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'62 Lotus Seven S2 Restoration Adventures


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Waaaay back in May of 2016 I experience a piston ring land failure due to detonation on my 1340cc Cosworth Ford pre X-flow Lotus Seven while on a Targa California event.  Initially I thought that it was a blown head gasket, which is a field repairable issue.  Here we are in the hotel parking lot in Paso Robles:

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And then heading for home after reassembly showed lack of compression on cylinder number 3:

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Subsequent teardown once home revealed the root cause.  With the engine out it seemed like the proper time to thoroughly cleanse the engine bay and driveline tunnel as the car had accumulated a lot of extra weight in the approximately 40 years since it's last thorough cleaning in those regions.  What should have taken only a month or so went sideways when I decided to do a thorough chassis cleanse since the engine was out.  This revealed a cracked chassis tube just aft of the left front A-arm mount.  Further inspection found 2 more cracks.  Which ultimately lead to this:

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And finally complete skin removal to bare chassis.......

 

 

 

 

 

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Putting the way back machine into fast forward, I am presently prepping for  4-day 1,000 mile or so road trip with friends north to Callifornia's central coast area around Arroyo Grande.  I've been trying to figure out a convenient way to secure my mobile phone without damaging any of my new, and very pretty, to me at least, red leather upholstery.  Yesterday I fabricated this nice little bracket to mount a magnetic phone holder, Scoshe p/n MAGDMB. 

 

I wanted to locate the phone on top of the transmission tunnel at the forward end of the removable trans cover / shift boot panel.  However the alloy panels easily accessible in that area are now covered with expensive square weave carpet or more expensive red leather.  Hmmmm.  So after percolating on the problem for a bit I came up with a very simple bracket that both mounts the phone holder and secures the front end of the trans tunnel cover:

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The trans cover slips into the leading edge slot like this sheet of aluminum:

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The mount bracket itself is riveted to a hidden part of the trans tunnel.  Once installed it looks like this:

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And

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And from the driver's seat:

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The magnetic phone holder is effective and simple to use.  It is near to my new USB outlets as well.  Also this location is out of direct sunlight yet readily visible when driving.  Best of all no upholstery was harmed in the fitting of this bracket!  Even better, no fasteners are required to secure the trans tunnel cover.

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In all the years that I've owned this car it has never had sufficient cooling capacity to support our SoCal desert climate.  I could never get the coolant temp to stay below 100C with both fans on when driving the car in a spirited fashion.  Last week I finally bit the bullet and ordered up a new aluminum radiator from Redline components.  It is a very nice piece of kit:

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I added a pair of ports for a thermal fan switch and an air bleed in the top tank.  I had to relocate the drain port so that the petcock was in the proper position to clear my steering rack mounting bridge as well.

 

I installed it today and took it out for a 30 mile shakedown run in the hills above our house.  The coolant temp stayed between 75-80C with ambient temp in the 70-75F range while driving even with the cooling fans off.  The peace of mind this gives is a real load off and makes driving so much more enjoyable!

 

 

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22 hours ago, escondidoron said:

Initially I thought that it was a blown head gasket, which is a field repairable issue. 

 

You had me hooked with that statement.  Looking forward to seeing what comes next. 

 

-John

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  • 3 months later...

Went out to Schlossnagel's to check on engine build progress on Saturday.  Last weekend's engine porn:

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Much to my surprise, while there I realized that I had never actually seen a car up on blocks before:

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Progress!  Gets me excited about getting my bits returned to start reassembly!

 

And, yes, that is a proper car on proper blocks!

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  • 4 months later...

Lots of progress in the past few weeks.  This restoration thread will cover most of my efforts, but in no particular order.

 

To recap recent events:

 

I love road trips.  The lore of the open road goes back a long way;  Homer’s Odyssey, from the 8th century BC, in my mind at least, is a road trip story.  I also love driving.  And I love old cars.  Put all three together and you have an automotive trifecta.  A perfect storm of fun and adventure.  So when my friends Paul and Steve proposed a week-long 1500 mile jaunt from San Diego up to Leggett, California and back in old cars I immediately confirmed that I was all in.  So did 18 other (fool)hardy souls.  I guess I have a pretty crazy group of friends!

