Death of a Lotus

From the Chapman Report - October 1992
By Harry Trafford

The rain stung my face, driven by the strong winds. I stared in disbelief at my Eclat. I shuddered and flashed back to 1967 at the height of the Vietnam war prior to the 1968 Tet offensive. I stood in the line to get my plague innoculation with 200 others. I had packed my duffel bag as ordered for a one year tour of duty. All bases throughout the U.S. were at a heightened alert status. I had watched the films of the gunships that would protect us. "Puff, the Magic Dragon" had rotary gattling guns mounted in the doorways, and as they were activated, a thin red line snaked lazily out of each and drifted in slow motion towards the forest below. The rotary barrels spun at a speed that made them invisible. The refitted cargo plane banked slowly as the glowing red line reached the earth below. That's when it happened. The lush green forest canopy exploded in flame and began to disappear. In a matter of seconds, leaves, bushes, trees were kindling...the whole damned forest just went away. We were being put on standby, not for Vietnam, but for North Korea. Seems the Commies just captured one of our Navy ships. It was War, Part 2. I guess I should have been scared, but I was 20 years old and immortal. No, I was pissed that I might have to leave a comfy apartment and live out of this green canvas bag for a year. As a side note, my son, 20 years old, went to war in Saudi Arabia. If this 20 year cycle continues, his son will be in a war in 2010.

Fast forward to August 23, 1992. Hurricane Andrew was coming and I couldn't get the Lotus started. I finally used the starter and the remaining battery power to move the car about six feet. I parked my Datsun truck next to it for added protection. I fretted over it, but there were other things to do. Late that night, the wind finally accelerated to a constant screaming crescendo. Water was spraying through the wood of my front door. It was actually bending, and the deadbolt was all that kept it from blowing out completely. The front windows exploded sending shards of glass and asphalt shingles into the house. The flood of rainwater followed. I heard crashing noises outside, then 40 square feet of my roof was ripped off. The pressure of the wind caused such pain in my ears that I thought my head would explode. Now the whole house began to tremble. Is this it? I was on a freight train to Hell and I couldn't get off! Finally, the eye of the storm passed over us, and for a few brief minutes there was an erie peaceful silence. I braced for the second onslaught that would come in the opposite direction. Was I scared ? No. I was terrified! I've been through two other hurricanes in my life, but this was a singularly horrifying event. Dawn broke and the 165 MPH winds continued on towards Louisiana. I walked out into the wet morning and was greeted by a landscape that I no longer recognized. Power poles and trees lay in the street along with the remnants of the roofs that once protected the families of my city from the elements. Any trees that still remained upright were stripped bare of any green. There is no power or water. There are no stores or shopping malls left. The roads are impassable unless you have an axe and four wheel drive. "Looters welcome, we need the target practice", read the sign. We wore side arms to let looter scum know we were serious. The devistation, the destruction was total and complete. Homestead is,..was a city lined with tall Royal Palms. They all lay horizontal now, pointing southeast, the direction of the first killer winds that gusted to over 200 MPH. Then I looked towards the driveway. With a flip of her middle finger in my direction, mother nature decided it would be a good joke to hurl a six ton Royal Palm onto my Lotus. The final insult. The last straw. The tears welled in my eyes and were diluted by the rain as I turned back into the house, slogged across the wet carpet and slumped onto the sofa so I could gather my thoughts. After finding some wood and plastic sheeting to make a temporary repair to the roof, I turned my attention to the Lotus. The tree had fallen across the left rear quarter in a line from the boot lock to the C pillar. The left rear window had exploded. The back of the the body work is shattered. A large crack runs down the car just behind the left side driver door striker plate. The car must have twisted violently in her death throes as the front bumper was blown off as did the trim moulding around the windshield, which is now broken. The gas tank is leaking, but until I can remove the tree, nothing can be done. It is pretty well smashed, and of course I am concerned that if it is repaired, will the torsional ridgidity that allows the Lotus to handle so well still be there? How about body sections? A rear bumper with lights? and much, much more. Who is competent to do the work? I have called the insurers. Although a large company, they don't have a listing for the car. They said they would try to find a book. Five weeks after the hurricane, not much has changed here, except that I was lucky enough to get my power back after four weeks of living like a caveman. All in all, I am more fortunate than the thousands of people here that have lost everything. They are still living in the communal "Tent City" provided by the 26,000 Army troops that arrived soon after the hurricane. So remember, if the Eclat is repairable, I will be buying some of your spares. If they decide to total it, I will get full value as they percieve it to be. In that case I will be looking for another `78 or newer Eclat. Only logistics and packaging may be a problem.