Emich Rant

Sunday, April 28

I registered for the afternoon session of the most recent Emich sponsored track day. After all the changes we made to the car, it’s only prudent to get her out on the track before I drive cross-country for events at Mid-Ohio and Autobahn.

I’ve done a few Emich days before. In fact, my last track day was an Emich day. That didn’t end well. I was running on slicks, made a minor driver error, spun the car and broke the motor mounts. Aside from that, I thought it was a pretty good day: everyone was fairly well-behaved and each track session had less traffic than the one before as many of the folks who registered for the full day got tired and left.

But this may be the last.

When I picked up my wristband I asked about the car count. “Seventy or so. Not too bad.” If equally divided between novice and experienced, that’s three dozen cars on track at the same time. That’s a traffic jam. Oh well, it will get better as folks leave.

But my assumption is that the guys (and it was all guys) running in the experienced group are actually experienced and not novices.

I’ve been to so many drivers meetings at HPR I could easily run them. All the usual stuff gets covered: how to get on and off the track, what the lights and flags mean, and passing rules. For the experienced group, we have open passing. Meaning you don’t need a point-by to pass, and you can do it wherever you think it’s safe. There are two things of particular interest to me, and if Glen doesn’t mention them, I’ll raise my hand. First is reminding the high horsepower cars that if they see a low horsepower car in their mirrors, please don’t race down the straight and that they’ll need to lift to let us by. Second is that it’s the responsibility of the passing car to go around the slower car. It’s not the responsibility of the slower car to get out of the way.

I brought up the first one, and somebody else brought up the second. When I made my comment about horsepower differences, Glen reinforced it by saying that horsepower doesn’t matter: if somebody caught up to you, they’re faster. Let them by. The other point was reiterated as well. The slower car should not deviate from his line.

I Lose My Composure

In my second session I caught up to a silver Corvette. I was faster everywhere on the track except the straights, where he used his horsepower to get away. I was behind him for nearly a lap, and when we got onto the long straight I expected him to let me by. Instead, he hauled ass ahead only for me to catch him in the next turn. Later that lap, I pointed Dave Green by me. At the start of the straight Dave pulls out to pass, but the Corvette hauls ass again, totally unaware he is now holding up two Lotus behind him. We finally get around him after turn 5.

Next time around there are flashing yellow lights: said silver Corvette is stopped on the inside of turn seven. Well, he won’t be holding anybody up any longer. But he is there for the rest of the session while the tow truck deals with him. So we have yellow flag (actually, flashing yellow lights) conditions there: get off the throttle until you pass the incident.

Meanwhile, in my mirrors I see a brown Cadillac catching me. Sort of. He’s not making any headway at all in the turns but is much faster on the straights. On the highway straight he gets optimistic and pulls to the inside thinking he’ll outbrake me into 4. He’s not even close. He doesn’t see that I’m braking much later than he is.

Next time around, he’s still quite a ways back. He dive bombs me again and is able to sneak inside. He doesn’t remember the comment during the meeting that “there are no F1 scouts here today. Nobody will be impressed by dive bombing somebody into a turn.” Under ideal conditions, he can’t take the turn as fast as I can, and it’s even worse for him because he’s way to the inside. So we go through the turn about 20 mph slower than normal for me. But he’s ahead now, so he’s happy.

A few seconds later we’re in the yellow flag area, passing the tow truck and the stricken Corvette. At the hairpin we are good to go to full throttle again, and we do. We’re headed through the downhill esses, a right-left-right combination under full throttle. A glance in the mirror and what do I see? A Camaro moving to my left, attempting to pass here. This is the second worst place to try to pass on this track. Where does he think I’m going to go? Does he expect me to just disappear?

It’s the faster driver’s responsibility to make a safe pass, and the slower driver should keep on his line. My line goes apex to apex to apex, crossing the entire width of the track twice through here. And this guy is going to pass?

