FACTORY PRODUCED SEVENS:
in the previous chapter, the Edward Lewis Seven was in effect a “Le Mans”
Eleven without the aerodynamic bodywork having de Dion rear suspension,
disc brakes to all wheels and aluminium Coventry Climax single overhead
camshaft engine. According to the records only five of these special cars
were produced by the factory; four with 1098cc. FWA engines and the fifth
with the larger 1460cc. FWB version. The FWA powered cars were:-
#400, the Lewis car already detailed which rumour has it was last heard of
somewhere in Africa.
was supplied to Jack Richards who, as well as being a long standing Lotus
customer and successful competitor, was also Competition Secretary of Club
Lotus. This car was described in Ian H. Smith’s book as “one of the most
beautifully finished sports-racing cars ever to be seen – every possible
part on the engine was chromium plated, even down to the dipstick.” The
car is still in the U.K. with original specification.
#462 which was sold to Eric Pantlin, a motorcycle racer who had raced an
Eleven and a Jaguar XK150 during the 1957 season. Eric specialised in
short circuit racing and in 1959 had three 1st and two 2nd
places from eleven races. The car was found wrecked in a Cornish quarry in
1980 and was restored and is now believed to be in the U.S.A.
#479, the last of the FWA powered de Dion cars went to James Obeysekere, a
Junior Minister in the Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) government of the day. It is
believed to still be with him or his family today.
#421, the only 1460cc FWB powered de Dion Seven produced by the factory
was supplied to Paul Fletcher in exchange for his Porsche 356 which
Chapman wanted for personal transport to European race circuits. The car
later had a successful racing history in the hands of Mike Warner of The
Cheques Flag Garage and Betty Haig of Ladies Hill Climb fame is in
1460cc FWB Coventry Climax o.h.c. engine in #421.
At this point it is worth noting that #436, Reg: 7TMT, the car that won
the famous 1958 Boxing Day at Brands Hatch race in the hands of Graham
Hill, was actually a ‘live’ axle FWA car with drum brakes like other
production Sevens of the day. It was the factory demonstrator and first of
the Climax powered Lotus Super Seven models, later dubbed the Lotus Seven
“C”, that made up about 10% of the Series One production.
THE MOTOR SHOW 16 – 26 OCTOBER 1957:
Lotus had Stand #119 at the 42nd International Motor Exhibition
at Earls Court. According to the Official Catalogue Lotuses exhibits
consisted of an Eleven Le Mans 85 model, an Eleven Club model and the new
Type 14 2-seater Coupe (to become known as the “Lotus Elite”). It would
seems that with all their efforts at getting a mock-up of the new Coupe
ready, Lotus did not display their other new car, the Seven at the show,
although a demonstrator was available at their factory should anyone wish
to sample it.
first Lotus Seven Brochure.
THE FIRST PRODUCTION SEVEN:
production Seven was considerably less sophisticated than the prototype
Lewis car and the other four special de Dion Sevens. It had more in common
with the “Sport” version of the Series Two Eleven having engine and
gearbox from the 1172cc. Side-valve Ford 100E, rigid ‘live’ rear axle from
the BMC/Nash Metropolitan and drum brakes to all four wheels. The engine
produced between 28 and 40bhp depending on state of tune and the 3-speed
gearbox had a Buckler ‘C’ type close ratio gear set. The first twenty five
or so cars had Burman steering boxes, but the racers found these
unsuitable and, after much persuasion, Chapman agreed to the same rack
arrangement used on the Eleven Series Two being fitted. These were left
hand drive Morris Minor racks cut down in length and fitted upside down to
produce the Ackermann effect with the steering arms behind the centre of
1172cc Ford 100E sidevalve engine in #401.
previous Lotus models, the chassis frames were made by Progress Chassis
Company and the all aluminium bodies were crafted by Williams and
Pritchard, both local firms in nearby Edmonton. Like the Eleven before,
the floor and the transmission tunnel were stressed members fixed with
‘Monel’ steel rivets to help the stiffness of the chassis. The floor was
in two parts, but continuous front to rear with apertures around engine
sump and differential casing. The grades of sheet used were the hard, L72,
from the engine bulkhead to the rear and slightly less hard, NS4, around
the engine and for the transmission tunnel where wired edges were
required. All but a handful of cars left Lotus in bare aluminium for the
owners to polish or have painted as they wished. They weren’t, as is
popularly believed, polished by Lotus! According to the factory records
the first production Sevens started appearing from the factory in December
1957, although other sources suggest that it was well into 1958. #446,
#447, #448 and #449 were the first to be exported to the U.S. for agents
Jay Chamberlain in Burbank, California and John Possellius in Detroit,
Michigan late in 1958. Give or take a handful all the first 100 cars (#400
to #499) were made at the Hornsey factory.
Mark VI before it, the concept of the Seven was as daily transport to work
during the week and for entry level competition at week-ends. The race
series that many entered was in the Seven Fifty Motor Club’s 1172 Formula
based around Ford’s E93A and 100E side-valve engines. Of the first 100
cars made, well over half, that remained in the UK, competed on the race
track. Of what was to become known as the Series One model, the 100E
powered version, later known as the Seven “F”, made up over sixty percent
of total production.
Photographs by courtesy of:-
Ferret Fotographics TEL: 01453-543243
Sources and further reading:
Lotus Seven by Jeremy Coulter (198?)
Lotus – All the Cars by Anthony Pritchard (1990)
The Lotus Book by William Taylor (1998)