Building a Lotus 7


Whilst reading the November edition I came across a full-page advertisement for the Lotus 7. The inference is that a 0-60 in 6.5 sec., 100-m.p.h., unbeatable car can be yours for as little as £499. Perhaps my experiences will be of interest to you and any potential buyer of the Lotus.

My kit was delivered early in April (I doubt if I would have it now, if I had not chased Lotus two or three times a week for a month over finance arrangements, insurance, etc.). The car was assembled after considerable trouble in five weekends (25 man-hours?). Some of the minor snags that I came across during assembly were as follows:—

The holes in the chassis frame to receive the engine mounts were fully 3/8 in. from their true position; I had to elongate the holes at both ends of the near-side engine mounting bracket, thus weakening it. Lotus ultimately replaced this mounting with a modified type which improved the situation. The silencer would not look at the chassis fixings and much graunching ensured to fit the exhaust system. When complete, it was not possible to select reverse gear; this was traced to a wrongly ground selector spigot in the remote-control assembly—my father-in-law spotted this one and a file had to be used once more. Ghastly engine misfire was caused by the rear inlet manifold, whose mounting flange had a 0.040 in. taper on it and admitted vast quantities of air, with a disastrous effect on the mixture. (Of course, such snags are nothing to an “Unspeakable individualist,” I suppose!)

Now for the car’s history to date (I should point out that my car is only a 105E-powered version at £516, sidescreens and flared wings extra). After very careful running-in the engine started to rattle at 800 miles, by 1,300 miles the noise was really bad, and Ford, through a local agent, changed all the rods and and small-and big-end bearings (free of charge). I then drove the car gently for 2,000 miles whilst on holiday and formed the impression that the performance was generally sluggish, so at 3,500 miles I recorded some performance figures—the car will stagger to 50 m.p.h. in 12.4 sec. and the absolute maximum speed is just 80 m.p.h. indicated. Imagine my feelings when a Morgan 4/4 played with me on the M 1 and then pulled away, a rapidly dwindling dot on the horizon; even an apparently standard 105E Anglia passed me (he has a higher back-axle ratio!).

The road-holding and steering are very good, it’s true, providing the road surface is smooth, but they fall off badly on a bumpy surface. The car has now covered 4,500 miles with no improvement in performance, and the small-ends appear to be rattling again.

My opinion of the Lotus 7 has suffered because of these experiences and I regret selling my archaic but lusty thoroughbred—a Morgan 4/4.

R.G. Formaggia.