Building a race car from a salvage elise? - LotusTalk - The Lotus Cars Community
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post #1 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 10:48 AM Thread Starter
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Building a race car from a salvage elise?

i recently started thinking about getting a dedicated race car set up for autocross and time attack events, my first idea was to get either a porsche 944 or a 71 datsun 240z and build them up from there but after seeing the prices of salvaged lotus's within my financial reach it made me rethink those plans a bit.

my plan is to buy a wrecked lotus elise on the cheap and build it up slowly, i have a trailer that i can ferry it to and from the track with and something to pull said trailer. i also have some fabrication experience but i also happen to have 80 years worth of experience at my disposal via family members.

so my question is how viable is it to buy a salvage elise for 6-10 grand and get it up and racing. if i was to buy a new one i really dont think id have the heart to tear it apart

i of course am in no rush to get started this is something i have planned for a year or two down the road when i am no longer an on call employee and have a more steady income.

i do have quite a few years racing experience with go karts. used to race at psgka in spanaway washington, karts are fun but i feel like its time to move to bigger machines. i have turned quite a few laps in my mitsubishi eclipse but i stopped due to its rather high milage (almost 175,000) and not wanting to put any stress on my daily driver.

so any helpful hints or tips would be appreciated

Last edited by Gokarter64; 07-23-2015 at 10:59 AM.
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post #2 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 11:11 AM
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You're looking at the wrong Datsuns...you need to be looking for a late 1971 through early 1974 (so it includes early 260Zs). They moved the differential back a bit in those years so the axles last longer and there is no vibration then. After that, the chassis got heavier. To be safe, look at only 1972s and 1973s 240Zs. That is a dynamite car.

You also want to get the head off of a turbo model...they flow the best. You'd have to machine off 0.080 off the head to get the compression back up to where it's supposed to be and add 0.080 shims under the cam towers to make up the difference.

BTW, are 944s any good for track duty?
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post #3 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 11:21 AM
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A 944 was also one of the finalists for me before I settled on the Elise but drive an Elise and you'll never look back!

The big problem with your plan though is that you will not be able to do it cost-effective unless you get equal parts of luck, painting skill, and fiberglass skill. There are a couple guys on here who do it cost-effectively because they have stockpiles of parts and can pick and pull stuff from donor cars for cheap in addition to knowing what car to buy. Otherwise, repairs get very expensive very quickly. Any wrecked one under 12k is going to have irreparable frame damage (unless you get lucky, of course), so you'll probably spend over 15k by the time you bring a good project home for the first time, whereas you can pick up a rebuilt title one for low 20's that may need some love but you can still enjoy it while working on it.

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post #4 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 11:24 AM
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Pick a class you want to race in first. Figure out what car(s) have already been successful in that class. If that car fits your budget, start there.

$6-10K will most likely get you a wrecked Elise with suspension/tub damage. It's somewhere between very difficult and impossible to repair the chassis at that point. Many on this forum will say don't bother unless you are a talented airplane fuselage mechanic... they may be right. Lotus does not consider the bonded aluminum tub a repairable part.

There are some reputable re-sellers of damaged Lotus cars on this site, such as Wirewheel. You might start there.

If you like go-karts, yes, you will probably like driving an Elige more than any other car. It's a big part of what we love about them.

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post #5 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 11:31 AM Thread Starter
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well to give a little example of our fiberglassing abilitys ill show a picture of the last family project

we redid that whole cowling from scratch and we rebuilt the wings (my grandfather and his brother have both worked on aircraft for many years, the latter just retired after around 35 years at boeing)

the chassis was the part that i was worried about. i heard they are fragile. whats the ballpark on the average salvage lotus with an ok chassis?
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post #6 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 11:33 AM
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One thing I hadn't considered, too, is that with a race car you can sell off a lot of components that add up quickly that make this plan more feasible than if you were trying to do the same with streetable intentions. I'd go with an '06+ since you'll be able to recoup more money from things like tail lights and seats (combined you're talking around $3,000 right there) and race clams are significantly cheaper if you can ship them. I still say to spend as much as you can up front though or you'll be left with more than you can chew all too easily.

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post #7 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 12:58 PM
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An easily fixable (no chassis damage) Elise will be in the mid teens, definitely not less than $10,000.

If you want a fast track rat car that can still be driven on the street, look for a LSx swap candidate. I have a friend with a 944 with a modified LS1, very fast. I also like the e30 BMW swaps ans well as the FD RX7 swaps.

