Posted: 11 October 2013 | Story & photos: RaceMasteR J

As Colin Chapman once said: Simplify, then add lightness. He couldn’t have applied that theory better when he came up with the Lotus 7 as it is still considered the embodiment of the brand. Originally designed in 1957 it is one of the most successful models today due to its boy racer appeal. Caterham currently own the rights to the car but there are still plenty made all over the world in kit car form. Today I got to drive a fine example of one.

While recently interviewing out local hero, Nurburgring VLN race winner, Antony Ashley he mentioned that he owns a Lotus 7 and asked us if we wanted to feature it. Hell yes! When and where was my response.

After some deliberation about schedules and weather, we finally settled on a day and boy was it perfect! After a solid few weeks of miserable rain, cold and even snow, the car gods shined down upon us and held Mother Nature hostage with a torque wrench making sure the weather was perfect!

I met up with Antony at Constantia Village and after a quick chat regarding the route, which would see us driving through Chapmans Peak, we hit the road... well, tried to. Getting in was somewhat of a mission, but that wasn't the problem. Getting the racing harness to fit around my well rounded 6 minus 5 pack was eventful. The whole time that we were sitting opposite the car chatting the car was left alone. But as soon as we got in it attracted onlookers from all directions waiting for it to start up.

Sometime later... I was buckled up and ready to go. Shades on, top down, not like there is one, we hit the road like jack.

The rout was to drive from Constanita to Ou Kaapse Weg and up past Silvermines into Noordhoek. But before we got into Noordhoek, we pulled over to take in the awesome view, of a Lotus 7.

I could finally absorb all about this car without any onlookers asking irrelevant questions and studying your every move.

It’s fascinating to notice all the little details that I've never seen before. This car is so simple, so basic, yet so rewarding to drive. It’s somewhat carnal, raw… pure. It’s an overgrown go kart!

A tubular chassis surrounded by sheet metal and fibre glass. Kind of like a go kart.

Exposed front wheels that you can always see exactly where they're pointing. Just like a go kart.

You sit mere centimeters off the ground. Just like... Yeah you guessed it, a go kart.

As much as it may be a track weapon, it’s fully licensed for road use. It’s a good thing too because we would not be able to take drives like this otherwise. The chassis was built by Freddy Van Heerdan as a wide and long wheel base configuration which also features a unique fiberglass mould with a custom power bulge over the engine. The rest of the vehicle was assembled by Peter Degens and Gerrart Deyoung.

It’s powered by one of the best 4 cylinder engines around, the 2.0L Opel Superboss C20 SE which was originally built by Koosie Swannepoel from KSD. It was however recently redone by Ferroli Motorsport and now makes 160kw’s and 220nm’s on 95 pump fuel. That is some very impressive N/A power right there. Couple that to a chassis that weighs less than me should make for a surreal experience.

Twin 48 Delorto’s and K&N filters sit alongside the Cosworth head which house the 272 Shriek cams and titanium valve springs. This combination plays an awesome soundtrack on the better side of 8000RPM. 4 into 1 banana branches and a custom made side exit single silencer exhaust do tend to scare the living daylights out of runners and cyclists, but we tried not to blast past them as best we could.

An Alfa Romeo limited slip differential sits in between the two rear mini lights wheels which are wrapped in Bridgestone 225/50/15 semi slick tyres. Antony does confess that he would like to make them a bit narrower to liven things up even more. That would be tones of fun on track but today, here in my hands, I was glad to have all the grip I could get.

Driving this Lotus was somewhat of a familiar feeling due to its close ratio Toyota 21R gearbox. But that was quickly tossed out the back as I was so unnaturally exposed to the elements around me my senses quickly hit the redline of overload.

With just a tiny wind deflector serving as a windscreen, the wind just about brushes over your head to give you that all important open top hairdo. The wind in your hair, the sun on your face, the Delorto’s screaming in your ears, the feel of that sued steering in my hands and being lower than most other cars windows, it really does expose you. My initial instinct was caution, but the more I got to drive it the more comfortable I became. It kind of feels like riding a motorbike, only sitting in a more relaxed position.

It sort of revs like a bike too! It does 0 – 100km/h in 4 seconds! The way it bounced off the limiter the first few times I opened it up was incredible. I was slowly getting used to the elements but now I needed to get used to its responsiveness. Not only from its engine, but from the way it naturally wanted to follow each camber of the road. The steering loads up just perfectly as you enter a corner which is thanks to its fully adjustable Spax suspension.

It’s a bit weird at first but as you get used to seeing the front wheels literally respond to your every steering input, it starts to make more sense and I understand why this is such a brilliant drivers car after experiencing it all firsthand.

Admittedly I did not drive the entire route, but I was all too happy to sit shotgun with the Nurburg-Ringmaster. The car is so direct, sitting passenger is almost as good as driving it yourself. With the Lotus valued at R175 000 in paper money and absolutely priceless to Antony, I was lucky enough to be handed the keys to his baby in the first place, and for that I say Thank you! It was an amazing bucket list experience for me to drive this Lotus 7 around some of the Capes best oceans.

Watch the video below and listen how it goes...

RaceMasteR J

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