“It was an Elan. A delightful little thing famously made of Kleenex and unicorn farts.” ~ Sam Smith
DAY TWELVE – The last two days have been an emotional rollercoaster made tolerable through the good graces of Ray and Linda Psulkowski. As all good Lotus owners know Ray operates a Lotus parts business in Pennsylvania called RD Enterprises. He has been a valued supplier of all the special parts I have needed for my Lotus cars over the years along with Dave Bean Engineering out west and that has been valuable for a long time but that is not all there is to Ray. He and Linda took me in on my journey which had anticipated one night at their wonderful farm home. But when I arrived scarred and scared they said stay as long as you need and get the car fixed.
Along with the hospitality, Ray offered advice, every single part needed to repair my car and even took time away from the parts business to help me. So for those of you who called for parts today and couldn’t find Ray, it is completely my fault. I think that he is really a guardian angel posing as a mild mannered parts supplier. As long as I am on the train of thought to thank people, let me acknowledge Ted Taylor who guided me all the way here and kept the route interesting, Glen Schostak who came back to Ray’s house today at least an hour drive from home, after joining up at lunch yesterday and convoying here with Ted and me, to lend his special expertise on the hub tube replacement. More on that later.
I guess the real story is about the repair we made after Don’s diagnosis. The assumption was that we would install a new strut insert and be on my way. Of course it is never as easy as first assumed. We immediately ran into a problem with the suspension droop when we raised the car on the QuickJack, and had to add a floor jack at the hub to support the suspension. This then interfered with access to the bolts we needed to remove so we altered the jack points a couple of times to get access. When we took off the brake caliper, we had a devil of a time finding a place to safety wire it up so it wouldn’t tear the hose while we took the suspension apart. Once we unbolted everything Ray noted that the Lotocone, the metal/rubber bushing that locates the upper point, was beginning to fail so we decided to replace that and the missing bump stop as well.
That’s when things went south. Removing the strut from the car Ray first removed the insert except it was not an insert. It was the bare shock absorber with no casing. This is the way the car was originally built before there were strut inserts, so he assumed that it was the original fitment from 1965. Astounding! In attempting to check the threads at the top of the tube, we found the top several were stripped but that the steel cap Ray has to check threads in this situation would bite and tighten quite well as it fully seated. We thought we could make it work with three set screws to assist in retention, and so proceeded to install the new Spax strut insert. It went in snugly to Ray’s dismay as there should be space around it for oil to transfer heat. And then, it hit a step in the tube about an inch and a half before it fully seated. This puzzled him further. Because I am naïve and want to get back on the road, I jammed it in very hard hoping it would fit past the step and seat. It did not. Now it was fully stuck so we put it in the vice and pulled as hard as we could to remove it.
When it came out it was Koni orange not Spax yellow. It was the case of the Koni insert that had been previously installed. The strut had literally blown apart and the case had remained within the tube! Now that we had a clean tube the Spax insert went in just fine and it looked as though we were on our way to reassembly, until we discovered that the cap nut would get pretty tight then slip when tightened further. That would never work. So, now we were faced with a tube replacement, and Ray had one used but good tube. Getting the old one out of the hub and the replacement one in was something neither of us had done nor seen done. This is where Glen came to the rescue, having done this several times.d ninth day:
I called him and he said he would be right over (an hour plus drive) and that I should put the replacement tube in the freezer right away so it could get good and cold while he drove over. Glen Arrived and then we began the laborious process of pressing the bearings out of the hub with a twenty ton press. It is delicate work that uses an immense amount of pressure because the hub can be permanently damaged if the pressure is misplaced even a little bit and the bearing race galls the hub. Finally we had a clean empty hub which Glen then suggested we barbeque! Actually the idea was to heat it to 400 degrees and a gas grill is the best way to do it. Once we had it heated we began a carefully choreographed dance wherein I opened the door to the shop as the Glen and Ray ran with the super-hot hub and tube to the waiting vice where I had the wood stops set up and locked it in. Then while Glen twisted the tube and Ray hammered from the bottom, the old tube slipped out nice and easy. Meanwhile, I had run to the freezer and came back with the ice cold replacement tube which Glen inserted quickly, clocked properly and then waited a few seconds until the two metals had clamped and the tube was fully captured. After about 15 minutes the assembly was a unit that couldn’t be separated without repeating that entire process. Victory. We enjoyed a momentary high until we had to address the next issue… the Lotocone.
While this looks to be a simple process of loosening two bolts, replacing the Lotocone assembly and bolting it back in, the difficulty comes from the fact that the bolts holding the assembly are half height heads that are easily rounded by a wrench since there is so little grab area for the wrench, and they have been exposed to road grime and water for many years making it even more difficult. Sure enough, even with lots of penetrating oil, one bolt would not move. The problem is that if the head gets rounded off, then it is a HUGE issue to drill and extract the rusted bolt. Ray’s son in law, George happened by and said he would take a shot after 30 minutes or so of frustration by Ray without success. George struggled too, but then tried a metric socket that was just a fraction smaller than the proper size, got a bite on it and got it out. Here is that nasty bolt which stuck in the socket so hard that George had to use a vice to remove the socket.
The next step was to rebuild the hub with new bearings. This takes a while for the same meticulous process must be followed to press in the new bearings, but all the tools that fit to insert are different sizes and lengths than those for extraction and finding suitable sizes of pipe or support metal took a while. Finally we had a new assembly that included the hub, strut tube, axle and brake disc. That was enough for today the twelfth day on the trip.
• What a blessing it is to have a support system. Don, Ted, Ray, Linda, Glen and George were all present exactly when and where they were needed. I think I have used up a large reservoir of luck and goodwill. Now I need to pay it forward. The cars may be the connector but the people make the connection.
• Ray wants to make it absolutely clear that he is NOT in the repair business, but simply helped a hapless friend who needed support to raise money for the kids. This is his contribution to that cause along with a real donation. Thank you Ray!
Hi, I’m Ross and I’m a tripoholic. I love driving especially in my old cars and then writing about the adventure that always follows. I’m old enough to know better but that doesn’t stop me. If you like stories of the road, every word true no matter how far fetched it may seem, then grab a beer or a cup of coffee and join me!
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