The hood and the trunk lid or boot and bonnet posed no real interesting challenge. The steel engine venting grates took a lot of scrubbing with a wire brush to clean up. A rattle can spritz of chrome paint made them look like new! Next up was the removable rear trunk which was pretty beat up with several splits and tears here and there. I spent a Saturday with some fiberglass followed by a little Bondo repairing all the cracks and making it look good. I finished up by giving it a spritz of truck bed liner paint. Nice! I mounted the stock air cleaner to the back of the removable trunk (yes, that’s where it goes) and mounted a small new fire extinguisher in the trunk as well.
On to the doors! A little sanding and rubbing was in order to get rid of the orange peel. I then had to figure out how all the rods and gizzies fit inside the door to make the door open, close and lock as well as mounting the power window motor. The motors were a bit grungy and took a bit of cleaning over the garbage can with brake clean, followed by a liberal application of white grease out of the spray can. By the way, don’t get your face too close to a part you are spraying with white grease – it doesn’t sting your eyes but it also does not clean up real easy with soap and water. Somehow I found that out – the hard way.
I assembled door number one and then taped off its edges along with the edges of the door opening. I summoned the spousal unit and she assisted me with the installation. I held the door in place and she hammered the hinge shaft up from the hole in the bottom of the car up through the two stainless steel hinges and up into its home pocket in the top of the door opening. These are nice new stainless steel parts covered with a nice coating of white grease so they should not rust out ever, or at least not for a few months until I sell the car which is good enough for me. Anyway, we had success on the first try and the door actually lined up and opens and closes and everything – terrifical!
The Lotus Corps tune up clinic was coming up and I had set a goal to actually drive the Europa there. It didn’t really have to be 100% done but I did want a nice presentation. So I had been working on a number of things to get it ready. I glued the rear view mirror back on as it might be nice to see out the back. On a similar note I mounted the side view mirrors which had somehow been painted red to match the car somewhere along the way. Looked pretty good. I finally decided it was time to see if we had all the pieces together for some forward zoom so one evening after work I dropped the car off the milk crates she had been sitting on for about 6 months. I cranked down on the battery cutoff switch bringing full voltages to bear. I squeezed myself into the cockpit – that’s about the size of it too, a pit just big enough for a good sized… Rooster – what did you think I was going to say? Well Cock a doodle doo!
I had forgotten how much fun it was to get into a Europa. It used to be a lot easier 20 years ago before I grew a bowling ball in my stomach. You put your right leg in, kind of drop yourself down plopping your buttocks into the seat. You then arch your back and scrunch your head down to clear the door opening. All’s well until you realize that your left leg is still dangling outside the car and it don’t bend back on a 45 degree angle to the left which is what’s required to enter. That requires some pulling and grunting but finally – I’m in. Even remembered to bring the key! Cranked her over and she fired up easily enough and with a little coaxing of the choke got her to idle OK. A bit high but we’ll deal with that later. I pushed in the clutch however and could not find any gear – hmmmm. It was like the gates were blocked, or like the clutch was not disengaging – hmmmm. I shut her down and engaged the spousal unit to ensure that the clutch cable was connected to the clutch lever. How come she has no problem getting in and out of the Europa? I’m glad that she has taken good care of herself over the years and does not have a bowling ball growth like I do. Upon depression of the pedal it was confirmed that I was indeed getting sufficient clutch arm throw – hmmmm. I dismissed the spousal unit to go about the rest of her mundane evening and got out the wrenches and adjusted the clutch from all the way loose (which was where I figured a new clutch should be adjusted) to all the way tight. Once back inside the pit I could feel that I was absolutely bottoming out the pressure plate when I depressed the pedal but yet I could still not find a gear when the car was running – hmnmm. I shut her off and put her in gear and started it up again. She started creeping forward and was difficult to pull out of gear. At least the brakes seemed to work OK. I shut it down again and did a rewind of the trans/clutch,/pressure plate assembly process in my mind. Didn’t even need a 12 oz. can of rewind fluid as I was still quite determined to drive around the block one way or another. Something was still hanging up in the clutch department but I wanted to go – so I just did. Started her up in first gear and out of the garage we crept. I let out the clutch and it engaged the rest of the way just fine. I cruised down the alley and cautiously turned the comer right into a gaggle of soccer moms in their mini vans going to some school function at the comer grade school. Lots of funny looks as I gently negotiated the traffic and made a turn down my street. Once clear of traffic I attempted a shift but only got it to come out of gear, but it did not want to go into 2nd. I pulled over, shut her off, put her in gear, restarted and finished my one block lap waving at Paul’s neighbor lady Hazel at the corner. Over the 25 years I’ve been testing cars out around the block, I always seem to catch Hazel sitting or walking about. She always gives me a funny look like, what the heck is he driving now? Nice lady!