If you want a fast race car, look at a used formula ford/club ford. Hard to go faster for the money. I had a Lola club ford that I raced for a while. I regret selling it.
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post #8 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-23-2015, 09:19 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by cyow5 View Post
One thing I hadn't considered, too, is that with a race car you can sell off a lot of components that add up quickly that make this plan more feasible than if you were trying to do the same with streetable intentions. I'd go with an '06+ since you'll be able to recoup more money from things like tail lights and seats (combined you're talking around $3,000 right there) and race clams are significantly cheaper if you can ship them. I still say to spend as much as you can up front though or you'll be left with more than you can chew all too easily.
Thats what was thinking. I could probably recoup a few grand by selling off unneeded parts.

Bumping my budget up a couple grand to get a non screwed chassis isnt too much of an issue. It just means ill need to put a little more aside each paycheck.
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post #9 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 01:37 AM
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Good luck finding one that cheap that Hayes has not scarfed up. Finding a good salvage is cut throat! I wanted to find one for Chumpcar but gave up!

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post #10 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 03:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Gokarter64 View Post
Thats what was thinking. I could probably recoup a few grand by selling off unneeded parts.



Bumping my budget up a couple grand to get a non screwed chassis isnt too much of an issue. It just means ill need to put a little more aside each paycheck.

You look like you've got some good fiberglass skill at the ready, and you'll save a lot of money by not worrying about the radio or bits and doodads that the junk yard or previous owner ripped off (sidebar: I found the thread on here where the previous owner of my car unloaded THOUSANDS of dollars in parts before insurance took the car after totaling it) without the greatest car. I just bought a wiring harness because of the number of crimps was a bit unnerving. I didn't think to check that sort of stuff when I bought it. Oops!

But that brings up a major limit - I would absolutely never buy one sight unseen. Some of those auction yards and sellers can be downright shady at worst or slightly optimistic at best. If you want a worst case scenario, enjoy:

https://www.lotustalk.com/forums/f259.../topics/273841

Plenty of guys have tried what you are doing, some have indeed proved it be possible, but a lot have failed in the most spectacular of ways. The more info you can be armed with going in, the better the odds of posting the final result. If this sounds pessimistic, it's because I have watched stuff like the tiger Elise unfold as it happened, and I'd love to see you succeed, but that'll only happen if you go in with eyes wide open. Good luck!




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post #11 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 05:10 AM
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re: Lotus Race car

See my thread in race and track cars about a Wide-body Elise....

I do not think, Lotus is the most cost effective car when it comes to a build...
It is the lightest and very inexpensive to operate.... (still waiting for those 2 year old R6's to cord so I can buy some slicks!! ).

Finding a donor chasis is hard. It is an aluminum tub that is hard to repair, if damaged.... Stock motor and tranny is weak. Most cars do not have LSD. Suspension needs upgrades for track duty.

I have been in a 240Z on a track. I could not believe how well that car handles!!! BTW, the engine bay is big, designed for a straight 6. An LS V8 fits very well and is probably lighter than the iron-block original, also sits further back... Same is tru of 3-series BMW's. Both of this cars are inexpensive to set-up.

A used Z06 ($35k) that has not bean beat-up makes a very fast race car with $10k in upgrades and a roll cage. (A local good driver did that and ran 1:20's at Mosport. In the same ballpark as his exotics. For him cost was not an issue, actually.) It is a different drive than a Lotus... so pick your poison. Lotus is closer to a 240Z...

944's are now very dated and very slow, unless you get a very well sorted later turbo car....

It all depends on your needs and taste...

Anton
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post #12 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 08:27 AM Thread Starter
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i have driven my buddys 240z and it is an impressive machine. he swapped an rb26 from a gtr into it and it has loads of power. his is a road car and is not for the track but it shure could be used for that purpose.

im going to keep up the search for a lotus however and hopefully once i have the money saved to get one i can find one that isnt tweaked frame wise.
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post #13 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 09:20 AM
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Gokarter64, another WA member! Yeah, the Lotus is certainly a great track tool, but like Anton mentioned the chassis is kind of a one time use thing. If the crash energy manages to make it past the front and rear crash structures, you're looking at a write-off. But if you're not afraid of that, then it's a great platform if you're willing to spend the money to sort engine/transmission and suspension. BOE has a great recipe for the 2ZZ and there are rumors aplenty that there will be ways to remedy the weak stock tranny. Or you could go sequential, which is all sorts of $$$.

If I were to build up a dedicated track car for time attack or autocross, I'd probably build up a forced-inducted honda k-swapped Miata. Proven platform and cheap to run. Could even go whole hog with a V8 swap if you feel like being especially saucy.

Thinking of K-swapping? Here's an idea of the cost involved.

