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
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.