It’s been over a year since I last updated this blog. And nearly a year since the corona chaos began. So what of my project? Some changes, some success, delay, home office and home with no office and much much, more. Buckle up boys and girls. This is going to be a long one.
What happened last year? I think a lot of us are still in a daze. I know I was. In February I got close enough to get the car legal and contacted a garage that my boss recommended to help me register the car in Germany. Having made quite a few minor modifications, getting an historic plate might prove to be a little tricky so I passed the job to a pro. I completed a few teething issues during February before driving it to the garage for the test preparation. At the very beginning of March I got my temporary plates (valid for one week). What happened after that was almost unbelievable and looking back now, borderline comedy. The car was tested and I was asked to make a minor change. The test Centre claimed I had right hand drive headlamps, which I did not but rather than pointlessly argue I ordered some new lamps as requested. The irony being that the tester claimed the French Cibie lamps on the car were not suitable and requested I fit German Hella lamps despite the fact that the Cibies were manufactured in Germany and the Hellas in France! The lamps that I ordered arrived after two weeks but did not fit the retaining ring. So I ordered the correct retainers. The wait was another two weeks for the parts. During this wait, the lockdown began. Mild restrictions at first but by the time the lamp retainers arrived, the test Centre had closed. My professional help decided to take the car to a still open test centre. The new tester went to town on the car and presented a two page document listing changes required to qualify for an historic plate and indeed some things for basic road worthiness. Some of the changes were utterly ridiculous. That was a blow. However, the original test centre had reopened again with the now common safety measures in place. The car was taken back to the original test centre. The original tester was furious that the car had been taken to a rival test centre and the tester refused to retest the car. So back to the two pages of changes. i puffed my cheeks out accepted the challenge and ordered some parts, including a new set of original gauges, and some other minor items. My professional help had successfully challenged many other unnecessary changes which were already clearly within the rules. Unfortunately while I was ordering the new gauges, the lockdown restrictions became stricter and the second test centre closed along with al, the others. The car got stuck in the prep workshop and so that was where it stayed for seven whole months. Back in May, my company started to hit financial difficulties and put the whole team I worked for into the German furlough scheme (Kurzarbeit). That put severe financial strains into the mix. In the mean time I had turned my attention to my fiesta and almost completely restored that car. So simple are those cars that I removed the engine, cleaned it, painted it and replaced most of the gaskets I changed the clutch, removed a wing (fender-they are welded on), prepped and painted the engine bay, the front panel and the underside of the car. I removed, repaired and rewrapped the wiring loom. The complete fuel system was removed and restored and the interior removed, seats repaired and cleaned. All of that took three whole weeks. Yes, weeks. Ford designed the original Fiesta to take the shortest time to manufacture in their history. In the process they made it the easiest car to take apart by amateurs and reassemble again. Unfortunately the financial strain took hold and with much pain I had to sell the fiesta once it was in tip top condition. I had bought a BMW 135i at the end of 2019 and that was next to go. I replaced it with a cheaper daily. A Mini Cooper S. A great fun car and as it would turn out, a way better car than my BMW was in so many ways. That was less painful than I expected. I dearly miss the fiesta though. My kids actually shed tears when it finally sold.
So what of the Lotus. During this time I reconstructed the dash. The tester had complained about lack of original gauges and despite my complaints, in the end he was right. It looked cheap. The whole assembly just didn’t work. In the end I tried to copy the original S2 dash but the some of the components and switches are simply no longer available. I got lamps that were close enough in size and although the dash is not entirely faithfull, it looks authentic. The tester certainly thought so. On September the 4th I finally drove my Lotus home. Legal and safe at last. Finally I had reached the goal I worked so hard to achieve.
Obviously that was 4 months ago. So what has happened since. I should have been driving it wherever, whenever but there were still teething issues. I had a crunching gear problem that I couldn’t figure out. I asked a friend from my home town in Aberdeen for advice and together we brain stormed the issue. (Thanks Donald) Many, including myself thought it was a gearbox issue but he suspected the clutch. I removed the gearbox and he was absolutely correct. Not the clutch itself but the spigot bearing. I had completely forgotten to fit one! Having only ever changed fwd gearboxes, I simply wasn’t aware of the necessity. (Fwd gearboxes have solidly mounted shafts that don’t need a spigot bearing for support) I remember thinking the gearbox had assembled with much ease many years before. Of course it had. No spigot bearing meant a very loose fit. The clutch plate was off centre and occasionally catching the bell housing and making a crunching sound. Luckily I got away with zero damage. I had to have at least one piece of luck in 2020! The brake servo pump then failed. The electrics were also not so reliable. The pump was removed but the brake failure put all sorts of doubt in my mind about being able to stop reliably. I no longer trusted the modified front caliper setup and returned everything to stock. The original calipers were sand blasted and refurbished. I found some very convincing heat proof paint which replicated yellow zinc almost perfectly. At this point my finances were dire, so I saved where I could. The brakes were not as powerful but more importantly are now reliable. I added a vacuum reservoir for added safety as well. I repaired some wiring again and reached a point where I had only one issue which needed attention. The rear demist. Not a deal breaker. By the time I sorted all that though, winter arrived. And after the mildest winter on record last year, 2020 being the year that brought so much bad luck and pain, delivered snow and ice early for a change. No winter tyres means no driving in Germany. I did get a few clear sunny days but I have racked up a measly 300km so far and the car is now tucked up for winter until the good weather returns. While the weather has prevented driving, I made some other changes to areas I wasn’t happy with. I stripped out most of the carpets and bought better quality material. The boot (trunk) got a complete makeover and the interior received some new carpeting also. In the pictures there are photos of some plastic parts (dash masks, the frame for the dash lamps and the gear knob). They were all 3D printed.
It’s been a hell of a journey and the final leg was not what I expected. The last 4 months have been extremely stressful. My workplace never recovered and didn’t pay the last 4 months wages. On the upside I found a new job but I am now employed in a city 300 kilometres from home. So I can’t even look at the Lotus except in photos. 2020 was an awful year in the end. Corona delayed the end of this project by making the final hurdle almost torturous, I lost my job and to my huge regret, my marriage also failed. Hopefully 2021 will bring some better times and some good driving roads.
So a very belated Happy New Year to one and all. This will be my final posting. The car is complete (it’s an old car, we all know that’s not quite true). Thanks to you all for reading and sorry it took me so long to get back to writing. I am relieved to say that I will not be taking on another project. It’s cost me too much time, too much money and too much pain. I just want to enjoy the drive from now on.
One last note. I say that I won’t be taking on another project but I am working on another Lotus. This time I’m not paying for the effort but rather being paid for my efforts. I am now working for Lotus.