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My very brown 74 Elite project


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The W58 doesn't fit without some serious modifications to the chassis/gearbox/both.  The engine is fitted slightly further forward in the Excel and the "Y"- section at the front of the chassis is longer than the Elite - this allows the W58 to fit into the Excel OK.  If you keep the engine in the same place in the Elite the W58 tail housing will need some major modification to get it to got into the Elite chassis - through the circular hole at the front of the straight part of the chassis.  You could make the circular hole larger with suitable extra reinforcing in place.  The next problem is that the gear lever housing leaves the lever too far back.  I can't find any alternative housing that would put it in the right place.  You may need to fabricate your own.  There are also two different bell housings for the W58 - one is deeper than the other;  I think the input shaft on the W58 changed at some point.  Your crank then also has to suit the gearbox/bell housing you've got - the spigot bearings are different.

Very early Elite chassis with the square box section along the "Y" part of it (triangular on later ones) adds to the problem.

Food for thought 😃

It is a really nice gearbox though!


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1 hour ago, Tony D said:

Looking at your assembled picture, I note you do not have the retro fit central link under the diff between the left and right lower link. 

Easy to make from a U section and provides much improved rigidity between  the left and right suspension. It is detailed in the Lotus service notes as a service retro fit. 


Thanks Tony.  You're the second person to mention this, but I guess I didn't look hard enough for a solution the first time. After a bit of googling, I think you're speaking about this part?


Placing an order as we speak...

Thanks for the heads up.

28 minutes ago, EXCEL V8 said:

The W58 doesn't fit without some serious modifications to the chassis/gearbox/both. ...

Thanks, Pete. This is exactly the info I was after.  Even the Conversion Components person (I've now forgotten his name) didn't know how the Toyota box fit in the Elite.

While I do believe the Toyota box is the superior transmission, I'm now leaning towards having the Lotus 5-speed rebuilt.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Now there's an interesting twist. 

I made mine many years ago but obviously pitched the holes to suit the car. Maybe I need to check how the bushes are seated. I assume the pitch of the lower diff mounts are (should be) the same dimension? 


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When I bought my car it had a bit of angle iron across the studs.  Since replacing the diff I too have noticed that the studs want to push "outwards" at the rear and was going to make a new brace to correct it.  I binned the angle iron so I don't know if the holes were "centred" or not.  I'm glad you've pointed it out Brian.  I've got a spare diff so I'll measure between the lower rear mounting holes.


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1 hour ago, EXCEL V8 said:

  I've got a spare diff so I'll measure between the lower rear mounting holes.

I'd be curious to hear what you find. Unfortunately, I didn't measure the distance between holes in the brace, but according to the workshop manual, it should be 400mm (15.75 in).

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I can confirm that the distance between the lower fixing points on the diff is 400mm.  I also noticed that my spare diff has 5/8" holes sleeved down to 1/2" - obviously a later diff in an earlier car.


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Lightened flywheel and new clutch? 

Not sure why you would need new cams. Save your money.

Carb set-up, timing etc......critical on 9 Series engine. Ask me how I know. Everyone says they can do it but even in the UK, not many can. You have to know these engines. 




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Good opportunity to check the soundness of the upper to lower bodyshell joints in the engine bay area.  A heat shield on the left hand side near the exhaust manifold would be a good idea.  Engine mounts don't seem to last long on the exhaust side either - worth checking.  What's the fuel line like?  Rare opportunity to get inside the transmission tunnel!  


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The previous owner replaced the front bumper with the "Euro" version (the version that existed everywhere else in the world) and mentioned that the new bumper wasn't attached very well, and that I might want to improve on his thrown-together solution.

Exactly the situation I am in! The PO of my car mentioned this: "Needs lower brackets for front bumper." Maybe it is fixed with just a few self tappers? Cannot investigate now as the car is in transport between the US and the Netherlands.

And I think I do not see a front spoiler on the pictures of my car, so may have to source one. 

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14 hours ago, Dion said:

Exactly the situation I am in! The PO of my car mentioned this: "Needs lower brackets for front bumper." Maybe it is fixed with just a few self tappers? Cannot investigate now as the car is in transport between the US and the Netherlands.

And I think I do not see a front spoiler on the pictures of my car, so may have to source one. 

The front spoiler is also considered part of the overall cooling system, it directs air into the radiator.