The Corvette driver was being oblivious and rude by not paying attention to his mirrors. But he wasn’t dangerous. The Cadillac driver was overly optimistic and in a hurry; couldn’t wait to actually catch me. He didn’t understand the differences in our cars and abilities but because he did this at the end of the straight, I had no trouble seeing him and knowing where he was. He could easily have put me off by forcing me to slow down so much more than usual; I couldn’t take my line because he stole it. If I couldn’t slow down enough I’d have gone off.

Where the Camaro wanted to pass me is a different story. It’s not straight. He put himself in my blind spot; I couldn’t tell where he was going. I have a split second to act. The only sensible thing to do is to stay on my line. If he presses his pass, either we collide or he goes off. Any experienced driver knows this is a bad place to pass and will wait the few seconds to pass.

He passes me after the turns. And I express my displeasure with an extended middle finger. I lost my composure. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m generally pretty good about not doing that on the streets, and I’ve never done it before on the track. I was wrong.

But the Camaro driver was a dangerous idiot.

Who promptly found me in the paddock. If I’d have been able to track him down to chat, I’d have started by apologizing for flipping him off. But instead I got a face full of belligerence. “You got a problem with my driving?” and “I’m allowed to pass anywhere” and “I’m going to wrap your head around your steering wheel” and “I’ll kick your ass”. My response to the last was “Bring it on.” I figure if he assaults me, he goes to jail. Then he changed tack from threatening to insulting: “You’re a shitty driver”, “Your car is stupid”, “Your jumpsuit is stupid”. He continues: “I’ve been here several times, you don’t know what you’re doing out there.” He finally decides to walk away, but keeps turning around and continuing: “You’re shaking your head. You’re shaking! You’re a coward!”

Obviously, I’m writing this a couple days later. Yesterday I looked at the video. Should I have seen him before I did? It turns out that he showed up behind me because he didn’t slow down for the tow truck. I don’t know if he was on full throttle up the hill, but he caught me and the Cadillac from a great distance. We didn’t slow to a crawl, and I’d guess the Camaro was doing 15 or 20 mph more than us. That might not have been full throttle, but it was way too fast with the tow truck right there.

I lost my composure because these three things happened back to back to back. It’s not the first time for any of these things but the combination made me lose my cool. I will learn from it. But I really don’t think the other drivers will. I’m reasonably certain none of them knows that they did anything wrong.

So my self-defense will be to avoid HPR track days where I expect a big car count. CECA days may be more expensive, but there aren’t as many cars and the core group is pretty steady, so we know each other and have some built-in expectations that we can rely on.

Okay, enough navel-gazing.

Aside from that drama, it was a good day. The car worked well. No problems with the clutch, motor mounts, wheel studs, or battery tie-down. A pair of new tires for the front and an oil change and I’ll be ready for my big trip.

And there was one lap where it was rather fun to be in traffic. Here I am, for a time sandwiched between a McLaren and a Ferrari.


Battery Tie-down

Twice now I’ve had the battery break loose at the track. It’s held down by two small clamps that clearly aren’t up to the job. I’ve searched high and low for a solution, but nothing looked good to me. I found a couple of commercial solutions, but they are for the small marine or race batteries. I don’t want to downsize the battery because I don’t want to be forced to keep the car on a battery tender all the time. I want to be free to take my road trips that span as much as two weeks.

I found a couple of DIY solutions that looked promising. These were variations on using an aluminum bar. I found something at Home Depot that might serve: an aluminum bar 36″ long, 1 1/2″ wide, and 1/8″ thick. But I don’t have a vice, so it might be tricky to bend. A similar bar 1/16″ thick might be better, but I didn’t see one.

Instead, I picked up a tow strap. I looked for some material like this, but I couldn’t find anything that was just the strap material. Seems a bit of a waste to spend $20 for the little bit I need, but at least this way if I mess it up I have plenty of material to give it a second shot.

First, I measured the battery to figure how much strap I’d need, and added a couple of inches for safety margin. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to cut this strap, or how much it would want to unravel. So I started by taping both sides of my cuts. I mounted a fresh blade in my utility knife and started cutting. It was pretty easy, just five or six passes and I cut through.

To keep the thing from unraveling, I hit the cut ends with a torch to melt the material, cauterizing it, if you will. Sorry for the poor picture. A few seconds on each cut and it was a nice solid end.

