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The Mustard Yellow Elise S1 Refresh Thread

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Posted (edited)

So last September I purchased my 5th Elise S1, almost 20 years since I bought my first one back in the day.   It's a high mileage example, but had recently had a part restoration done by the previous owner, including a full suspension refurb with new Nitrons, Ally Radiator and all new brakes with Ultimax Turbo discs, amongst several other things.  However I knew when I bought it that I’d need to spend some time (and money) getting it right, but the “no brainer” price I paid and taking into account what had already been done meant I was up for the challenge...

This thread will be long and photo heavy......especially the first post as I’m playing catch up…..but that's what these blog-type restoration threads are for, right?     So bear with me if I waffle a bit (OK, a lot..), but hopefully it will be useful to other owners looking to do similar stuff 😀

Since buying it I’ve worked on both mechanical and interior/cosmetic stuff, so I’ll cover all of it (pretty much), as it will be a useful reference for me if nothing else!   Despite owning 5 of these things over the years, many of the things I’ve tackled have been for the first time, but I’ve learned that they are simpler than you think, and although it’s been a bit daunting at times I’ve thoroughly enjoyed what I’ve done so far.    

I’m not working to Dr H or Jonnyfox’s levels of amazingness – but doing my best to get it back to as good as (or better than) new in a reasonable timeframe (I still have a whole house to do up!).

Anyway - here’s what it looked like when I first bought it back in September: 


Why won’t it move?

I noticed that the rear brakes were sticking on and the handbrake cable tension was all over the shop.  As this was before the “that’s OK I’ll have a go at that myself” approach, I had Gav at Unit 4 give the car a good once over and he fitted a new handbrake cable, as well as changing the cambelt, gearbox oil and sorting a few other bits.

Initial Cosmetic stuff:

One of the first things I did was replace the stone guards on the rear arches with clear.  They weren’t well fitted and I simply prefer the look.

I’ve never been a big fan of black wheels or Rimstocks on the S1 for some reason.   I think black looks great on some cars, maybe it’s the type of wheel sometimes that makes the difference.   Anyway I wanted a set of silver AWI's on it, I reckon it’s because it was the original S1 'look' back in the day, for me it’s an iconic thing with any wheels on, but overall, the AWI's are probably the pick of the bunch, other than Victories which are lovely, but heavy of course.  So after a bit of searching I found a set.

Being yellow, the last thing I wanted was a load of OTT yellow highlights on the interior as well, but I'll come to that later....



I noticed that the headlights were flickering during my long rainy drive down the M6 when I picked up the car,  together with the interior light switch illumination, and although they didn't 'perform' for Gav and he checked the earth straps, it soon started again and was accompanied by a lovely whirring noise.

After much research and lots of help on fitting tips from Rob (mrrigma on SELOC) I replaced it and it cured the problem straight away.    I also fitted ducting to take cold air down to the alternator from the side air intake, and a Nimbus heat shield (with a bit cut away to let heat escape out the top a bit).  I also cleaned up the under trays, and replaced the bolts with stainless, refitting with Duralac etc.

This is really what kick started my thinking that working on these things isn’t really that difficult...

However, what I do now have, despite a new belt and playing with the tension, is a high pitched noise from the alternator.   It’s an inexpensive RTX one, I was aware of the mixed reviews but decided to give it a go.   I’ve subsequently had my original Magnetti Marelli one refurbished with a new regulator, so I just need to get around to fitting it and I’ll return the RTX.   Not the best start to the mechanical stuff then….


Interior - Footwells, Carpets, Trim, Seat Frames:

Next job, seats out, carpets out....and....footwells.   Lovely.

So, when you lift the mats on an S1 (or early S2) Elise and you see those rubber mats, you pull them up to find some beautiful footwell corrosion, yes?   No.  Not yet.   I first had to tackle the sound deadening material that the previous owner had lined the whole of the floors and panel behind the seats with.   It turned out to be the gooiest, stickiest, most annoying job imaginable on the interior I’ve done in my 20 years of Elise ownership. Nothing like removing Dynamat or Silent Coat, which just peels off.  I had to heat it first, to soften it, then scrape it off bit by bit.   It took many many hours and lots of expletives before I could actually see the footwells themselves.


