Wednesday, September 21, 2005

To Garage Or Not To Garage?

That is the unanswerable question.

Ever since I bought the Elan, the race has been on to find a garage. The car was sat on my parents' driveway for a good few months which meant two things. Firstly, my mother was getting rather fed-up with her driveway not being her driveway. (Something my girlfriend's mother can also appreciate, not having a garage at the moment courtesy of her son's Alfa Romeo GTV6 - but that's a different story.) Secondly, I wasn't exactly filled with joy at the prospect of my motor spending the winter exposed to the elements in the rain-soaked north of England.

Finally, after months of searching, I found a spot in a privately owned, ex-council garage block, with reasonable rent (£100 a quarter - actually cheaper than my council garage rent in Epping). With a good deal of relief, I removed the Lotus from the afforementioned driveway and parked it in its new home.

Until recently, like many others, I held firm to the idea that cars over-wintering in a garage were somehow protected from time and the worst that could happen to a car in such a condition was a thin covering of dust. But then I read this article in Classic Cars Magazine which scared me silly! To summarise, the piece warns of the dangers of storing a classic car for winter, covered and in a cold, damp, concrete garage. Furthermore, the author goes in to great detail about all the expensive and destructive things such conditions can wreak upon your precious automobile.

Heavens to Betsy! The present storage conditions of the Lotus precisely match their worst possible case. It's even covered. Sounds like I'm doing everything the article says you shouldn't do.

My first reaction was to email Classic Additions, the manufacturers of my cover, to find out what they advised. They informed me since I had the "light breathable" cover, it was ideal (their exact words) for using in a cold, damp garage - indeed this was exactly the purpose it was designed for. Great.

So I had a chat with my father, who noted it has lived happily for more than a couple of years now in that very garage with no obvious damp problems. On top of this, it goes out for a good run every dry weekend God deems to send us (not that many, as the geographical location would have it), even over winter.

One further point worthy of note is of course the body shell. It's glass fibre, and the chassis is all one metal (and a modern galvernised replacement, as most Elans are now on since the original chassis construction was prone to rotting to nothing at an alarming rate) so there are very few places where the chemical principles of rust can come in to play.


But what about the Fiat? It has no such luck. It is already renowned for its shoddy build quality, especially the native models which seemed to be made from the off-cuts of the "for export" versions. One of the sills is already well filled, though the chassis is remarkably sound. Here I will have to be careful, as it too resides in a cold, damp, concrete garage, but with none of the advantages of construction which help the Lotus.

I will be inspecting the few appearing rust blebs regularly. And it will certainly go out and about whenever the weather permits, just to get some air circulating around the bodywork. Fingers crossed, eh?

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