Next problem was how to put holes in for the bolts. I picked a drill bit just smaller than the bolt diameter and went for it, one person working the drill and another holding the strap in place. Then we cauterized the holes. They’re just about perfect; you actually have to thread the bolt through.

The photo above shows the finished strap. The bolts and washers shown are the original equipment. We found a couple of bolts a little longer and with bigger heads, and an assortment of larger washers so there’s much more surface area holding the strap.

The finished product

I’ve had it installed two ways. One with the “5000 LBS” showing and one all black. Obviously, the two bolts won’t hold 5,000 pounds, but I think the strap is a big improvement over the stock batter restraints.

Shakedown Cruise

Sunday, April 7

After a ship gets a major overhaul or a crew change, it goes on a “shakedown cruise” to simulate working conditions and insure that all the ship’s systems are functional. Today I went with a small group of fellow LoCos on a pleasant little drive south and west of Denver to give the Elise a little shakedown.

The highlight of the drive was Tarryall Road. The club has driven this road several times recently but somehow I’ve never gone with them until now. Tarryall Road runs about thirty miles, from the little town of Jefferson on US 285 at the foot of Kenosha Pass to a junction with US 24 at Lake George. It’s a nice Lotus road – curvy rather than straight, featuring beautiful scenery and little traffic.

I very nearly described the town of Jefferson as “not much more than a wide spot in the road.” That would be incorrect. The word “town” is an overstatement. It’s one of those places on US 285 that is best described as “blink and you miss it.” It was founded in 1879 and in its heyday had a population of 55 and even had a hotel. Today, I conjecture that the only people who go to Jefferson on purpose, people who aren’t just blasting through on the highway, are hikers on the nearby Colorado Trail who come here to get provisions.

I understand the name “Tarryall” was coined by a group who discovered gold in the area. They thought there was enough for everyone and called their camp “Tarry-all”. I saw no sign of gold mining. In other streams around South Park there was extensive dredging in placer mines, but none here. And there were no tailings piles from hard rock mining. In the end it appears there wasn’t that much gold here after all.

Jefferson was founded by ranchers, and serves ranchers today. Driving the thirty miles of Tarryall Road we pass by dozens of ranches. Some are obviously thriving operations today, others are rustic to the point of near total decay.

Our lunch stop for the day was the Iron Tree Restaurant and Funky Town Brewery. The menu we ordered from was the brunch menu, featuring a number of variations on Eggs Benedict. I had their “Country” version: English muffin, sausage, poached egg, hollandaise sauce, with country potatoes. Quite tasty. None of us was daring enough to order beer with brunch.

Europa, Elan, 3 Elises. Not pictured: Esprit and Triumph TR 6

Okay, so what about the shakedown?

This was my first real drive with the car after our extensive repairs. I’d taken it around the block a couple of times and down to Ferrari of Denver for Ryan to do an alignment. But that was all city driving and not typical of how I drive it.

In my trips around the block, my first impression of the new motor mounts was mostly negative. The shifting is much improved, but the vibration of the engine isn’t absorbed by the motor mounts at all. It all goes into the car. My first joke was that it wouldn’t be long before the fillings got vibrated out of my teeth. I was sure Genae would never want to ride in the car again.

The trip across town did show me that it’s not as bad as I first thought. Once you get it above about 3500 rpm it gets, well, not exactly civilized, but certainly much quieter. When I first bought the car I had to train myself to keep the revs up over 3000 as it doesn’t do well at low revs. Now I have incentive to keep the revs above 3500.

Below 3500, you see, the car plays a symphony of rattles and buzzes. Every part of the car vibrates, and everything within it. All engine speeds between idle and 3500 set various bits going; as you run the speed up some rattles go away and other vibrations start. Think of it like an orchestra. Before the symphony begins, all the players tune their instruments; an unpleasant cacophony. But when the orchestra is in full song, it’s marvelous. Above 3500 rpm, to be sure, the car isn’t quiet, but it’s in full song – the players have stopped tuning and the music starts. I can’t wait to get it onto the track.

