Things may come and things may go, but the Seven goes on forever. Lotus launched two motoring icons at the 1957 motor show. One car was the Type 14 Lotus Elite Climax, which will be the subject of another article, the other car was the evergreen Lotus Seven.
The Seven was a less costly version of the similar looking Lotus Six. Lotus produced the Seven from 1957 through to 1973, when the rights to produce the Seven were passed from Lotus to Caterham. Caterham initially produced the glassfibre bodied 'beach buggy' styled Seven Series Four. The Series Four was not universally popular, and Caterham replaced it with what was effectively the Caterham version of the Lotus Seven Series Three. This style of Seven is still now in production, more than thirty years after Caterham took over production.
Most Sevens have been built to customer specifications, and therefore no two Sevens will ever be exactly looked upon as standard production models. Having driven many versions of the Seven in the past, it was time to refresh my acquaintance with the Seven. Millwood motor company provided a model of the Seven for me to test.
The Seven looks almost the same as it always did; at a quick glance you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing had changed, however, today's Seven probably shares only its overall looks with the original Seven and nothing more.
The Seven on test came in green with a yellow stripe; a traditional and popular Lotus colour scheme. The specification of the car was 'Super Graduate Competition', with all of the listed options included, most noticeable of these being the roll cage and the Stack instrumentation. The most apt description of this Seven is that it is a four wheeled motorbike.
Getting in is achieved via the top of the roll cage, and the car is not suitable for the less agile driver. Once into the car, you will need to connect up the full five-point harness to secure you into the bucket seat.
Disarm the immobiliser, turn the ignition key to the 'ON' position and press the big red starter button on the dash, and the engine fires up instantly. Blip the throttle, dip the clutch, slot into first gear and off you go.
You soon realise, with no protection other than the windscreen, that you will get some degree of buffeting at higher speeds on the road.
The Seven only needs a flick of the finger or a twitch of the toe to drive the car, as you are thinking round corners, thinking in straight lines ahead. It is possible to drive the car on the torque or on the revs equally easily.
It would be far too easy to regularly exceed the 70MPH limit in the U.K., as the light weight of the car combined with the power of the engine gives a superb power to weight ratio.
The Seven certainly fits like a glove, and man and machine become combined into a single unit.
The weather on the day of the test proved to be warm and sunny; the car with no weather protection whatsoever was ideal in these conditions. I certainly would have got pretty wet had it suddenly rained. In previous road tests, the highest mileage I have ever covered in a Seven is 1,200 miles in three days, without any major traumas. Fuel consumption with the Rover K-Series engines is always fairly frugal, even with spirited driving; the fuel consumption was very acceptable on this road test.
The Seven is not about top speeds, as it has all of the aerodynamic subtleties of the Albert Hall. The real key to the Seven's success is in the way it reaches its higher speeds with great alacrity, rather than its outright top speed. Certainly, on A to B roads the Seven dispatches the miles with great aplomb. The Seven will cruise along the motorway in fifth gear with no major histrionics, however, you usually end up with a good view of other vehicles' axles and an earful of hot diesel fumes. These small inconveniences pale into insignificance when you get that ear-to-ear grin provided in spades by the aural sensations emanating from the Seven.
Given the nature of the Seven, I cannot imagine too many owners or potential owners choosing to buy any Seven as an only car to use every day, come rain or shine. The Seven is the ideal car for blowing away the cobwebs and bringing back the joys of real motoring. If you have never driven a Seven or have not driven a Seven for a long time, I suggest you get acquainted with the Seven for some real seat of the pants driving experiences.
I doubt that when Lotus launched the Seven in 1957 they envisaged a car that would be in production for almost the next fifty years. I for one am certainly looking forward to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary in 2007.
Sincere thanks to Jon Vicker at Millwood Motor Company for providing a car for this road test.
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