A little help & advice please

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Orsom Weels
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A little help & advice please

Post by Orsom Weels »

Hello all

Didn't know quite where to post this as I'm new to the forum, but not yet an Excel owner, so the 'New Owner' section didn't seem the right place, hope it's ok here in 'General'. What I'm really looking for is the benefit of your collective wisdom :)
You see, I've been a long time Lotus fan & have an Elan series 4 drop head & a +2 S130 that I've owned since 1987, & had a +2 S before that. When I first got my current +2, I visited the factory & was given a bit of a tour round. (I'm a good old Norfolk boy, & had a few friends that worked there :D ) I was shown & taken for a spin round the test track in the then current Esprit & Excel models, & whilst I have to admit the Esprit didn't really do it for me, I did fall just a little bit in love with the Excel. I thought it would make the perfect garage mate for the +2. Being a relatively young lad, on relatively low motor trade wages, & having just stretched my bank managers understanding & generosity by buying the +2, I had to dispel such thoughts from my mind ! :cry:
Fast forward the best part of 30 years, where did that go? :shock: , a good few other toys have come & gone, but I never have got round to owning an Excel. I think it's time I made the effort to change that.
If it is to happen however, the Excel would have to become my every day car. My annual mileage is not high, & I would still have the benefit of Mrs O's modern euro box, but my car does get used most days, & needs to provide reliable & reasonably comfortable transport. So the big question is will an Excel give me this? I'm no stranger to using older motors as daily drivers, & don't mind having to 'go through' them to iron out problems etc, but I don't have the time to mend something every time I use it. Obviously, after over 30 years of Lotus ownership, I am aware of & have experienced a good few of their little foibles, & learnt how to overcome them, but I keep hearing the Excel is much better than the earlier models, with it's little bit of Toyota DNA, is this really the case? With the earlier models that I'm familiar with, there are quite a few up-grades/modifications, such as electronic ignition & fuel injection conversions that can make them easier to live with, there are others that are just designed to empty your wallet, does this apply to the Excel as well? & if so, what do you recommend? & finally for now, is there any recommended reading I should be looking for to extend my knowledge & help me if/when looking at a potential purchase? Oh, & of course if anyone knows of a suitable car for sale :wink:

Best regards, & happy new year

OW

John
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by John »

Welcome to the forum, this really is an excellent resource, lots of helpful people so you've come to the right place!

I can't advise you about using an Excel everyday but what I can say is that my 1986 SE is the best old car I've owned (previously owned Triumph Spitfires, TR7, Stag, Rover SD1, Saab 99, 1956 Chevy and a Pontiac Firebird - the only ones I miss are the American cars). I've had it three years and it's passed it's MOT each year with no advisories. Rust is rarely a problem on these cars - there are a few well known areas you need to check, especially door beams and frames, but the later cars have a galvanised chassis so I'd make sure you get one of those. And that resolves probably the biggest hassle about old cars - constantly battling the tin worm. You can concentrate on mechanical/cosmetic fettling and actually using the car!

Late model Excels as you say have a lot of Toyota bits - gearbox, diff, brakes, all very dependable. And the 900 series slant 4 engine was very well sorted by the mid 80s and as long as you maintain them properly they are reliable. Cam belt changes need to be done bang on schedule. I made up a to do list when I got my car and unlike other classics I've owned the list hasn't grown and I actually manage to chip away at it, gradually improving the car year on year.

There will be problems using a 30+ year old car as an everyday driver, but it sounds like you expect that. I would say a late model Excel has a lot to offer. Books to check out before choosing your car - I would suggest the following;

Lotus Elite, Eclat and Excel An Enthusiasts Guide (Matthew Vale)
Lotus since the 70s Volume 1: Elite, Eclat, Excel and Elan (Graham Robson)

Good luck!

AndyC
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by AndyC »

Hi Orsom.

The Excel in standard form should easily deliver that turn-key & start drivability that we don't readily associate with classic Lotus cars, mainly as it was electronic ignition from the start. The Toyota running gear also adds to that. The components sourced from other manufacturers seem to be less (over) stressed in the Excel than in other models. I've not driven my running Excel for quite a while (injury) but I'm confident that given a jump start/ recharge I can go out there, turn the key, wait for the fuel to reach the carbs, pull the choke and fire it up on first crank.

Good luck with the hunt, there should be a few cars up for sale in a few months time as people dig them out and realise they didn't use them in the last 12 months. Hope to see you about Norfolk in an Excel soon.