The other major work was the clutch. I will admit that I was somewhat concerned that I’d end up with a much stiffer pedal. But my worries were baseless. The new clutch feels pretty much the same as the original equipment. I’m quite happy with it.

So I’d say the shakedown cruise was a success. The car works wonderfully (if a bit of a rattletrap at low rpms) and I had a pleasant drive on some beautiful Colorado roads and had a nice meal with friends.

Maximum Distress, Part Last

Saturday, March 30

Technically, I may be premature in saying “Part Last”. We still have a few items on the punch list, but I’m happy to say that my level of distress is no longer at maximum: the car is put back together, sits on her four wheels, and has even been around the block. She both goes and stops.

Michael and Daniel spent quite a bit of time over the last week, most of it without my presence in the garage. Not surprisingly, things went much quicker. I’d like to chalk it up to my absence. At the grocery store, no matter which line I choose to stand in, it will be the slowest moving. In traffic, the lane I’m in is slowest and changing to a different lane won’t help: the slowness property follows me. So I say they could work faster without me in the room, but they tell me that things went faster because all the hard work was already done and all they had left was the easy bits.

A few days ago I had to go buy the fluid for the gearbox. Google told me it was available any number of places, but calling around the first place that actually had what I wanted was Peak Eurosport. So I headed down and picked it up. While there, I had a brief chat with Ernie. He had recently replaced the clutch in an Elise. He said it was hard enough with the car on a lift and couldn’t imagine having to do it on the floor. He told me the car he worked on had relatively few miles, only 20,000 or so, but it was a track-only car. He also said the clutch he replaced was in worse shape than mine was. I find that hard to believe, but Ernie’s a straight shooter.

So here’s a recap of what we’ve done since about the end of November:

  • Replaced the motor mounts
  • Replaced the clutch
  • New ball joints on the rear lower control arms
  • New hub carrier plinth bolts

Although maximum distress is over, we still have some work to do:

  • Fabricate an improved battery tie-down
  • Replace the wheel studs, all four wheels
  • Get an alignment

I’ll take the car to the track at the end of April for an afternoon of lapping. Need to get refamiliarized with her at speed before I hit the road for points east in May.

She’s back on terra firma!

Shortly after this picture was taken, I went around the block a couple of times for a quick test. When idling, the vibration from the solid mounts is… extreme. But once you’re moving it’s not nearly as bad as my first impression was last time I took it around the block. I don’t know if it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve driven it that I can’t make a proper comparison, or that it actually is better with all four new mounts than with just the fore and aft mounts. It also seems that the clutch feel isn’t noticeably different than the stock clutch (which is good) and that the gear shift is much improved (also good).

My crack team of mechanics has already identified a list of additional work we’ll need to do after the summer driving season. We’re thinking stainless steel brake lines and new rear rotors.

The only niggling item at this point is the one extra bolt we have left. The three of us looked the car over for about half an hour and can’t find anything amiss. In the end I found a cover for one of the motor mounts that we neglected to put back in. We’re thinking the bolt is for that. But I’m thinking we should have two bolts for that, not just one. Hmmm.

Scuderia Rampante

Saturday, March 30

This month’s Lotus Colorado meeting was held in Erie at Scuderia Rampante, a high-end Ferrari restoration shop. Calling the place a high-end Ferrari restoration shop is a bit redundant, I guess, but I think I can get away with it. If you had a Ferrari and wanted some work done on it, how far would you be willing to send it? They’re working on a car that, when they’re done, will go back to Hong Kong. I’m not sure there is anywhere farther from Hong Kong than Erie, Colorado.

They called the event a “shop tour”. That probably overstates it. To me, a tour implies some sort of guide telling us what we’re seeing: what’s important or interesting. Nothing like that today, we just wandered around the place. Several employees were there to answer questions, so we weren’t completely on our own.

This was not our first visit. We were here a few years ago. Not much has changed, and for somebody not very interested in cars it might be fair to ask what there is to see a second time. For those of us quite interested in cars, there’s always something to see. I’m not particularly a Ferrari fan – I’ll never own one and probably never drive one – but I think they’re fascinating examples of engineering and technology.

