LOTUS SEVEN REGISTER
the web site for the
Seven made by Lotus between 1957 and 1973
The South American Lotus Seven.
In 1969 Jorge Mutio, an Uruguayan businessman, fell in love with the Lotus Seven whilst on a business trip to England. At the time the Renault factory he was running on the outskirts of Montevideo had ceased production and he was looking for something to occupy his mind. As a former racing driver who had competed in Maseratis, Simcas and Panhards with some success, the Seven caught his imagination.
When he returned home he told his English speaking friend, Richard Vignoles about the wonderful little sports car he had seen and the pair of them returned to the U.K. and bought one. So great was their enthusiasm for the little car that they also got permission from Colin Chapman to build replicas of it for the Argentinean market. The main reason that Argentina was chosen rather than Uruguay was that the latter only has a population of some 3 million whilst Argentina has eight times that. Whilst there was nothing in writing and there no royalties were demanded, it was agreed that, before they went into production, a Lotus manager by the name of Mike Warner would approve the prototype.
The Seven was duly shipped to Buenos Aires and used as a pattern to make the prototype. This work was carried out in the home garage of an Argentinean named Edgardo Boschi. The engines, drive trains, and brake systems etc. were all sourced from Fiat for ease of supply and servicing. Eventually Mike Warner came to Argentina and inspected their work and returned with a photograph of the English and Argentinean Sevens side by side which is shown on page 66 of Jeremy Coulter's book "Lotus Seven - A Collectors Guide". Later on when over for the Argentinean F1 Grand Prix, Colin and Hazel Chapman saw their work and encouraged furtherance of the project. Finally 'production' commenced in a little factory found by Edgardo Boschi. Richard Vignoles advised on the car's construction having built the prototype and Jorge Mutio supplied his expertise as a long time car constructor.
Between 1969 and 1972 around 30 of these Argentinean Sevens were sold with the Lotus emblem on the nose. The cars were only offered completely assembled with the engines and drivetrain coming from the Fiat 1600 in two states of tune: 87bhp. and 100bhp. Optional equipment included: tinted windscreen, two tone paintwork, close ratio 5-speed gearbox, luxury upholstery and alloy wheels. In 1971 the price of a standard Seven was two million Argentinean pesos. The name of the enterprise was "Lotus Argentina S.A.I.C&F".
In 1970 the Uruguayan Renault factory started working again and Jorge Mutio decided to build a Seven for the Uruguayan market using Renault 12 components instead of Fiat 1600. Richard Vignoles modified one of the chassis frames to take the Renault transaxle gearbox in the back of the car with fully independent suspension hung from it and a prototype was produced. The result was less power [75bhp] but better cornering and braking with a better balanced car.
Later, things got better for Renault in Uruguay and both Seven projects were dropped. Today Jorge Mutio lives in Montevideo and Richard Vignoles is in San Diego, California where he is building another Seven with his two sons. Sadly Edgardo Boschi died and his widow sold the moulds; so now there are lots of other replicas in Argentina using Fiat 125 engines, a different front suspension design and a slightly larger chassis.
As for the cars that survive: I have details of four of in Argentina and also the Renault powered prototype in Montevideo. From the photographs it can be seen that all the cars are well cherished.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: This article was written with information supplied by Pablo Benech, the current owner of the Uruguyan prototype.
j.w.w. - 18th. June 2000