Andy

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Lotus-e-Clan
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Lotus-e-Clan »

Plenty use the Excel for a daily commute. They are definitely more reliable if they are used regularly.

The ignition has let down some unlucky owners but equally there are owners that have had no significant ignition issues. Unfortunately, as you will already know having owned many a Lotus and met many an owner, an assessment of the number and type of previous owners (money spent on proper maintenance, engineering ability if DIY, environment car kept in), is just as important as an inspection of current condition.

The Excel has arrived at that turning point where there are few original well-maintained low mileage examples available (they are keepers!) and I think mileage is now a poor predictor of future reliability.

If kept outside (especially unused) for long periods the Excel more quickly suffers in terms of:
Cabin leaks -> soaked carpets, sagging trim, relay corrosion (located in leak areas!), wiper motor failure, heater motor failure.
Engine bay maladies -> wet /frozen/gritty belts and consequent pulley erosion, electric contact corrosion etc
Paintwork -> fade (esp red!) blisters/lacquer peel.
Frame Corrosion -> door hingepins (door drops), window frame rot. door beam rot etc, suspension arm corrosion (parts not galvanised).
All largely avoidable if the car is religiously garaged at the end of the day and not left outside in all weathers (as you must know as a long term Lotus owner).
Main chassis is galvanised so relatively bomb-proof.
Dellorto DHLAs are reliable but as ever get messed up by undisciplined tinkerers -air boxes discarded and on the later cars, engine management vacuum system corrupted.
IF the ignition is on it's last legs then mapped ignition is the way to go if originality is the least of your worries -real benefits to be had with mapped as ever.
Clutch wear is high for a number of reasons - the std flexiplate flywheel encourages an abnormal (but small) amount of slip (the take-up point is damped), and as the clutch pedal bite-point rises with wear, it hits the pedal stop which then increasingly holds the the clutch in a semi-disengaged position -thus accelerating wear.

That said there are some fine, well-kept, well-sorted examples out there but don't be fooled, some 'dealers' are capable of presenting dogs as fine examples with a high ticket price.
Peter K

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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by mkelite »

Happy New Year ! :D :D :D

We had our 1987 Excel in use EVERYDAY ( over eight years ) and apart from a preventable cam belt failure (long story but previous owners garage never did that properly), the car was as reliable - if not more so in some cases - than most 'moderns'. :D In my opinion get the latest model Excel as possible.

Obviously going through any old car you buy and changing the cam belt as soon as you get one - I suggest its probably the most reliable Lotus built.

Good luck with your car hunting. :wink:

best regards, DC.

tonypoll
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by tonypoll »

I would recommend reading 'Lotus Elite, Eclat and Excel: An Enthusiast's Guide' by Matthew Vale - £16.99 well spent - available from Amazon (and others)
Lots of good advice.
Tony

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DavidOliver
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by DavidOliver »

Welcome to the Forum Orsom. I have seen Awesome Wheels on a Testarossa but never the privilege to be introduced.
I bought my 85 LC Excel RHD in 2012 as it was locally available here in Malaga and I have the time, place and previous mechanical experience to tackle personally any fixes except bodywork.
Most mechanicals have been renovated at a cost in parts of some 4000 pounds over the four years.
If you find a low priced car you can expect to need to sort out certain items, an inspection of underside suspension and exhaust, and underbonnet condition and cleanliness are good guides.
More precisely check radiator condition, brake disc wear, age of tyres (not just tread depth).
You can go to Lotusbits webpage and see prices of reconditioned engines and other mechanicals.
If you intend to improve from original a good guide is an article by Mike Taylor of Lotusbits titled Improving the Elite, Eclat and Excel.

The wide price range of 2500 to 10000 pounds indicates the variation in conditions of cars for sale.

Hope this helps

Dave the Cog

Orsom Weels
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Orsom Weels »

Thanks for the welcome & replies, some useful tips there. I know a lot comes down to common sense, but there's nothing like a little experience :) Funnily enough, I have already ordered Matt Vales book, he's a contributor on LotusElan.net, & I had tentatively asked asked for anyones Excel experiences on there before getting registered here, & he had pointed me in it's direction, so good to get some more recommendations for it. Lotus bits looks a good resource also, I'll be reading Mike Taylors guide as time allows. Lotus-e-Clan hints at known leak areas, could you elaborate on these please? If I end up with an Excel, it will be used most days & I'm afraid it will spend most of it's time outside, so would have to be made water proof as much as possible. It would be good to know where to look for possible water ingress on any potential purchase.