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  • 7 months later...

I've grappled with this entry since December.

On the one hand, I have a very nicely rebuilt transmission that was done by a specialist in Northern California who used to work at the Lotus factory.

On the other hand, I paid *way* more than expected, waited *way* longer than expected, and, in the end, was left with an unfinished car that I'm still trying to get right.

I've written this entry three times now.  Each time has been a novel - there's lots to be told. I'll try to pare it down & add some pictures to break up a wall of text.

At the end of the day, I'm writing this post as a piece of the car's history.  You, dear reader, may find it a bit boring. You've been warned.

Initial problem:

When I bought the car, I knew that the transmission wasn't right - the for sale ad said so.  It also said that a second "good" transmission was included with the sale. I thought, "no biggie - I've swapped out transmissions on two cars now, how hard could it be?"

Well, in the Elite, it's hard.  The transmission can't be removed without removing the engine.  I thought I might be able to be sneaky by removing the prop shaft and cheating the engine forward, but that doesn't appear to be possible. The engine had to come out & I can't do that at home.  I do have a couple friends with lifts, but it would probably be best to have a shop do the whole thing.

Searching for solution:

I called my local vintage Lotus specialist for a quote on trans rebuild. They said it would be $4K+ by the time they were done and questioned whether the fix was worth while for an Elite (this was before they'd seen my car... they assumed it was a junker, as most Elites and Eclats in the US are). I thought $4K was too much & started looking for other solutions.

One solution is a Toyota W58 transmission swap. A company called Conversion Components in NZ makes a kit for the 907 -> W58.  While researching this swap, I found that someone in Northern California had done one. I took note of the name and continued with my research.

As it turns out, not too many people are comfortable rebuilding the Lotus 5 speed, and even fewer are willing to do the actual R&R. Coming up short of ideas, I called the Northern CA shop & asked if I could ship up my spare, have them rebuild it, then do the replacement myself. The shop owner said that he was happy to do the rebuild, but would prefer to do the whole job. That actually sounded great to me, but he was 400 miles away - so logistically pretty difficult.

So far, that was my best option, but I couldn't get an estimate for the work.  The owner said he couldn't even speculate on a cost until he saw the car.  When I pressed him (I wasn't going to bring the car 400 miles away & write a blank check), he gave me the expected labor cost to pull the engine & trans, rebuild the trans & replace everything.  The estimate was $1600. I had him confirm that price more than once, and each time asked for a ballpark figure on parts, but he wouldn't budge.

To shorten the story, I did some research and made a guess of $1000-1500 in parts to do the job, which would still save me $1K over the local place. This put me right on the fence of taking the car up north.

Over the next week, the owner called me 3 times asking if I wanted to do the job.  I figured he was hungry for work & would at least get the job done quickly. I'd also save a grand, and I was somewhat interested in the adventure.

I agreed to have him do the work and made arrangements to borrow a truck and trailer to tow the car up north. Because this is an engine-out service, I asked him to replace the cam belt and water pump while access was easy (the cam belt was only 3 years and a few hundred miles old, but I figured replacement would be a snap now, but would be painful later, so.... best do it now).

The trip North:

The trailer was free to me, so I can't complain, but it wasn't in a good state when I picked it up.  I had to re-wire the tail lights and adjust the front wheel stops so that my car would be balanced on the trailer when towing. I did this in a crazy heatwave, with temps over 100 degrees, and it was done in the open sun.

When I finally got the car on the trailer, I realized that I couldn't open the car door because the trailer fender was in the way (this trailer had originally been made for an early Rolls Royce). So I set the parking brake, put it in gear, rolled down the window and crawled out. I cut out a piece of corrugated plastic & taped in a "window" to keep the car clean in transit.


The process put me a couple hours behind schedule - which is important because I was supposed to drop the car off that evening - before the shop closed - but I had an 8 hour drive ahead of me and it was past 11am and over 100 degrees. Suffice it to say, this was not my best road trip.

Arrival at the shop:

The shop owner was kind enough to stay open late on a Saturday to wait for my delayed arrival. I pulled into the parking lot completely exhausted, but happy to see an enthusiast garage. The parking lot was riddled with Esprits and Europas - this was my kind of place.