And it’s not just Ferraris. There are a variety of other cars there as well. Most are stored in a giant rack but a number are in various states of disassembly. To do engine work on most of the Ferraris, they simply remove the entire engine, transmission, and rear suspension and put that assembly on a table or rack.

As I said, I’m not that into Ferraris. For the most part, I can’t look at one and say, “That one is a 430 and that one is a California.” I don’t know what any of them is worth (other than more than I’ll ever spend on a car) or how much it might cost to have one worked on. On many of them, I’d guess a clutch service would go for perhaps as much as I paid for the Elise. So I won’t go into any detail on any of the cars I saw.

F40 and F50

On prominent display were an F40 and an F50 side by side. The F40 is the red one, the F50 is the black one. The F40 was built between 1987 and 1992. I have no idea how many of these they made. A quick look on the internet tells me if you want one today, you can expect to spend about $1.6 million. The F50 dates from 1995-1997. You’d need to sell two F-40’s and kick in an extra few hundred thousand dollars beside to pick one up. I’m guessing you don’t get to see these cars side by side very often.

Lamborghini 350GT

I know even less about Lamborghinis than I do Ferraris. This one is an example of the first Lamborghini model made. It’s a 350GT. They hadn’t yet started naming their cars after bulls. There was a 350GT and a 400GT. If I understood correctly, this car was an interim car – a 350GT with the motor from a 400GT, which makes it quite rare. Even so, it probably could be had (were you to find one for sale) for somewhere in the neighborhood of a million.

Cadillac Fleetwood

I thought the Fleetwood was interesting. I don’t know what year it was, but it was a giant. I believe this one is a 1952 Fleetwood Seventy Five limousine. It’s about a mile long and has more chrome on one car than on all Cadillacs built in the last decade. Looking at it, I couldn’t help but wonder what the thing weighed. I was guessing it might be 6,000 pounds. That was way off. In fact, these cars were closer to 4,700. For comparison, my 1967 Imperial was 4,900. The Imperial had a giant 440cid engine, while this Fleetwood was motivated by an eight cylinder 331cid motor that cranked out 190hp. Again, for comparison, my Elise generates 190hp.

They don’t just work on cars here, they store them as well. I didn’t count them, but they can probably stack something like forty cars in this giant rack. I’m sure it’s quite the operation to get one off the top: move the bottom one out of the way, rotate the stack down, take the next one out, repeat. Every car in there looked to be hooked up to a battery tender, so you could just jump right in and drive them off, once you managed to get to the one that belongs to you. Not all of them are super-exotics. In this photo, the car on the other side of the Testarossa is a modern Ford Mustang. And there were a few examples of Detroit iron from the same era as the Fleetwood above.

Engine test

Here’s one of the engines they had taken out of the car. It’s the engine, transmission, and suspension. This one was hooked up to a device that lets them run the thing. I wasn’t in the room when they fired it up, but it was much quieter than I expected. I guess you’ll get that, given the size of the muffler hanging off the back.

It wasn’t just cars. In the back corner they had a little sitting area with a couple of stuffed bears (including a polar bear smoking a cigar and holding a pool cue), a couple of cabinets filled with knick-knacks, and some vintage race posters on the walls. This portrait of Steve McQueen caught my eye. It’s made up of articles, photos, and advertisements from magazines.

Not a bad place to spend a Saturday morning.

Maximum Distress, Part 4

Here we are, four weeks into a planned two week operation, and still plenty of work yet to come. I think I can safely say that “maximum distress” now relates more to Fripp’s sense of the term (Murphy’s Law) than my own distress at seeing my car in parts on the floor of the garage. It could be that I’m just becoming used to it in that state, or it could be that we’re finally making some progress at putting the thing back together.

Today we actually accomplished a few things. The transmission is married to the motor, the starter and master cylinder are installed, and although the car is still on jack stands, the motor and trans are supported by (half) the motor mounts instead of floor jacks.

