I managed to put some time into the project in April. Since I started re-assembly in the last chapter, I've decided to name this chapter appropriately. Assembly is a bit tedious but quite gratifying as there is always something to do next and I feel good having done it but... reporting on the progress strikes me as a bit boring as it is simply showing hundreds of things being put back where they are supposed to go. Still, there are a number of assembly points that make a good story to photograph. The mission now is to get the car running. For that we need a dash and an instrument cluster (among many other things). With most of the under dash pieces in, I now needed to re-install the dash leather. I have opted to change the dash top and the instrument pod cover from dark gray to black (the rest of the interior is magnolia).
A friend of mine, Kyle Blake, was kind enough to provide me with the large portion of dyed black cow skin that I needed for the job - free of charge☺ Is Kyle great or what? After a few hours in the oven to pre-shrink the leather I...
Despite using the template from the'97 car to cut the new leather (twice) the upper edge just didn't quite fit right when laid on the dash. After a few minutes of cursing in frustration I called Tony Grasso for some advice. He told me that he would call me back in five minutes as he was busy. He eventually did call back a day or so later while I was on my way to Berlin but since I could not wait, it occurred to me that I could wedge the leather in the slot between the dash and the windshield and use the crease as a mark to cut to. This worked well. I needed glue to attach the leather so I went to.... Lowes! You thought I was going to say Home Depot didn't you? The truth is that there is a local Lowes and Home Depot that are (get this) co-located. I'm not kidding - the front drive lane of one leads right to the front drive lane of the other one next door. Lowes was closer. I bought some DAP contact cement as it said it adhered to both fiberglass and leather. The leather had to be coated twice because it is porous. The fun part was getting that long piece of leather in the right spot on the dash while keeping the underside from touching and sticking in the wrong place . After it was down and pressed and stretched into place, I trimmed it and folded the extra under and glued it. I also cut out the vent hole, glued that and attached the vent.
With the dash leather in this allowed me to install the steel cross member. The cross member came from the '97 car and so the non-airbag '89 body's right A-Pillar needed to be drilled to allow it to attach. I had done this previously but on the '97 car the retaining nuts for the cross member's right hand side are welded in from behind - inside the box channel. It was a tough job to get a wrench with a nut in it in the right place but after numerous tries I got the cross member bolted / secured.
Now what I also need to install here is the Vehicle ID plate on the left side of the dash but since the '97 car was totaled it looks like this:
Now Lotus is good about providing labels when required but to protect against abuse they need a few collaterals like the title to ensure you own the car. Well my title is from out of state with 3 assigns and I couldn't get the car titled in Oregon to date because I can't show them the car intact etc. with all it's ID plates. A sticky wicket. But this is where modern computer optical technology helps out.
I have been working on the labels as a side project for a long time. My dad is retired and has some time to do some research for me once in a while. I told him I needed non-fading, foil-backed, adhesive labels and wouldn't you know that in just a few days I got the free samples delivered to me from the label factory ☺. These were not laser printer size so I printed the label in the center of a piece of paper then cut about an 1/8 inch of the backing off a label that was larger and pressed it on the paper in the same spot. I then put this paper back in the paper tray and printed again and Voila! And... It was free! (if you don't count all the hours laboring with the apps to scan and fix up the image).
As mentioned in the previous chapter, the body mounting holes all seemed to line up. I did not attach the body mounting bolts as a hedge against having to lift the body in some manner to get to something that I had forgotten and ... there was sure a small amount of this ☺. I went on to attach / fit many body / frame connections in and under the engine compartment including: hand brake cables, shift linkage, coolant hoses (forgot one additional body hole / cut out), fuel tank ground straps, fuel lines, electrical connections to the alternator and various other electrical ground straps from the engine to the frame and then to the wiring harness. All this results in a pretty normal looking Esprit underside.
With this done, the next step seemed to be to install the steering column. This is where I ran into some slight trouble. When I sat the steering column in its box on top of the frame pedestal (4 mount points) it was too far south in the car to mate with the bolts on the cross member. This was with the steering box flat against the bulkhead. To make matters worse, I discovered that the steering box holes were not even aligned with the pedestal and to make it aligned forced the column even farther south into the passenger compartment (about a 1/4" or so separation from the bulkhead). I decided to start by getting the body mount bolts in and locked down. The rear body mount holes also seemed a little south and it seemed putting them in their correct position would move the body north on the frame more - effectively moving the steering column even farther south - not good. I started looking long and hard at all the attach points to get a better feel for what should really be where. Of course the tunnel was the most probable thing to be out of position so I did not even worry about that. Instead I looked at the alignment of the other mounting holes .... for a long time while drinking. The holes under the bonnet were in perfect position to the frame. I also read the service notes regarding replacing the body and the key knowledge gleaned there was (1) there are some things that are done to mate specific bodies to their frames and (2) spacers are used to make sure that the body is not flexed too much during the attachment (no more than a few millimeters) and (3) all the the mounting bolts are installed before they are locked down to help sort our the body's position.