Anyway they weren’t too bad at all, no perforation/holes, so I filled the cavities with Quiksteel Aluminium filler, and applied Special metals primer and two top coats, all with a gloss roller.    I was really pleased with the results and it’s a rock hard finish. - well worth all the effort and pain in the ribs..


I also gave the chassis a clean with magic sponges, because my ribs and neck weren’t suffering enough, seemingly.

I noticed that the sound deadening stuff had been laid over the seat fastening holes (producing some delightful goo on the seat bolt threads, perfect!) and other areas where it shouldn't be, so had to cut all that away.   


The carpets themselves weren’t fitted very well.   They were new, from Scrappingtons, great quality carpet, but needed trimming properly and I also decided to cut off the bits under the floor mats - so I could keep an eye on the footwells easily in future, not that I’m at all concerned about them now.

I also had fun removing the sill covers.  They had been fitted too far back so the doors weren’t shutting properly!  Lots of glue residue (Evo stick I think) so needed endless soaking with rags loaded with white spirit to soften it.  Almost as annoying as the footwells!


The cigar lighter didn’t work and had been wired up wrong, so I sorted that.  I also removed the leather trim from the centre console and gear surround.   It had been trimmed by the previous owner and although it was a good effort it wasn’t ideal.  So I primed and painted them Matt black, which is a big improvement, I may do these again sometime if I can source some paint closer to the original dark grey colour.

The door cards had also been retrimmed, with a yellow stripe in them, so I used some permanent leather dye to make them all black.  Much better.

The seat frames had seen better days, usual light corrosion, so I prepared, primed and painted them satin black.

Other interior bits:

I took the opportunity to remove the old Ni-cad rechargeable battery from the alarm siren.  These have a tendency to leak so it’s better to either replace it with a more modern one or not bother.


Next up I fitted the Eliseparts throttle linkage kit (great - more footwell and sill-induced rib pain) and also sourced and fitted the proper storage net behind the seats with the T-anchors (thanks MilesH and junks) as it had been removed and carpeted over the holes.   I find it quite useful to put stuff in, as the storage options aren’t exactly great in the S1.


The footrest was quite badly scuffed from 20 years wear, so I refinished it with an orbital sander, and then stuck some clear matte wrap over it.  Big improvement - even if getting the wrap right took me ages!



Yes, I know that the audio in the Elise is massively compromised by wind and road noise, and being in a metal tub with no soundproofing.   I also like my tunes though, so as per what I’ve done on previous Elises, I fitted my Infinity Kappa speakers with MDF spacers and some wadding inside the speaker cavities.   It’s quite an improvement but it will get much, much better when I change the head unit and fit my small sub in the footwell.   I know this goes against the whole 'add lightness' philosophy but it makes for a better car to live with on longer trips.


After buying and trying some Corbeau LE Pro Seats, lovely as they were, I found they weren’t quite right for me, so I picked up some Probax seats at a great price (thanks Fish) which I know suit me well as I had them in my old black S160.  I needed a new passenger seat frame but was able to modify the cross member on my S1 drivers frame/runners to fit the new seat.   Given that a new frame would have been about £200 I was quite chuffed.   I’ve also got a set of original S1 seats in black leather which I bought, they are immaculate, but I don’t fancy the pain that goes with them so they will be put into storage!


So the interior is almost there, just need to fit my new head unit sometime (and the sub).    Now to remove the front clam and embark on bigger challenges…

Front clam removal:

So I knew the front clam had been off in the last couple of years, due to the previous owner doing a refresh that included suspension and alloy radiator.    Thank god for that - it was actually fairly easy to remove.   No spinning bolts, so off it came.   What I didn’t expect was that my wife would suggest we keep it on the dining table.   After picking myself up off the floor I assured her it would only be there for 2-3 weeks while I did everything I needed to do.    That was over 6 weeks ago….let’s just say I’m not the most popular person in our house….