Much to my chagrin, the owner greeted me with a written estimate. This was the one thing I'd asked for - several times - before making the trip. The real pain here was that the estimate was for $4500. Why, oh why could he have not given this to me before I made the trip? Not only was I 400 miles from home, but I could have had my local shop do this work for the same money.

If I had any strength left to fight, I would have turned the truck right back around and back to my local specialist (400 miles back). But... I was already there, I was *really* tired, and figured the car was in good hands, despite the fact that this felt a little underhanded.

Work begins, and seemingly never ends:

I dropped the car off on a Saturday. By Tuesday, I was getting text messages and pictures of the disassembly (which I very much appreciated). By Thursday (July 15th, 2021), he had everything apart and had put together a list of needed parts. I was actually a little worried that he would be done in a week and I'd have to make that 800 mile round-trip again. 


Weeks came and went and I hadn't heard anything more.  I understand that it can take a while to get parts, and I understand that I'm not his only customer, so I patiently waited.

By mid August, I thought that I should give the mechanic a heads up that my birthday was at the end of September - the same day as our next big race (I race a V8 powered Elite that was celebrating its 10th year of racing on my birthday weekend) - and that I would really like to get the car back the weekend before. I figured he would have had the car for 2 full months by then, which I thought would be plenty of time. He responded saying that he expected all of my parts to arrive by the end of the week & he would try his best to get the car done in time.

I called the week I expected to get the car back. It wouldn't be done.  He'd mixed up the dates and thought I needed to pick it up on my b-day, not have it in Los Angeles on my b-day. Oh well, no Elite for my b-day or as a companion at the race. Not a huge loss. I figured if he was only a week off, it should just about be done.

The week after my b-day, I called again (now the first week in October). The car wasn't done. He said that he was sorry it was taking a long time, but he should have it by the end of the month (October). I thought that was a bit odd to take that long after almost getting it done in September, but so be it.  I waited.

By the first week in November, I still hadn't heard from him, so I gave a call.  No answer; I left a message.  Next day, I called again. No answer; I left a message. The next day, I got an email saying that he was again sorry it was taking a long time. He had a restoration that was taking longer than expected, but it should be done that weekend and he'd get to my car right after.  I asked if he had any other cars ahead of me... he said he did, but he'd push me to the front of the line because I'd been waiting so long. Without many options, I bit my tongue and waited...

December arrived and I hadn't heard anything, so I gave a call. Lo an behold, the car was not done. In fact, it had not been touched since July... it had just been sitting outside, under a universal car cover for 5 months. I was not happy & was having no more of this.

After some shouting, I pressed him to give me a completion date. He said he could have my car done by Dec 17th. I agreed, hung up the phone steaming mad, and made arrangements for truck & trailer on the 17th for a Dec 18th pickup

December 12th, I found that the truck I'd arranged wouldn't be ready until the 20th, which meant a December 21st pick up. I immediately called the mechanic to let him know that he had a few extra days. He was thankful for the extra time & mentioned that he found that my steering rack seemed a little loose (somewhat expected - I'd only just rebuilt it & hadn't adjusted it since - I expected it would need to be adjusted). Knowing what was likely the cause, I suggested where to look (rack preload shims) and agreed to let him adjust it.  Before we hung up, I asked if he needed more time - he said no, he'd still be done by the 21st.

On December 18th, I checked the weather - rain was forecasted over the entire state on my travel days. While this may not seem like a big deal to some, you have to understand that 2021 was the driest year in recorded history in California. I think we only had 3-4 days of rain the entire year, but now it's going to rain for my entire 8 hour trip home.  Remember how I have to hop out through the window when the car is on that trailer? Yeah, towing in the rain isn't ideal.

I called the mechanic and told him my dilemma. I asked his advice on the trailer or if I should delay the trip until after Christmas. He offered a few ideas - all of which involved making towing through the rain. This made me think the car was at least ready in time.

In the end, I rented a different trailer - one that has collapsible fenders, and headed north on the 20th - just as we agreed.


I arrived at a cheap motel near the shop the night before pickup. It was cold and rainy & I'd been on the road literally all day. When I got out of the truck, I noticed a text from the mechanic - he asked if I maybe wanted to rethink the trip because it was raining. "I'm already here." I replied.

He said he was just buttoning everything up (which I thought was odd - it was 6pm the day before I was supposed to pick up the car).