After a consult with Tony Grasso for moral support and after staring at how the body was sitting on the frame for a long time, I came once again to the conclusion that everything was pretty much right where it needed to be with a few slight exceptions. In other words, nothing was horrifically wrong or wrong to the point of my suicide. I decided to attach the forward bulkhead horizontal mount points. There are typically large thick spacers here between the body and the frame. These attach points are also custom fitted so I had to drill a new hole / move the existing hole in the '99 frame to accommodate the new body. I then inserted the large spacers and tightened things down. This had the potential to draw the body closer to the frame in the northerly direction, which again would not help my steering column position problem. I then attached the vertical mounting bolts under the bonnet, which were in the right position. I then went to the rear mounting points, lifted the body a bit and inserted the long bolts in to position and lowered the body. This area of the body flexes quite a bit and the body came into the correct position when lowered with the bolts in place.
I then turned back to the steering column, which was still too far south and decided to take some small actions in a few places to make it fit in its correct position. This included elongating the four holes in the box so that it would fit snug against the front bulkhead while mating to the frame pedestal points (~1/4" elongation) and shortening the sliding plates on the steering column where it mounts to the cross member allowing the plates to slide slightly more forward so that the bolts on the cross member mated to the bolt slots on the steering column. All of this took an iteration or two but in the end the steering column was installed in its proper position.
There is a mounting plate for the passenger side airbag That was significantly damaged on the '97 car so I removed the burned plated from the Sport 350, sand blasted it, cleaned it, painted it, and installed it. Lotus assumes that the under dash mount points for these things will vary so they have built in the ability to move things around a bit as needed via slotted mounting holes. The good news was that mounting plate and airbag fit just fine.
I will mention that despite multiple coats of paint, the airbag mounting plates still emitted trace smell of the sweet burned fiberglass resin smell (yuck).
What about the mounting holes in the tunnel? How did they line up you ask??? Well, believe it or not after all this, the four mounting holes on the sides of the tunnel were in the correct position to mate with the threaded plates on the frame, which are held in boxes that do allow some degree of movement ☺. This gives me hope that the interior will fit. I did have to shorten the cross member support however as it was too long to mate to the cross member and forward right tunnel mounting hole (just a tad though). All along the way I keep looking for some kind of out of alignment problem either with the cross member to the dash or to the the car but I've stared at it a lot and everything is parallel and fits now so I am going to just stop thinking about it.
Next.....Well to get this thing started I am going to need a radiator connected to those coolant lines but above the radiator I need a heat shield and I used up all my official Louts heat shield on the bulkheads so I turned to a product I uncovered called Reflect-A-Cool from a company called D.E.I.. It turns out that my local Baxter Auto Parts store is a D.E.I. distributor and while they did not carry the item in the store they had it delivered from their warehouse the next morning. $63 for a 48" X 36" sheet that is self adhesive, metalized, fabric and I have to say this is a great product! It cut and molded easily filling in sections as required and man is it sticky. Expensive - but much better than the Lotus stuff and spraying my own adhesive. I only used about half of it so I nope to have enough left over for the boot.
With the heat shield installed, I attached the nylon retainers for the A/C lines and then installed the radiator, A/C condenser, and cowling with the fans and shroud from the Sport 350. This included attaching the A/C lines.
With the steering box in, isn't it possible to install the brake and clutch master and the ABS control unit?? Yes! - at least that's what I thought. I had planned to use the brake and clutch master from the Sport 350 but alas the clutch master is different between the '97 and '99 cars and the steering box has different mounting holes for it. Since I used the '97 steering box, and I was not going to change that now, I decided to use all the '97 brake and clutch items. The ABS controller was in good shape (I cleaned it and painted the frame) but the the lines got a bit bent in the collision so I sorted that out via some gentle metalurgical persuasion. Despite taking a template from the '97 car, the holes I drilled to attach the ABS controller frame were just not in the right place (note to self - do not template from wrecked portion of salvage vehicle). You can imagine my anguish (I hope) at this point in having to fill holes / move holes in this area but that's just what I had to do with two of them to get things to line up.
Now I had asked on the Lotus list about the latest hydraulic bleeding technology but after no response it occurred to me that the 9 year old slave boy living in my house was perfect for the job. So... I decided to teach my son, Colin, a new game.
Well wouldn't you know it provided an excellent bonding opportunity for the little guy that likes Gameboy and Nintendo exclusively and couldn't care less about exotic cars Working on the clutch, it became apparent that the large diameter of the line made for a long journey of air from the master to the slave and double or triple that for the times I let the reservoir go dry - we won't talk about how the master cylinder was a little stuck and I used the compressor to coerce it spraying a bit of DOT 4 all over my under hood paint - Colin learned some new words though) - and believe it or not in the end, I had a hard pedal! Colin actually had fun too. We found and fixed two leaks along the way including one at a union that was up in the tunnel requiring me to pull out the lines to get access to tighten it up and put them back in but once they were tightened up - no leaks! Too bad the little guy had to go to bed - something the wife said about it being midnight on a school night or something (I don't really know as I wasn't really paying attention). I could have used him on the brakes though, which I did next. The lines here are smaller and using a simple hose on the bleeding nipples draining into a cup I was able to bleed everything and get a hard brake pedal that actually stopped the car within a short time.
After a speakerphone teleconference with Larry Marsala, getting him to describe the routing of the throttle cable in the engine compartment (he does not sleep either during race prep) as I strived in vain to understand where things went, I successfully attached my throttle cable. Observation: No matter how many pictures you take of you wrecked car when disassembling it... you will need more pictures at different angles than you have to actually put it back together.