What is a perfect sports car, you might ask? The one that is light, has a small but efficient motor and is not complicated like the wind in your hair. He may or may not have too much space considering he’s built for two, but he’s got a lot of heart. Like the Lotus Seven roadster.
Lotus Cars Limited began life as Lotus Engineering Ltd, by engineers Colin Chapman and Colin Dare in 1952. But even before that, Chapman had built his first racing car in 1948, in his garage, and the first factory. Lotus was makeshift, in a few old stables in north London. The first cars made by Lotus were kit cars, something people could put together with their own hands because it saved them money on taxes. And Lotus’s first kit car was the Lotus Seven which was introduced in 1957.
Production cars didn’t become a thing for Lotus until 1962, with the Lotus Elan, so it’s clear that the Lotus Seven was enough to sustain and grow the business for quite a number of years. So here’s what we know about the car and why it was so amazing. Plus, as an added bonus, this is how the Lotus Seven is still alive today, in case you fancy one.
An ode to Colin Chapman
Colin Chapman was just 24 when he founded Lotus Cars, under the name Lotus Engineering, and it is rumored that his then-girlfriend (and late wife) was nicknamed by him Lotus Blossom, hence her name. 30 years later he was gone. But not before we have produced successful Lotus car after car, for the masses and for racing.
His father’s sponsorship races made F1 the giant it is today, being just a gentleman’s pastime. This is the man who started using struts as a rear suspension, which is why they are still referred to as Chapman’s struts.
The 1962 Lotus 25 Formula racing car pioneered the use of a unibody chassis. He is the man behind the billboards on F1 cars. He added so much to the downforce and aerodynamics realm, pushing for modernity wherever he saw fit. Even though he died of a heart attack at the age of 54, his legacy lives on, and not just in the Lotus Seven.
The origins of the Lotus Seven
When Colin Chapman created the Lotus Seven, he was a little flippant about it, saying, “There wasn’t much really. It was all well-known stuff, the kind of thing you could do in a weekend.” While modest about it, the Lotus Seven was truly a stripped-down roadster, very unsophisticated, and existed for the sheer pleasure of driving fast.
From 1952 to 1955, Lotus sold MkVI racing cars. Chapman wanted to bring the MkVI to the masses, and the Seven became his natural successor, in kit form. The first came from the 1 Series, all right, and powered by a 1,172cc Ford four-cylinder engine. Only 243 of these were made, with the base engine developing just 28 horsepower.
This car was called the F series, then came the Super Seven, also known as Seven “C”, which now produced 75 horsepower on the Coventry Climax engine, and only about 24 of these cars were made in 1958. Next year , the Seven A saw the light of day, now running on the same 948cc or 1098cc engines that powered the Austin-Healey Sprite and even the MG Midget.
Finally, the 2 Series arrived in 1960 and became the most popular model with 1,340 sales. And they came both left and right, proving it wasn’t just Britain that loved a racy roadster. Since then, until 1968, the Lotus Sevens 385 Series 3 and 887 Series 4 also appeared with varying engines and powers before Lotus abandoned the Seven.
After Lotus 7 came the Caterham 7
In 1973, Lotus decided to ditch the kit cars and now make premium sports cars, as well as the racing cars it was well known for. But the Seven was so popular that he could go on, even without the Lotus name. Thus, the rights to the Lotus Seven were sold to English cars Caterham and Steel Brothers Limited of New Zealand.
By 1974 Caterham ran out of Lotus Seven Series 4 kits, so they made their own version of the Series 3 and called it Caterham Seven. And the Caterham Seven is still sold today, although with modern updates and security technology it looks nothing like the Lotus Seven of yesteryear.
Today Caterham also sells the Road Sport and the Superlight, and these two versions are futuristic descendants of the Lotus Seven itself.
They aren’t as naked as they used to be, but still find plenty of markets to thrive on. For purists, however, there was nothing quite like the Lotus Seven of the 1950s or 1960s, a car whose sole purpose was to go fast, with the heck of a ride.
Sources: Hemmings, CaterhamCars
The 0-60 MPH run of just 1.8 seconds will surely hurt Elon Musk.
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