Blood, Sweat & Tears by: Jerry C. Blaine
Copyright (c) 1987 Lotus, Ltd., P.O. Box L, College Park, MD 20741.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.
By: Jerry C. Blaine
It was late in 1967, after my return from a tour in Vietnam, that I discovered I had a serious disease. Driving down a boulevard in Florida, I was struck with my first symptom: BSCS...British Sports Car Syndrome. It was a 1963 XKE Jaguar. I had been warned by the medics that I might experience flashbacks, fainting spells, etc., after I got home. But this ...this was awesome!
After trading in my new Pontiac GTO for this "used" British Sports Car, the first of many after effects of the disease became apparent: My mom broke down in tears, and my girlfriend finally said, "Oh, yesss!" -both reactions coming after only one glimpse of this British wonder.
The disease intensified itself on that same boulevard a couple of weeks later. On a bright, seemingly innocent Sunday, while driving past a closed shopping mall, I noticed all these British Sports Cars lined up in a roped-off area. This one red car was frantically driving through a series of pylons. Naturally, being mindful of the medics' warning to "take it easy at first," I stopped to watch this display of foolishness. (I realize now, looking back, that my dad was right and very wise. "No one causes you grief; you cause yourself grief," he said.) The British Sports Car Syndrome develops in steps, however, and my next step (an error, I admit) was to ask the question of one of these foolish fellows -the one with an old-timer's hat, better known as (You guessed it!) the British Sports Car Hat. I soon discovered that this disease not only required a sports car, but even that the victim had to dress accordingly!
But more on that later. My next step was to ask, "What's going on here?" (I believe the cliche is: "Misery loves company.") The fellow in the BSC Hat got very excited and started talking about apexes, increasing and decreasing radii of corners, roll-stiffness, bump-steer...and I thought Vietnamese was hard to understand!
Another very significant element of the BSCS is the "Male EGO", which somehow is tied into the well known phrase "GO faster". With much coaxing (They really didn't break my arm.) I registered, got teched out, borrowed a helmet and got in line. I was amazed how similar this experience was to going into a fire fight in Vietnam. Not only was my oil pressure up - my blood pressure was off the chart.
The man with all the flags waved me forward to a spray-painted line.
Another checked my seat belts, helmet and loose debris in the cockpit. Looking over to the side of the parking lot, I was aware of all these grinning faces and at least 20 British Sports Car Hats. I'm convinced now that this was part of a pagan ritual initiation that all new drivers must go through. They knew...they knew!
My next awareness was the green flag...the next, my leg shaking, pushing hard on the throttle as I streaked toward the same man, but now he held a checkered flag in his hand and reminded me a bit of a particular cheerleader in college. (I wonder if she would have had the same reaction as my soon-to-be ex-girlfriend had had when first glimpsing my British Sports Car?)
Back to the RACE! Where had that minute or so gone to? WOW! That was fun!...1 think?..I know! And I had two more times to make sure.
The next part of the pagan ritual began. The British Sports Car Hat squad descended upon my car. "Tire pressures are off," they chorused. "You're using the wrong gear for that corner. Drain some of your gas to get lighter.... "
My ears were ringing. My glasses were fogged up. But one vision still
lingers, after all these years: taking my helmet off, glimpsing this face in the mirror and thinking, "Look at that stupid grin!"
Years later, following a string of British Sports Cars (the next, a 1970 Lotus Europa picked up at the factory, driven back to Germany and sorted for Group 4 racing, followed by assorted Formula Fords, Formula 3s, and F2s), I decided to go "cold turkey". I moved to Minnesota and gave it all up. I did pretty good, too! Bought a fishing boat, hunting rifles, snowmobile and a chain saw. (Snowmobiles and chain saws are part of the pagan ritual of Minnesota, by the way.) .
During the course of my work, in a telephone conversation with someone, mention was made of a very low, exotic-looking sports car sitting under a nylon cover in the back of a garage in Illinois - wrecked, they said. My wife remembers that day when I got home. "Why do you have such a stupid grin on your face?"
