Lot 52 – 1962 Lotus Super Seven Series 2
Bid Here: Finishes: 08:00 pm Monday 14th May 2018
“Every Sports Car enthusiast should own a Lotus 7”. Road and Track, April 1968.
From a lockup at the back of his dad’s pub, genius designer and engineer Colin Chapman took his fledgling car company to the purpose built factory in Hethel that Lotus still occupy today via Delamare Road, Cheshunt. During the scant seven years spent in Hertforshire from 1959 to 1966 he also moved them from backstreet blacksmiths – or ‘Garagistas ’ as Mr Ferrari somewhat disgruntledly referred to them – to multiple World Champions selling road cars around the world and from fit for then purpose aluminium clad spaceframes to monocoque racers and backbone chassis equipped road cars; if there was a more exciting time in the company’s history, we can’t recall it.
Over this period of white-hot development for both the company and its road and race cars, the firecracker Lotus Seven was both the staple diet of the enthusiast market and, for the most part, the bread and butter winner that funded both the gestation of the Elan and Lotus’ racing endeavours.
By 1962 Lotus consisted of Lotus Cars Limited who were responsible for the production, marketing and sales of the road cars, (the Elite and Elan) and Lotus Components Limited who did the same for the customer competition machines – and notably if slightly illogically, the Seven. Perhaps Chapman’s vision of a more upmarket future for Lotus road cars resulted in the Seven being lumped in with the race cars but given it had far more in common with the spaceframe constructed competition machines from VI to 24 (Type 14 excepted) than the brave new Elan-shaped world of fibreglass and folded steel it did make production and indeed marketing sense. Relatively quick to produce, by dint of getting the buyer to bolt much of the car together themselves (hence saving a bunch of tax into the bargain), it made sense for the guys producing competition Lotus’ to assemble the Seven too and output noticeably ramped up and down depending on the stage of the racing season and hence how busy Lotus Components were building track cars. Though for its performance (zero to sixty in just over 6 seconds for the 1500 Super Seven) it was an absolute bargain at under £500 when an MGB was £950, it consequently can’t have made Lotus enormous profits but it kept the race car workers busy (and paid) in the off season and there can be little doubt that without it Lotus would not have survived.
1962 at Cheshunt; Clark J. parks his Elan in the company car park and pops in to check on the progress of his 25 Formula One car, Peter Arundell’s 22 is back and forth between its (count them) eighteen victories from twenty five starts in International Formula Junior, Elites are being prepared to win their class at Le Mans (Hobbs and Gardner finish 8th over all, a place ahead of the SEFAC Ferrari 250 SWB) and the 23 Sports Racer is in full ‘production’ as it excels, not least with Mr Clark at the wheel showing the Ferraris, Aston Martins and Porsches a clean pair of heals to at one stage lead by over two minutes at the Nurburgring. Oh, and Lotus Super Seven Chassis Number SB1615 is being built, its DNA doubtless infused with all that is going on around it.
OK, so having got a bit emotional about what a 1962 Lotus Seven is all about, what makes this special relative to any other ’62 Seven or to a degree any proper Lotus built Seven? For us it is just that; what we have here is to all intents and purposes what left the factory fifty-five plus years ago, a couple of minor additions and, consumables aside, virtually nothing taken away. Lotus may on the face of it seem to have been run in a slightly chaotic fashion with perhaps little time for record keeping but for Lotus Components at least, where tracing competition machines’ specification could prove useful, extensive records were maintained and better still these survive. Both the Factory Archive and Historic Lotus Register hold this information and the ever helpful custodians have been able to verify that this Super Seven has not only matching Chassis and Engine Numbers but also the vital frame and even carburettor numbers that it left the factory with; a very full house indeed. Further to this, inspection of the Super Seven also reveals a plethora of original features all present and correct:
Early painted, not enamelled nose badge
14” studded Springall wood-rim steering wheel
Cosworth rocker cover and Seven-specific inlet manifold
Correct throttle linkage for the Weber 40 DCOE 2 carburettors
Early three piece screen supports and correct pattern screen studs
Correct optional extra Smiths heater with its rare bulkhead mounted switch
Correct Series 2 Serck 8 gallon fuel tank (as fitted from April ’62 onwards)
Perhaps less exciting (unless you are a fully paid up, card carrying Lotus Seven anorak – guilty as charged) but still important indicators of originality are the various brackets fitted to the chassis that often get left off during restoration such as those for the optional cycle wings, the mount for the brake light switch and the odd little tab under the carburettors that seems to be there for no apparent reason. The original style rivets which are subtly different to those used more recently are present throughout and point to a car that has never been apart.
Against this we did note just a handful of minor non-standard items fitted; a fuel gauge and external fuel filler (both popular modifications in period), a more modern electric cooling fan and plastic oil filler cap. The ammeter and tachometer, while of the correct makes, are not exactly to the original design and the seat bases again vary slightly from factory specification in detail but not material.
