Conversion of Lotus Europa to Cable Shift Mechanism
(Original text by Julien Simard, as submitted to Remarque)
If, like me, you are addicted to this Lotus model, you have done more than your share of cursing every time you have had to fiddle with the gear shifting mechanism or the clutch release cable.
Do not despair, however, since American industry has been producing for years the perfect answer to these problems. The news have just not reached England yet!
The product is made by Morse Controls Division of North American Rockwell and is called RED-JAKET push-pull control cable. It seems to be used mostly for the purpose of steering and gear shifting of power boats of all sizes. It is sold by most marine hardware stores of which there are plenty (unless you live in the middle of the Sahara Desert).
Its characteristics are: very low friction; hermetic sealing; corrosion free; isolates vibrations; no maintenance; high reliability if properly installed. It is not cheap, however, but when you feel the results there is no doubt of its being worth every penny as it can be completely forgotten for years.
This paper is about the gear shifting mechanism only as I have converted the clutch operation to hydraulic system. Conversion of the clutch cable to RED-JAKET cable would be a much more simple job however, as it only involves the purchase of a cable of the same length as the original and of adequate size (a series 63C - with 200 lbs rating seems OK) and the making of a couple of mounting brackets. Make sure the clutch bearing is always fully released.
For the shifting mechanism, the purchase of the two suggested cables with their four ball joints and four clamps will amount to approximately $90.
The parts to be saved from the old system are the shift lever (Part A) and the two smaller ball joints (Part B); the leftover parts can be joyfully thrown into a large garbage can.
The material for the system is all mild steel stock forms and arc welding or brazing capability is required. Other than this, only hand tools are necessary.
The most important point to remember in the use of push-pull control cables is that their weakest portion is at the swivels. This system was designed to minimize angular variations at the swivels and thus ensure very long life. The angles should be adjusted by bending the brackets where necessary to get 0 degree (no bend at the swivels) when in neutral.
Also, the R16 gearbox must be viewed, as originally designed for Paris taxis! That is, it is very sturdy but not very sporting. I recommend that the gearbox reverse detent spring be shortened in accordance with the specifications in the Lotus factory manual to lighten the load on the "gate" cable when going into reverse.
Another point to consider is that the opening in the rear chassis bulkhead must be made larger to allow to introduction the partially assembled shifting mechanism into the backbone. This may require the removal of the engine for access. Remove only the amount of material required and roll the edge back a bit with a ball pein hammer to conserve rigidity of the sheet metal.
To assemble, insert Part A into Part 1. To prevent rotation of the lever into the block, use epoxy cement between the parts, making sure of proper positioning before the glue sets. This assembly can be installed after the mechanism has been inserted into the chassis.
Parts 2, B and 3 are mounted onto Frame 5 using standard bolts and nuts as required and tightened just enough to eliminate play. A drop of Locktite on the threads freezes the settings.
Installation of Lever 4 on the transmission controls shaft requires the use of a Grade 5 bolt adequately tightened to prevent loosening.
Apply moly grease to the four new ball joints, also at all other rotation points.
When making the support brackets at the transmission end, allow for adjustment of the cable sheath clips so that the shift lever is vertical when the transmission is in neutral in the 3-4 gate.
May the SHIFT be with you!
Note: This conversion was designed and applied to Lotus 54/0873 by Julien Simard in 1980. Testament to its effectiveness and reliability is given by the fact that it is still functioning smoothly 22 years later.