 

This tour was not some highfalutin kind of thing like a pay for the experience rally or historic event recreation.  Just a bunch of friends out for a shared adventure with our old cars.   Here’s the premise as originally laid out by Steve in his original outline in late August:

 

  • Vintage cars:  1975 or older
  • Dates:  Sun Oct 10 through Sat Oct 16
  • Great roads, scenery, and camaraderie
  • Most days 150 to 200 miles, with 4 to 5 hours’ drive time
  • Enough flexibility in the daily route for stops, sightseeing, and finding the hole-in-the-wall gems of small towns along the way
  • No cost, but you “get what you pay for” as well...
  • Start Point:  San Diego’s North County
  • Overnight Stops:  most likely Carmel-by-the-Sea, Mill Valley, Mendocino, Guerneville, Aptos, and Paso Robles
  • Northern most point:  Leggett, CA

 

From a personal standpoint making this event would be difficult.  In the six weeks between the invitation and wheels up date I had to make significant progress on our on-going landscaping / home remodel project (my brother calls home ownership a lifetime supply of weekend projects) and move out on rewiring our race car and get it’s new engine installed.   

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And then there was the small matter of the engine of the car I planned to drive on the tour being scattered in pieces on my mechanic’s workbench for a complete overhaul.  

 

So we got our new fruit trees planted and irrigation lines installed in early September.  My mechanic got the engine together and dyno’d by late September.  He and I got it installed the week before the tour start.  

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That bought me some time to devote to the race car with team partner Rod, and we got the race car’s engine bay cleaned up and painted, the re-wiring organized and with race partner Steve’s help (yes, the very same Steve organizing the tour) we got the engine installed on Friday night.  That left me Saturday to get ready for the trip.  Of course there were a few honey-do’s to be accomplished on Saturday morning so I got hard at it with travel preparations commencing around 1:30 on Saturday afternoon.  That gave me plenty of time since we weren’t gonna be wheels up until 5:30am Sunday morning.

 

Did I mention that my car had a new engine?  The situation was actually a little more involved.  As noted above, the car was coming off a 5-year total ground up restoration.  I had managed to put 141 miles on it in a single day since the new engine install.  I had done a reasonable post-drive inspection and found no leaks, loose bits or strange noises.  I had also found the time to do a fluids change, valve adjustment and string alignment.  The car in question:  My 1962 Lotus Seven.  It has no doors and no top.  What could go wrong?

 

I didn’t sleep much Saturday night.  I finished up preparations around 10:00 pm and had a bite to eat, getting to bed around 11:30 for a 4:00 wakeup.  But I really only got about 3 hours sleep.  I was too amped up from the combination of working and thinking about everything that could go wrong and what had I forgotten to address properly during the restoration / rebuild.

Edited by escondidoron
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Sunday 10 October 2021:

Sunday morning I showered, grabbed a light breakfast of oatmeal, coffee and a banana, and headed out in the darkness at 4:45am to meet my fellow travelers from the San Diego area at a park & ride lot about 20 miles from home.  It was 48deg F on our patio thermometer.  I was layered up in a T-shirt, quilted long sleeve thermal, fleece zip-up vest and a Gore-Tex ski shell jacket.  I wore my Simpson full face helmet for head protection with foam ear plugs in an attempt to remain somewhat sane from the not very muffled side exhaust. 

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In most respects this would be the morning pattern for the next week:  Sleep, eat, drive.  Repeat. 

 

As we headed north along the coast on I-5, the freeway deserted, I kept thinking that I should have found the time to get more miles on the car pre-trip.  I was not overly confident that the Seven and I would be able to complete the trip.

 

We encountered some early morning weekend commuters as we passed thru Orange County, their tail lights seemingly joining us in convoy.  As we left the freeway and took Highway 1 along the coast thru Malibu, driver’s behind the Seven were blinded by the dawn’s reflection off of the Seven’s mirror polished rear bodywork.  The Pacific Ocean on our left was azure.  Passing the Getty Museum I imagined we were in the south of France along the Mediterranean.

