Impractical Beauty: 1974 Lotus Seven

1974 Lotus Seven

The Lotus Seven is one of those special cars. It isn’t practical, it isn’t a good daily driver, and it isn’t the most attractive machine ever built. Yet with all its problems, it can simply be described as brilliant. It is a work of mechanical art that has one purpose and that’s to go fast. It isn’t fast because of a massive motor or some fancy forced induction system. It’s fast because it’s lightweight. It lacks many of the creature comforts that most car have, but it’s not supposed to have A/C or a radio. Any feature that isn’t needed to be driven only adds speed killing weight! True Lotus built Super Sevens are very hard to come by, especially later cars. This one was originally in New Zealand, but is now in California. Take a look at this survivor here on eBay. Special thanks to Jim S for another great tip!

Lotus Seven nose

Describing this as a factory built Lotus Seven is rather difficult, as there weren’t any that were sold as complete cars by Lotus in ’74. To avoid taxes, Lotus was building these as kit cars. When they decided to change their image, they sold the rights to the Seven to Caterham in England and the Steel Brothers in New Zealand. The later only received 95 kits from Lotus, but was still assembling them into 1979. This means that while Lotus was no longer producing Sevens by the time this one was put together, it was in fact built by Lotus. Obviously we are using the term “built” loosely here, but it is amazing to find a true Seven kit and we hear the ones that were assembled by Steel Brothers were extremely well done and offered the most features.

Lotus Seven twin cam motor

Being a true Lotus Seven rather than a later Caterham version or one of the countless clones, this car is powered by Lotus’ twin cam straight four. It might only be rated for 105 hp, but with a curb weight under 1,200 lbs. you don’t need a lot of power to be quick. Colin Chapman believed winning races wasn’t about accelerating the fastest, but about consistency and maintaining speed through turns. Few cars can carve up the corners like a Seven and chances are you’ll have so much fun doing it that you won’t notice the lack of air conditioning or a radio.

Lotus Seven interior

Keeping with the minimalist and lightweight style of the rest of the car, it makes sense that the interior would be bare bones as well. The seller claims everything on this car is original, except the seats. Even the hardtop is original, which happens to be an extremely rare option. Some parties have already tried to get the seller to let go of the hardtop separately, but thankfully the seller has enough integrity to keep it with the car for this auction.

Lotus Seven tail

We would love to have a real Lotus Seven, but we know chances are we will just have to settle for a clone or a Locost. That doesn’t mean we can’t dream of all the impractical fun that we would get from carving up every mountain and back road we could find in one. Unrealistic and impractical as they are, there is just something special about these twin cam roadsters that we love. Does anyone else share our love for the impracticality of the Seven?

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Comments

  1. Mark E

    A unique opportunity for a Lotus Seven collector to have the NZ variant. Personally I love the philosophy behind the car but for nearly $20k there are many cheaper alternatives out there not to mention the universal answer to any automotive question: Miata! :D

  2. Horse Radish

    “Car was misrepresented. Condition overstated”
    Jun-05-13 14:24
    Ford : Other retractable hardtop (#281108988651) US $16,600.00

    Feedback for the above seller
    Ouch !, on a $16,600 car

    • Richard V

      The seller couldn’t even bother to properly fasten the top boot onto the body for picture #5. Nit-pick, I know, but…

  3. Dolphin Member

    I used to watch the Sevens beat up on the big fry at Thompson and other tracks back some decades ago. They sure could handle and it was great fun to watch. Never drove one but would love to.

    Yes I know the Caterham isn’t a real Super Seven, but for fun there’s a great video shot from a tuned M3 following a Caterham and a Nissan GTR around a hot lap at the Nurburgring. Lotus/Caterham fans will be happy to see the Caterham run and hide from both the flame-spitting GTR and the M3 despite carrying a passenger, which must have increased the payload in the Caterham significantly.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JymDSRhJeUc

    • Richard V

      Great video, thanks for posting. To hell with those hogs, the Caterham ruled that clip! Loved it!

  4. Graham Line

    That appears to be a Lotus 7 Series IV, which had an angular fiberglass body that went over poorly with the Seven traditionalists. Interesting, but not the model that brings the most money. 104 hp sounds anemic for a twin-cam, but I have been wrong before.

    • paul

      Yes agreed by the time they got to this style it lost a lot of it’s charm.

    • Mbell666

      105 bhp is right for an early standard twincam. Over it life it was up to 126 bhp for elan Sprint and +2. A full on modified race engine is good for 170 to 180 bhp.