2006 LOTUS EXIGE (ASPEN WHITE) Honda K24A2 + MPx90 supercharger. 322whp/271lb-ft @13psi. Build thread here.
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post #14 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 08:07 PM Thread Starter
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that's precisely why i want to use it for time attack or autocross. the closest track to me is bremerton raceway. it takes me about 10 minutes to get there . shelton is a 40 minute drive and pacific raceways is a rather long haul. only thing i have to worry about crash wise for time attack or autocross is if i lose it into pit wall at the ridge... otherwise the runoffs there are pretty safe for the car and no one but me will be to blame for wrecking it.

also. i wasn't planning on keeping the stock engine for long i bought an ej20 with a 6 speed sti gearbox a while back and its just been sitting in a family members garage begging for a car to go into. i had put the idea of a lotus on the back burner until i saw a photo from bodyshop kobayashi in japan. its the perfect engine to use. low cg and the sti gearbox has the front drive in there. after looking around you can lock out the center diff with an adapter and run the gearbox as a transaxle

here is the photo:


i needed to know more and after googling i found an article on speedhunters about it



as i said was looking around at lotus's before but i heard about weak transmissions and rear links. but seeing that i eventually could use my subie engine in one sparked my interest in them again.

if i manage to get one with a working engine ill run that for a while untill i devise a way to mount the ej in the car. itll take a lot of custom work and will be a lng time till i get there, but thats the result i want in the end.

Last edited by Gokarter64; 07-24-2015 at 08:17 PM.
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post #15 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-24-2015, 09:30 PM
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See my thread in race and track cars about a Wide-body Elise....

I do not think, Lotus is the most cost effective car when it comes to a build...
It is the lightest and very inexpensive to operate.... (still waiting for those 2 year old R6's to cord so I can buy some slicks!! ).

Finding a donor chasis is hard. It is an aluminum tub that is hard to repair, if damaged.... Stock motor and tranny is weak. Most cars do not have LSD. Suspension needs upgrades for track duty.

I have been in a 240Z on a track. I could not believe how well that car handles!!! BTW, the engine bay is big, designed for a straight 6. An LS V8 fits very well and is probably lighter than the iron-block original, also sits further back... Same is tru of 3-series BMW's. Both of this cars are inexpensive to set-up.

A used Z06 ($35k) that has not bean beat-up makes a very fast race car with $10k in upgrades and a roll cage. (A local good driver did that and ran 1:20's at Mosport. In the same ballpark as his exotics. For him cost was not an issue, actually.) It is a different drive than a Lotus... so pick your poison. Lotus is closer to a 240Z...

944's are now very dated and very slow, unless you get a very well sorted later turbo car....

It all depends on your needs and taste...

Anton
Are you saying that a 240Z out handles an Elise?

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post #16 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-25-2015, 07:58 AM
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x car outhandles y car

Any car can out-handle any other car given unlimited budget. There was a local shop that could make old Mustangs handle better than most BMW's in the late 1990's... It is all relative.

I rode in a highly prepared 240Z once. I was surprised and taken a back at how well the car handled given its age and my expectations. This was just once. I have no idea about what the mods were. It was not extreme... but it was not stock. Is it better than an Elise... with a 20 year gap between tests... how can I tell???.. It is not better than MY Elise. This is an unfair question...

A stock Z06 with the right driver and tires and alignment will out-handle an Elise... so what?

Like I said before it is a matter of taste/opinion and your ultimate goal, as to what you decide. I am just trying to enrich your experience with mine....

Anton


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Are you saying that a 240Z out handles an Elise?
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post #17 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-25-2015, 10:29 AM
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i have driven my buddys 240z and it is an impressive machine. he swapped an rb26 from a gtr into it and it has loads of power. his is a road car and is not for the track but it shure could be used for that purpose.

im going to keep up the search for a lotus however and hopefully once i have the money saved to get one i can find one that isnt tweaked frame wise.
Building a track focused 240z with an LS3 is a personal dream of mine!

Thinking of K-swapping? Here's an idea of the cost involved.

2006 LOTUS EXIGE (ASPEN WHITE) Honda K24A2 + MPx90 supercharger. 322whp/271lb-ft @13psi. Build thread here.
1994 AUTOZAM AZ-1 MAZDASPEED Japanese Super Kei!
2014 FIAT 500e Hydroelectric powered EV daily driver.
2007 SUZUKI SV650 Track bike.
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post #18 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-25-2015, 01:09 PM
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re: 240Z and LS Motor

A few years ago I saw a 260Z with a small block Chevy (do not recall if it was an LS...) in it. Fit very well. Lot's of space between the radiator and motor....

Anton

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Building a track focused 240z with an LS3 is a personal dream of mine!
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post #19 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-25-2015, 05:32 PM
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First rule of race cars: Buy, don't build.

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post #20 of 24 (permalink) Old 07-25-2015, 06:19 PM
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First Rule of Race Cars

This is so very very true.... I agree 100%!!!

... and this is coming from a guy that likes to build race cars.

Anton


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First rule of race cars: Buy, don't build.
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