 

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We stopped at the Starbuck’s at the intersection of Trancas Canyon Road with Hwy 1 and collected most or our Los Angeles and Las Vegas contingent.  We were now 10 cars strong, three 911s, a 914, Fiat 124 Spider, Alfa GTV, Spider, Giulia Super, Mustang convertible and the Seven.  After topping up the Seven we continued north to a planned fuel stop in Oxnard, 40 miles further north, and then on Hwy 101 along the coast thru Ventura, Santa Barbara.  The crystal clear skies and beautiful blue ocean reminded me of the chase sequence in the old film, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with Spencer Tracy driving along the same coast line.  It is absolutely stunning!  We turned inland at Buellton, heading to Solvang, for gas yet again, and to lunch at Panino in Los Olivos.  Fantastic sandwiches.  A must stop if you’re in town.

 

 

The morning’s drive had been a transit stage up until lunch, getting us clear of the SoCal urban scene.  Now, clear of freeways we headed north to Santa Maria along Foxen Road.  This is a winding ribbon thru Santa Barbara wine country; Scenic, uncrowded and great for our old cars.  We rejoined US 101 to San Luis Obispo where we got back onto Hwy 1 to Cayucos.  There we detoured onto Old Creek Road.  A delightful bit of twists and turns that parallels Hwy 1 to Hwy 46.  Unfortunately, we encountered a slow moving SUV that ignored the turnouts for the better part of this segment.  Disappointed we made the short connection to Cambria where we stayed at the Cambria Pines Inn.  

 

Four more adventurers joined us there.  Sadly a couple of participants let us know that they were sidelined by family illness and would be delayed or not make it.  Bummer.  We were now at 14 cars in total.  Surprisingly the Italians co-dominated the field with 4 Alfas and a Fiat along with four 911s and the 914.  

 

In the parking lot, hotel guests took our group as a car show and showed great interest in them.  

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Several beverages were consumed.  One of the hotel guests turned out to be a family member of the Meijer’s discount store chain in the Midwest and an avid car enthusiast and collector.  He and Steve talked a length, Steve attempting to sell his friend Paul’s 124 on the spot.  Paul refused his offer of $16k flat out.  I put the cover on the Seven and she rested for the night:

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We walked down the bluff and dined at Robin’s in Cambria.  While most of the inns in Cambria were fully booked and restaurants were turning customers away, we lucked into walk-up seating for our entire group by showing up early around 5:30.  Robin’s is another can’t miss eatery if you’re in the Cambria area.  The trek back up the steep hillside steps in the dark to our lodging after dinner worked off most of our dinner’s wine and caloric intake!

 

The Seven had made the first day without incident.  I was not yet confident, but no longer terrified!

Edited by escondidoron
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I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this adventure (and hopefully seeing more photos of the Giulia Super).  It sounds like a great trip.  BTW the photo of the hotel in Cambria looked really familiar; it turns out it's the same hotel we used for the USA2005 tour.  Small world!  

 

-John

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1 hour ago, JohnCh said:

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this adventure (and hopefully seeing more photos of the Giulia Super).  It sounds like a great trip.  BTW the photo of the hotel in Cambria looked really familiar; it turns out it's the same hotel we used for the USA2005 tour.  Small world!  

 

-John

Here's a beauty shot of the Super at Fort Baker:

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The Cambria Pines Inn is a delightful place.  It's up on the bluff just above and south of 'downtown'.

Edited by escondidoron
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Monday 11 October:

6:00am alarm, the dawn came crisp and clear with a reasonable morning dew and moderate temperature at 48 degrees F.  I would not be wearing shorts.  

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We had a 7:45 am driver’s meeting followed by breakfast at the hotel.  We had gassed up the previous evening so we immediately headed up the Big Sur coastline around 8:30am.   While area was flooded with tourists, our relatively early start meant that we had Hwy 1 virtually to ourselves.  And we took advantage of it.  I have driven this road too many times to count and it never gets old.  Truly one of the greatest drives in the world.  

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Sun, Sea, Mountains and a fantastic 2-lane.  California's Hwy 1 is a bucket-list drive in a sporting car.  

 

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We collected the group for a photo op at the Bixby Bridge:

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A beauty shot of the Seven:

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We continued north for a pit stop at Carmel By The Sea and then north along Hwy 1 to Santa Cruz.  There we turned slightly inland onto California Hwy 9 up thru the shaded and water rich coastal redwoods along the San Lorenzo River valley up to the ridge between the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.  We passed a CHP cruiser headed southbound.  He paid no mind to us.  Wonderfully twisty this road favored the Seven.  At the intersection of CA-84 we stopped for lunch at Alice’s Restaurant.  Unfortunately Arlo Guthrie wasn’t anywhere to be seen.  I had a satisfying pulled pork sandwich.