Engine and transmission, not supported by jacks

It took a bit of jockeying to get the transmission attached to the motor. We had one floor jack supporting the motor and used two smaller ones to levitate the transmission into place. This was a bit of a challenge, given the cramped quarters. But when we finally managed to apply the correct roll, yaw, and pitch and got things lined up there was much rejoicing!

Michael announced that we’d just completed the hardest part of the operation. Then we went to work on installing the starter. We used various English swear words (English, not American) on the previous step but now upped our game. A quick search of the internet got us the proper Japanese swear words and we were able to compose an incantation that did the trick on the starter.

Both Michael and Daniel think we can get the rest of the work done in one more day, but I’ll believe it when I see it. We still have a fair amount of work to do, and what makes them think we’ll be any more efficient at reassembly next weekend than we’ve been the last two? We still need to replace the passenger side motor mount and install the trans studs for the fore and aft motor mounts. And we need to borrow the use of a press to remove and replace two ball joints before we can reassemble the suspension. When that’s all done, we can replace the wheel studs.

I’m happy that positive things are happening, however slowly. Distress is being replaced by anticipation.

Maximum Distress, Part 3

Just a quick update to the clutch job. We spent about four hours but made very little progress. We officially began putting things back together today, which is a milestone. The clutch assembly went into the car, and we replaced the driver’s side motor mount (three down, one to go).

The stumbling block today was mating the transmission to the engine. Because the car is so low to the ground, there’s no room to manoeuver. If we put the transmission on a jack, it’s too tall to get under the frame. If we try to put the tranny on a jack while it’s under the car, we can’t get enough leverage to lift it up. And it’s all too low to the ground for somebody to put his body under the thing to lift it up. We will reconvene next week for another go, adding another jack to the mix.

New clutch, installed.

At one point today, I expressed my amusement that even the internals of my car are green and yellow. The axles are green, and the new clutch is yellow.

Maximum Distress, Part 2

Things did not go as planned last weekend with the clutch replacement. By now, we had hoped to be able to take the driveshafts to a shop to have them reconditioned and to take the flywheel to a machine shop to have it resurfaced. Neither of these things has happened. We were unable to disconnect the driver’s side driveshaft from the transmission, which was proving much more difficult than expected. Getting to the flywheel would be easier; we just ran out of steam.

Yesterday Michael and I tried to pry the driveshaft out of the transmission without success. Last weekend we tried to do this when the transmission was still on the car using a slide hammer but had no luck. Doing this with the transmission off the car adds somewhat to the degree of difficulty because it’s hard to keep it from moving.

So our first task today was to remove the clutch assembly from the car. The friction disk looks okay. Compared to the new part, the old one appears to have about half its life left. The flywheel also looks to be in good shape. In fact, it’s good enough that we don’t see the need to have it machined. Both these observations fit with my self-assessment that I’m kind to the equipment.

Friction disk

The pressure plate is another matter. The plate itself is okay. It’s just that it was tearing itself apart in an apparent effort to divorce itself from its neighbors.

One bolt hole was completely off, two more were seriously cracked

I will probably never know exactly what happened as a result of the spin. Perhaps this part was already failing. I do know that I didn’t have any abnormal noises before the spin, but did hear something I didn’t like when driving the car around the paddock afterwards. The noise was gone by the time I got on the highway. I’m pretty sure that noise was the debris inside the bell housing.

Inside of the bell housing scored by debris

The diaphragm spring has also seen better days. Looks like the throwout bearing was grinding it away. The throwout bearing is why we embarked on this repair. It’s visually intact but when you spin it, it makes an obvious noise. I hate to think of how this would have turned out if that little sucker wasn’t crying out to be replaced.

Diaphragm spring wear

We finally did manage to get the driveshaft out of the transmission. We oriented it so the bell housing was on the floor (well, on boards actually) with the driveshaft pointing up. Both Michael and I had to stand on it to keep it from moving while Daniel went at it with a big pry bar. Our first few attempts fell short, but we finally overcame friction and got it removed. High fives all around and break out the beer.

We still need to use a press to get the driveshafts disassembled to the point where we can take them to get reconditioned. Michael has that lined up for later in the week. We’re finally nearly almost close to half way done.