Actually, I did pretty good in this situation, too. It took three years before I broke. Then came negotiations, trailering arrangements, vacation time, four days of driving, and there it sat, in my driveway. A 1970 Europa S2.
My God, it was beautiful! (My wife's observation was probably somewhat clearer: "You paid how much for that?!")
My first two tasks in turning my vision of beauty into reality were to take inventory and join Lotus, Ltd. The first was a little depressing. The second...every once in a while I did something right the first time.
I soon discovered there is a tremendous amount of advice available - some good, some so-so. The first rule I was told was: Do the engine and drive train, then work on the body. Looking around at examples, however, I became aware of an awful lot of primered cars never finished, for-sale ads reading "needs bodywork", and at least five guys in various bars who were divorced - all over partly restored cars. Their wives only saw piles of junk, never mind that the "thing" ran perfect.
Needless to say, since I love my wife more than my car (I really do, honey!), I started work on the body first.
A couple of starting points to note: The car was crashed early in its life - 3,742 miles, to be exact. The major damage was done to the left front corner, there was minor damage across the front nose to the right corner, and the hood was full of spider cracks. The previous owner had done a very good job of repairing the body- especially in view of the fact that he replaced whole body parts. There was lots of raw, finished fiberglass and several primered-in areas, all possibly hiding problems.
The expert in fiberglass in my area was Matty's Auto Body; some of the best show Corvettes in the area come out of his shop. Consulting with Matty, it was decided to strip the car completely of paint. Matty had learned the hard way: Don't sand-/bead-blast a-Lotus. This turned out to be good advice. Spider cracks, porous areas, blemished areas - all would have ruined the best paint jobs.
Abrasive wheels, sandpaper and a lot of sweat reduced cracked areas enough to apply two new layers of fiber matt cloth. In fact, the entire hood was done in this fashion. The paint choice was advised by Matty - acrylic enamel - and the color by my four-year-old daughter -white. So white it hurts your eyes, like the snow in Minnesota. (I think she was homesick; we had moved to Virginia Beach, Va.)
Body work doesn't get done in a couple of days. Estimate your time, double it, and then double it again. (This is an important rule, related to Murphy's Law, but called the British Sports Car Restoration Law henceforth referred to as BSCRL. It's very important when briefing your spouse. Expectations can be very damaging -I even was told grounds for divorce many times when goals weren't met.)
Two months after first picking up sandpaper, I trailered the car home from Matty's. All the kids in the neighborhood gathered around as the unloading took place. It was then that the car was renamed by my twins, Tiffany & Zachary: Daddy's White Car. (Mother's is black - usually the color of her mood, where Daddy's White Car was concerned.) But now, it was no longer a pile of junk, and some of the original opposition was relieved.
So my initial advice to those of you embarking into the nether-world of Lotus restoration: Paint it first!
[To be continued]
In the last column, I discussed Restoration Rule #1: Paint it first. I would now like to give some credit to Don Tingle for the success of my next task. A variety of ornaments and necessities were procured to return the exterior of my S2 Europa to original perfection.
Now, let's see if we can get this work of art to run. A couple of calls to Lotus, Ltd.'s Europa tech rep, Glenn Davis, forewarned me about the hazards of the Solex carburetor. Remember, the car had pretty much sat for 15 years, with only an occasional turnover of the engine. The major source of problems led me to the gas tank. After removing the gas tank and inspecting this poltergeist, the BSCRL (British Sports Car Restoration Law) was invoked. (Estimate your time, double it, and then double it again.)
The tremendous amount of rust was the first problem, and here's the solution: Don't use a bigger hammer! I work for a chain saw manufacturing company, STIHL. Saw chain cutters are sharp. A couple of handfuls of old cutters available from a local chain saw shop, or even some nuts and bolts thrown into the tank with some solvent, like WD-40, A little cha-cha-cha, maraca-style (or, if you lean towards the brew, shake the tank like a cocktail). The saw chain cutters, nuts and bolts help remove the scale rust. Next, visit your local radiator shop. (Get to know him -you will be back!) Have the shop boil your gas tank. While this operation is going on, a visit to your local motorcycle shop will supply you with a product called KREEM. It is used to coat the inside of motorcycle tanks. Follow the manufacturer's instructions, but double the amount you estimate you'll need; you can always return the extra bottle. Before pouring the KREEM in the tank, plug the fuel pick-up line inside the tank with a golf tee, or some such device - but don't push it in too hard! Give the system time to cure. Don't rush the drying process.
