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My First Esprit

Bringing the 'Red Devil' home!

I took delivery of my Esprit on Friday evening, probably the wrong time of day to collect it but as I had just flown in from Amsterdam I was eager to play with my new baby. Having got the previous owner to fit a new battery before I collected her, I found that there were a few problems that were not there when I took her for a test drive.

The lights worked but the pods would not come up, the Radio no longer worked, the Interior light would not work, the Horn was not working and the Cigar lighters did not work! Good start you might say. The previous owner contacted a former mechanic of Paul Matty, and he turned up within 1/2 an hour. Unable to find the problem, I decided to take the car and sort it myself the next day in the daylight, so I wound up the pods manually and off I went.

First stop the petrol garage, and here came my first problem. How the hell do you get the key out of the ignition? I was fumbling around for about 5 mins before I found the little button under the steering column. Now the fun of filling her up for the first time, I remembered from another owners site that it is wise to take both filler caps off when filling up to let the air out easily. So both caps off and fuel pipe in...wooosh....petrol everywhere. There is obviously a knack to filling an Esprit with fuel, I am sure I will get the hang of it.

So now fully fuelled and raring to go, I headed for the M5 to come down south from Birmingham. At first things were going well, then I found the car accelerating on its own! Constantly braking to keep the speed to a respectable 70 MPH whilst I got used to her, I thought I better pull off at the first services and see what the problem was. It was evident whilst changing down, that I had a 'sticking throttle'.

So here was I with my Esprit on the first day, throttle stuck open, in the dark and bloody miles from home trying to find where the throttle cable went, and why the throttle was sticking. A cup of coffee, ciggy and a few phone calls later, I eventually found the problem was due to lack of use, (The previous owner hardly drove her) and a sticking throttle linkage at the carb end.

Having brought some WD40 and a torch in the garage, I managed to spray everything and open the throttle with my hand a few times letting it snap back, eventually to its resting place. A bit more WD another coffee and I thought okay lets give it another go. Success...Now well on my way, and gently getting quicker and quicker with each mile, I decided to blow caution to the wind and open her up. So down a gear floor the throttle, back into fifth and bloody hell were doing 140 MPH. Grinning from ear to ear I thought, yes I'm going to like owning an Esprit.

Eventually I arrived in Guilford and decided to take a hotel for the night and continue my journey in the morning. Saturday was a bright and sunny morning, and the excitement of driving my baby again had me up at 7 o'clock. I wound the pods down and set off for Strood in Kent to se my brother, as he would be able to help me with the other problems. Pretty uneventful journey but fun none the less, playing with other drivers on the M25 in the morning. I was getting a great buzz noticing, wives and girlfriends pulling their visors down to take a look behind them at my beautiful Esprit. I can just imagine the conversations going on in the other cars.

Having arrived at my brothers we checked the wiring diagram and found that all of the non functioning items had one thing in common. The first fuse box, we checked a double checked everything and still no joy. I decided to check the battery to see if everything was okay there, and that is when I found a broken wire. The old battery had corroded and eaten through one of the wires, so when I pulled it gently, it just
snapped. So I fitted a new terminal and now everything was back to normal and functioning correctly.

So one with my journey, now getting used to the admiring glances, I boarded the ferry at Dover and relaxed before my drive through France, Belgium and into The Netherlands. Boy are those roads fun, only one speed camera between Calais and Home, which is just after the Kennedy Tunnel near Antwerp. Time for some fun in the sun, I had a great drive playing with the gearbox and Turbo. Testing out the acceleration, leaving others for dust. This really is a fun car to drive, excellent handling, superb performance and a driving position that only a racing driver could have designed. Everything is just in the right place.

Well that's my journey home, the 'Red Devil' is safely locked up in my garage ready for a wash, polish and thorough going over tomorrow.

 

The ‘Red Devil’ was originally purchased by an elderly gentleman in 1985 from ‘Mike Spence’ Lotus dealer in Reading, and he had the car for 6 years, selling it to someone who was building an historic sports car collection. He kept the car until 1992 when the previous owner took delivery with 46000 miles on the clock. After 1000 miles the owner completely rebuilt the mechanics as follows…

The engine and gearbox were removed and the engine bay renovated, new hoses and electrics were fitted, earth connections cleaned, gear linkages painted and new bushes fitted. New locking nuts were used throughout. Engine and gearbox mountings were replaced, new stainless steel exhaust system fitted. Turbo charger removed, cleaned, professionally checked as was the wastegate. The exhaust manifold was shotblasted and finished in black. The following were removed dismantled cleaned and checked, Starter Motor, Alternator, Carburettors, Ignition system. The gearbox was flushed and cleaned, new springs were fitted, as was a new flywheel and clutch assembly. The sump was removed and cleaned.