Records on file indicate that the Lotus has covered just 425 miles in the last thirty years so a program of gentle but comprehensive recommissioning was wisely undertaken starting with fresh fluids and filters throughout. The brake system was overhauled, rubber components were replaced as required, the carburettors and wipers were rebuilt and the electrics gone through to ensure everything worked and a timely spark was available. Once oil pressure had been generated on the rebuilt starter, the engine fired up and ran sweetly. With a new set of tyres freshly fitted the Seven is booked in for its MOT on 30th April.
Cosmetically the Seven is a little off ‘showroom’ and frankly all the better for that. There are quite a few dinks and chips in the paintwork and its original yellow paint shows through the later green in places. There is the odd hole where perhaps a wing mirror might have been fitted in the past, now plugged with a bolt but this just bears testament to its previous use. The underside is suitably ‘shabby chic’ but again is completely in sync with the Lotus’ unrestored condition. The chassis tubes that can be seen, which in a Seven is the majority it must be said, look to be sound though some cleaning and an oily rag might be prudent. The trim, such as it is, is in good shape but as mentioned above the seat bases may not be original. The apparently original ‘lamiplate’ panels are in similarly good order including the dash which, fuel gauge aside, is to factory specification though the indicator and ignition switches have been transposed which seems an almost universal modification to bring the more frequently used item closer to the steering wheel.
Ignition on, a few pumps of the throttle and a quick fumble under the dash to prod the push button solenoid and the Cosworth pre-crossflow engine jumps into life immediately, showing a healthy 45 psi on the AC gauge. With no nasty noises (and a generous quantity of nice ones) the impression is of rude health and an eagerness that embodies the Seven’s character completely.
According to the Lotus Factory records mentioned above and detailed in the ‘Classic Certificate of Vehicle Provenance’ and covering letter held in its history file, this Super Seven was ordered by a ‘D Johnson’ (are you out there sir or madam?) via Lotus agent Anthony Crook of Bristol Cars (whose Aircraft arm built Elite bodies for Lotus of course) fame on 9th November 1962, leaving the Delamare Road factory on the 15th of that month. With the 116E 1500 Cosworth engine having only been introduced in September, it was one of the earliest Super Sevens produced in this, the ultimate, Series 2 specification. Benefiting from not only greater capacity but also a more robust five bearing bottom end and sporting twin Weber 40 DCOE 2s it would have given a reputed 90 to 95 brake horse power, at least five of which were rumoured to be down to the Cosworth rocker cover… As well as detailing the engine, frame and carburettor numbers, the certificate confirms that the Seven was originally finished in yellow.
The Super Seven next reappears in 1988 when it was sold by Christopher Neil Sports Cars to Dr Peter Nelson who was in the process of setting up the ‘Cars of the Stars’ Motor Museum in Keswick. Now sporting an ‘age related’ registration number it is thought the Lotus may have spent some time in America or perhaps just simply missed the deadline for the computerisation of records at Swansea. At this time it had apparently covered some 27,470 miles and though still yellow, Christopher Neil agreed to repaint it green with the exception of the nose cone. With the original “Prisoner” car, KAR120C, long lost Dr Nelson needed a Series 2 Seven to represent that most famous of Lotus’ in his museum and SB 1615 fulfilled that roll for the next twenty two years. During this time the Lotus was MOT tested a couple of times, on 16th September 2005 at 27,865 miles and 26th July 2011, 27,894 miles and when the museum closed in 2011, Dr Nelson retained the Seven and kept it in storage in Keswick. The current owner bought the car a few months ago as part of a deal involving his beloved Lotus Elan but with an Elise on order from Hethel the Seven has to go.
Please note that the V5C has a standard worded note that NSU 659 was subject to a commercial insurance claim where the cost of repair was deemed to exceed the value of the vehicle. Dr Nelson advised the owner that it was part of a larger insurance claim following the floods in Keswick in December 2015, however no further information regarding the exact details of the claim were provided. When the car was acquired by the present owner a detailed examination by a historic Lotus expert was carried out which revealed that the work required to recommission the car was not extensive. The scope and quality of the work subsequently undertaken and detailed above has now been externally endorsed by a recognised Lotus Authorised Service Centre and an inspection report detailing the condition of the car will shortly be available to interested parties. Furthermore the car is available for a full inspection by any registered bidder or their appointed agent prior to the auction close.
A respectable history file accompanies the Seven containing the aforementioned documentation from Lotus, the Christopher Neil sales invoice, current V5C and Inspection Report along with a copy of the museum guide featuring the car. The MOT certificate will be added as soon as possible.
There is something delightfully pure and delicate about a Seven on skinny wheels with narrow wings and for us this example epitomises that brilliantly. Coupled to that, as the saying goes, a car is only original once and with body/chassis units available ‘off the shelf’, Lotus Sevens are particularly easy to restore so that tends to be exactly what happens. Parts cars left the factory with are lost for ever through ‘improvements’ repairs or restoration and a machine with such a full complement of original items is a rare find indeed. Lovely though a fully restored car can be (and a recent auction would suggest over £33,000 is the going rate for such a car), this Super Seven is as close as possible to how it came out of the factory and could quite possibly be one of the last opportunities to acquire an unrestored car to do with as you see fit.
Registration number: NSU 659
Chassis Number: SB1615
Engine Number: S285718E