Maximum Distress, Part 1

I’m a big King Crimson fan. On one of their live albums they have a track called “The Law of Maximum Distress”. I learned this week that that is Robert Fripp’s name for Murphy’s Law. I don’t want to exaggerate. It’s not like Murphy’s Law is a constant companion for me. But Murphy does show up fairly regularly. By titling this post “Maximum Distress” I’m not suggesting that everything is going wrong.

Distress is defined as “anxiety, sorrow, or pain” or “to give simulated marks of age or wear.” In psychology it is “unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact your level of functioning.”

So why am I talking about Murphy’s Law and anxiety or marks of age or wear? Well, this weekend we embarked on a program of winter maintenance for the Elise. Perhaps “embarked on” isn’t exactly true. She’s been parked for a few months now. When last we discussed the car, we had replaced two of the motor mounts. Timing is everything: when test driving the car, we couldn’t help but notice that the clutch’s throwout bearing was making noise. If we’d have noticed this before our work we’d have combined the jobs and saved some effort.

In any event, it’s time to do some major work on the car. It’s not just replacing the clutch. In addition, we’ll take the passenger side driveshaft to a local specialty shop for refurbishment (the CV joint boot is weeping), we’ll replace the two remaining motor mounts, and we’ll replace all the wheel studs. For good measure, when we reassemble the rear suspension we’ll take the preventive action of replacing the hub carrier bolts.

The reader may recall that the motor mount broke when I spun the car at my last track day. I was running on slicks and made a slight error that resulted in the most violent spin I’ve ever encountered. Actually, it’s the only time I’ve spun the car except when I had a mechanical failure. That’s happened twice, both times a sheared hub carrier bolt.

I don’t know one way or another whether this spin caused any of the other damage we’re addressing, or whether it’s just wear and tear. I’d say “normal wear and tear”, but because I’ve done on the order of forty track days (and the previous owner did quite a bit of autocross) I don’t think it falls under the “normal” category. And although I’ve only run slicks a few times, running on slicks radically increases the forces on the car.

And so it begins…

The original plan was to take a day one weekend to dismantle the car to get to the clutch. One day the next weekend we’d replace the clutch and put everything back together. In between, we’d take the driveshaft in for servicing. (We could do that work ourselves, but parts alone from Lotus cost more than having somebody else do it.) Some online research led us to a nice writeup with plenty of photos. This guy indicates the clutch job will take twelve hours for first-timers.

Now, of course, anybody who knows me knows that I’m not doing this myself, no matter how good the instructions are. I’m software, not hardware. I will mostly stand around trying not to get in the way while Michael and his friends do all the work. I’ll run to the store if we find we need something, and I’ll supply the pizza and beer.

Suspension disassembled

So when we got started yesterday, we planned to have everything taken apart by the end of the day. It was Michael and Daniel doing the work, and our good friend Murphy showing up a few times to lend a hand. At the end of the day we were still quite a way away from our goal. This is where Maximum Distress comes in for me. I’ve watched everything get taken apart. Car parts are everywhere. We’ve used every known size of wrench and socket known to man, even had to go out and buy one we didn’t already have. It would be a slight exaggeration to say it looks like a bomb went off in the garage.

Motor dropped

We worked seven hours yesterday, and Daniel came over again today and we spent another five. The fellow who wrote up our instructions said the whole job would take twelve; we’ve got twelve hours into it and we’re not quite at the halfway point.

Transmission

I have every faith that Michel and Daniel can put it all together. There really isn’t any doubt in my mind. But it’s all too much for my pea brain. Given an infinite amount of time and a patient mentor and I could probably do it. I’d undoubtedly have a few extra parts left over, and I’d have had to do many of the tasks two or three times because I put something together upside down or backwards. It would by my hell, my Maximum Distress.

Finally, the clutch!

I’ve now adjusted my expectations. I’m thinking it’ll be two more weekends before we’re done. We managed to leave enough room for Genae to park her car, so at least she’s not relegated to the driveway. But the bad news is that Michael put a bit too much effort into this given his recent back surgery. He’s now in a solely supervisory role.

More distress soon!

