Life with a modern classic - the Lotus diary, part 6

Lotus Elise
The remains of the Elise's Exceedy clutch after a bad shift

2012 was an eventful year in the Elise’s life and one that won’t be forgotten for a while. Alastair is hoping that 2013 will be somewhat less eventful, or at least significantly cheaper!

To really ensure I eased into my 2013 challenge, I took the car back to Billingshurst in October / November to get the clutch replaced after the September ‘Ring incident. Once the clutch was out, it was diagnosed as a 'burst clutch' and the likely cause was indeed a bad gearshift from 5th to 4th as I suspected. I’ve yet to plug the laptop in to confirm peak revs but I guess I’ll have to accept the diagnosis, hold my hand up and chalk it up to experience. Not to mention having learned the merits of being extremely positive and precise when changing gear!

Having said that, a compression test suggests all is absolutely fine with the engine and so the flipside is that I’m actually incredibly lucky that nothing more serious than the clutch failed. More information can be found on page 19 here.

After much searching online and discussions with several owners and respected converters, we decided to replace the clutch with an OEM Honda model instead of the Exceedy 3 piece unit that was installed previously. It’s supposedly extremely capable and actually works out cheaper than the Exceedy one, although obviously I’m hoping to never repeat the incident!

As I mentioned last time, Gareth was also desperate to get the electrics properly sorted including getting the Lambda sensor to be recognised by the K-Pro ECU. Whilst there was nothing essential driving this, it was bugging the hell out of him. I’m therefore very pleased to confirm that after much searching, hard work and no doubt lots of cursing he’s got this fixed. The solution remains a mystery to me and necessitated several hours of work to get right but it’s fixed and that’s all I care about.

He also took the time to remove the now completely redundant head unit and replace it with a blanking plate. To be honest it was pretty redundant from the moment I bought the car, since you could only ever hear it below 20mph and I never took the faceplate with me anyway. However, the final catalyst for removal was that we also removed the speakers when we added the harness bar. Naturally, I’m chalking this up as adding more lightness in true Lotus/ Chapman fashion.

Continuing my very sensible application of man-maths, I decided that since it’s a 200-mile roundtrip to the garage it made sense to get as much done as possible when the car was there, and therefore took the opportunity to replace the springs with stiffer ones from Nitron. Having spoken to a few people (including directly to Mark Catskill at Nitron) I followed the advice of the highly reputable and extremely helpful Chris Randall at Hoffmans. So instead of the standard road spec 325/400 setup it’s now running 400/550.

Thankfully the additional work is all very sensible stuff and I managed to partly finance the changes by selling off the surplus Yokohama Advan Neova LTS tyres that I’d replaced with newer AD08s (as mentioned in my last update) as well as the head unit I mentioned above.

First impressions? Well, given I had to apply full opposite lock to correct a massive 2nd gear slide whilst coming out of the Dartford toll on the way home from picking it up, I can report that it’s lively. 

To be honest, I’ve only driven it in the biblically wet conditions we’ve had over the last few weeks and previously I hadn’t driven it in the wet with the new engine so it’s hard to draw a proper comparison. However, one thing is for certain: it’s definitely stiffer and pointier! My full setup is below but essentially nothing apart from the springs has changed. I’m still running the front ARB on the middle adjustment setting (of 3 or 4 settings) and the dampers are as they were previously (10 from hardest at the front and 12 from hardest at the rear). It’s still very adjustable on the throttle, but I think it understeers more than it did before and I actually managed to spin it at 15mph messing around on a roundabout on an industrial estate near me. I think it needs softening a bit for road use, and definitely for the conditions we’ve had of late.


    Left Right
Front Castor 4.1 3.9
Camber -1.5 1.4
Toe -0.5 -0.5
Ride height 110
Dampers 10 from hardest
Rear Camber -2.4 -2.4
Toe 2mm toe in 2mm toe in
Ride Height 120
Dampers 12 from hardest

Everything else is much the same; it’s still lightening quick, bloody noisy and a barrel of laughs all round. Oh and we’ve definitely improved the vibration issue I reported last time – that's the only benefit of having to remove the engine! I’ve not done enough miles to know whether it’s 100% sorted but it’s definitely better.

However, one other thing I have noticed is the clutch bite point seems even lower since the swap, meaning getaways aren’t as easy as I’d like unless they involve high revs and the proverbial dab of oppo. What's more of a concern is that while it’s perfectly fine if you don’t rush your gearchanges, I did experience a slight gearbox grind when on track previously, so if the bite is even lower now I'm worried that this will be worse on track. Again, it's something to look out but I’d be really keen to hear if anyone else with a conversion has had similar clutch issues (or not), so please let me know.

Talking of track action, I took the opportunity to pop up to see some friends (including Jack and Marty) at Bedford in mid-December. While I was there, I figured I should at least try to see if I could get on track, but the Elise measured 103.7db static noise output against a 101db limit, so no track time for me on this occasion. It did provide some reassurance that I should be fine on 105db static days, but it will be close and it's definitely a concern for tracks like Donington where the decibel limit is enforced on drive-by rather than static. I’ll soon find out though, since I’m there for my frst trackday of the New Year at the end of February.

Oh, one final note; I hadn't driven the car since that day at Bedford and yet it started at first attempt on New Year’s Eve after two whole weeks of sitting on my drive, which is most un-Lotus like behaviour. The flipside is that the offside headlight seems to be working intermittently again, so the standard Lotus electrical gremlins aren't quite cured yet!