Sports Car Illustrated 1958

Summing up, for the man who wants to drive his car on the street and race it on weekends and still have a chance at the hardware, the Elva Courier will be hard to beat. Admittedly some of the amenities of the full street or boulevard sports car are missing, but to the truly shriven the no-nonsense performance and maneuverability of the Courier will make up for any number of cigarette lighters, ash trays and fancy knobs. SCI 1958

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Portland ABFM

After last year, we discussed the proper location for the Elva would be in MG-Other.  This reflects the cars engine/transmission parentage and our involvement in NAMGAR as an MGA Variant.

We took third in this class against a 1935 MG-PA
and a Y Type Tourer 1953 or so.

The Elva was disappointed and promptly discharged a freeze plug the next day.      Don't understand why - but it was weeping a bit after the long drive over the mountains.  Lucky we had the Auto AED

On the way back we seemed to have lost generator output -  might have been a bad ground - but we are digging into it


There were several Elva's on the track and overall it was a wonderful time.

Now for the Central Oregon Cavalcade of Cars 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

An Old Friend Returns

Today I received an unsolicited Facebook picture  on the Elva Courier Facebook page.   It is not too unusual to get a picture posted from someone's car photo archive or a recent picture of another Elva.

Elva Courier Facebook Page

This however is my first Elva and driving this car is the man who sold it to me.

The Courier is 100/106/L

A US Bound Elva Courier -
Robins Egg Blue original color - I have several pictures of the car after it being sanded down.


It was the 106th Courier made and probably sold out of Chicago - It had been painted several times - I would have imagined at least 8  - I remember a green and a yellow and this red  - no other color stands out in my memory.

Don Kopiske is the driver, and the guy who sold me this car 10 years later (1984)  -  The car had been wrecked and repaired but the frame was straight. and a lot of the body was still intact - Hey it even came with body molds.

This car I bought for $200 or so was buried in a farm yard in Plymouth Wisconsin - horses had chewed off the front left fender.   The radiator, suspension arms and the steering shaft were the only mechanical parts left on the car.   A bad Poloroid is all I have of the car at this part of it's life

It is here in the maintenance shed at the former Peshtigo County Insane Asylum - drafty and cold

Don loaded me up with spare parts from his garage - Windshields - Tops - Top bows  pedal boxes, brakes

I stopped and talked to Don quite often - he was making a new Courier to race and I made a body for it
and I gathered more folklore, information and advice.

This car set me on a journey to enjoy - without it - I would not have met Stirling Moss,  Carl Haas or Bobby Rahal (Elva Club members)

I would not have met and befriended Frank Nichols the Elva founder or Roger Dunbar

I preserved this car - saved it really - so that it could go on and race many another day -

I knew Don well   - his crew friends proudly represented in the victory V on the side of the car

Long live Elva and the memories of the people that love them


The same car 10 years later
Stirling Moss talking to Ray Hoepper - Circa 1997 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Snow flies and the Elva needs to go to rest - maybe one more blast this weekend and then down stairs to the lower garage.

What needs to be done
  Clutch  - I did not sleeve either the master or the slave on the clutch as I had on the brakes
  My bad it is the only thing that makes the car difficult to get out of 4th and into third in spirited driving

Details - well we won some and we came in third on some - details need to be addressed for wire and    hydraulic routing - simple things  - firewall grommets  and a little nick to the upholstery.

If a Swallow Doretti  can be on the Lawn at Pebble Beach  - I think we can push the Courier that far
the only lagging piece is that so many remain as vintage race cars  where the  Doretti had none

Lots of people on the blog and no comments -

The new book (see another blog)  should have brought the cognescotti out of the woodwork





Monday, September 12, 2011

Race Cars on the Road vs. Road Cars that went Racing

This post will be finished over several days - But a few weeks ago  I put forth an interesting conundrum to a few auto journalists I ran into while displaying a pair of BMW Isetta's in Carmel.

Why are cars that were built for racing - the Elva Courier of this blog being an example
that are used on the road  vs   cars built for the road but factory modified to be used for racing   -- perceived differently.         - The dividing line is small or is it

Driving one  on the road is in one case is shear lunacy and the other case - way too cool (AMG, M, STI, Evo and RS and S)  Maybe we like our excitement tolerable and in a prescribed dose

On the latter example you have the  M  model  -   the race version of the road car - take your pick Austin Healey or BMW

  I digress should Austin Healey sue BMW for trademark infringement or does BMW own the Austin Healey trademark  - or is placing the M before or after the number significant -  both cars represent a similar presentation of the road car gone mongrel .