Motor Mounts

On my last visit to the track I ran on slicks. I was able to navigate turn 7 at between ten and fifteen miles an hour faster than on the street tires. Unfortunately, late in the day I apexed a bit early and had the choice of going off the track or lifting off the throttle. I chose the latter and for the first time in thirty-five or so track days spun the car. It was a particularly violent spin that dislodged the battery (again!) and broke a motor mount. A couple of weeks ago, the new set of motor mounts arrived.

The new parts

I was surprised to see that the inserts are black. They’re supposed to be red. The reds measure a 60 A on the durometer scale. (Hopefully I’m using the term correctly.) The blacks are 75 A, which is harder. I called the vendor and asked about it and was told that Innovative is no longer selling the 60 A for use in the Elise. I’m not sure I’m buying that. It could be that they just shipped the wrong ones. But there’s quite a bit of discussion on the web about which ones to use, so I decided I’ll install these. In theory, I could buy red inserts and replace them.

Today it’s time to install them.

Saturday, November 3

There are four mounts in the car: fore, aft, driver side, and passenger side. In addition to the various discussions I found on the web concerning the hardness, there is also quite a few opinions as to whether to replace all the mounts or not. It is not uncommon for people to just replace the fore and aft mounts, leaving left and right as stock. The original plan was to do them all, but if we run out of time I’m happy just to do the fore and aft.

The idea was that Michael and I would do it. He has a sore back, though, so he invited one of his friends to help. But Michael quickly found out that he was able to do some of the work after all, so I ended up watching and fetching tools as required. There really isn’t room under there for three people.

The guys at work

I’m sure this operation is a lot easier if the car is on a lift, but we don’t have a lift so we just put the back of the car on the ramps. It’s a little cramped, but workable. We did the rear first. It came off pretty easily

The old aft mount

The stock mounts aren’t solid and the new ones are. When we first inspected the mounts, that wasn’t clear to me. The only one we got a good look at was the rear one. I was thinking it was broken worse than it actually is. But it’s pretty broken. It’s not exactly X-shaped, but close enough. The photo doesn’t show it very well but three of the four legs of the X are cracked all the way through.

Forward mounts, new and old

The front mount was a bit tougher to replace. The bushing is pretty stout and we had to persuade it a bit to get it into place. Then there was much finagling required to get the holes to line up for the bolts.

While they were working under the car, I decided to finally “upgrade” the camera mount on the nose of the car. I didn’t give much thought to where the camera should be mounted back when I originally installed it. There are two problems with it. First, I have to take the tow ring off the car to run the camera. That’s not ideal if I have a problem on track and need to get towed. Second, because it’s sideways I need to use two little arms, one of which is essentially a 90 degree elbow. It’s not an elbow, but serves the same purpose. And because of the two arms the camera is farther from the mount itself and more subject to vibration.

Old camera mount (above, horizontal), new camera mount (below, vertical)

With the camera mount in the new location, the camera won’t move around so much and it’ll be even closer to the ground, making it look like I’m going faster! Sadly, the picture shows how beat up the front of the car has gotten. Michael and I have talked about what it will take to effect some fiberglass repairs, so I’m thinking the current beat-up state of the nose is only temporary. (The picture also shows both mounts. The old one is no longer there.)

We finished the job in about three hours. That’s just the fore and aft mounts. We haven’t put the undertray back on the car but I did take her out for a spin around the block. It’s going to take a while to get used to it. There’s a lot more vibration in the cabin. Before the test drive I was joking that it’ll be like a bunch of buzzing hornets. It’s worse than that. She really vibrates quite harshly now. I don’t think it’s enough to loosen the fillings in my teeth, but it’s quite different. On the other hand, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel when shifting gears. I never got past third and literally only went around the block, but I think it’s much improved.

In addition to only doing half the mounts, we haven’t done the trans studs yet. We probably are going about this the hard way, but so it goes. Oh, and it sounds like there’s an issue with the clutch. Michael thinks it’s the throw out bearing. Neither of us heard this noise at the track after the spin, and I haven’t driven the car since getting it home. When it rains, it pours.