Driving Lights:

First job with the clam off was to remove the horribly rusted driving light brackets - or what was left of them.  The plastic bolts had snapped off inside the rivnuts too.  Perfect.  Easy to get out, fortunately.


Indicators & headlights:

The front clam will be painted in due course (blending into the doors as well) so I started to strip it.  Lots of rusty stuff in there.   One of the captive indicator bolts was spinning inside the indicator - so I had to cut the nut off.    Fortunately with a bit of gentle heat I could push the remains of the bolt into the indicator lens, and I’ve now replaced it with a new one set into a dab of epoxy from the inside, so it’s as good as new.

The headlights had seen better days and I’ve been fortunate to buy some as new replacements from the very nice chap in France who bought my black S160 a few years ago.   He has kept them for me in their boxes for about a year, very good of him.   I’ve bought some new stainless adjuster and clam mount brackets to keep the corrosion in there to the absolute minimum from now on.  I’ve fitted the new clam mount brackets with Silkasil – this was quite a precise job to make sure the alignment was right.

Removing the old clam brackets was fun - they were basically just crumbling lumps of rust!


Heater & Fan Assembly:

Massive thanks to Phil Stone (Phil S1) for this bit, not just for his guide and photos from a few years ago when he had the lovely Type 49, but for his tips/help during doing mine as well.   

It was a real pig to get out – you first remove the battery and of course remove the coolant hoses from the top of the heater matrix.   I used sockets to plug the hoses with some tape etc.   Eventually I managed to get it out but it was a very tight fit and I had to split it into two in situ, by undoing the nut underneath and the one on top, and then carefully slide it to the right and out, avoiding all the hoses, harnesses, and the brake pipe that had been replaced and incorrectly formed - blocking it’s path…

The fan blower/heater assembly was quite rusty…


I then stripped the paint off the fan blower housing it and used Deox C (a great product by Bilt Hamber, thanks for the tip Dom) to remove all the rust.   I then used Kurust and Smooth Hammerite (2 coats) to refinish it – same on the brackets etc.    Once fully hardened I fitted a reinforcing plate out of brass to repair a crack, and reassembled it all, with the fan motor, with stainless fixings.  Much better….


Brake lines:

I could see a couple of areas where the fixed brake lines were corroding due to contact with the chassis (broken clips mostly).   So I have borrowed the tools and pipe to replace these (thanks Leigh - I’m still recovering from getting a good peek at the Stratos the other week, wow……what a thing of beauty….).

Front brake calipers:

I spent some time looking at the calipers and deciding whether to try and paint them in situ, or remove them.   In the end I ended up removing them as I new I’d have to drain down the brake fluid anyway to replace the two front brake lines.    So I used a Sealey VS820 to pump the fluid out, corner by corner, and it was reasonably straightforward (after a few “why the hell isn’t it working” moments).

So I then removed the calipers and set about stripping them.   Because of the dodgy previous paint job I chose to firstly strip the paint off (I was going to leave them whole), then blow out the pistons using compressed air, and then split them.   The 4 bolts were rock solid so we had to use some heat, and an 8mm Allen key with a tube on the end to get more torque.   Easy does it…..

Once split I finished the preparation and degreasing and gave them several light coats of E-Tech XHT Paint, and then cured them in the oven for an hour.   It’s now rock hard and very close to the OEM finish - I really recommend this.


I’ve yet to reassemble them but I’ve bought some new zinc coated 12.9 High tensile bolts and seals, and some red rubber grease, as well as new bleed screws - I found the Sealey 30mm ones were the right profile where the taper is.