 

After lunch we continued along the switchbacks of the spine on CA-35 (Skyline Boulevard) then west on CA-92 down to sea level at Half Moon Bay.  Even mid-day, the opposite direction traffic all along this seven or so mile stretch was gridlocked.  We hit stop and go entering Half Moon Bay.  From there we turned right and continued north towards the Golden Gate along Hwy 1. 

 

I was still learning the Seven at this point and experienced a clutch issue somewhere around Pacifica.  The footwell is miniscule and I have size 13 feet.  In shifting my body around I started to extend my toes on my left foot to operate the clutch, thus getting full pedal depression.  Big mistake.  I had installed a concentric throwout bearing for the clutch during the rebuild.  I learned, in downtown traffic, that this is a big no-no, when the clutch would take several seconds to re-engage afterward.  After sitting at the side of the road for a few minutes I soldiered on vowing to operate the clutch with a flat foot and knee extension only.  This process only moved the clutch pedal a couple of inches and gives predictable and solid response.  I luckily dodged a bullet.  I thought to myself that I should buy a lottery ticket!

 

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We caught first sight of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge in the Ocean Beach area.  It was quite a thrill to traverse the fabled gateway to the San Francisco Bay and the Golden State in the Seven

 

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We stopped on the north side of the bay at Fort Baker for a photo op and some refreshment.  At this point I had time to check my phone for messages and learned that my brother-in-law would not be joining us as work had gotten in the way.  (:

 

We ventured on about 5 miles for a gas stop and our night’s lodging in Mill Valley.  There the manager informed us that Paul’s 124 Spider was parked in the tidal flood zone.  Haha.

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A great highlight of the trip was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge in the Seven.

 

The tunnel approaching the bridge from the south:

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And the actual crossing:

 

Edited by escondidoron
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Tuesday 12 October

Carbon copy of Monday morning, weather-wise.  

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Except for the wind!  It had been breezy the day before, but we had been sheltered from much of it.  It got serious on this day.  We would be consistently along the coast and were to bear the full force of the wind, albeit lesser than Monday, on Tuesday.

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After breakfast we headed north, immediately uphill towards the summit of Mount Tamalpais along Shoreline Highway and Panoramic Highway.   Turkey Vultures and Eagles soared along side us as we climbed, traversed, and descended the ridge on our way to lunch at Bodega Bay.  I had not been pleased with the front brake performance to date from the EBC Green Stuff pads that I had installed.  They just didn’t seem to bite very hard.  So Monday afternoon I had ordered up a fresh set of TRW OEM style pads from Dave Bean to be delivered to our hotel in Mendocino on Tuesday.  On the descent I attempted to re-bed them with several successive hard decelerations.  This helped greatly, but I was still not satisfied.  We rejoined Hwy 1 northward.  I put the brakes to the test somewhere around Point Reyes when a deer appeared roadside as we approached at 70mph.  My fellow travelers, alert to my brake performance concerns, noted that I had smoked the front tires with my brakes.  Whew.  Hitting a deer with the Seven would likely be fatal to both parties!

 

 

We stopped in Tomales to stretch our legs and investigate fuel starvation on the Silver GTV.

 

We lunched at The Birds Café in Bodega Bay.  We had a nice chat with the owner, Don, who gave us the history of the place.  His sister-in-law, Mindy took our orders and proved to be small but mighty.  We had fresh oysters and fish tacos.  The BBQ oysters are to die for!

 

 

We gassed up at the local 76 station.  One of the residents driving by saw the Seven, turned around, and came to talk while I fueled the car.  He owns a Caterham that he is converting back to street use from track.  Small world.  We headed north.

 

A few miles north of Jenner, where the Russian River empties into the Pacific, we stopped at the vista point above Russian Gulch Creek to enjoy the view and hike the loop trail.

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On the hike back up the hill a gorgeous Painted Lady demanded our attention.

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A few yards on we stumbled, literally, onto a tiny snake.  We make friends everywhere!

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We continued along the coast, buffeted by the wind.  The Seven’s windscreen alternatively acting as an air brake or a sail, depending on my orientation to the gusts.  Arriving at dusk, we stopped for the night in Mendocino.  My confidence in the Seven was building.

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Edited by escondidoron
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