The cylinder head was removed, cleaned, valves ground in, camshafts removed. Everything was put together again with all new fixings (both studs and bolts) fitted with stainless steel helicoil inserts.

The engine block was striped everything was checked and measured and new parts fitted in abundance, including new big ends. When the engine was rebuilt it had new gaskets,bolts,studs and nuts. All drive belts were replaced, rubber seals water hoses and clips. New timing belt tensioner, cambelt etc..costing in all about 6k in parts and some labour, having done much of the work himself, and with the help of a Lotus mechanic friend.

Since the rebuild the car was only driven 4k in the last 10 years, but was regularly serviced and MOT’d ever year. I have complete Lotus history, including all receipts for the engine and gearbox rebuild, right down to the nuts and bolts.

Another thing that I forgot to mention was the steering wheel, from new the car had not only Air Co, and the removable glass roof, (For which I have the original hood cover and wind deflector) but also a MOMO factory fitted steering wheel as shown below.

 

Dutch garages must be bigger than UK ones! fits in perfect.

My first job has to be a replacement for the naff Kenwood Radio Cassette in the car, so I think I will use the advice on your site on how to fit a CD player and changer. When this is complete I want to find out the costs for renovating the interior, as the leather is really in need of some attention and looks grubby. If anyone knows of a good (but reasonable priced) refurbisher of Lotus interiors, then I would be interested to hear from them.

I took the Red Devil in for a health check this morning and apart from a slight oil leak (See Picture) from the Cam Cover, a broken door adjuster and a gear linkage bush that was broken she was given a clean bill of health. In fact the Lotus Mechanic Maarten at Van Sten Engineering in Holland (My local specialist) said she was in very good condition. Still original, no body damage in her life, you can tell from the black moulded strips down the side of the car. The originals are polished and shiny whilst replacements are of a matt black type. Also the windshield is original again you can tell by the size of the black surround on the window. The front tyres are of 1988 origin, (The car was built in 1985) and the rears were last replaced in 1990. Just goes to show how few miles she hasn’t done over the years.

When asked how much she would cost in The Netherlands, I was surprised to find that he valued her at £3000 more than I paid for her. But of course I would never part with my little baby, she attracts so much attention over here, everyone wants to take a look and she is such fun to drive. I have never the less decided to put her in for a ‘C’ service even though she doesn’t need one, just to put my mind at rest. I will let you know how she gets on and the costs involved in The Netherlands as opposed to the UK.

 

You might notice in one of the pictures the ‘Yellow’ bonnet of an Esprit in the back ground. That is actually a prototype Esprit that was made before they went into production and has a few features that were not available on the production cars. I will get some more information on her when I can and take some pictures of her as well. Maarten actually has 4 Esprit’s, all in various states of repair, he also has a few Elise’s, and Elan, Eclat and lots of other goodies as well. I spent most of the morning just chatting to him and drinking coffee, whilst he showed me the other Esprit’s in his garage. He has also managed to source some Lotus parts directly from the original manufactures, the only difference being that they do not have the Lotus mark on them, but the price savings are tremendous. Things like the V belts, Timing belts etc. They are the original parts just not supplied by Lotus!

All in all I am glad to have found such a knowledgeable and friendly mechanic for my baby. Tomorrow I am off to Zandfoort for the British Racing Festival (see Report), where Club Lotus have some hospitality facilities and the Red Devil will be parked in a special place in the Paddock for the day, the whole day including entrance, Complimentary drink from the Lotus Guys and Paddock parking is only 20 Euro (About £13.00) bargain, and sure to be lots of fun. This afternoon, I did my first job and changed the tape player for a CD unit from Pioneer, much better.

 

The other thing I will be doing is to fit a Radar Detector, but instead of the window version that can be seen from outside I will opt as most do over here for the Bell Ventura Europa 966R. It is a secluded detector which you mount behind a front grill, with the signal box hidden under the dash or somewhere on the inside. This way it can be used in countries like France and Belgium where they are phrohibited.
Since writing this article I have booked my Esprit in for a C service and a few other things at the same time on Monday the 4th November. I will be taking some more pics of the work done and at the same time hope to get some more information and pictures of the prototype Esprit that I mentioned in an earlier article.

