By John Barram.
In 1963 Lotus won their first Formula One world title then won again in 1965 and 1968. In the mid 60s as a high school boy my head was already filled with thoughts about “proper” English sports cars, driven with string-backed driving gloves.
Then among these MGs and Triumphs appeared the Lotus Seven. It hardly seemed fair! Here was a car only a few steps removed from their dominating race cars, that would blow the socks off anything else on the road, and it was road legal. I fell in love.
By 1970 I was ready to step up from my Austin Healy Sprite, when a Lotus Seven came up for sale in Brisbane. What was a young man supposed to do? So, with very little bargaining I bought my 1962 Lotus Seven.
This was to be the real Sports Car experience. Drive the car to work during the week and do car club motor sport at the weekend. I was soon into Motorkhanas, Sprints and Hillclimbs and even did a couple of trips to Sydney in the Seven. By 1975 I was looking for a bigger challenge in the Seven so decided to run it in the race meetings at Lakeside and Surfers Paradise. I did not mind being at the back of the field against dedicated racing sports cars and I usually managed to keep one or two cars behind me.
That was a lot of fun but a suspension failure at Lakeside put me into the fence and made a big mess of the front of my car. The wonderful Penny was already a part of my life and a month later we were married.
While I soon stripped the car and had the frame repaired, the project became a full restoration job and was put on hold. The plan became to fit the car with a big horsepower twin cam Lotus motor and paint it bright yellow as a fast and showy road car. The Lotus Seven was no longer a race car. This remained the dream while energy and time went into the house and then children.
In 1979/80 I raced a competitive ASP Clubman race car before sanity prevailed and I sold it to my brother and focussed on the family. Years passed.
By the mid nineties I was back onto the Seven in earnest. The goal now was to rebuild it as close as possible to a Super Seven of its era and use it for Sunday drives. Yellow was replaced by British racing green. The engine went back to the specs for a car from the sixties. Even the suspension was set up with springs and shocks for road use and the car was re-registered in 2000.
We enjoyed Sunday morning drives in the mountains and had some success as a concours car. However, it wasn’t many years before I was tempted to run in the Historic Noosa Hillclimb. Then it was Speed on Tweed and then it was doing Regularity drives at Historic Race meetings.
Meanwhile, I was getting less enthusiastic about driving the Seven in modern traffic. So we bought a ‘97 Elise as a Sunday drive car and there was even less reason to drive the Seven on the road. About this time I was introduced to open wheeler race cars and soon had a Cheetah F3 car from the seventies and was back in racing while the Seven gathered dust. However, a crash in the Cheetah and a slow restoration of that car brought the Seven to the fore again. It is now Log Booked for Historic Racing and I am enjoying racing it against other sports cars of the period.
In 50 years a lot has changed but the Seven is still with me. I suspect my first race car will also be my last race car but that will not be for some years yet!