Three (only slightly embellished) Lotus experiences
Initially.....I bought the car in early July 1997. As you have probably seen from the rest of the site, it was a bit of a non runner (!) However even when it rolled up on my doorstep having been trailered (in numerous small parts) from Northampton southwards, I felt a 'kick' inside - childish excitement.
It was first driven on 9th June 1998 and failed its first M.O.T. (English legal road test) on 10th June, although I was rather pleased at what it failed on. The service manager of a very well known but currently unnamed (due to me not wanting to get sued !) dealer took one look at the car - whose outward appearance, it has to be said, was not exactly pristine - and turned his nose up at it. "That'll never pass" he said, as if to say that the exterior was all he was interested in. Mentally kicking him up the bum, I politely insisted that he M.O.T. my pride and joy and provide me with the failure documentation. I was sooo pleased to return later on and find that it had failed on.......2 minor electrical problems, headlight aim and emissions. "Oh, it wasn't that bad then", I said brightly to my new best friend. He neither looked me in the eye, nor said another word to me as I paid my bill and thanked him for his time.
As I walked out of the door and got into my tatty looking smoky beast, I felt a real sense of achievement that I had taken a basket case Lotus and got it to within a gnat's whisker of passing an M.O.T. inside of a year. So I drove home and enjoyed every twist, bend, roundabout and corner that I could find.
The second M.O.T. was an altogether much more enjoyable experience (see below), but suffice it to say that I did 300 miles in two days and then drove up to the 50th Birthday celebrations at Hethel (Norwich) on 12th September 1998 from Nelmes (Essex) in convoy with the other Lotuses that had met there. What a feeling !
The Second M.O.T.The day came for the 2nd M.O.T. and I woke hoping fervently that nothing was going to go wrong. Two kicks on the accelerator and the Eclat growled into life through the K & Ns, popped and spat for a while and then settled down. I was also going to drop my brother off on the way to the M.O.T. station and he looked at me and grinned as we pulled out of the drive way.
I spent most of the journey grinning like an idiot (some people say they didn't notice much difference) - the car was strange to drive as I'd never been in anything like it before and I began to get used to it. When I put my foot down the engine roared as another piece of sound insulation flew out of the bonnet cavity (there wasn't a lot there in the first place !) and smoke fired out of the exhaust pipes. Smoke also came up into the passenger compartment as I hadn't secured the crankcase breather pipe in the proper place and the fumes that would have gone out through a normal air filter box were exuded into the car. They eventually dissipated, but it was a bit embarrassing at traffic lights !
All the way to the M.O.T. people looked at the car and a small glow went through me as I pretended not to notice them. Like my brother said, you're in a Lotus.
At the M.O.T. station the tester looked fondly at the car. It turned out that he had owned an Elite (type 75) and written it off ! He thoroughly tested the car and, apart from a small niggle which he advised me on, passed the vehicle as road worthy. This was after I had piddled oil into his inspection cavity as he looked at the underside of the car ! It seemed that I needed to replace an oil pump gasket
..... After 2 years of dormancy the car is just waking up - and if it's anything like me in the morning, it does not have a good frame of mind at that time. The German word for it is Morgenmuffel (there's no direct translation but it basically means you mooch about in the morning) and sums it up perfectly. The car was great at the M.O.T. and performed all its tasks to get it through the test, but since then various things have decided to go back to bed. The hazard relay had an epileptic fit and began to flash at 20 times a second. The head lights, once acting perfectly, now refused to pop up at all (short of disconnecting the vacuum hose) and I think the relay went and joined the hazard flasher. The front screen wash decided not to. Somewhat alarmingly at 60 m.p.h. the brake warning light started flashing at me, even though the reservoir was full. Then the radiator sprang a leak, and the exhaust pipe blew a hole in itself. Not only had I experienced the joys of rebuilding a classic motor car, I now had the joy of owning one.
