Restoration of #1471

#1471 was first sold in Jan 1961 to Formula 1 team Gilby Engineering, for Keith Greene to compete in GT racing, it was a Bristol bodied car that was fully prepared for racing by Lotus. I managed to speak to Keith Greene about the car and discovered that his time with it was brief due to a couple of mechanical failures, so at some point it was returned to the factory to have the suspension pick up points strengthened.

The first thing to go wrong was mid way through cornering, one of the rear wishbones pulled out of the inner ball and cup mounting point, (not an uncommon problem with racing Elites), causing the car to leave the track and have a meeting with the barrier! Not long after this at another event, Keith heard a loud noise form the back of the car and expected a similar failure as before. However this was not the case and the surprised driver remained on the track. He returned to the pits at the earliest opportunity to investigate the source of the noise, only to discover that the long range fuel tank had pulled away from its fixings and was now only held in place by the filler neck! This second incident confirmed Keith’s mistrust of the car and ended their brief liaison, so #1471 was sold.

The car was then sold as a road car and first registered on Dec 9th 1961, so its racing history including the return to Lotus, had lasted barely 11 months. When it was first sold for racing #1471 was fitted with a race tuned engine, a ZF gearbox, an oil cooler, a long range fuel tank and a 3 ½ “ Aston filler cap, but by the time I purchased the car in 2006 the original engine, ZF gearbox and oil cooler, sadly but unsurprisingly, had gone. I know when it was first registered for the road it had been fitted with a standard head, but still maintained the full race bottom end. This was mated to an MG box, however the owner then managed to purchase the ZF box from Gilbey and this was put back into the car. I have been unable to find out at what stage this engine and gearbox were removed, but they were not with the car when I bought it.

The car is a Bristol bodied Series 2, however it must be an early one as it is fitted with diff straps, alloy rear calipers, a Series 1 interior and it also had the larger 7/8 “ brake master cylinder and a ¾ “ clutch master cylinder.

The car then changed hands in 1964 and again in 1965 when it was purchased by the owner from whom I purchased the car. The previous owner used the car for about 12 months before his work took him abroad, so #1471 was ‘mothballed’ awaiting the owner’s permanent return to the UK. The car moved across the UK with the family, but was never put back on the road.

In 2006 I heard that #1471 was for sale, the owner having decided that he would never get around to doing the work necessary to get it back on the road, so I went with my Father and had a look at it and the sale was agreed.

Having been stored in unheated garages in the UK for 40 years time and damp conditions had taken their toll, #1471 looked depressed and tired.

#1471 as first seen in the garage the dampness and time had taken their toll

The Stromberg (!) carburettors were in the boot

The cut out for the oil cooler is visible at the front of the car

We took the car back to a friend’s farm and began the process of stripping everything off to begin the ground up restoration. As we worked on the car we found evidence of some repairs that had been done, presumably after the racing accident and also things that had not been repaired.

Ready for the start of the restoration

Note the 3 ½” filler cap for the long range tank

Inside the car the step that houses the rear wishbone mounting cup had been cut away and presumably strengthened, there was also a repair in and around the off side wheel arch. We also found that the wishbone and sub-frame were bent on this side, but do not know if this damage had been done whilst racing, or when the car was on the road?

The inboard wishbone mounts had been cut out and strengthened

Poor repair under and on top of the wheel arch

Once stripped of all its parts the CBU (Chassis body unit) was sent off to be repaired and painted. As the paint was removed the extent of the damage and decay became evident. The sub-frame was exposed in places due to the de-lamination of the fibreglass, plus it was bent and rusty, clearly it would need replacing. Fortunately the screen hoop and jacking points were fine.

Delamination around the front right hand sub frame ski

Damage to the right hand sub-frame ski, which is a bit like a rough sea!

Damage to the nose of the CBU

The sub-frame was changed and the wheel arch repaired, as was the hole in the front of the CBU. AS the car was going to be used for the road I decided to remove most of the racing modifications, so the 3 ½ “ Aston cap would be replaced by the smaller 2 ¼ “ Monza cap connected to a standard tank, so the fuel filler hole was reduced in size. The cut out for the oil cooler was also filled, however the large cut out for the racing exhaust in the bottom of the engine bay was left as a small reminder of the cars past.

Various stages of the sub-frame replacement

Holes for extra dials in the centre console. I assume these were also from the cars racing days as there were no dials in these holes when I bought the car

CBU being painted with primer

Body being painted

The FWE engine was rebuilt to a high spec with a steel crank, lightened flywheel, and forged pistons. The head was fitted with a new 3 bearing cam shaft, new valves, guides and hardened valve seats so that it can run on unleaded fuel. I opted to run the engine on twin 40 DCOE Weber carburettors and, when it was run on a dyno’ the power output was a healthy 105 BHP. Cooling is provided by an all alloy radiator with an 11” electric fan attached to it.

Fuel line connections in the boot

A new alloy fuel tank was made and the fuel is fed through an SU pump mounted in the boot. -6 aeroquip braided fuel lines are fitted in the boot and engine bay and an aluminium hard line runs through the cabin.

Fuel lines to the twin 40DCOE Weber carburettors

The car came with a standard MG gearbox so I decided to fit the Ford Type 9 five speed gearbox conversion. The great thing about this kit is that it fits straight into the car with little or no modification to the body, so it is an easily reversible modification. It also allowed me to opt for ratios that are similar to the ZF box with the benefit of a higher fifth gear for cruising, which makes the car more useable in modern traffic.

Type 9 gearbox installed into the car

On the rear of the car I fitted the rose jointed wishbones, rather than the original ball and cup arrangement, which had proved unreliable in the past, but only when racing. The rose joint kit also allows some adjustment of the rear. I also had the sealed bearing conversion fitted to avoid the problem of water getting into the bearings. The front wishbones are Series 1 items which are longer than the originals to give 1.0 degree of negative camber, rather than the standard 1 ¼ to 1 ½ degrees positive. The suspension fitted is the Tolman fast road kit which was designed specifically for the Elite.

Front and rear suspension

The car was fitted with a new wiring loom and power is provided by a 50 amp Dynator which looks like the original dynamo, plus it has the correct fitting on the back for the tacho drive. I have fitted the steel band from my dynamo onto the dynator to complete the look.

Dynator complete with steel band from the original dynamo

From my research I found that there were two colours of vinyl used on the interior, a pale blue colour and grey. #1471 was trimmed throughout using grey vinyl, so had all the carpet and hardura edged in this colour. The seats and door cards were re-trimmed in black leather. The fitting of all the bright work, windows and trim was a time consuming exercise as I seemed to have to fit everything several times to get it to fit properly, but after about 40 hours the final fitting was completed.

Finally at the beginning of July 2014, forty eight years since it had last run #1471 was MOT’d and back on the road.

Finished at last!

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