Back in 1982 I had the chance to buy a Lotus Cortina - a very tidy looking mark 2 with not too many miles on it, from what I remember. It was owned by a guy called Colin Munt, he was a hero of mine as he previously had a Kawasaki KH250 - my all time favourite motor cycle. Anyway, before I go totally off piste, he had offered me the car for £350 quid, I reckoned I could have got nearly that for my 1969 Capri so I was well up for it. Excitedly I phoned my insurance company and once the lady had stopped laughing and given me a quote that was 200 quid higher than the Capri my firework had been well and truly piddled upon. I was a mere apprentice at the time with a take home of about 45 quid a week, a third of which had to go to Mum and Dad for my keep. After petrol and lunches there was not a lot left so any thoughts of Lotus ownership disappeared, as did any thought of some day getting to have a play with one. Life is a funny old game though and a few weeks back I heard that my mate Malcolm had been visiting auctions again and had purchased a mk2 that had been in a collection for many years.
It looked a bit crusty in places but for a 1969 car it was actually in surprisingly good condition, the auction blurb suggested the engine had been rebuilt, I reckoned that if that was the case he had another bargain on his hands.
He wanted to see if we could get it running before taking the engine and box out ready for the body work to be sorted so we did all the usual, which was to let Russell do all the hard work and I would swoop in like a knight in shining armour with a finely honed voltmeter and save the day if it failed to start.
Sadly it did fail to start - there was no spark. I was rather busy so I popped round, had a quick look, did a bit of jiggery pokery, connected a live direct to the coil and got a spark. I had to go sell a couple of bikes at that point but Russ and Malcolm contined tinkering and got it to stumble a few times before losing spark again.
The distributor on these is right under the carbs and you can't really get at the points or anything without pulling the twin Del'Orto DHLA40's off first. Russ is now an expert at this and can have the 8 securing nuts off in a jiffy, which was handy as we had them on and off 4 times during the afternoon.
the first problem was the short wire that goes from the points to the terminal on the side of the distributor, it was very badly corroded and fell apart altogether when I tried to inspect it. I replaced that and we tried again but still got nothing. I had cleaned the points already but I cleaned them again and recleaned the terminals on the short wire and the condensor but still got nothing. It was when I got my voltage probe in there that the problem became more obvious, the points were simply not closing and needed to be adjusted. I did that and then put my probe on the terminal while Russ cranked it, we now had a good connection. We tried a spark plug and got the biggest, bluest, most beautiful spark we had seen this far.
We put plug number 1 back in and connected the HT to it and then used an outboard engine priming bulb to fill the bowls of the twin del'ortos with some of BP's finest. There was no choke cable fitted so I held the chokes open while Russ twisted the key. She fired straight up and sounded absolutely fantastic. The workshop quickly filled with smoke as Russ had put plenty of oildown the bores before we attempted a start, my God though, she sounded sweet, no knocks or taps or any other of those unwanted noises, she was pretty smooth too, especially when you think the carbs have been sat getting filthy for quite a few years.
We let the air clear for half an hour and then gave it another go, this time there was no hint of smoke at all and the engine seemed to run even better. I gradually let off the choke until she settled in to a low idle without any intervention from us.
Not a bad afternoon, really. Not bad at all.