The Eclat's First OutingI hadn't got around to fixing any oil leaks before it was time for the Eclat's maiden voyage - to Winchester. Prior to this trip, the car had done about 20 miles to and from the 1st M.O.T. so I took some precautions :
a comprehensive tool kit;
2 socket sets;
3 litres of water;
5 litres of oil;
various bulbs, belts, string and rubber bands;
a hammer and a prayer mat.
The last two were in case the others didn't work. (There is a comprehensive spares suggestions check list here). I was a bit worried, if I'm honest, because although I thought I could deal with the breaking down, I didn't really want to have to and I was rather timid in the use of the accelerator for the first few miles. Other drivers must have wondered what on earth I was up to as Morris Minors, cyclists and a few of the faster horse riders indicated and overtook me. I pretended to look cool, but I'm not convinced it worked.
Eventually we hit the M3 and I feathered the throttle up to 60 m.p.h. So far so good - the car had graciously done 12 miles without so much as a hiccup. It had smoked quite a lot, much to the amusement of the drivers behind me - in my rear view mirrors I could see people pointing and gesturing. I began to learn the art of not actually stopping so that the smoke was hidden by the motion of the car as I coasted up to traffic lights. My passenger was also quite grateful that the smoke - produced by oil seeping past rings that were still gummed up after 2 years of disuse - didn't fill her part of the car.
It would be fair to say that the car, with no sound insulation and an unused engine, was not exactly quiet. In fact at 50 m.p.h. it would have been easier to have a conversation on a busy airport runway; however as the oil began to fill all the cavities of the engine, we found that we could have a shouting conversation in between gear changes after a few miles. Well what more do you want ?
Doing 60 m.p.h. on a motorway means that most of the other traffic is going faster than you and it was satisfying to see people cruise past and just look at the car as they overtook. A bright yellow Lotus was bound to attract attention and, as ZZ Top played in the car at top decibels (they had to, to get over the engine noise) I just smiled. I loved this car whose engine was too loud, smoked at a standstill, blew wind at my feet and whose interior upholstery resembled a badly neglected dog kennel. This car could fall apart around my ears and I would still cherish the bits that were left. And as if to reinforce the lack of fibre glass and padding between me and the outside world, a fly blasted in from a hole somewhere and committed violent bloody suicide on my left knee. At which point my passenger screamed "You can see the bloody road 6 inches away through this hole !" I grinned again.
At one point on the journey I crept up to 90 m.p.h. and was surprised at how stable the car was - and how few r.p.m. it was doing. I had been told that the Eclat sprung to life at higher revs and this was obviously going to be true. It wasn't even thinking about working hard yet. It sang (well, bellowed) all the way to Winchester and all it needed was a water and oil top up. I was impressed. I didn't even mind when the headlights popped up due to a leak in the vacuum pods.
The return journey was a bit of a baptism of fire (well water) as it persisted down with rain most of the way home. The enormous windscreen wiper ambled its way across the windscreen and while it allowed me to see where I was going, it also had a curious habit of forcing just enough water off the screen, round the bright work and into the driver's door pillar where it dripped into the car. I also discovered that the roof needed sealing where the front upper bright work met the windscreen and that the door bright work under the windows didn't quite make a seal and was water permeable. However the car didn't break down and happily sped us home as far as Hampton Court.....
..... where I noticed a hideously expensive sounding grinding noise emanating from the rear of the car. Visions of drive shafts hanging out from the car filled my mind as I pulled into a car park and opened my door - and I noticed that the car was much closer to the ground than I remembered it. A glance at the rear tyre showed that all we had was a puncture and I noticed that we had had the fortitude of not only stopping opposite a garage, but that this particular garage had a free compressed air machine. I hobbled the car over to the pump and noticed that the valve had a slow(ish) puncture where it sealed. (It transpired that a previous owner had put an inner tube into a tubeless tyre, so the seal was bound to be under stress) The garage owners had a good look at the car, as did a few people filling up with petrol and, much to the owner's disgust, I sped off without having spent any money ! I have to say that I was a bit disappointed that, of all the things to bring me to a halt, something as mundane as a puncture was the culprit. Still, it could have been a lot more expensive.
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