WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Cracks and crazing
Not having to worry about rotten panels is unusual for a British classic, but that GRP body requires careful checking. Major crazing and cracks are the biggest concern as it’ll need specialist skills to repair, so pay attention to the areas around locks and hinges which are often first to go. And don’t ignore the state of the paintwork; a respray needs doing properly to avoid problems beneath re-appearing, and the cost can exceed £5000. Bodged restorations will strain your funds and patience, so steer well clear.
Poor door fit isn’t uncommon, so don’t worry too much, but check the operation of the vacuum-operated lamp pods as replacement vacuum units can be hard to source. Other points to look for are corroded bumpers on the Plus 2, damaged trim around the bonded windscreen on later cars, and evidence of water leaks from a poorly fitted replacement.
Twists and turns
Most important, though, is thorough inspection of the chassis. Accident damage could have left it twisted, and it suffers from cracks and corrosion, especially around engine and suspension mountings. And there are side members unique to the Plus 2 that are tricky and expensive to repair, so be extra cautious. Don’t be surprised to find a replacement, either the genuine Lotus design or the spaceframe type sold by Spyder which works well but affects originality and values.
Twin Cam engines last well with careful maintenance but a healthy cooling system is crucial. Incorrect coolant strength risks corrosion of the alloy cylinder head, with resultant silt and blockages, while bearing play or leaks from the water pump put pressure on an already marginal set-up. A recent overhaul or new radiator is a good sign. A smoky exhaust or low oil pressure (40psi warm is fine) are bad news, but while a rebuild isn’t especially cheap it’ll last for years if done properly.
It’s also worth checking the unit for oil leaks – often from the cam cover – and for a rattling timing chain. Otherwise, just make sure it runs cleanly as the carburettors, usually Stromberg or Weber items, may need a re-build; it’s a DIY task but getting a specialist to set them up will pay dividends. The Plus 2’s big valve ‘Sprint’ engine (the 130/5 model) isn’t problematic but could have been used harder, so spend extra time on the health checks.
Clunks and whines
Most Elans got the four-speed Ford Corsair gearbox with the 130/5 getting a five-speeder with Austin Maxi internals – slightly more troublesome but an option for all models from 1972. Both can suffer from whines and an obstructive shift, which point to an imminent – and pricey – rebuild. You’ll also want to ensure there are no clunks or whines from the differential, and check it for oil leakage, and examine the rubber ‘Rotoflex’ driveshaft couplings for cracks/ perishing. They last better than some observers have you believe, but the alternative is aftermarket solid drive shafts which work well. Worn rear wheel bearings are a further issue.
Wander and wheels
Cracks around mountings aside, the suspension will need checking for worn bushes or bent wishbones, and expect to find aftermarket springs and dampers as originals aren’t available. Wandering on the road or uneven tyre wear points to the geometry being amiss, and it’s important to investigate why; it could be nothing or a chassis on its last legs. The all-round disc brakes are trouble-free, apart from sticking rear calipers, although a weak handbrake is common and more of a nuisance than anything. New alloy wheels aren’t available so re-conditioning will be needed.
It’s easy to spot neglect in the cabin of an early model as they are simple affairs, but later cars were plusher so check everything works. Electric windows can play up, and in any case it’s worth checking the state of the wiring for age-related issues or bodgery. Ensure the wood dash isn’t cracked or peeling, and check the roadster for a damp interior or a grotty hood.