by John Watson
As mentioned 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.
#404 which 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 Lancashire.
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.
THE FIRST PRODUCTION SEVEN:
The first 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 the wheels.
As with 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.
EARLY SEVENS RACING:
Like the 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)