Removal and refurb of various bits:

Without much further ado I went through a process of removing (or treating in situ) pretty much anything that was corroding, and where appropriate, using paint stripper, then stripping of corrosion using the Deox C, and then recoating.   Anything that couldn’t be soaked got a good wire brush and application of Kurust, before recoating.   

Parts I treated in these ways included the fan blower housing and matrix housing brackets, fan motor, driving lights, front clam A pillar brackets, bonnet catch assembly, door hinge spring plates, wiper motor bracket, master brake cylinder, ARB, headlight adjuster brackets (to keep as spares), the upper damper mounting brackets, and the two crash structure to chassis brackets near the ARB mounts

The previous owner had largely just painted over rust without removing the majority of it first, so I also gave the steering arms a good scrape and recoated them after a coat of Kurust.


After taking the mick out of Dom (greenelise86) for doing this to his car, I decided to spray the inside of the front crash structure to make it nice and black.   Have to say it makes a big difference and took me about 10 mins with Plastikote Matt Black.


Removing the Nitrons and brackets:

I decided I wanted to get the damper brackets off to check behind them for corrosion, and also recoat them.   So off came the Nitrons out of the way, and after a good clean up the brackets were stripped with Deox C and then given 2 coats of silver hammerite.

I’ll be coating the chassis mounts in Duralac when I refit them.


Rear brake calipers:

Having done the fronts, the rears looked like they would benefit from the same treatment, so off they came, this time I didn’t strip them down fully as there was no need.   I removed the upper and lower mounting bushes and seals, and then carefully masked off the pistons and seals, and the handbrake bracket (after removing the spring).   They took ages to carefully degrease but it was worth it after top coating them with the XHT paint.   I couldn’t bake them in the oven due to the seals (although they may have been fine at 160C) so I chose to use a heat gun to carefully cure the paint keeping away from the piston and seals.


Brake shields:

The 2 outer bolts securing the brake shields were fouling the brake disc on the driver’s side, so I had my neighbour machine off the hex heads of some stainless bolts back to the minimum to fix the issue..

Tow post, Grilles, other bits:

I bought a new stainless tow post from eBay and it’s really nicely made.   After a coat of special metals primer, I’ve topcoated it with Hammerite Smooth (spray).  I know it will chip over time, but I’ll re-do it eventually.   At least it won’t corrode…


I’ve had the grilles blasted, and then given a cataphoresis coating - a very tough resin based coat (thanks Greg) before a top coat of the Hammerite smooth, together with the bonnet bracket.

The plastic radiator shroud had gone a nice shade of light grey in places, so that has had some primer and a couple of coats of the Plastikote stuff. 


The bonnet hinge bracket and indicator side repeater brackets are all mild steel and were quite badly corroded, so they’ve had some Kurust and hammerite.


Wiring harnesses:

The harness in the front clam needed some work - the headlight connectors were melted and broken, and one of them was soldered on with about 2 threads.   No wonder I had dodgy headlights!    I sourced some ceramic replacements and soldered them on, hopefully no more crappy wiring….

I’ve also renewed some of the cloth tape on the harnesses under the front clam, as it was getting pretty ropey.


Steering wheel & boss:

I recently bought a Momo Team 300 wheel for the car, and have decided I’ll use my old boss that my father in law machined for me out of ally.   It’s a great bit of kit and brings the wheel slightly closer to me as well, which is great.   I had it fitted to my black S160 but didn’t get around to painting or getting it coated.   I was always concerned it would chip off.   A quick email to Dan at Divine Handcraft sorted that - he sent me some Hexis textured wrap for it and now it looks a lot better.


I’ve also modified the original horn push from the standard Nardi wheel to fit the Momo, really easy to do and it now fits both without any issues.