One thing that I would like to know is about wheels, has anyone changed the wheels on a Turbo? I am trying to find out about replacements of a different size. The reason for this is so that I have a greater choice of tyres than just the Pirelli, which is the only one that I think is still made in the 235/60 x 15 size. In doing so I would like to lower the profile of the tyres as well, trying not to change the gearing at the same time. If anyone has any advice on this it would be much apprieciated.

I received some ‘Liquid Leather’ yesterday as well, so I am going to be trying the restore of my interior in the next couple of weeks to see if it works as others have recommended. I will let you know how I get on.

UPDATE

I decided mainly for peace of mind to take my Esprit in for a Major Service and at the same time have some other work done as well.
I am glad that I did as it revealed a few problems that if not sorted could have had disastrous effects later.

The first astonishing find was a small washer flying about in one of the rocker covers, it had been swashed in half and luckily had managed to lodge itself on one of the shim magnets, preventing further any damage.

A complete check of al the rocker components revealed that luckily it had not done any damage. The guy who rebuilt the engine 4000 miles ago must have dropped it in the rocker cover by accident, a bit careless and worrying, if he could have done something like that, then what else am I going to find!

Well with that sorted the next stage was to sort the small oil leak that was coming from the Rocker Housing. This transpired to be because of another bodged job by the engine re-builder. When the head was heli-coiled the far back left corner heli-coil was slightly proud of the head. This meant that the Rocker Housing could not close the gap fully, hence the small but annoying leak.
The problem transpired to be because the hole for the heli-coil was virtually stripped of thread, so there was nothing for it to grab and therefore the head could not be tightened down correctly. Besides that the hole was distorted so there was no chance of re tapping the thread or fitting another coil.

After some thought my mechanic and myself decided there were 5 options to choose from.

1 Fit a bigger heli-coil – simple and easy option,
  but with very little thread to bite it was never going to work and it would not really solve the problem.
2.Drill the hole larger and fit a sleeve with new heli-coil – some problems with the amount of room.
3.Drill the hole deeper sink a heli-coil and fit a longer stud – waterways could be hit.
4.Weld the hole and redrill – Engine out job.
5.Replace the Head – Expensive and also Engine out job.

We decided to try the first option so a larger helicoil was fitted and everything put back together again then tested. At first it looked as though it had worked. Engine running for hour and no leak, then plip a small drop of oil. Hmmm it will only get worse and it has not solved the problem. So lets try another option.

The second option was to drill the hole larger and fit a sleeve with a heli-coil insert. The only problem with this that it would not leave much room around the outside of the sleeve, and the edge of the head and could result in the Head cracking when torqued, therefore I decided that this was not an option to try.

So the third option was decided on next, this was to drill the hole slightly deeper and sink a heli-coil then fit a longer stud. Checks were made of some spare heads that the mechanic had lying around and it was decided that it was possible to do.

Yes you guessed it a hidden waterway was hit (only just) so when it was tested under pressure a small water leak was seen.

Well before the third or forth option was tried we decided that as it was a small leak it may be possible to use a special glue and a blanking plug at the bottom of the whole to reseal the waterway. I decided that this would be the option to try first as it is cheap and in theory should solve the problem. The hole was still deep enough to fit the longer stud and the blanking plug should stop the water leak. When all this was completed and everything put under pressure again this time for 1.5 hours, it seems to have fixed the problems. But in the back of my mind is going to be a re-occurrence of the problems. So for the time being fixed but sometime next year I may want it done properly with either a weld or probably a new head.

The main reason for this decision is due to another problem that was found (again caused by the idiot who rebuilt the engine). A small crack was found in the timing belt spanner, this was caused because there was a washer fitted behind the spanner, which should not have been there. The reason for it being there was to line up the water pump belt correctly, as when the water pump was originally refitted to the engine it was not put far enough on the spline.

It had been set-up for a car without air-co and of course mine has air-co.

This naturally means that now the water pump belt is running at a very slight angle, which will wear the belt out quicker and put undue stress on the bearings.

As it is also an engine out job, I decided that it will have to suffice till next year when I have some more money and can have the head sorted and the water pump at the same time.

It is not actually as bad as it sounds, because the angle of the belt is only very slight and probably will not make any real difference, but again I want the thing built correctly as you always have that nagging doubt in the back of your mind.