In those wee hours of the night, you'll probably find yourself just sitting in the cockpit, maybe even without the seat mounted, running through the gears in your mind. This is part of the BSCRL; it's probably the only time you won't miss a gear shift.
One rule I stuck to: Plan the restoration in such order to give you an occasional visual success - something easy, like mounting the mirrors, This way, when the wife or kids venture into the garage, you hear, "Hey, that looks nice!"
The hard stuff, like removing nuts and bolts, you want to work on when no one's around. I assume you have purchased every penetrating oil known to the man at the parts counter, Add another
that sometimes works: oil of wintergreen, also known as Methyl Salicylate-NF (synthetic, a very mild acid, I think). Besides, you'll have the nicest smelling garage. Using a hypodermic needle - horse size - apply it to every nut and bolt throughout the car once every other day or so, and by the time you finally get to that nut, it should come loose. (What the heck, you've tried everything else - it worked for me on the front shocks!)
Before I close this, I have a word or two for all of you members of the BSCH (British Sports Car Hat) squad. Thanks for answering my idiotic questions - the ones you have probably heard dozens of times before. Glenn Davis, Lloyd Cayes, Bob Murray, Jim Scherer; you folks have a great lineage - at least back to that parking lot in Florida I mentioned last column. BSCS (British Sports Car Syndrome), I've found, isn't a terminal disease - but it does have its moments.
(Why, the other day I called my wife to check on the household, kids, new puppy, etc. I had recently bought a new car cover - to go with my BSCH. My wife told me the puppy had jumped up on the hood and relieved himself. Relating the story to our British secretary, she questioned, "I wonder how long it took your wife to train him to do that?" Hmmm...)
For those of you who read my last column, the puppy was neutered shortly after his transgression. I haven't decided if my wife was involved. If I ever get my Lotus to the point of going to car shows, perhaps I could use that story to keep people from touching and caressing its long, flowing lines.
Even though my car's history was pretty well known to Me, I was to learn a pretty hard lesson in trying to put it back in harness. I'll forego the bloody details and get to another of the British Sports Car Restoration Laws: Whatever assembly or subassembly one is working on, do not assume - famous word, assume - that it is either good or bad.
Take my brakes...please (with apologies to Mr. Youngman). They suffered from a variety of problems from one day to the next: a soft pedal; a constant "pump-back" of the pedal under pressure; on and on it went. The last straw was a total loss of brakes on a quick trip around the block to test a just-installed fuel pump. Awesome feeling - 50 mph in a 25-mph zone, and then no brakes. It's called "pucker power" by some members of the British Sports Car Squadron.
So, on to the brakes.
Step one was to remove everything - brake calipers, master cylinders, control linkage, lines, hoses and brake shoes.
Next, I began to deal with the pumping-back pedal by using a dial indicator to check the run-out of the disc. An unusual situation had developed there. The left front disc showed excessive run-out. I assumed the disc or bearings must have been in error; in fact, it turned out that the hub was evidently machined out of tolerance. I checked this by first ensuring that the bearings were installed correctly and in good repair. I removed the disc and then rotated and remounted it 180 degrees off the original disc-to-hub position. Sure enough, the run-out stayed with the hub. I replaced the hub, and the problem went away.
Next, I did a complete cleaning, using brake cleaner only. Inspection revealed poor seals in one caliper and the master cylinder, as well as a couple of clogged brake lines. After a rebuild of all four corners, everything was reassembled to the car.
My next decision was to try a silicone fluid (The choice is yours.), but what followed was a little more frustrating: bleeding the brakes.
There is some appropriate symbolism to the term "bleeding the brakes." The phrase must go back to the premodern-medicine days of physicians bleeding their patients to rid them of headaches. After consulting on brake bleeding procedures with those in the know, namely Don Tingle and Glenn Davis, I settled on my own procedure, which is a combination of both methods suggested. It seemed to me that: 1) full travel of the pedal was needed; and 2) moving the air out of the system was necessary.
