Assembly V
(January 2004)

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Wow! Five months have gone by without any work on the car. But now in December, 'tis the season for ... more body work!!!

The hood of the car was damaged in the collision. The hinge points were half ripped out and needed to be repaired.


Typical under hood hinge point damage

Additionally, the adhesive that holds the upper and lower shells had cracked so I ground it out, replaced it with new adhesive, and filled it again.


Under hood repairs

Not a good picture but alas the only one I have. The top of the hood also had some damage that had to be ground and filled. I used body filler with fiberglass in it for this job.


All Fixed

I primed the hood but will show it to you later. Now what about that burned door??? That will never be right again will it?


Looks ugly

You mean this door? Well it just need a HECK of a lot of work and then it looked like this:


All better (tape is mask from painting the other side)


What burn?


Painted and clear coated

No one will ever see the remnants of the burn on the inside. Man do I love this paint. Look at that shine in the clear coat. I also painted the top of the sills (I was silly for not doing this when I painted the rest of the jambs but I was not thinking clearly) and the lower portion of the headlamp pods.


Last of the left jamb is painted


Open the pod bay doors Hal

I bet you are wondering how the top of that burned pod turned out aren't you?


Pods ready for assembly

The burned one (left) needed some extra love but it worked out ☺. Next, I had to move the fittings over from the damaged right door to the fixed one. This includes the window frame, glass, lift, etc. first I took some pics and then disassembled the damaged right door.


Original '97 Right Door

This took a lot of time because the devil designed this door. I found a 666 on it to prove it. After getting all the parts out, I found that the window frame was slightly bent and worse ... the plate that connects it to the door edge was torn off - broke at the welds. Where am I going to get a window frame??? The woods of course. A quick trek down to the woods in the rain to pull back the tarp and get the right door from the '89 car and back up to garage. I took out the frame and found it to be the same except that the plate has a small spacer added to it in the later years. I used the frame with the front glass but replaced the channel liner with the one from the '97 car. After several more hours of assembly and adjustment the door was complete.


All better (notice test window motor wires)

I tried to save the edge strip at the base of the window and even made a special tool to get to the bolts.


This gets small nuts with long bolts off (Special Tool #G22)

Unfortunately, I could not salvage things because of rust and frustration and bleeding of knuckles. So I guess I will be buying those edges for both doors from Lotus Cars. I will say that of all the things I have done to assemble this car, I hated working on the inside of the doors the most. Even more than the shutz grinding and the fiberglass specs in my eyes.

Next, I attached the doors. This can be difficult with one person. First, I covered my newly painted sills so not to put gashes in them. Then I built a platform even with the sills to sit the door on.


Special tool #G23

Then I lifted the door up and placed it in the opening with the aid of the slave boy keeping it upright. Keen's site mentions that it took the better part of a day to attach his doors and get them in the right place. It does take hours. You have to add spacer plates or remove them to gain correct alignment. I wedged plexi-glass and wood under the door and crawled in the other one pulling the door shut and tightening the bolts. The door will sag slightly so you have to compensate for that by lifting the rear higher than what looks right before you tighten down. The latches were then attached (they were in he right place I might add - so it was a good thing that I moved them).


Door Hung

The other side followed.


Another Door Hung

I then attached the headlamp pods and the hood. It was a bit tough getting the inside bolts from the headlamp pods to the hood hinge. Slave boy Colin learned a few new words the second or third time I dropped the hinge bar (he dropped it the first time - but I was calm at that point). The hood needed the right amount of spacers and adjustment also and the hood latches were also adjusted to hold it down (but they need more work).


Headlamps and Hood

Things are starting to look like a car now. I then turned my attention to the hatch. In the accident, the hatch hinges were bent and the left side of the hatch near the hinge was damaged.  Folks with Esprit V8s know that there is an overhang in the forward portion of the hatch that makes painting the hatch nearly impossible. How to remove the overhang is not obvious.


Underside of Hatch

There are 8 nuts that must be removed to remove the overhang. First, the rivets holding on the plastic bezel forward of the window are removed (drill off the heads). This provides access to most of the nuts. The access holes for the remaining nuts are hidden under the rubber hatch seal and covered with black plastic tape also. After getting all the nuts out the overhang still did not want to come off so I persuaded it with a block of wood and a hammer.


Overhang Off

I made a funny discovery with the overhang removed. Every fiberglass part of the car has the last 4 digits of the VIN etched / carved into them for identification. The last 4 digits of the '97 car 's VIN is 5363.


Wrong Hatch

It seems Lotus fitted the hatch from 4 cars earlier instead.

Next I fixed the damage to the hatch - more fiberglass work - I can't escape it.


Hatch Damage

The damage was only in the bottom part of the hatch. I ground it down and glassed it. Of course the crack had to run through both the holes for the defroster wire - sigh.


Hatch Fixed

I then needed to attach the hatch. I used the hinges from the '89 car after removing the rust and painting them.