In addition to this work my mechanic also changed all the other belts, fitted some platinum plugs, an new set of Magnecour leads, distributor cap, rotor arm, filters, made the usual adjustments, and changed all the fluids.

The other work that I had done was to replace the S/S exhaust with another S/S exhaust, the reason for this was for the sound. I wanted the car to sound as it looks and Maarten had a spare exhaust which sounds wonderful, so we did a deal and he fitted it for me…fabulous!

He also made some adjustments to the track rod ends, to make the steering more positive as there was a bit of play there.

There was a broken (or missing) gear linkage bush that was replaced and I also brought a gearbox mod from SJ Sportscars which replaces part of the lateral gear linkage cable with a steel rod, this has been fitted and now the gearbox feels 100% better, with no slack and a positive feel.

The drivers door used to open to far as the catch in the door had broken, so I had a second hand one of these fitted, and I have gone for the secondary door seals which finish the doors off a treat. No longer do I have that gap around the edge of the doors, I would recommend this cheap mod to anyone with an S3, it looks so much better.

Driving the car home again was so much fun, it sounded great went like a bomb and is just so different it is amazing, its like a new car. I am really glad that I took her in for an overhaul, as standing around for so long in the past she needed it.

When I got her home I fitted my new ‘Esprit’ footwell mats that I had made by Autostyle (www.autostyle.co.uk ) and they look a treat.

Well that is it for this time, my next jobs are…

Try the Liquid Leather treatment, I have some now. (www.liquidleather.com)
Fit the S/S Clutch hose again I have that waiting. (www.sjsportscars.co.uk)
Change the front Discs for Turbo Grooved Discs. (www.powerstop.co.uk)
Change the front pads for GreenStuff pads. (www.powerstop.co.uk)
Change the brake line hoses for S/S braided. (www.sjsportscars.co.uk)
Convert to 4 vacuum ports (Brake and heating). (www.sjsportscars.co.uk)
Fit my Optimate, I have that waiting. (purchased locally)
Fit Radar detector
Sort the Head and waterpump.

Change the wheels – This is an interesting one, I have done a lot of research into this and www.compomotive.co.uk (www.compomotivewheels.co.uk) are the guys to get in touch with, they know all about the Esprit problem with lack of tyres and used to make the wheels as well. They have a 17” 3 piece modular wheel (TS or CX design) that looks very similar to the original that they will make for the Esprit. The cost of the wheels including delivery in the UK is £1200.00 . The tyre sizes will increase to the following, 215/40 x 17 front and 255/45 x 17 rear. Checks have been made and they should fit without interfering with any of the suspension etc. This means there is a larger selection of rubber available, and the rolling circumference of the wheels remains the same. I am still contemplating if to go down this route or not, as the current tyres are desperately in need of a change.

Whooops!!!!

 

Basically I had just over taken a lorry at 50KPM and was going round a left hand curve when the back end violently slide to the left (strange being a rear wheel drive). The left rear wheel hit the kerb which spun me 180 so that the right hit the kerb at the same time mounting the grass central reservation. I slid across the grass and into a streetlamp, which impacted the right rear wheel. That spun me 180 again and backwards onto the other carriage way. Another car coming along smashed into the side of me and I slide off backwards into a ditch. The local authorities had to close the road for 2 hours whilst they cleared up all the mess and picked up all the bits of my car. She was then taken away to Van Sten Engineering where Maarten has written her off.

  

As you can see from the photos the body is completely wrecked on the right and the rear, the chassis was bent, the suspension was collapsed, the gearbox is cracked, the petrol tank split open on impact, the glass roof shattered, as did all right hand side windows, even things like the catches on the engine cover were completely twisted plus lots more...

 

I have to say the authorities were excellent, I had a full check up at the side of the road in an ambulance, but I kept telling them I was
okay, just a couple of scratches from the glass. Statements taken all round from the police and all of them matched so no worries there. The fire brigade had to wait whilst full tanks of petrol drained from the split tank, and then clear and wash down the road. The local council turned up to repair the street light as it had snapped in the middle and was lying in the road. And the local press turned up and it made the papers two days later.

 

Back in the Game!

Just to let you know I have purchased a new Lotus (see above)….I am now the proud owner of an Esprit Turbo SE 1990 in Calypso red… It is left hand drive and was originally made for the Dutch Market, I have brought the car from my now friend at Van Sten Engineering in Holland. He is preparing the car for me which will take a couple of weeks, with new tyres all round a C service, new brake discs up front, and a couple of minor cosmetic things.

espritse@planet.nl

 
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