Front wishbone mounts:

Being a high mileage car I wanted to properly check the wishbone mounts to assess if the light corrosion I could see was just that.   So I removed the track rod end ball joints from the steering arms, then the upper wishbones, and sought the opinions of Tim at Lakeside Engineering.   We’ve looked at the photos I took in detail and concluded that it’s fine - which is exactly what I’ve been told by others who have seen them.   I’ve applied some Kurust and light coats of hammerite onto the steel bobbins, and then some Duralac Green around the outside of the bobbins/glue as a preventitive thing.   When I reassemble it all I’ll apply the usual ACF50 & Corrosion Block grease of course, with Rocol Graphite bearing grease on the castor shims and bushes.


New windscreen:

Last week I had a new screen fitted by National Windscreens as my old one had some rather large chips in it, one in particular.   I decided I’d let my insurer’s send their repairers to do it, rather than pay extra, as I knew I’d be watching them like a hawk anyway!    The guys that came were great and have fitted them before to Elises, they knew their stuff.   I marked exactly where the mirror should go and it’s all spot on.   It’s a Saint Gobain screen and is identical to the original Starglass one, apart from the shade band which is about 1” deeper (a good thing I guess).

What’s next then ?

Well I’ve had a delay with the painting of the front clam - so I have some time to finish off everything properly and reassemble, so it’s going to take me a while.   That said, I need to get that clam off the dining table soon as I’m on thin ice with that one…..!      Things that come to mind include refitting the refurbed alternator, steering rack refurb, making and fitting the new brake lines, rear toe links and no doubt a few other things…

I have done one especially annoying job though – checking all 4 UJ bolts are tight (they were)…


Thanks for bearing with me and I hope it hasn’t been too dull - I’ll never win a literary prize, will I….

I’ll keep posting updates as regularly as I can….

Edited by Daveb99

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superb work Dave you should be proud of your work!!!

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Top work Dave, I still can't get over the transformation of those front brake calipers...that and the fact you managed to bake them in the oven, I'd never get away with that one 😆

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5 minutes ago, Phil S1 said:

Top work Dave, I still can't get over the transformation of those front brake calipers...that and the fact you managed to bake them in the oven, I'd never get away with that one 😆

Thanks Phil (and Ray), yeah it was a bit whiffy in the kitchen to say the least - 160C for an hour - but hey ho......Joanne has been a Lotus widow on and off for 20 years so I think she expected no less 😂

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Always amazed by the patience, care, love and  fastidious attention to detail lavished on these projects.  That's proper good Dave  👍

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Cheers Will - comments like these make it all the more satisfying to do stuff yourself 👍

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Superb:clap: Done lots of those bits myself over the years but great to see it all in pictures. Love the “Lotus position“ pics, I remember fitting a clutch peddle bush some years ago, my back and ribs were bruised for days😆

Yellow S1’s are the business!

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Great job. I look forward to seeing the end result soon.

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Quick update - made up and fitted the 2 front brake lines yesterday (not as easy as it seems!) and removed the steering rack to fit phosphor bronze cups today (possibly the worst job I’ve had to do yet!).   More detail and pics to follow...

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Dave, you have been busy! This one is going to end up immaculate as well!!

Very impressed.


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you need to be getting ready for a run or in the Peaks so we can see it in the flesh :) 

I'm fantastic with spanners!!!! I pick them up and hand them to Gav 🤣🤣

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Fantastic attention to detail, great read cheers.

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for all the comments, I’ve made quite a bit of progress since the last update, and will post up some more detail and photos very soon.....I have now done the front brake lines, steering rack, door hinges (machined some new stainless capping pieces for where the ally had worn) and started to reassemble the suspension. I’ve bought some new uniball rear toe links as well but haven’t started fitting them yet.

Oh, and I’m trying to use less of my blue garage towel stuff in case we need to use it as toilet roll at some point  🤔

More to follow.... 


Edited by Daveb99

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Looking good Dave. Its very satisfying doing it yourself.

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Dave, MEGA.  I really enjoyed that read, what superb work. The calipers particularly. And that horrible goo, WTF mate, I bet you were pulling your hair out by the roots :jawdrop: . 

Keep it comng, lots of time to kill so get cracking. Awesome work. 

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