Engine has not started in 30 years - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2018, 04:30 PM Thread Starter
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Engine has not started in 30 years

Any suggestions on the recommended process to get the engine running again on a 1969 Lotus Seven S3 engine that has not been started in 30 years. Car was parked in a garage in 1988 and I am trying to rescue it. Ideas on what to do before even trying to start the engine....do I need an engine tear down with pre lube on everything, or is there a possible simpler path to get it running again?
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post #2 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2018, 04:40 PM
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First is to check is if the engine turns over or is frozen. Remove the plugs, put a wrench on the crankshaft pulley and try and move it slightly in either direction. If it moves easily, then change all the fluids, put the plugs in and try to start. If it doesn’t move easily, put a table spoon of marvel mystery oil in each cylinder and let it set for a day or two and try again.
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post #3 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-04-2018, 07:35 PM
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I wrote one of those procedures years ago for the Corvair Tech Guide. I think I can paraphrase.

Step 1 is probably to take the belt off (so you're not turning the water pump), then take the plugs out and shoot some oil (a teaspoon or so each) into the cylinders. Do this before you try to turn the crank at all.

Then try to turn the crank over with a hand wrench on the crank pulley. If it goes fully through one revolution you have hope.

At this point, it's time to drain the oil and coolant out. Discard.

I'm guessing you have a Kent (Ford Anglia) engine? if so, I don't see a way to turn the oil pump without spinning the crank (presuming it's that thing on the side of the block I see in all the pics i can find). On things with distributor shaft drive oil pumps (like old Chevies) or belt drive oil pumps (like the Toyota S engine) you can just spin the pump with an electric drill while slowly turning the engine through and oil absolutely everything (it even pumps up hydraulic lifters if your drill is strong enough).

If I'm right and you can't turn the oil pump independently of the crank, you get to do it the hard way. How confident do you feel that the engine was in a good state when parked?

If you're pretty confident about it likely being OK, take valve cover off turn the engine through and validate that all the valves close fully when they should. Check the clearances while you're there. Squirt some oil on the friction points of the valve gear, too. Put the top end back together.

Now buy a gallon or so of cheap engine oil (you will be draining most of it back out) and fill the crankcase above the crank and cam. As you've already oiled the valve gear, and shot some oil onto the piston tops, you're now able to turn the crank and cam in an oil bath without hurting anything.

Turn it through ten or so turns by hand. Expect a lot of slopping oil out of the breather. Your goal here was to directly oil all the bearings below the cylinders.

Now drain the oil down to the recommended running level. Change the oil filter (if equipped). Fill the cooling system with your favorite flavor of coolant and distilled water. Let it sit a day or so. Then try to turn the water pump gently by hand. The idea here is to give the coolant time to creep into the (probably stuck) water pump seal. If it turns freely and isn't leaking, onto the next step.

Check the generator/alternator bearings. Lube if there's a place for it. Service as necessary.

Assume the mechanical fuel pump is shot. Assume that the fuel tank needs a complete going over. Blow out and inspect fuel lines carefully.

Pre oiling step 2:

Put the belt on and adjust normally. Disconnect the hot wire going to the coil. Drape a heavy towel over the valve cover to catch the oil vapor that is about to spray out of the spark plug holes.

Hook the battery up, and spin the engine over with the starter with no spark plugs for about 30 seconds. With no plugs, it'll spin fast enough to prime the oil pump and pump oil everywhere it's supposed to go. After the first session, let the starter motor cool for 1/2 hour. Jack the rear wheels up off the ground, put it in fourth gear, and lubricate the whole driveline with no load on it with the starter motor (this is a big deal, as the transmission and final drive are splash lubricated, and nothing has splashed for decades). Check for U joint noises while you're doing this.

Put the plugs in and hook the ignition up. Do something about the fuel system. Check the oil. Check the timing. Make sure that the distributor advance isn't frozen while you're at it. See if the water pump is leaking yet. No? You should be ready for a first start.

I don't like to squirt fuel down the carburetor(s) or use starting fluid. It's not that hard to get fuel into the float bowl(s) one way or another and start it with a proper mixture, which is much easier on the cylinder bores.

Note that the car isn't yet ready to drive. You still have to do something about the silicate drop out in the cooling system, for one thing. This procedure just enables you to validate component condition and get it moving under its own power.
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post #4 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 04:52 AM Thread Starter
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Thank you for the detailed reply to my post. My understanding is that the engine was in good shape when last driven into that garage and parked. The car is original, one owner, and has less than 10,000 miles on the engine. Car was driven only occasionally, taking it out on a nice weekend drive. It is a real barn find. I have not seen it yet, but have talked with the son of the original owner.
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post #5 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 05:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wneuburger View Post
Thank you for the detailed reply to my post. My understanding is that the engine was in good shape when last driven into that garage and parked. The car is original, one owner, and has less than 10,000 miles on the engine. Car was driven only occasionally, taking it out on a nice weekend drive. It is a real barn find. I have not seen it yet, but have talked with the son of the original owner.
Congrats on the car, add pix, and keep us up to date on your getting it going again!

