Removing The Front Clam on a Lotus Elise

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Anything dealing with removing the front clam seems to be extraordinarily expensive, mostly due to the book time on removing and replacing the front clam. This guide will show you what it takes to remove the front body clamshell on an Elise or Exige.

You'll need to take the clam off to get access to:

  • Radiator and Fans
  • A/C heat exchanger
  • Engine Oil Coolers
  • Most Air Conditioning components
  • Front crash structure
  • Blower motor resistors

Remove the Front Access Panels


Remove both front access panels.

This part is easy, just unscrew the retaining screw and carefully slide the panel away from the center bridge in the clam.

There are 2 pins that stick into the clam's bridge and a slot that slides under the radiator outlet grills.


Remove both top radiator outlet grills.

There are 2 allen hex screws on each grill.

The radiator grills have 2 tabs and a pin that slide into the leading edge of the clam. Be careful as you lightly flex the grill and slide it out.

They also interlock with each other where they join under the center of the clam.


Remove both rear plastic radiator shrouds.

Again, each is held on with 2 screws and your trusty allen key will get them off.


Remove the 2 5mm allen screws at the base of the windshield on the top of the clam


Remove both front wheels liners. There's a myriad of fasteners attaching them to the car and other parts.

You may wish to remove the wheels at this point, in fact it'll probably make the job easier.

However, it is possible to remove the wheel liners without doing so by turning the wheels from side to side to gain access to all the fasteners.

Image 6947 from Removing the Front Clam on a Lotus Elise

Remove the 2 (per side) bolts attaching the clam to each door hinge cover.

When removing these, be careful, they may include shims that will fall out when removing.

The body panels just behind the wheels are attached to the clam with two bolts. One is easily visible if you open the door and look at the clamshell near the door hinge.

The other is visible from inside the wheel well behind the liner you removed in the last step.


Remove the 2 5mm allen screws at the top rear edge of the clam.

These 2 screws attach the clam to the base of the windshield pillars. They were a royal pain to remove on my car, but patience prevailed. The screw is not really visible as it's hidden in the center of the bracket that obscures your view.

Note again - there may be shims between the bracket and the body here - be sure not to drop them by adding some tape to catch them.


There are 2 completely invisible and terrible nuts that attach the bridge of the clamshell to the base of the wiper motor bracket.

These suck, mostly because there's no room, you can't see them, if you drop them, you'll never find them, and you have to lean precariously over the front of the car for long periods.

You will likely want to remove the wiper shroud and fuse box to gain space for your arms and tools.

I used a ratcheting 10mm wrench and used my second hand to catch the nut once it was removed.


Remove both headlight covers.

Removing the headlight lens requires removing 3 screws from the back side of the headlights.

On my 2005, the ones to remove are the screws, not the nuts. The nuts hold the headlight bracket to the clam, while the screws hold the headlight cover to the clam.

Be kind to those screws when removing them. Try not to apply sudden or impact type force to them because the retainers on the other side are thin, brittle, and expensive plastic.


Remove the large allen screw at the base of each headlight bucket in the front of the high beam.


Remove the screws attaching the crash structure to the clam at the lower front edges of the wheels behind the oil coolers.

If your car didn't come with oil coolers, these areas will be slightly different.

You'll have to remove 2 screws here. Looking toward the front of the car from inside the wheel well:

One screw will be inside the rectangular opening, attaching the lower outer edge of the clam to the support structure.

The other will be on the inner side of that structure, attaching it to the crash structure..


Disconnect the wires for the headlights and the turn indicators.

Feed the headlight wires through the clamshell so they won't hold on to the clam when it's removed.


The radio antenna wire is run along the bottom of the bridge on the clam, taped to the clam.

Disconnect it from the car just below the windshield wiper motor.


Remove the 3 8mm screws located at the trailing edge of the clam under the front of the car.


Remove the rest of the screws 9 holding the aluminum nose panel in place.

Removing this panel will give you room to tilt the clam up for removal. I didn't remove it, and regretted it. I noted that my local Lotus tech who had done dozens of clam removals during the oil cooler line recall also removed this panel.


Prepare a place for the clam when you remove it.

Figure out where you're going to put it once it's off the car. A set of saw horses with towels wrapped around them was my choice, you can find a nice soft place for it on the ground if needed.


Finally, it's time to remove the clam!!

But wait, it's not all that simple. The thing is really a big pain to lift off the car as it really hugs the area around the radiator.

If this is your first time - a friend can provide a second set of helpful eyes and hands once the clam is free.

Start by gently lifting the clam in different areas and looking for any remaining screws or attached components.

Those blind nuts at the top of the clam's spine had 2 long threaded studs that need to be pulled up and over the wiper bracket. That's a good place to start.

The lower edge of the clam's bridge/spine is particularly awful. This will require some polite and fearful flexing of the clam, just be incredibly diligent and cautious as the clam material is extraordinarily fragile.

Slide the clam slightly forward at first, attempting to clear it by any of the parts of the car it hits.

Then rotate the whole clam forward as if it was hinged at the front. Having a friend make sure you're not stressing anything or still attached to anything is super helpful here.

Once the clam is free, place it aside somewhere.

Image 6950 from Removing the Front Clam on a Lotus Elise
Image 6951 from Removing the Front Clam on a Lotus Elise

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