On the other hand - Lotus Elise / Exige  - yes you can get the track suspension  - but the inevitable question around a party at your house that has migrated to the garage  -  'You don't actually drive that to work - do you"

I started thinking of a dog breeding example  - so you take two Westminster Kennel Club winners and breed them and then and use the offspring for companion dogs - and don't they look good doing it  -
vs.  the pound dog becoming the best frisbee catching dog ever - - but look at him leap


The concessions made by both parties are relatively small - but priced differently

Race Car to road - we need lights - a place to hang a license and turn signals

Road Car to race - a new or uprated springs shocks, and engine (all special but ordered by a factory with some purchase clout)   to build the uber road car  and we will charge doublw - ok 1.75 - but the body must stay the same - Ok new fenders

Yes in the mass market automotive world  -  approachable distictness  - better known as  all too common

I see the mentioned Loti very seldom - and they leave a memory   -   The other - just another car model with a lot of hype that makes  you feel special but not that memorable.

Everybody remembers driving around in the Elva

I own a former and a latter  - the former is more fun  period,  the latter is more fun than the car it was based on.

You be the judge  - most of us won't stray too far from the herd



Tuesday, September 6, 2011

How to Improve the performance of your B series engine - Elva Courier

Colin Chapman was right - to improve performance - handling and power

 "Just add Lightness"

So yes -  if you are searching for the ultimate performance from your B series  - you can go go to a large bore - use a reputable shop  -  You can supercharge - take your pick

Or you can do what Colin Chapman said  - you can add lightness  (I believe this may be the most expensive option)

The Elva Courier notched into a market just barely above a Lotus Seven Series 1 (BMC A Series)  but well below the the Lotus Elite and cut the latter's price by a factor of two but providing similar performance to the more expensive car.

It was clever - Elva threatened Lotus at the time for the specialist sports racing car market - they leaked that the Jaguar Engine would be used and then maybe the Coventry Climax     The press was titillated, the competition anxious  - Archie Scott Brown hung around the Elva guys even after he finished racing in the Listers.    What were the guys in Bexhill up to - cheeky &^%$#$#

The final solution was brilliant - no need to compete with Lotus - the Elite was a money loser -  but how to build a car that could give equivalent performance for 1/2 the price- More $ than a MGA - less than a Austin Healey - How could it be done  -  superior engineering  ie.  the ability to make a superior product for a reasonable cost.

Here is the Recipe

Tube Frame Chassis with a few space frame concessions - Simple - light weight and major assemblies can be mounted and the semi completed car rolled around  (Lotus figured this out with the Elan )

Molded Fiberglass Body - wrapped around the steel  to form an integral assembly (Lotus did this as well on the Elite just to a smaller amount - roll hoop and engine front suspension)  - but only one molded assembly for trunk and hood  leaving raw fiberglass inside - the Lotus used two pieces for the hood and an internal body molding to give the engine compartment a shiny appearance - Elva painted it flat black - cheaper - lighter  effective  - ( just a note for corrosion alone wrapping steel with glass is a bad idea)

Front Suspension - they are virtually identical  - Alden and Alford uprights - Morris Minor steering
suspension arms and geometry virtually identical   - with a rear steer Ackerman geometry the  de rigour late 50's racing setup (the shocks are identical)

Rear suspension - the Elva used the lightweight rear end from a Riley 1.5 a B Series powered Morris Minor (think Sprite extended)   if your MGA powered Riley could use it - so could your new Elva (truth was that axles broke on both cars - just as they do on racing Spridgets)  - It is the cars Achilles heal

Lotus used an expensive independent design with a Sprite differential  -  Elva added a bit of sophistication in the 4 bar link and long travel coil over shocks - but appropriately simple and effective for a lightweight less expensive car -

(Side note - the body mounted differential in the Lotus does whine - not every solution is perfect again fixed with the Elan - diff mounted to the fame)

Brakes - Elva used Drums from  a Hillman Minx a relatively  big family sedan  - Lotus used Girling Disks all around  -  Elva gave an option for front disks  - it wasn't popular  - both cars had a racing pedal setup with dual masters and bias bar to adjust brake pressure front to rear.

