elan.net reveal that the fix is larger gauge wire and relays. That will happen (maybe) over the winter.
The steering fix was easy but frustrating. Rather than a U-joint connecting the steering column with the rack, Lotus used a device called a flexible coupling that mimics a U-joint's flexibility via rubber cones wrapped around connecting bolts that are fitted through oversized holes. It works well until the rubber cones dry up and die. I initially replaced it with a U-joint from Dave Bean Engineering, but that part was poorly made and only eliminated half the slack. The much beefier U-joint from RD Enterprises was worth the additional $25 and has completely eliminated the slack.
The repeat visitor (Hi Mom!) will notice the site has a new section. Yes, I bought a Lotus Elan. I’m not sure quite when that car entered my consciousness or when it turned to lust, but it’s been a long, long time. It went from my dream car in high school, to a purchase waylaid when the Westfield fell into my lap in 2001, to finally sharing space with that car in my garage.
I almost bought a ’67 pre-airflow FHC this summer on Bring a Trailer. I had been watching the auction since the car appeared and with a couple of minutes left, decided to throw in a bid. Then another. Then I came to my senses. The buyer later revealed that his last bid was his limit, so if I had increased my last bid by $500, it was mine, but fortunately I held back. Although a very nice and honest car with the added benefit of Webers, it had some issues. It previously had a roll cage so the interior had some associated installation issues that would bother me. It was also a pre-airflow. Although I prefer the looks of that version, I figured that Lotus added the vents to the rear pillar for a reason. Air flow through a cabin is a good thing. And most importantly, it was red. Granted the Elan looks great in that color, but the Westfield is red, and the 951 (which will be going up for sale soon) is also red. In fact, the 993 I almost bought instead of my car was red. I like red, but not to the degree that I want most of my cars that color.
The car I eventually bought is in better shape than the BaT car, has a ton of extras that I wanted, a significant amount of maintenance/repairs, and after adding buyer’s fees to the BaT car was about $1600 cheaper. Despite the $14,500 the previous owner invested over the 6 months before I bought it, there is still some work to do. It arrived with a broken driver’s side window and horn, play in the steering, some rattles, and in need of a few upgrades. Fortunately I have a garage and a bunch of tools I’m not afraid to use. Stay tuned
Looks like it’s time for my annual blog post. From a car perspective, it’s been a very boring year. We began looking for a new house last fall, and didn't move in until March, which put a bit of a hold on all car-related projects. The upside to that is the garage at the new place is enormous, with incredible potential as a car and wood shop. Unfortunately the word "potential" in the previous sentence is used as a foreshadowing device to portend some less than good news: Moisture issues. Serious moisture issues. Smelly, rust inducing, wood warping, moisture issues. <sigh>
The building itself is two connected garages that were built 10 years apart. The original garage is 30x25, and they later added a 30x15 second story office above it, and a 28x45 shop sharing one of the original outside walls. The original garage is a bit moist, but nothing serious. The shop, however, is a different story. After 6 months of contractors, a perimeter drain, and a new slab with vapor barrier, the moisture in that section is now in check. However, after airing it out for a few weeks while the slab dried, and painting the walls, some odor issues remain which may require some work in the attic. The good news though is that it's finally at a point where I can safely move in the contents from the smaller garage section and get back to work. As of this writing the main cabinets are in place, and I'm starting to unpack my boxes. Hopefully that work will be done and the lift in place over the next week. Some pictures and a little more detail are located here.
Made a weird discovery today. The front and rear friction washers that bookend the crank sprocket assembly on the Duratec are missing. As a modern "dispose when done" engine, Ford/Mazda optimized for assembly line speed rather than rebuild ease, and opted to use clamping force to hold the crank pulley and sprockets in proper alignment, rather than a woodruff key. These missing washers are paper thin, Porsche priced items ($20/ea) and apparenlty form a critical component of the clamping design.
I don't recall replacing them when I did the cams in 2007. I'm not sure if I
simply didn't know about them back then, or if I was told that they didn't require replacement. Now I suppose I could have simply screwed up and failed to put the front washer on 5 years ago when attaching the crank pulley, but in order to get to the rear washer, you have to remove the oil pump sprocket and then slide it and the crank sprocket off the nose of the crank as a unit (there is virtually no slack on that chain even when the tensioner is removed). I am absolutely positive I didn't touch the oil pump 5 years ago, and given there is no reason to remove the crank sprocket unless you're removing the crank or replacing the rear washer, I can't imagine I would have taken it off, removed the old washer, and then put it back together wihout a new one. This tells me that these washers were never on my engine.