I'm sure a Lotus owner/mechanic must have coined the term "different strokes for different folks," and my method may lead to some expense - not unheard of with Lotus. When I went to buy the brake -fluid, I applied one of my previously discussed rules: Estimate the time or cost, then double it and double it again. (This rule really works!) I bought four special bleed tubes -the type that allows you to bleed the brakes by yourself - and got the best I could find.
With all four corners set up to bleed at the same time, I started with the silicone fluid - and got a friend to help. To begin, a slow, full stroke of the pedal was called for to "charge" the empty system with fluid until it ran from all four bleeders. Being a rather patient man, I then sealed the system and let it set for 24 hours. The next day, I modified my procedure a little; instead of bleeding all four corners at the same time, I went front and rear, but on the same side, to ensure full pedal travel.
I returned to the system a week later, repeated the bleed, checked all the connections - and I haven't had to go back.
- Jerry Colin Blaine
Father's Day this year was rather emotional. Most of us British Sports Car Squadron members, if pressed, couldn't really come up with logical reasons for owning and maintaining our cars - at least, nothing that would stand up, say, in divorce court. At 8:00 a.m. on Father's Day, 1987, I was 45 miles from home and loving family, sitting in line to be "teched out" for an autocross at Langley Speedway. I was there early, so that, if I ran in the first or second heat, I could be home by 1:30...for the Detroit Grand Prix. It was, after all, Father's Day, and I was going to be "allowed" to sit undisturbed through the whole show.
Langley Speedway is four-tenths of a mile, banked, and -to justify an autocross - a four-pylon slalom was on the back straight, with a kink at the finish line. Otherwise, it's pucker-power all the way. For me, the fastest way around any course has always been related to controlling being out of control, so there was nothing new here - just the basics.
In past issues of LOTUS reMARQUE, I've seen various articles on desirable ride heights, how to determine spring rates, roll rates, and tire selection. My Europa has the following specs: (If it helps, I must also be brutally honest about myself: I'm big; to just about any other street prepared 1970 Europa that has shown up at an autocross, I've given away 60-100 pounds in power-to-weight ratio. But, enough of racer's excuses - back to the specs.) front ride height, preloaded with my body weight, 5-1/2 inches; new, but stock, Armstrong front shocks; right-front spring rate, 142 ft./lb., and left-front spring, 148 ft./lb. (with spring rates verified on an Instron machine); standard 9/16-inch anti-roll bar with stock bushings (but headed to Delrin bushings); rear ride height, 6-3/8 inches; Spyder adjustable rear shocks with increased spring rates of 133 ft./lb. on the right side, 137 ft./lb. on the left; an adjustable anti-roll bar, fabricated after a few consulting phone calls with Kiyoshi Hamai; Yoko -001 Rs, 205/13; BWA six-inch wheels; two degrees negative camber, controlled through adjustable lower links; internally stock engine; and a Hermes single-Weber 45DCOE induction and exhaust system, supplied by Andy Doring. (After a bit of sorting out the carburetion, we went racing.)
What were seconds between the first-place 911 s and me are now down to .024 seconds in the last SCCA event. And, on this Father's Day, we're hot! The first two runs, our time is the fastest. But the Porsches are close - too close! The third and last heat has to be it.
The fastest lap by a fully modified race car, Grand National class, I was told, was 16.8 seconds. My first lap of a two- lapper, with the pylons and front-straight kink, was 22.1 seconds. Not too bad, but there was still the second lap....
My Lotus is now set up so that we have off-throttle oversteer, but I can really keep my foot on it in almost any situation. Coming out of the slalom on the back straight into the banked, number-three turn, the throttle support down next to my foot gave way.... (Hmmmm, "off-throttle oversteer." In case you haven't noticed, my column is called "Blood, Sweat & Tears.")
Back home, sitting in my La-Z-Boy chair, watching Ayrton Senna worry Peter Warr and the boys about tire changing, I wondered if he had a throttle cable support....
- Jerry C. Blaine