      Not bad for a 1960’s 1.6L, 8 valve.moving a very light car.

      • Mbell666

        Looking at the eBay add it looks like it has “big valve”cam cover so it could have the 126 bhp engine which is about right for what lotus were fitting to cars in 1974.

  5. Rick

    Whenever I see a Super 7 it reminds of that enigmatic old TV series first broadcast on PBS in the late 60s called “The Prisoner” in which star Patrick McGoohan drove a Super 7 (presumably a Lotus) in the opening title sequence. At the time, the car was just as enigmatic as the series and it was difficult, if nigh impossible for a ten year old like I was to figure out just what kind of car he was driving, because there was no internet to just look things up on immediately like there is today. Fast fwd to 1989 and I had a chance to buy a completed and drivable Lotus-powered Super 7 kit car from the wife of the recently deceased owner, but I passed because it had never been titled and the asking price didn’t warrant what was likely to be the additional costly and time consuming hassle with the DMV. In retrospect I wish I had stepped and bought it, because it is one of just a few I’ve seen in my life. And let’s just say that the opening sequence of the Prisoner was the best part of the show.

  6. RickyM

    One of my Directors took me for 10 laps round Brands Hatch in Kent in his Caterham 7 and we were caught by the Porsches on the straight but easily pulled away on every corner. Then he lent it to me for 4 days and I had an absolute blast doing 630 miles around Kent’s lanes! Brilliant fun and definitely on my car wish list.

  7. Don Andreina

    Even though it’s got the Lotus badge, it’s the least desirable being the S4 with that rear body. Developed by Lotus employees Mike Warner and Peter Lucas behind Chapman’s back, it was nearly canned until Chapman took it for a drive. They made money on them too, unlike the S3. Still, they sold the rights to Caterham.

    It’s the most practical, but with so many excellent-grade continuation/replicas around this one is for the badge collectors. You can’t really beat the basic principle of the Seven, though.

  8. Dave @ OldSchool

    @Mark E A Miata is no alternative to a Lotus Seven, which was ONLY designed for performance, with anything for comfort being a ” second thought “…or necessary for road use ( like a full wind screen )

    There is no comparison between the performance of a Supper Seven and a Miata ..
    “These cars were so quick that many sports car clubs, including the Sports Car Club of America, didn’t know where to classify them, as the usual displacement divisions didn’t seem to apply. One club in England banned the Seven from competition entirely, prompting Lotus loyalists to wear T-shirts that said, “Lotus Seven: Too Fast to Race.”

  9. Chris H.

    I absolutely love these cars, but if I were going to own a fiberglass one, I’d rather have the Caterham. The rear haunches on this one are too ungainly, and honestly, in this color, it rather resembles a VW powered Manx.

    • Brian

      I will likely be considered a classless ox by the Lotus buffs, but you hit the nail on the head with your last sentence; it does resemble a dune buggie! It’s a matter of taste, but their are a few dune buggie kits out there that have a more pleasing styling to me than this, and could be owned for under 5 grand (way under). I guess this is just one of those cars that you either get it or you don’t and I don’t. Not to say that there are not car out there that I would be willing to pay 15-20 g for that others (wife included) would consider stupid!

    • paul

      Ditto on the tail & the square nose.

    • Jim-Bob

      Yup, this thing looks like it was beaten by a 1970’s ugly stick. I’d pass on this one and get a newer Caterham (R500 please! I want to go Veyron hunting…). They look better and have 40 years of additional chassis development.

  10. Rancho Bella

    I am a pre 75 Lotus loyalist………….this is not attractive no matter the angle in which it is viewed

  11. Paul C

    Super 7 with a Lotus 1558cc big valve twin cam rated at 125 hp.
    The rear end is ugly, looks like a beach buggy and there is next to no room in the footwell, I have to take my right shoe off so to be able to operate the brake and accelerator independently.
    The seats shown are not original. the originals were a very basic shell with a minimum of padding and a cloth cover.
    As for handling I persuaded some of the local “rev heads” owning big v8’s to come for a “leisurely” drive in mine. The look of terror as I went into the first corner was priceless and it only got worse from there.
    With a maximum speed of only125 mph, their cars would leave me for dead on the straight but cornering is a different matter.
    At above 80 mph the front guards can start to lift the front end, makes for lighter steering!
    Yes it is ugly and has some drawbacks but it is a lot of fun and exciting to drive, I love it!!

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