Gearing and gearboxes (1 article)

Gearbox info

The Lotus 5-Speed is fragile. Second gear is probably the most common weak point, but nothing in it is robustly built.

The 4-Speed is a Ford unit. A regular rock crusher, it can take all the abuse you want to throw at it. The only flaw is that highway cruising without the overdrive fifth requires high revs and gets a little tiring. Not a big deal, but 5th is nice.

The Getrag 265 5-Speed used in the Eclat S2 is plenty strong and has been used in more powerful cars (ie., certain of the non-Fed M3 and 320 BMW's, Morgan and Rovers with the 3.5 V8, possibly Opel Ascona and Jaguar/Unipart. It's not the Jensen Healey Getrag!). The Getrag is rather clunky to use by comparison to the Lotus or Toyota 5-Speed boxes. The gear shift is notchy and there's more gear noise. It's not a pleasant to use, but it's an easier more direct swap into an Eclat than the Toyota Supra gearbox. The Getrag ratios are not as ideally matched to the 9xx as the Lotus and Toyota units.

The Getrag is a larger gearbox than the Lotus unit (which is tiny) and requires some cutting on the S1 chassis to install. There is a bulkhead in the backbone with a hole in it that the tailshaft housing passes through. That hole has to be enlarged. A rear mount has to be fabricated and welded in. The fabrication work is relatively minor. I believe Club Lotus has a piece on how to do the swap. Is anyone a member of Club Lotus? Bonn Macey contacted the Lotus factory about it and remembers the person he talked to (?) saying it wasn't difficult, and could easily be done. If anyone considers a Getrag swap, it would probably be worth a call / e-mail to the Lotus factory to ask them how to go about it. They may be able (inclined?) to tell you exactly what you would need.

Joe Ficarra (California) has an Eclat with a Getrag conversion. It was modified by Pruett's Ole' English Garage in Burlingame California. I think the telephone number is (415) 344-8030. The conversion was done about 12 years ago and ownership of the garage has since changed. The new owner, Bob Lugiani, has no direct knowledge of the procedure. I have Joe Ficarra's phone numbers, but he's not online... at least the last time I contacted him.

The Toyota 5-Speed used in the Excel SE ('85+ ?) was from the Supra of the same period (which would make it a W-55 or W-58 gearbox - both introduced in '82). I pulled some Toyota gearbox data from a Toyota enthusiast's website (Matti in Finland) and the W58 gearbox used on the 82-93 Supra has the same ratios as the Excel's. That must be the one. Toyota used the W58 transmission with engines that produced up to 204hp. It's plentiful and relatively inexpensive if purchased used. An excellent gearbox. Smooth shifting, quiet and trouble free. Nearly perfect ratios for the 9xx Lotus engines. It just happens to be huge.

The Excel chassis is wider than the Elite/Eclat chassis and accommodates the larger transmission easily. The Eclat will accept them, but it's a fug-snit. Barry Spencer, Spencer's European, (510) 784-1966, (Hayward CA, San Francisco Bay Area, south of Oakland) has retro-fitted a Yoda box into an Eclat but told me he never wants to do it again. It wasn't easy. He modified the bellhousing from the standard Lotus 5-Speed to accept the Yoda box... lotsa custom fabrication. Using an Excel bellhousing would be easier, but the Excel uses a hydraulic clutch. That would require either fabricating something to accommodate the clutch cable or converting the clutch pedal to hydraulic. Swap in an Excel pedal box assembly and call it good.

. Have fun!

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