The Fateful Night
gearbox decided to act in a manner not in keeping with a 5 speed
gearbox it didn't go with a bang or massed grinding, it just disappeared.
After exiting a particularly nice roundabout and changing up from
1st there was no drive available. All other gears where fine.
To say I was less than happy at this would be an understatement
as I had just fixed a number of other minor gripes and the car
was running the best it had in a long time. This may be half the
reason it went now due to the extra power etc.
Prior to this there had been no indication that there was any gearbox
issues. Knowing that the gearbox can be a problem I had purposefully
checked it out before buying the car, and it felt better than others
I had tried previously.
I put it down to bad luck and just another pat of owning such a
Initially after the problem I didn't feel I had the necessary
equipment and time to do all of the gearbox work myself. I don't
have much of an area to work on cars, as the drive is mainly gravel
and therefore not suitable for ramps or jacks. A kind over from
a friend (Simon , thanks for the offer) to use his garage area
was possible but due to him going away and other issues I decided
to look for a garage to do the work.
it became a major thing to find someone who was prepared to even
touch the car, I was happy they where competent, could do
it reasonably quickly and did charge a fortune. On a recommendation
I contacted a company regarding the actual gearbox repairs (The
gearbox Shop at Thorney). They offered to take out the gearbox
at a reasonable rate. Well as time passed and yet more excuses
came up why they couldn't have the car in that week I was getting
a little impatient. I had bought a small Fiesta to get me around
in but that just made me even more desperate to get the car back
on the road.
Can understand the garage's reluctance to take the job on. It's
was a bit more involved than the thought, would be taking up ramp
space for possibly a long time and is not something they wanted
to get wrong. To be honest I don't mind their reasons just been
better for them to tell me.
Out it comes no more waiting
a frustrating week I had had enough and a weekend blitz was in
order. Got the car up onto axle stands in my limited
area and started to take apart the rear of the car. The Lotus
service notes and parts list books where invaluable in helping
with the right order and not missing bits. A Saturday's work
and the gearbox was about ready to be parted.
With the help of Doug on the Sunday we where able
to get the box fully out of the car leaving a gaping hole where it used to be.
Into the back of the Fiesta and up to the Gearbox specialists
to work their magic. A couple of days later they came back with
the verdict. Well the syncho's are ok but better bring your parts
list you need to go shopping.
The 2nd gear teeth that engage with the synchro ring had worn
away. Additionally at some point the primary shaft 1st gear had
chipped a tooth. So looking at some major mullah and delivery
2nd gear no problem but the primary shaft was an issue.
Whilst weighing up the costs of this gearbox I decided to look
at all of the alternatives available for the Esprit.
Looked at replacements such as Quaife, which was serious money
and not suitable for road use. Maybe once they get some Helical
gears ? and lower the price by 8K.
Gearbox rebuild by Micheal Motorsports, but never got a response
from them ?
There was also talk on the forums about using the Renault 21 Turbo
gearbox. Looked through all of the options and was worth a try
as a short term solution. Found a secondhand good gearbox from
a Phase2 21 Turbo for £200 and off back to gearbox shop to
move the selector mechanism over.
If it isn't one thing it's another
The gear selector mechanism on the Renault box is a two pivot affair
where one cable connects onto the rear of the box and pushes
the selector rod in and out and another cable twists the rod.
is all on the left hand side. The S4s mechanism is a single translator
on the right hand side.
Not up to totally redesigning the cable mechanism for the car
it was decided to take the rear casing off the Lotus box and
fit to the Renault box. All looked good and was going well until
the pivot shaft interlock guide had different threads. This bit
holds the selector guide in position so is vital but not under
A quick cutting of some new threads and all was back in business.
Finally time to match it up
the 2nd gear had turned up for the Lotus box and it was decided that the primary
shaft gear could be cleaned up as the chip on one tooth wasn't serious if the
edges where taken off.
I was semi committed to the Renault box route at this point so soldiered on.
Fitting back into the car was a lot easier than expected. Everything seemed to
slot in with minimal fuss, I think a lot of that is sheer luck rather than design,
but I ain't moaning.
Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the rebuild as I was up to my arms
in muck and more worried about getting it back into one piece.
All systems go
It was a nice day when everything was back in place, I thank
my forethought for thinking about marking where all the electrics
went. There was a lot of swearing at times, some knocked and
knuckles and a few drops of blood into the mix but it all started
and moved with 5 forward gears again.
A few tentative forays out steadily raising the pressure on the
engine and gearbox with a good check on each return. News was
all good and it felt good.
A suggestion and interesting pont is to make friends with
some of your local garages. I had issues getting hold of some
and other silly bits. The local auto factors where no use and
just where not prepared to put any effort into it, Toyota garage
was unhelpful if it wasn't a Toyota despite being a good customer
of theirs for over 6 years. My local tyre company helped out
immensely. Bought stuff at trade price for me, I slipped a few
extra bits their way for the effort they put in. Phoned around
to find the best equivalent oil's for me. Let me borrow
some tools and equipment and basically very helpful. They basically
felt happy helping me as it was a Lotus and not trying to get
money out of me because it was a Lotus.
What have they gained, well I will certainly be getting tyre's
via them, the odd bit of work on other cars, recommending them
to friends and colleagues. And all for just being nice and a
Another surprising element was that a good proportion of the
fitters are the stereotypical young hot hatch brigade who many
sneer at. They where more helpful, polite and interested than
the so called normal people who just where basically a$$holes
and treated either as a rich idiot who knows nothing or with
absolute jealousy. Sad really.
Living with the gearbox
So far I have not experienced any problems with the gearbox and
have had times where I was going full out. Especially the time
with the MLOC group where it was a lot of 2nd and 3rd gear bends
on narrow roads. Lots of short acceleration and heavy braking.
There has been an occasional clutch slip on full WOT when clutch
was dumped a little too harshly but I think that is down to a slight
oil contamination of the clutch. It isn't 100% repeatable and goes
away after slipping for a little bit. Almost as if it burns the
oil off. I think this is due to a slightly leaking rear crank seal
but that's another story.
I intend to keep the renault box in place at the moment and use
the Lotus box as a spare if anything goes wrong.
I'm also investigating the primary shaft replacement available
via Bell Performance.
This apparently cures a major issue in the flexing of the primary
shaft under high torque which causes premature failure of cogs
and synchros. Hopefully they can make a shaft that mates to
the Lotus flywheel. I will keep this page up to date and let
the UKLotusEsprit Yahoo group know of any issues I have in