As a former – and pretty much guaranteed future – owner of a wedge Elite Lotus, I was horrified to hear the other day of what should be a small problem possibly meaning an early demise for all these cars. Yes, I am aware that some of you will scoff that that would be a good thing, but you are entitled to be horribly wrong. That is your right.
I received the SOS from Angus Marshall, linchpin on the essential forum lotusexcel.net, a diehard enthusiast and indefatigable champion of these far too often derided Lotuses.
The problem is that Elite, Eclat and Excel use a particular steel profile for their window frames – one shared with wedge TVRs, later Esprits and possibly some Reliants – which rots. Rots like a 1970s Alfa.
In this day and age, when just about everything for every classic is available, that doesn’t seem like it should be an insurmountable problem, but it is proving so.
Lotus doesn’t seem to want to reproduce them any time soon, a four-year search to find someone to make them at a viable rate has proven fruitless (£500-750 a frame from those that reckon they could even do it), the cheaper alternative of remaking them in ally is no-go because the lighter metal flexes badly at speed (hence why Esprits moved to steel frames) and cannibalising NOS later Esprit frames doesn’t really work because the curvature is wrong.
Angus, understandably rather distraught at the situation, said: “Have we finally got to a stage where some fantastic cars are going to be forced off the road because a single component can't be reproduced any more? What an irony that would be if the cars are rendered unusable due to rot of one of the few exposed metal parts on them!”
So what can be done?
Well it would be great if someone could affordably remanufacture the parts – originally produced by Edward Rose Ltd, which went out of business in the early 2000s – but even better if they are already out there. After all, given the nature of the manufacturers that used them – Lotus, TVR and possibly Reliant – it’s almost inconceivable that they didn’t come out of a mainstream parts bin. But whose? If someone could identify the frame, then there might already be a mountain of them out there. And if anyone can answer that question, I know it will be one of you lot.
Well, who would have thought after all the problems these wonderful cars have overcome before finally becoming appreciated – the hostile reaction to Ollie Winterbottom’s wonderful styling, the woeful reputation of the engine, the three-minute lifespan of the rear hub seals, the sagging headlining, the decades of one-step-from-scrap-winking-headlight classics – something as trivial as a window frame could threaten their very existence?
Don’t let it be so. Contact Angus on firstname.lastname@example.org if you can think of anything to avert this coming crisis.