So I made it around the block and pushed her back into the garage, but after conferring with my SME (Paul) we decided that the new pilot bearing I had installed was probably a bit undersized due to me pressing it into place. We decided that if I tried to let it “wear in” I would run the risk of it overheating, gnarling up and locking up. So it was time to pull the trans back out – what fun! 4 hours out and 4 hours in is about what it took. That’s skipping all the details which included a few cuts, split nails and some cursing. Bottom line, it was that the input shaft bearing that mounts in the flywheel that was sticking out maybe 1/16 of an inch instead of being flush. Why? Have no clue. I’ll have to fire the mechanic again. While the trans was out I spent a little time with some sandpaper to make sure both the input bearing and the input shaft were free of boogars and that the bearing indeed spun freely on the shaft even after it was mounted on the flywheel. All is well now!
I finished buttoning everything together and fired her up. This time I was able to find a gear, but only first, second, and reverse – hmmmm? But I took a couple laps of the block anyway – more progress. Now upon further investigation, I found a worn pivot bushing for the shift shaft. Seemed OK when apart, but with all the leverage of the long shift arm that goes from the shifter in the middle of the car, all the way back to the back of the trans at the very back of the car, that bushing needed to be a whole lot tighter. So I spent an hour down by Paul’s while he used his 1940s lathe to hog out the bushings to the next larger size so I could use a 5/16-inch bolt instead of a 1/4-inch. Let’s try this again.
Put everything back together but got the same results. Reverse is too easy, first and second is where third and fourth should be, and no third, fourth, fifth. Time to bring in the insulting consultants. Luckily there was a Lotus Corps board meeting scheduled for my house the following evening. Plied with some cold beverages I should be able to extract some knowledge to attain un-stuckness once more!
Carl Saro, Rich Cwik and Paul Quiniff all converged on the Europa. They inspected, poked around, discussed theories and generally agreed that something was out of adjustment. Rich quickly found the section in the manual where the adjustment procedures were documented. We had to break up the frivolity to attend the meeting but at least I had a clue where to start the following day.
I started reading the manual (it happens) and found a pretty good description of what to do when you replace a bunch of parts in the trans which I had not done. After all the adjustments are made however you are supposed to drill and pin the little reverse detent cam so that the linkage only goes into first/second/third/fourth unless you push it past the detent into either reverse in one direction of the detent, or fifth gear in the other direction of the detent. After further reflection it became apparent that I had the little cam in upside down. I had a 50/50 chance of getting it right the first time as it looks the same either way. I had flipped the cam upon reassembly. I dropped the trans a bit to get at the pin, pulled it out with vice grips and reinstalled the cam the opposite way. I put everything back together, dropped her down and squeezed back into the cockpit. AHA – there’s those missing gears! Fired it up and took her around the block a few times using first through fourth. Couldn’t find fifth yet, but this is progress. Time to celebrate with some fluids – but not beer! I drove her to the corner gas station and filled the dual aluminum tanks with $25 of premium fuel. Nothing but the best for this beast who is finally starting to be tamed!