Hatch Attached

I may need to add a spacer to move the hatch over a millimeter to the right but it is fine for now. I then sanded it for priming (while protecting the already wet sanded areas next to it. I had also bought a hard top (white) off of eBay so that was also sanded. After looking over all the mirrors that I have, it seems the best pair were from of all things... Keen's '91 car. This is the only thing on my car from the '91 car. All the others had some problem or damage. These are shown on top of the hard top along with the sanded fuel flap doors. I also sanded the driver's door. I next turned my focus to the rear bumper.

The '97 car was hit in the right front and then the right rear. The bumper took a hit.

 
Ripped and Cracked


And the light got it too

Now bumpers cost around $800 so I thought I would try my hand at flexible bumper repair. First, I fabricated galvanized steel plates that fit the damaged areas and riveted them to the bumper closing the tears. I recessed the heads of the rivets below the top level of the bumper.


Galvanized Repair Plate


Riveted In


Big Galvanized Repair Plate

The panel that holds in the marker light was destroyed. I made a new panel and spacer from the bottom flat portion of the damaged '97 car's front valance and riveted it all to the the bumper.


Marker Light

Next I applied a two part, epoxy-based flexible bumper patch from Evercoat.


Bumper Patch Goop

This stuff was some of the weirdest goop I've worked with. It has about a 10-15 minute working time. It is runny so vertical surfaces need to be filled a number of times. With practice, you can coax it to where you want it just before it sets up though. I spent an evening making and attaching all of the plates and most of the the next day applying and sanding the patch. I applied it many many times but still did not use much from the two tubes in the kit I purchased for around $30.


Repaired Rear Bumper

This repair was very labor intensive - especially the sanding and the smell was fun also. The patch sands very smooth compared to the bumper material so you can feel a difference passing your hand over it despite the sanding block telling me things are flat. I will prime this with flexible bumper primer later but my gut feel is that I will not be happy with the end result. We shall see.

And sometimes... it snows in Portland (but not often).


Snow

Since I was tired of sanding, I decided to finish the front valance. My valance is from SJ Sportcars Ltd. in the U.K.. I bought it in a lot of parts from eBay.  The valance has a number of metal grates fixed to it normally for the radiator and the oil coolers. Unfortunately only two found their way the left oil cooler exit and the center (damaged). I fixed the center easy enough but Lotus wants an arm and a leg for these grates so I looked for the source and finally found it in the U.K. with the help of Tony Grasso here: http://www.expandedmetalcompany.co.uk/mesh_scans/html/HEX1.jpg.html . I had visited Les Twigg while on the Esprit manufacturing line tour in November of 2002. In April of '03, Les got a quantity of the grate and cut it into squares larger than the areas I needed. He then sent it to London where a co-worker of mine, Duncan Glendinning, was staying. Duncan brought it back to Arizona and then to San Jose where I picked it up. Les refused money for the grate material and so he is always welcome to a warm meal at my home. Duncan gets a free drink. Since the valance is made from fiberglass instead of GRP and is quite thick and strong, I did not need to make forms. Instead I was able to cut and beat the grating into place on the valance itself.


Grating Cut and Pounded


Isn't This Great?

Folks have sometimes asked about the quality of the SJ parts. Generally speaking the quality is good but you have to accept that they will not just come out of the box and go onto the car. The parts must be sanded and touched up where there are flaws or blemishes. The attachment holes must be drilled and nut plates must be fabricated and attached . They must be sanded and sanded and sanded. I ended up using 100 grit paper to get things smooth before moving to the 220 grit. The only real quality problem I had was that the lip spoiler just did not fit the valance right. It's curve did not match the curve of the valance. If I lined up the rear then the front would bow in in the middle. If I lined up the front to fit the curve then there was a gap in the front middle.


Lip Gap

I decided that it was best to not have a bow in the front middle and to fill the gap making the lip spoiler one piece. I have always hated the two piece spoiler anyway and since it is fiberglass, it was easy.


Fattened Lip

I then test fitted the front bumper, valance, and lip spoiler and found that many of the holes for the bottom panels need to be moved or adjusted.


Front Looks like a V8

Lotus uses a number of plastic inserts and screws in this area but I have found these to fail so I decided on a subset of screw holes and fabricated the nut plates needed to hold everything together underneath.

The fiberglass aerofoil (as Lotus calls it) beneath the rear bumper was also damaged.


Ouch

The left attach point was gone and the base was cracked / broken the right side base was also cracked. And so once again the fiberglass called to itch me.

\
Aerofoil All Better

I should mention that I have been using glass reinforced body filler on these repairs in addition to fiberglass resin and mat. The last thing I did was to get all of the wheel arch extensions in shape. This includes the right rear one that I pieced together. At this point I ground out all of the cracks and filled them. I had some similar things to do on each of the other pieces finishing up with sanding.


Arches are Done

At this point I am nearly ready to prime and wet sand all the pieces that are not yet ready for paint.

Click here to see the next chapter in the saga.

End of  Assembly V - January 4, 2004.