Wheels - Borrani Alloy Wires   for the Lotus   -  Elva used Pierced Hole Morris Minor - special made but steel none the less -  Alloys were available on the Elva - but dearer than even the Borrani's   Most racers used steel - cheap and plentiful

Engine

Here is the kicker and the money saving piece  - Elva had a relationship with BMC for supplying the A Series Formula Junior engines (think Sprite)  - they bought Coventry Climax engines for sports racers - but Lotus had recently sewn up Coventry on the new Elite and gave Coventry dreams of Formula 1   -

Everybody was selling cars like hotcakes to build the English postwar economy - engine producers had their order books filled. - Good engines were in short supply

The BMC B series was the most produced English engine at that time and would be for a while  - it was cheap, it was powerful when tuned,  it was available  and in several guises
  Riley
  BMC
  Wolesley
  MG
  and Gold Seal BMC Factory Replacements

Harry Weslake's facility was right across the road perfect for  getting a tuned and prepped engine  - Weslake had developed the BMC B and A series cylinder head for BMC  - who better to extract maximum reliable power.

Bingo - an Engine and transmission combination - plentiful, easy to service - sporting pretensions - nearby expertise - and not temperamental

The Elva was 500 lbs less than an MGA and 600 lbs less than a  62 MGB  - but  a 350 lbs more than the Elite almost all in engine weight

The car is balanced 50-50 and side to side with a driver only

This package delivered near Jag XK150 performance for less than a Healey and weight under Porsche's vaunted Speedster -  Very Exciting for it's time and very competitive

Built for racing right from the showroom  - no need for modification  -   Elva's tore up the tracks across the US   - Mark Donohue was one of the hotshoes to look out for.  And hey if you blew one up - there was another engine waiting in the nearest junkyard (or in the paddock)

The Elva even solved the early MGA race engine heat problem  -they supplied  a very big copper radiator  - custom designed built for the car -


They continued building Elva Couriers in some form right up to 1965
the later ones sharing the independent rear end with TVR and
powered by MGB spec motors

The Elva Courier -  a former day MGA Outlaw

When we went looking for an E Production race car in the Eighties in order to compete with MGB's  - Elva Couriers's were the hot ticket - the same engine (or 1622 displacement and lighter weight) -  but Tube Framed glass bodied adjustable suspended BMC powered  War Horse  - John Kelly was tearing up the tracks 15 yrs after the last Elva was produced and - Craig Chima went on to win EP in 2003 - We ran out of money (tires mostly) - but we could a been a contender we were fast enough.

You want more performance from that B Series lump in your car -  Less is More










the Elva Courier is not a bad way to go

Given a set of ear plugs I would drive all day, alone and unsupported  -

Something only a very rare Lotus Elite owner would attempt

Mostly due to my reliable MG heart





Thursday, September 1, 2011

Portland All British Field meet

The Elva wasl  at the Portland All British Field Meet



We too home a First - this year

Next year we will enter in MG "Other"

After complaining about the short shift the "other guys Non-Marque British Cars got in previous years"  hardly anyone showed up to get their trophies - sad


For the MG guys look out - we are coming your way  

The Elva Book

Well - in the works from the Mid 1980's  the Elva Book finally reached the press

It tells an accurate and winding story of a successful car company, that was a household name in racing in the US in the late 50's and Early 60's and faded into memory to only vintage race enthusiasts and car owners.

It will be nice in that there will be a reference book to go to and eliminate the - here say - prevalent among even the most knowledgable experts about Elva's  and particular to this blog,  Elva Courier's

The book shows early development COurier mules being driven around with sandbags to get the weight distribution correct, the early factory photos  and  a very good story about the Courier LeMans effort.  - Think "Worlds Fastest Indian" mix in a few american servicemen in France, a group of Technical college engine guys and a subscription to pay for the entry fee -

New automotive stories are hard to come by - this one is fresh - it includes

Racing - Famous names - how the British helped BMW and Porsche

I hope I stirred a little intrigue  - David Bull Publishing Click Here if you are interested has the book

Worth a Read