Just a thought..."sons of original owners' are not always the best source of accurate, straightforward information. Not that they are not being honest, it's just that their memories may not be precise and are nuanced by nostalgia.

One wonders why a car that was in good shape when parked 30 years ago WAS parked 30 years ago.

Owned, loved, enjoyed, and now gone:
1969 Europa S2 Blue
1970 Europa S2 White
1974 Europa Twin Cam Blue
1974 Europa Twin Cam Blue
1984 Turbo Esprit Calypso Red
2005 Elise Starlight Black
2005 Elise Saffron Yellow
2005 Elise Ardent Red
2006 Exige Graphite Grey
2007 Exige Canyon Red

Other:
1970 MGB GT
1970 Datsun 510
1984 Honda CRX Si
1984 Pontiac Fiero
2004 Chrysler Crossfire
2009 Pontiac Solstice Coupe
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post #6 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 05:30 AM
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Parts for the engine are cheap, so the assumption is you really want to establish condition and not damage the engine. The above description is pretty good, not much of a way I know of to tell whether the water pump is stuck together. The late pushrod in that car is pretty solid. The 1500 in mine ran fine but smoked, and when I got ready to take the block to the shop for boring, and set the main caps in the block to keep them in order, the center main broke in half in my hand

I had been beating the pants off of it... could have been a spectacular failure

Luckily your vintage engine has improved main caps....

Yeah so run some oil through it. maybe some marvel mystery oil to help keep the rings free

If it has normal Kent oil pressure[ 40 ish hot drops to 10 ish at idle hot] and not 30ish and zeroish and the top end gets oil you are pretty good to go.

It will take a little while to see if the water pump seal is dead, but at least that is cheap and easy to change
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post #7 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 06:58 AM
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Worth noting: this is an OLD technology engine. It was an evolutionary design from 1959 for a small economy car in not-particularly-propsperous postwar Britain. Think single-port air-cooled VW beetle and you're pretty close on the technology level. Oil pressure above 5 PSI at hot idle indicates a healthy engine. Oil pressure above 40 PSI at any temperature indicates a problem.

Cooling system will be barely pressurized when hot. Clearances are large and loadings are low. Designs like this tend to be very tolerant of abuse.
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post #8 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 07:39 AM
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Did you ever see Woody Allen's "Sleeper"? He starts up a 200 year old Beetle on the first try.

Check for "Vw Beetle scene from Woody Allen . Sleeper." on YouTube to have a laugh.

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post #9 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-05-2018, 07:59 AM
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Like most say, pull the plugs, squirt in a small shot of light oil, like Marvel Mystery Oil, and rotate by hand. If she feels fine, pull valve cover, pour some oil over the rockers and into push rod holes. If oil looks clean on dip stick, and you have room to get a drill, with a socket that fits the crank pulley, you can spin the engine around, and possibly build some oil pressure. At that point, put clean plugs back in, check and gap points, fill the carb bowls with fresh gas, spritz some in the carb mouth, and fire her up. She will run for a few minutes on the new gas, and if all seems OK, drain the old gas, clean the tank and fuel lines, change the oil and coolant, and coolant hoses, and she's ready for the 21st Century!
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post #10 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-06-2018, 06:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the advice. One more question I thought of....that is the issue of leaded vs unleaded gas. Will I need to get an additive to run unleaded gas? Will I get more engine internal wear with plain unleaded? Any suggestions on how an older engine like this will run with unleaded?
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post #11 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2018, 04:44 AM
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Eventually you will get valve recession.

Not something to worry about on day one, but it is a real thing.

I don't know if there is a real product that will prevent it, hardened seats are the real answer, long term.
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post #12 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2018, 07:35 AM
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Valve recession with mild iron seats does happen. That said, it's a Lotus Seven. How many operating hours is this engine really going to see? Valve recession is related to operating time without a metal salt coating preventing erosion of the soft iron valve seats. If you don't have a lot of operating hours, you're not going to care. One sure-fire fix is to run some avgas in your fuel - 100 LL is a great race car fuel anyway, and it's not like you were going to burn huge amounts of it in an under 2 litre toy car anyway.

There are various things sold in bottles that claim to provide valve seat 'lubrication' the way tetraethyl lead used to. I have seen no studies verifying these claims.

The final fix is indeed to install hardened seats as pretty much everything made after about 1970 had. It's an extremely common machine shop operation. If you can pick up a spare head somewhere, the logical thing to do would be to do bronze valve guides and hardened seats on it and do a head swap when you get around to it.
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post #13 of 13 (permalink) Old 12-07-2018, 06:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the replies. Just to answer one of the questions, I think the guys father had four cars in this garage, the Seven being one of them. I think the others were American models dating back to the 1920's. I believe after he parked the Seven, he passed away at some point, with all four cars being parked now for 30 years
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