Elite/Eclat Alignment

From the Chapman Report - December 1990
By Harry Trafford

It started off simply enough: Replace the suspension bushings on the Eclat before I take it in for an alignment. I made a list and checked it twice, seenin' which bushings are naughty or nice. I called a California parts house, which shall remain unnamed. Why? Customer relations. The person I usually deal with was on vacation, so I gave my order to another. I made it a point to give him my new daytime phone number and the phone for after 5 PM E.S.T. So there would be no confusion, I even FAXed my order and phone numbers. Just give me everything on the list. The parts began to trickle in. Some were on back order. The initial shipment arrived minus a pair of bushings that were in stock but someone assumed I duplicated a part. Wrong. As back ordered parts arrived one at a time, it was alarming to note that the UPS charges were adding up to a substantial amount. That's money I could have spent on needed items. Finally the order was almost complete except for two upper ball joints and upper control arm bushings. I eventually received a note that said the rest of my order had been cancelled because they were unable to contact me for verification, etc. I looked over the info on the notice and sure enough, they had my old phone number and no second number. My very specific instructions were totally ignored. Also, I ordered a set of Eclat floor mats that were a 'close-out' item. Well I don't know what they fit, but it sure as hell isn't an Eclat. You figure if you pay for Eclat floor mats, close out or not, they should at least be for the car. So I've got one ball joint, no front bushings and a set of mystery mats. But what the hell! I live 3500 miles away, so send me any old crap you just happen to have laying around. It's not like I can confront the party that screwed me. I spent hundreds of very hard earned dollars and I expected better service. They usually get my orders right and I get what I order, so thankfully it's not something that happens on a regular basis. But I'm still real annoyed. The $$$ well is dry now, so I'll have to do what I can with what I've got. Customer relations.

I removed the left side trunnion bolt in order to reach the anti-sway bar nut. That's when I saw it. The lower control arm was cracked. The two splits in the bends of the U shaped arm travelled almost to where the shock mounts. It doesn't seem to be a badly stressed place, so I don't know why it cracked. I removed it and had it welded. I also found the ball joint to be bad on this side. Coincidence? So that's where my only ball joint went. After replacing the trunnion kits and the sway bar bushings, I moved to the rear suspension. While under the car, I found it distressing to see the many, many places on the chassis that were bent from incorrect jacking procedures by people that didn't know or just didn't care. The right lower differential mount was bent back slightly and the surrounding area was packed with hardened asphalt. It seems to have had a rather substantial impact with a speed bump or something. I replaced the left and right lower link and lower differential mount bushings. The only other bushings I had left were the front upper diff. mounts. The lowers were not sent. I installed what I had. While I was at it, I also changed the front engine mounts and those U-joints on the steering shaft and installed an electronic ignition. I wish I was good enough to say that it was a real busy weekend doing this, but in truth it took four weekends. It's a good thing I have no life or it would take even longer.

The next step is to have a 4 wheel alignment done. I hope the guy is patient and understands that this isn't as easy as most cars and that it is labor intensive. Many guys resent you when you give them spec sheets and ask they be followed to the letter. What I won't tell him, is that if he screws up my Lotus, there's no cave too dark or hole too deep that he'll be able to hide from me. I know where his wife works and where he lives. I called Lotus in Atlanta and asked if the instructions about preloading the suspension prior to alignment were still valid. They said it was indeed valid, so I'll need to locate sand bags or concrete blocks to comply. They'll think I'm crazy, but I guess that's part of owning a Lotus.