About 30 minutes later, I got another text saying that the car wasn't running well & that my carbs needed adjusting. He asked if I wanted him to fix it. I replied to tell him that the carbs had been professionally rebuilt just 100 miles before he got it, and that the car was running perfectly when I dropped it off. If there was anything wrong with the way it was running, it was on him. I said that yes, I wanted it fixed, but I had no intention of paying for him to fix a problem that didn't exist before I gave him the car. No reply, but I think I was understood.

Another 30 minutes passes and I get another text saying that one of the fuses was popping as soon as he put power to the car. He said it was the gauge cluster fuse & asked if I wanted him to fix that "problem." At this point, I was getting cross. I'd given the guy almost 6 months to do a transmission rebuild. I'd given him several chances to say he needed more time. Now that I was 400 miles from home, with truck and trailer, I find that he's not done with the car & is still ironing out bugs that he caused. Again, I was not a happy camper.

If you've followed this thread, you'll know that I rewired this car, myself. I know every inch of the wiring harness & I know there were no electrical problems when I gave him the car.  I told him as much and also corrected him:  The fuse in question did go to the gauge cluster, but also to the reverse lights.  He'd just replaced the transmission, so, again, this was likely his doing and he needed to fix it.

Eventually I calmed down and went to bed.

The next morning, I showed up at his shop at 8am. The mechanic was already there - he'd been  there since 6am (kudos for the effort).

Turns out the carb issue was related to the vacuum lines that go to the charcoal canister, so he just plugged the lines. Fair enough, I'll deal with fuel evap later.

The fuse was, as I suspected, a problem with the reverse switch.  He'd damaged the brand new one I'd installed weeks before I gave him the car, and replaced it with the old one from my spare transmission.  That switch had a short & the short popped the fuse as soon as it got power. He tied off the reverse light (leaving me without them) which allowed me to drive the car. (As an aside, he never paid for that switch - that I've since replaced).

I then learned of another surprise: He'd forgotten to put the transmission mount in place before putting the engine in. The trans mount can't go in or out with the transmission in place (it's wedged between a brace and the transmission, itself). Rather  than pull the engine and correctly fit the mount, he simply bolted the mount to the underside of the brace, using large fender washers to distribute the load. He said, "I installed it from the bottom so it will be easier to replace in the future. The way Lotus did it, you have to remove the transmission to replace the brace."

Not knowing any better, I agreed to that. (There's some foreshadowing here)

Here it was, 9am or so on the day we agreed to pick up, but he still wasn't done. He'd clearly been rushing and was taking care of items he missed - one of which was an alternator belt pulley that fell off when I touched it. Another was a broken speedo gear. There were a few other items that I've since forgotten. I sat with him in the garage as he completed the job & lent a hand when it was needed.

I should say that our visit that morning was cordial, despite all the missteps that got us there. I do think he's a nice enough guy, and in fact, I believe he's a capable mechanic, but he's got a problem with time management and customer service.

By around 11am, I was able to take a quick test drive. Unfortunately, it was raining, and I have no windscreen wiper, so it was quick - just to ensure the transmission shifted and there were no obvious problems. I finished the test drive by driving onto the trailer & headed home in short order.



Oh, the final bill? Over $5K. :: sigh ::

of note: that $5k+ included an additional $385 to re-shim my steering rack. If you're following along, that means I've paid over $700 to rebuild that rack - when I could have paid $300 to have the local company who rebuilt the rack in our race car (also an Elite) do the work. :: double sigh ::



There's a good bit to unpack since the repair (including a dangerously loose steering column shaft). I think I'll break this entry into multiple parts to make it more digestible. 

To be continued...


Edited by BrianK
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Sometimes, things just won't work out smoothly. It appears you were very accommodating. I think I'd have withheld a portion of the final bill until I'd satisfied myself the car was OK, when I got back home. Then, I'd have constantly told him I wasn't quite ready to make the payment, then when I finally did, it would be half the amount to account for issues found. 

You sir, are a most patient man :) 

It's getting there......

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Love the SZ - Come close to owning a couple of times but now way out of reach - Had a Zagato bodied Fulvia in the past too - lovely thing


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Almost forgot this little bit of history...

I zeroed the trip odometer when I picked up the car.  On my last drive, the trip odometer rolled over, which means I've put just over 1,000 miles on the car since I took ownership in 2019. 😎

1000 miles


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