12 October 2017

More than an old car #39: Lotus Super 7

It is easy to wonder how this specimen in the picture is even a car, when it would remind us of a go-kart instead. Furthermore, its simple design doesn't distinguish itself as a 'old car' and I had trouble believing it at first. However, this 'bathtub on wheels', or the 1972 Lotus Super 7 Series 4 is still surviving even until today!

Lotus Cars started out as Lotus Engineering Ltd in 1952, founded by Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman and Colin Dare. If you take a closer look at the logo, you may notice the letters ACBC, which is actually the full name of the founder. It has produced both 'typical' road cars and cars that resemble the F1 models today [non-typical cars]. Lotus ran into financial troubles in the 1980s and was only bailed out rather fortuitously. It is currently owned by Chinese car manufacturer Geely and previously Proton in Malaysia had a stake in the company.

The Lotus 7 was produced between 1957 to 1972, and it has been praised as being simple, lightweight and delivering high performance. It was covered in aluminium panels and had a stiff interior frame, given the rather open nature of the vehicle. An innovation was the 'double wishbone' suspension, which is two wishbone-shaped arms attached to the wheel. It was surprisingly road legal and could be used for clubman racing [racing with prototype race cars]. Due to its simple design, it was a 'kit car' favourite and many spin-offs were created even until today. Some of you might be aware of a similar car produced under the Caterham model, but Caterham obtained a license from Lotus to continue producing such vehicles since 1973.

Most of the Lotus Sevens, including the Series 4, performed extremely well in acceleration, being able to reach 100km/h in 8.8 seconds.This Series 4 was powered by a 1599cc 4-cylinder engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 187km/h. However, the front tends to lift up at speeds of 110km/h.  It weighed 590kg and was 3.67m long. Only 664 were made and I am aware of at least 1 other model existing in Singapore.

This is a unique model that allows one to enjoy the closeness to the road, the feeling of sheer power in front of them and the authentic racing experience. It certainly is more risky as less metal is protecting you and the cars around you. Although it may be too close for comfort personally, it is indeed a real head turner because you do not get to see such a bare-bones vehicle everyday!

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