As to why they were never there, I suppose it's down to the engine's
history. It was purchased from Kansas Racing Products who manufactured alloy racing blocks for Ford who in turn gave them sweetheart deals on excess engines. I was told these engines become available for a variety of reasons: over production, pulled from the line for Quality Assurance testing, or simply for the engineers to look at and measure. Because none of these engines are considered “new” Ford can’t resell them as crate engines, so they are stuck with two options: destroy them or allow their “friends” such as KRP to resell them at deep discounts to their own customer base. When the engine arrived, the coil pack mount was missing a corner, but other than that it looked brand new and had never been fired. Perhaps there was an issue with the washers on the assembly line that was dioscovered after the engine was assembled, and it was deemed cheaper to sell it (and possibly others) as an excess engine, rather than repair it.
Between this and the cam bolt issue described below, I really dodged a
I upgraded the cams in the Westfield in summer of 2007. The resulting power increase was pretty profound, but over time it seemed less so. Yes, the car was still very quick, but it just didn’t seem to have quite the same level of urgency I remembered those first several months. It also failed smog twice (2009 & 2011) after passing within a few months of cam installation, so I suspected that the power loss might be real, rather than a simple recalibration of my butt dyno. Compression and leak down tests revealed no issues, so valve timing was the next logical culprit. Given a check of valve clearances showed some were out of spec, and I had an oil leak that required a closer look, I decided to pull the engine to address.
Now setting valve clearances on a Duratec is a complex affair thanks to their mechanical, non-adjustable design. A small inverted bucket (i.e. tappet) sits over the valve spring and its base forms the fixed, mechanical interface between the top of the valve stem and the cam lobe. The buckets come in different thicknesses and are selected to achieve optimal valve clearance. To adjust the clearance, you first need to measure it, then remove the bucket to get the base thickness measurement that is stamped to the inside (3.xxx mm), and then calculate the new thickness required to get the clearance within spec. The buckets are available with base thicknesses that come in increments of ~.02 mm, so the final setting is never exact, but should be within the accepted range (0.09"-0.011"/0.09"-0.012" intake/exhaust). Given that measuring and changing out these buckets requires cam removal, and by extension, resetting cam timing, this was also an opportunity to correct any discrepancies in this area.
After removing the crank pulley and front timing cover, I noticed that the adjustable cam gears weren’t where I left them in ‘07 – i.e. they had moved and with that movement, had altered the cam timing. A quick check revealed that the specs were significantly out of whack. Kent recommends exhaust timing is set to 110 deg before TDC, and the intake to 105 deg after TDC, yet measurements showed these were at 116 and 95 respectively. Now to be fair, the timing was most likley altered when the front pulley was removed (it’s not keyed and instead relies on a friction fit), but the delta between the two settings cannot inadvertently change during that process, and it too showed a big discrepancy, so cam timing is indeed out.
The good news is that I appear to have found the source of missing horsepower and increased emissions. The bad news is that it reveals the torque wrench I originally used to torque the clamping bolts isn’t very accurate at the required 12 ft-lbs setting. Suffice it to say I am buying a new torque wrench to handle all fastening duty under 20 ft-lbs, and investing in Loctite.
The roads were dry today, so I finally had an opportunity to test the recent de-squeaking measures. What an improvement! Although there is still a minor squeak from the rear silencer mount to tackle, the car is transformed. It's not just that it's quieter, but psychologically, the lack of squeaks and creaks adds a significant sense of rigidity to the chassis. What I previously perceived as flex on bumpy roads was simply my gut response to the squeaking.
The Westfield has been a squeaking nightmare for a number of years, with two items accounting for the cacophony: worn out silicone bond between the scuttle and tub, and dry polyurethane bushings in the front suspension. Although annoying, the noise is something I've learned to live with out of nothing more than sheer laziness. The suspension job is a PITA due to my engine installation which blocks access to one suspension bolt, and the scuttle, although easy to remove, requires a lot of juggling with wires to get in position to clean the underside. I hate wire juggling.
However, over the last couple of weekends, I've finally tackled the issues. To ensure a long term fix for the scuttle-to-tub squeaking, rather than applying more silicone, the old stuff was completely removed and closed cell foam padding tape went in it's place. Silicone was applied around the bolt holes on the side of the scuttle to ensure no moisture makes it's way in the frame rails, and a bead of silicone was applied to the front where the fit isn't as tight. It took a while, but wasn't that difficult. The poly bushings, however, were a different story.
My engine installation conspires to make this a big job. The alternator -- which is buried at the bottom of the drivers side and difficult to access -- gets in the way of removing a key suspension bolt, and adds a couple of hours of work and a few hundred expletives to the job. That is annoying enough, but given that the bushing grease has a short life, it means this isn't so much a repair, as it is a regular maintenance item. Fortunately I stumbled upon some grease designed for this application that people claim lasts for years, so I decided to give it a shot.
As expected, the job was a pain, and like an idiot I made
things worse. First, I damaged the rubber boot for one of the lower balljoints, and next I bunged the threads of the other when the tierod remover slipped. The lower balljoints are from an Austin Maxi which was never imported, so they had to come from the UK. But it's done. Lots of rain means I've yet to give the car a proper road test, but pushing down firmly on the frame rail is now met with silence, which is a great sign.