Five Clas­sic Tri­als

It’s 60 years since Lo­tus’ thinly-dis­guised rac­ing car made its de­but. To mark the oc­ca­sion, we squeeze our­selves be­hind the wheel of an ul­ti­mate spec orig­i­nal Seven

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

Lo­tus Seven

The 1952 MkVI may have been Lo­tus’ first pro­duc­tion sports car, but it’s the Seven that’s come to be recog­nised as a leg­end – a ma­chine that blurs the lines be­tween road car and racer and is the blue­print for many a suc­cess­ful kit car. Cater­ham’s de­ci­sion to buy the rights to the Seven in 1973 means that it still in pro­duc­tion to this day – and yes; you can still build one your­self, if that’s your bag.

Ap­pear­ances alone sug­gest that you’re look­ing at some­thing spe­cial. Our car is a Se­ries 2, the orig­i­nal Seven pro­duced over the long­est pe­riod (1960-1968) and in the great­est num­bers (1350). It’s stark and func­tional, de­signed at a time be­fore aero­dy­nam­ics were con­sid­ered im­por­tant; weight is kept to an ab­so­lute min­i­mum thanks to the use of GRP in the nose and mud­guards, plus un­stressed alu­minium pan­els at­tached to the tubu­lar chas­sis. Were two peo­ple to sit in it, its weight would in­crease by around a third.

There’s only so long you can ad­mire it, though, be­fore re­al­i­sa­tion dawns – how are you sup­posed to get into it? Af­ter many abortive at­tempts, you’ll prob­a­bly find that the best ap­proach is to stand on the seat squab and slide in. There’s a sur­pris­ing amount of legroom – you can ac­tu­ally stretch your legs out – and while the ped­als are po­si­tioned close to­gether, they’re not so close that you’ll ac­ci­den­tally press the wrong one. And al­though the steer­ing wheel is so big as to be al­most cum­ber­some, it’s nicely raked and a good dis­tance from your chest. Leave the side-screens off, and you’ve even got enough el­bow room to com­fort­ably grasp the slen­der wooden rim.

Push­ing the starter but­ton adds to the ini­tial drama. Then there’s the view ahead through the tiny aero-screen, dom­i­nated by the swoop­ing wings, bon­net lou­vres and large chrome head­lamps. The rev counter is di­rectly in front of you, flanked on each side by oil pres­sure and wa­ter tem­per­a­tures gauges, with the speedo way out of eye line fac­ing the pas­sen­ger – clues that prove that this is a 100 per cent driver-fo­cused ma­chine.

Driv­ing it is noth­ing short of ex­hil­a­rat­ing. The low driv­ing po­si­tion, spar­tan cabin and sharp steer­ing all add up to a sense of be­ing at one with it.

It cor­ners in such a way as to seem­ingly defy cen­trifu­gal forces. There’s ab­so­lutely no roll or pitch; the Seven has near-per­fect front/rear weight dis­tri­bu­tion, which no doubt al­lies it­self to this car’s su­pe­rior road­hold­ing. There’s no hint of un­der­steer ei­ther – the only way you could truly unset­tle it is by can­ing it on a race track. Of course, the down­side to all of this is an un­for­giv­ing ride – pot­holes are def­i­nitely best avoided.

Lo­tus Seven afi­ciona­dos will no doubt have raised an eye­brow at the term ‘S2 Twin-Cam’ – it wasn’t un­til the Se­ries 3 that the Lo­tus Twin-Cam was mated to the Seven’s chas­sis (and even then only in small num­bers). Even ac­count­ing for the Twin-Cam that left the Lo­tus fac­tory in De­la­mare Road, Cheshunt, in March 1965 bound for rac­ing in New South Wales, Aus­tralia, this ex­am­ple was ac­tu­ally built in 1964, so it’s has clearly been up­graded at some point in its life.

The twin-cam 1600 en­gine, with its twin We­ber DCOE side-draught car­bu­ret­tors, revs to 8000rpm, though you’ll find your nerves jan­gling much ear­lier than that. Best to change up from sec­ond to third and ease off the throt­tle, be­cause this Lo­tus is alarm­ingly quick off the mark thanks to its in­signif­i­cant kerb­weight; it ex­cels at cov­er­ing short dis­tances ab­surdly quickly.

The gap be­tween the dash­board and the trans­mis­sion tun­nel is very nar­row, with only just enough room to rest your hand on top of the gear­knob; it’s not tech­ni­cally a lever be­cause it sits al­most in­side the gaiter. All four for­ward ra­tios can be en­gaged with the flick of the wrist with­out hav­ing to move your arm at all be­cause the gear­box has such short throws, though the clutch and gear­box are hardly light.

So, how can we best sum up this pared­back racer for the road – thrilling? Cer­tainly. Un­com­pro­mis­ing? Def­i­nitely. It’s no longdis­tance mile-muncher, but for some­thing to take to DEFCON 2 on an empty switch­back road, it has few peers.

Colin Chap­man fa­mously told his en­gi­neers to ‘sim­plify and add light­ness’ and the Seven is the per­fect dis­til­la­tion of that ethos. For that rea­son alone it is, quite sim­ply, sen­sa­tional.

low, def­i­nitely not slow. Those are cortina Mki wheels, in case you were won­der­ing. THANKS TO Uk sports cars of wing­ham near canterbury in kent. This 1964 lo­tus seven s2 Twin-cam (re­built only 3000 miles ago) is cur­rently for sale priced £35,995 af­ter spend­ing the past ten years with its pre­vi­ous owner. 01227 728190 uk­ a de­gree of trial and er­ror is re­quired to es­tab­lish what each of these tog­gle switches does. WHAT TO PAY // CONCOURS £35-40k // EX­CEL­LENT £34-25k // USEABLE £24-11k // PROJECT £4-10k Words Chris Hope Pho­tog­ra­PhY Richard Gunn

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