Again, thanks for your help,

Regards, OW (Tim)

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Hawaiis0
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Hawaiis0 »

Main water ingress is due to poor door seals sucking in water by capillary action. Also blocked a drain hole in the front scuttle doesn't help either. Most daily use owners have few problems. I had ingress but sorting the seals fixed it. I average 5000+ miles a year in the Lotus and 6000 in the modern, and work is only 1 mile from home.

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Lotus-e-Clan
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Lotus-e-Clan »

Tim
Best listen to those who keep them outside and who have resolved the leak issues - like Hawaii5O. Mine is a garager - although now used regularly for 30 mile each way commutes in all weathers during term time - I haven't had to attend to leak issues in 18 years ownership - not because it wouldn't leak - just because it doesn't stand in water 24/7.

On the subject of 'use as a daily' you will be happy to learn that 33 mpg is achievable at legal speeds - 29mpg if you have a heavier right foot and 10mpg if you take it to a track! :D
Peter K

KLM
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by KLM »

regarding water ingress, another common place to check is the rear seat belt anchors under the rear seats. The rubber grommets perish and when driving in wet conditions water is forced through off the rotating wheels.

Easy to fix but not always obvious, until you hear water sloshing around behind you :)

oh and another common issue whilst talking about water/rain is fuel pumps can be known to cause issue in very damp conditions, usually a little tap gets them ticking again , but a more modern version can be bought for about £80

Orsom Weels
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Orsom Weels »

Great stuff, thanks again guys, I'm starting to get a list of things to look out for/pay attention to when I start looking at cars.

Hawaiis0, I've been reading your 'introductory' post, I do like that colour :) What's the auto box like? As I'm looking for this as a daily driver, I had wondered about an auto, I do love em in traffic/town etc & I have the other cars for 'play time' :lol:

Lotus-e-Clan, "On the subject of 'use as a daily' you will be happy to learn that 33 mpg is achievable at legal speeds" :shock: Really? That's way more than I had imagined with a pair of Dellorto's, hence the wondering about fuel injection conversion.

Regards, OW, (Tim)

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Lotus-e-Clan
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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Lotus-e-Clan »

Hi Tim -some will disagree (because they find it impossible to acheive) -and there is an infamous thread on here re: Excel mpg . But enough of us have got 33mpg on longer commutes/holiday tours for it to be an indisputable fact - 33 mpg is achievable.

A prerequisite is healthy ignition timing and 0.5% CO at idle (Lotus' own spec) helps, so does correct accelerator pump lever setting and no vacuum leaks. But the main contributor is as ever driving style! :D

Not sure about Auto mpg - I guess it may drop significantly around town for autos but should be very close to 33mpg on a 'clean run' -helped by the higher geared SA diff? (My SE has the lower geared diff and smaller diameter 205/50/15 tyres btw so gearing isn't 'everything')

On EFI - my view is if the DHLAs are properly tuned to factory spec then you get driveabilty and reasonable economy without going to EFI - and so far (AFAICR) I haven't read any higher mpg claims from those who have converted to EFI (maybe they will post a response?). The best value upgrade is mapped ignition (only if your dizzy is worn) - which will contribute significantly to driveabilty and economy and retain the DLHLAs. I have mapped ign on my 1040 Clan that gets 45-50 mpg on a race cam with twin DLHAs but the Excel is still going well on a dizzy.
Peter K

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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by Lotus Jim »

I'd agree with the above MPG. However (as Lotus-E-Clan says) I think it depends on how well set up the car is and how you drive. I use to get 33 MPG from my old Excel easily on a run and around 28 to 29 MPG when I used it to commute to work (which at that time was 16 miles away).
The new one I'm rebuilding has achieved 33 MPG on the (very!) odd occasion. However its average is about 26 to 27 MPG and has been as low as 23 MPG. However since rebuilding the carbs and getting the vehicle tuned correctly the average MPG has been gradually increasing. Hope that helps with the Excel decision! :D
Jim
1990 Lotus Excel
Previously Owned - 1991 Lotus Excel Celebration in Red
1998 Lotus Elise S1

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Re: A little help & advice please

Post by lambert.john »

Auto mpg on a run is around 30 in my experience. In town, it will drop to around 20. Overall, I get around 24/25.
John L.

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