DEMAND IN THE U.S:
middle of 1958 four Sevens had been exported to the U.S., but the
Americans were not impressed with the Ford side-valve engine and
associated 3-speed gearbox offered with it. To them side-valve technology
was a thing of the 1930s and then a quarter of a century out of date and
whilst the handling characteristics were appreciated this did not outweigh
the fact and so there was no demand for the model.
“A” SERIES POWERED SEVEN:
economical solution was found in the form of BMC’s Austin A35/Austin
Healey Sprite 948cc. “A” Series engine and Austin A30 aluminium cased
4-speed gearbox. Infact a Seven customer named Derek Harvey had installed
an “A” Series engine in his car a year earlier and this had been seen by
Lotus engineers when Derek visited the factory on completing the project.
came there were two BMC powered versions of the Seven. The first appeared
in August 1959 for the home market with an Austin A35 engine with single
H1 SU carburettor and was called the Lotus Seven “A”. Almost immediately,
this was followed by Daniel Richmond’s Downton tuning firm advertising a
version with more power.
Downton Brochure for the Lotus 7A.
1960 Sports Car and Lotus Owner reported that “A prototype Lotus Seven
intended basically for the American market is undergoing extensive testing
at Cheshunt. Special equipment on this car includes flared glassfibre
front wings, a BMC “A” Series engine to Sprite specification, tubular
bumpers, winking indicators, a thermostatically-controlled electric
radiator fan and an Elite-type windscreen wiper motor. In April 1960 the
same magazine reported and pictured the Lotus Seven “America” at the Ford
Motor Company car show at Detroit. The same car was featured on the front
cover and in a road test report in the June 1960 issue of Sports Car
Front Cover Sports Cars Illustrated June 1960.
smaller in capacity than the old Ford iron, the BMC unit was up on power,
had good torque and good tuning potential. With the BMC powered car being
dubbed the Seven “A”, the continuing side-valve model was named the Seven
“F” and the Super Seven Climax version was re-dubbed the Seven “C”.
Front of third Lotus Seven
of the engine/gearbox combination required changes to the body chassis
unit: Firstly the “A” Series 4-speed gearbox was somewhat larger than the
old Ford 3-speeder and a ½” x ½” vertical member had to be moved over,
narrowing the footwell a little. All the Hornsey cars had bottom mounted
clutch and brake pedals with the clutch operating directly off the
actuating arm by way of a link rod. The new Cheshunt-built cars had
pendant pedals with master cylinders for both clutch and brakes above the
footwell. Lastly to comply with U.S. requirements John Frayling and Peter
Kirwan-Taylor designed long flowing front wings for the “America” model
dubbed “Clamshell” wings. These replaced the static cycle wings which were
not approved of in some states.
Lotus were bulging at the seams at the little Hornsey works. Already work
to the Elite was being carried on elsewhere. With the Elite, the Fifteen
and Sixteen Formula car and the Seven, it was only a matter of time before
the move came. When it did it was to a new purpose made two unit factory
premises in Delamare Road, Cheshunt just up the A10 from Hornsey in
Hertfordshire. Operations were moved to the new factory in July 1959 and
the premises was officially opened on 14th October with many
dignatories attending on the day. Lotus Seven kits were produced in the
first floor area above the formula car production area, the chassis frames
being lifted via a gantry at the front.
Lotus factory, Delamare Road, Cheshunt,
Hertfordshire from helicopter.
with the move to a new factory, Lotus was reorganised into the Lotus Group
of Companies. Lotus Components Ltd. produced sports racing cars including
the Seven, in component form for the home market and fully built for
export under the leadership of Nobby Clark. A new company, Lotus Cars Ltd.
produced the Type 14 Elite and subsequent touring cars under the direct
control of Colin Chapman. Another new company, Lotus Developments Ltd.
staffed by existing development employees were solely concerned with the
design and development of new models for the other two manufacturing
companies under the control of Mike Costin.
to the move to new premises and the new company structure, a dealer
network for the distribution of the Seven and future models was announced.
The network included about 18 dealers from all parts of England and later
Scotland including Caterham Car Services Ltd. of Townend, Caterham-on-the-Hill,
Surrey. Telephone Caterham 2540.
in weight, the Seven was a car popular with the tuners of the day. Firms
such as Downton, Speedwell, Alexander with their BMC modifications and
Cosworth with their Ford ones, all ‘played’ with the Seven to show what
they could do to the best advantage.
to the three standard engine options (Ford sidevalve, Coventry Climax
overhead cam and BMC “A” Series overhead valve) the new Ford 105E Anglia
engine offered a free-revving readily tuneable unit of over-square
cylinder design which was installed by dealers like Caterham a year ahead
of the factory themselves.
END OF ALL
ALUMINIUM BODIED SEVEN:
September 1957 and the middle of 1960 some 243 Sevens had left Lotus, 100
from the Hornsey premises and 143 from the Cheshunt premises in the last
year. According to the factory records, which are not complete, the
approximate percentages of engine types produced were 60% Ford, 30% BMC
and 10% Coventry Climax. All ‘weighed up’ it was reckoned that every one
of the original Sevens made had been sold at a loss and it was decided
that if the model was to continue at all it would have to be in a very
There is a
picture of a special bodied Seven standing outside the Hornsey factory in
Dennis Ortenburger’s book on the Lotus Eleven (page 14) It shows rear
bodywork of Eleven appearance and clamshell front wings on an unregistered
Seven. We show photographs of an early 1959 car (chassis #465) registered
YXR565 showing the same treatment to front and rear which is presumably
the same car, along with two monochrome photographs of the relevant panels
removed from the same car by a later owner. The pictures show a
rectangular aperture for storing the spare wheel horizontally out of
sight. Recently a Lotus Engineering Co. drawing from November 1958 has
come to light showing a Seven with Eleven style rear bodywork and
clamshell front wings which would suggest that infact this bodywork was
the work of the factory and it’s contractors. Both panels and car still
exist although alas apart.
Lotus Seven Eleven body
THE LOTUS 7
the race track brought out new ideas for the Seven. Not all of these were
generated officially by the factory. One of the more famous unofficial
cars was called the Lotus 7 ½ or the Lotus 7/20. David Porter had rolled
his Seven around Paddock Bend when racing at Brands Hatch. He had
previously been at engineering college with Hugh Haskell who had become a
project engineer at Lotus. The damage to the car meant that most of the
suspension and running gear had to be replaced and Hugh suggested that
they might go all-independent using parts from the Formula Junior Lotus 20
and installing a modified Ford Anglia engine by tuners, Cosworth. The
project, although unofficial, had Colin Chapman’s blessing and when
completed he was one of its drivers at the Six Hour Race at Silverstone
1962. The car was very successful in the hands of David Porter and
co-owners, Keith and Wendy Hamblin for two seasons and then for a further
three seasons with Natalie Goodwin. It was then sold to the U.S.A. and
then on the Japan where it is believed to be today. The 7/20 was the first
Seven with full I.R.S and was the fore-runner of the Lotus Three-7 I.R.S.
clubmans car of 1965.
Colin Chapman at the wheel of
the Lotus 7 1/2 at the Six Hour Race 1962.
by courtesy of:-
Fotographics TEL: 01453-543243
by Jeremy Coulter (198?)
Lotus – All
the Cars by Anthony Pritchard (1990)
Book by William Taylor (1998)