Just another day at School
It is with great disappointment that I have to admit the present Lotus set-up will just not fit into my car unless I take a large angle grinder to it. I am not taking any angle grinder to it so I am a bit stuck with a large engine and a small hole. It took a couple of days work to reach this point.
Friday we mounted the scrap engine block onto the subframe and positioned it in a near perfect position for pulley, fan and radiator at the front and far enough forward to enable the gear-stick to pop out of the existing hole in the transmission tunnel (so no cutting of the tunnel required).
The really nice part about the set-up is the existing engine mounts position were utilised, with a new plate bolted down and land-rover mounts connected to the GT alloy engine mounts. Note this lifts the engine 1 3/4″ higher than the old Vauxhall engine.
The sump however is huge on the 912, and some cutting into the subframe was required to position the engine, there is however plenty of room to weld metal back in and strengthen the subframe back up, a 5mm plate under the existing subframe, some 3mm front plates where the steering rack is attached and the triangulation of the gap below the sump would all help to put the strength back in the subframe. There would need to be a small cut on the sump in order to allow space for the steering rack. This would not be a major cut that would remove capacity or change the oil pick-up pipe.
This is where we left things on Friday night. The only small issue we had identified was the lack of space for an exhaust manifold too number 3 cylinder when using the GT alloy engine mount. But the reality is that once the engine is in place another mount could be made that holds the engine in the right position but bends more so giving room for the exhaust.
Next was to bolt on the gearbox and bell-housing and roll the whole unit under the car and lower the car down to check everything fits before we re weld the subframe and cut the sump of the engine. here is the scrap block and gearbox assembly ready to slide under the car.
From here onwards it all starts to go very wrong….
On Saturday morning we rolled the shell around and into the workshop, lifted it up and rolled out the temporary front subframe and rolled in the new subframe and started to lower the car into place. Alas the bell housing is so tall it doesn’t fit in the tunnel unless we bring the engine further forward.
We rolled the whole subframe further forward till we were able to lower the car down fully. There were a couple of wins doing this, the gear-stick is almost in a perfect position and no cutting of the tunnel would be necessary and the heads will have lots of room against the bulkhead.
Alas the negatives are too serious to overcome using these positions. The sump of the engine is now so far forward that not only would the subframe need to be fully cut away, but there would be no room for a steering rack! Somewhat important. Also the engine is so far forward that the room left at the front is insufficient to get the water pump pulleys fan and radiator in place.
So what are the options? After a couple of calls to Mike over at Lotusbits not a lot. We wondered are there other gearbox / bell-housing options that have steeper bell-housings (that means we can move the engine back to where it should be) Mike tells us from his years of experience the only Lotus options give the same result, as the bell-housings are all the same in terms of angle from the top of the block to the face of the gearbox. His advice was to CUT the bulkhead.
Would I consider cutting the tunnels and bulkhead? As it is an original Mk1 GT NO, I am not ethically going to cut into my shell apart from the fact its all been painted, its too nice and too rare to cut up. I made the decision not to cut the shell right from the start of the restoration but this gearbox and bell-housing has however caught me out.
What else can be done?
1/. Revert to a 2.3 Vauxhall unit using a Vauxhall gearbox that’s known to fit and retro fit the lotus head onto the 2.3. After all I now have a full 2.2. Lotus engine carbs etc sat in the garage from which to obtain the parts!
2/. Make a custom bell-housing that would enable us to move the engine back, (difficult and costly).
3/. Use a micro thin Radiator at the front and re design the whole steering system rack system (silly idea).
4/. Change the engine mounts to lower the engine back down by 1 3/4″. This would enable the engine to go back. The sump would need some serious chopping and the oil pick-up pipe adjusting as needed. (Dry sump candidate) The issue might be the lack of space for the exhaust?
I am going to ponder the options (and others that come up over the next few days) before I commit to anything, so for now the car is back on hold again.