The Ultimate Project for Restoration Rick!
Here me out! This makes perfect sense!
Now for those of you who are completely oblivious to what's going on in the world, I shall now tell you - my good friend and colleague Mr. Richard Hammond is starting a new show soon. I posted about this earlier this week:-
Now in that earlier post I asked the question 'What should Richard restore on the show?' and I suggested a few interesting examples. However, since then I've sat down and had a deep think. A proper, Gary Kasparov vs Deep Blue, forced checkmate in 72 moves kind of think. And I think I've got the answer. It's a car I've thought about restoring myself! Mainly because I quite like the car, but also that it's an inherently sensible car to restore.
But Rick Hammond isn't sensible!
Yes, yes, I know. I'm not stupid. Sensible isn't what you'd expect from the antics of a man who'd spend 7 hours on a camper vanning trip assembling a flimsy mansion out of bits of plastic. However, I suspect Neil and Anthony, Richard's co-conspirators on the XK150 project aren't the sort of chaps who'll merrily set sail into the English Channel is a leaky, amphibious VW campervan.
What I think we're going to see on the new show is two master craftsman, lovingly restoring a cherished vehicle, while Mr. Hammond talks about it... Gets in the way... and makes tea... Lots of tea.
Right so what is this ultimate sensible classic to restore?
Ready for the big reveal?
Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lotus_Excel#/media/File:1986_Lotus_Excel_Sports_(16071283193).jpg
What!? A Lotus Excel?! Are you madder than the Stig's African Cousin?
Hear me out! Please! Just give me a chance. This is LITERALLY the perfect classic car for a restoration project.
Well, I shall explain:-
#1 It's a Lotus - an iconic brand known for sportscars.
Let's face it, we don't really want to see Rick frantically dunking tea bags and stirring while Neil and Anthony set to work on some early 90's SUV, people carrier or a Transit Minibus. I mean, do we? Really, if you were going to restore either this or a Toyota Previa, which would you go for? Honestly?
#2 It's a Toyota!
What!? Yes, you heard me right. The Excel was built when Toyota owned a large share of Lotus and collaborated with Lotus on the Supra. As such the Excel has various bits and bobs which are straight out of the Toyota heritage parts bin. These parts are generally long-lasting, reliable and readily available.
#3 It's fibreglass!
Well, sort of. The body is made of two sections, an upper and lower one made of injected resin then glued together. As long as it's a 1980 or later car this shell sat on a galvanised chassis. So the chassis and body should be easily repairable and should be resistant to rot.
#4 It's a great driver's car!
Let's start with the engine. This car has the same DOHC 2.2 L Lotus 912 engine that went into the early Espirit. Later versions of the engine developed 180 BHP. The car was known for its cornering and handling aided by its 50:50 weight distribution.
#5 They are available!
The Excel was never quite as desirable as the Espirit. In some ways this isn't logical as the Excel was actually a more practical sports car with similar performance and handling. This was certainly true at a specific time. You can pick up a cheap barn find Excel for a very reasonable price.
Well yeah, but...
I know, I know. You're thinking they should do something a bit more exotic on the show? A bit more unusual? The thing is the Excel is a car many people could buy, strip down and restore. It's a do-able project for the journeyman mechanic that's prepared to pick up a couple of extra skills, such as fibre-glass repair.
I also think it's worth remembering, Richard already has some experience with the Excel. During a James Bond Special edition of Top Gear he drove a submersible, amphibious Excel that actually worked! He drove the car into the water, hit a few switches, then Roger Moored his way under the waves in his own Lotus Submarine, 'The Spy Who Loved Me ' style. I hope you didn't miss that episode! If you DID, get yourself on YouTube and look up the clip. It was really quite epic.
Don't believe me about picking one up at a fair price? Well there's one for sale here, that at the time of writing is looking for offers over £1600. This car is a better, later SE in a nice colour combination and looks like a reasonably easy project to finish. Neil and Anthony could probably have this one sorted in a weekend, so long as Rick made sure the tea kept flowing.
Well, that's my pitch! I reckon it'd be an awesome car to set the ball rolling. It's a simple, easy restore with great parts availability. It's a great project for aspiring restorers to get their teeth into and not too expensive to do. It also gives you a great driver's car that will attract interest at your local cars and coffee.
If Rick doesn't decide to restore one, well maybe YOU should!
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