The car was bought in 1971 needing a new water pump, which necessitated removing the engine and gearbox. Once the engine was rebuilt the car was used as sole transport until 1975 when our first offspring was born. It was then stored, not very carefully, in various barns, garages etc. with the intention of recommissioning after a few years.
Restoration started Easter 2010!! The finished article received its MOT and road tax exemption in July 2014. All work has been carried out by the owner unless otherwise stated. The owner had previously purchased the official parts list and workshop manuals which proved invaluable. Before starting the restoration he also purchased an addendum manual, compiled by a fellow enthusiast, who had actually rebuilt several Elans. This too was to receive much reference! Friends in Club Lotus also provided considerable help, encouragement and some hard to source parts.
Having studied these publications and looked at the condition the car was now in, it was clear that nothing less than a complete rebuild was required.
Firstly the engine and gearbox were removed. The radiator was taken to Berkshire Radiators to be rebuilt with a triple matrix core. The carburettors were taken to Carburettor Exchange in Leighton Buzzard for refurbishment. The gearbox was taken to Three D Transmissions in Reading, for overhaul.
An engine stand was fabricated and the engine stripped, cleaned and measured for wear.
The Lotus Twin Cam cylinder head was stripped and inspected. Since the engine was designed to run on 5 star leaded petrol, it was taken to a specialist (CTM) for a pressure test and fitting of new valve seats, guides, valves and springs, and machining as necessary, to be suitable for unleaded fuel. CTM also fitted new camshaft bearings, re-assembled the head and set valve clearances with the correct shims.
The cylinder bores were honed, new jack shaft bushes fitted and the block was painted Ferguson grey. The engine was re-assembled with new piston rings, big end shells, main bearing shells and thrust bearings, water pump, oil pump, fuel pump, timing chain. It was re-assembled with all new gaskets a new thermostat, heater control valve and starter motor. A bracket and stay were fabricated for an alternator to replace the inadequate generator.
The old chassis and running gear were removed from the body-shell. The body-shell was set to one side and the rotten chassis scrapped after all reusable components were stripped from it.
The car was to be rebuilt using a new Spyder chassis. This is an improved partial space frame design dimensionally identical to the original Lotus unit. It was collected together with inertia reel seat belt fittings, side impact protection bars and sundry other items. The old tyres were removed and the wheels trued and taken to R D Cox for shot blasting and painting.
All suspension components were stripped and inspected, old bushes pressed out, then sent to same company for shot blasting and priming. (Many other painted/rusty components also received the same treatment). New standard bushes were fitted throughout using an hydraulic press. Five new 145X13 radial tyres and tubes fitted and balanced by Evans & Page of High Wycombe.
The new chassis was built up on trestles with all new brake lines, fuel line and handbrake cable. New bright zinc plated Unified nuts, bolts, setscrews and washers used throughout.
The following work was also carried out:-
Steering rack overhauled, cleaned and painted and fitted to chassis with new gaiters and rod ends. Front suspension reassembled using new trunnion bushes, top joints, and adjustable coil spring/damper units. New front wheel bearing and seals fitted.
All brake calipers stripped and cleaned and externally shot blasted then painted. New pistons and seals fitted. New discs fitted throughout.
Diff. drained, cleaned and repainted. New output shaft bearings fitted. New adjustable rear shock absorbers fitted and new wheel bearings fitted to rear uprights. Refitted to chassis with new diff. mounts, Lotocones and stay bar rubbers.
Handbrake tree refurbished to minimise free movement and refitted using adjustable rods. Rear calipers rebuilt using new pistons and seals.
Propshaft cleaned, painted and new universal joints fitted, placed in spine and bolted to diff.
New spigot bearing fitted to crankshaft. New clutch plate and cover fitted and aligned.
New release bearing, slave cylinder and gaiter fitted to gearbox. Gearbox fitted into chassis using new mounting. Engine mated to gearbox and fitted with new mounts.
Constant velocity drive shafts were fitted in place of the troublesome rubber donut originals.
New stainless steel tubular exhaust manifold fitted.
Meanwhile, the body shell was completely stripped to a bare shell. Holes were cut in rear wheel arches to facilitate insertion of side impact bars into the sills. Shell was trial fitted to the new chassis and all 16 mounting points marked, then drilled/tapped as necessary. Once removed, bare shell, doors, headlamp pods, boot, bonnet and bumpers were delivered to Steve Williams Lotus in Maidenhead for repairs and repaint in original cirrus white/silver and satin black to the boot interior and engine bay.
When returned, the body was placed on a wheeled dolly to facilitate initial re assembly. New brake and clutch master cylinders, with refurbished pedal box were fitted to the bulkhead.
A new wiring loom was purchased suitable for the alternator, which necessitated changing the car from positive to negative earth. The starter solenoid, fuse box, coil and replacement air horns, lighting relays, headlamp safety switches etc. were installed and wired while the owner could still sit inside the empty engine bay!
The headlamp vacuum actuators were refurbished, painted and refitted with new vacuum tubing and springs. Headlight pods were refitted and adjusted. Headlamps, side and indicator lights were refitted and wired. The air cleaner was refitted and the reconditioned servo was mounted in the nose. The rear lamp clusters were refurbished and reconnected.
New windscreen wiper wheel boxes and tubes were fitted and the original motor was reinstalled.
The heater matrix was pressure tested, the housing shot blasted and resprayed, the motor checked and refitted to a repaired plenum chamber.
The bonnet fit was checked and adjusted and the boot lid refitted using new seal and hinges. A new aluminium fuel tank was fitted and wired. New badges were fitted.
The body was refitted to the chassis with packing as necessary and the side impact bars assembled and connected to chassis mountings. Seat belt brackets were fitted and the rear cross brace replaced. The remainder of the stainless steel exhaust system was fitted.
A new backboard was constructed to accommodate seat belt reels and a new parcel shelf constructed an upholstered to suit. New door surrounds were fabricated to original pattern (modified to suit side impact bars).
New underfelt was fitted throughout body and boot.
New headlining and matching rear quarter panels were fitted and glued in place. The courtesy lights were fitted and connected. The sun visors were recovered in matching headlining fabric. The rear view mirror and coat hooks were refitted.
The front and rear screens were refitted with new rubbers and front pillar trims by a local specialist. A new carpet set, including the door surrounds, was fitted. New stainless steel seat runners were fabricated and fitted. New door seal rubbers were fitted. New boot floor boards made, fitted and carpeted. The boot lock was refurbished and the rear light cover board fitted. The Filler cap was refitted with a new grommet and connector pipe.
A new dashboard was made and veneered in straight grained teak by very skilful friend. The instruments were refurbished and refitted and the rev counter converted to negative earth. The dash was refitted to the car after connection and wiring tests.
New under dash trims, original seats and tunnel cover were refitted.
The radiator and carburettors were refitted and control cables and pipework reconnected. Vital fluids were added and checked for leaks. The brake and clutch systems were bled. The static ignition timing was checked and the fuel system primed. The engine was spun over without spark plugs until oil pressure registered, then fired.
The doors were refitted and adjusted and the window mechanisms refurbished and refitted. The motors were connected and locks, handles and door trims refitted.
The car was now complete. It was checked over, cleaned and polished and the MOT arranged with a local specialist who carried out pre MOT checks and adjusted the tracking.
The MOT was given and “Historic Vehicle” road tax exemption granted. NGP 91D was back on the road!