Monday, August 20, 2012

Car of the Week: Lotus 7

Beautiful polished aluminum series 1. Photo from wikipedia.

The 7 was developed by Lotus in 1957(!) and it has been in continuous production since. Lotus stopped producing them in 1972 but Caterham bought the rights and tooling will make you a kit or a complete car. The 7 is a sports car in very pure form. It is an open wheeled car with a fuselage main compartment. It will fit two people if they are not too broad in the shoulders. It is street legal but has no creature comforts... not even a roof. Curb weight started around 1100 lbs which endows the 7 with great handling, acceleration and braking. Downsides... well I would not enjoy the rain, the top speed is limited by a horrible drag coefficient and the front fenders produce lift at higher speeds. Other than that, I think I have been in love with this car from a young age.

Open wheeled cars have a simplistic beauty and uniqueness in the current automotive design vernacular. The 7 also consistently reminds you why it was built. Would you like to pick up some groceries from the store? Fine as long as there is none in the passenger seat as there is no trunk. Are you a little cold? maybe you would like to turn the heater on? Not going to happen, although you could just rely on the engine heat being conducted through the uninsulated aluminum body work. This of course creates another problem in the summer... Roll up windows, stereo, dome lights, locking doors, and cup holders are all purposefully left out in favor of lightness. Every time you reach for one of these things, and whenever you notice that there is no safety equipment or crumple zones it adds to the mystique, to the knowledge that the car you are driving has one purpose... To blow your mind on the road.

Why do I love it? This is no M5: it is not a family sedan with so much added that it needs 600hp to become a fast family sedan. This is not a inexpensive sports car (Ex: miata, Z3, MR2, etc.) that makes a bunch of sacrifices to be inexpensive and hence falls short in performance. This is a car with conviction. It does not apologize for not having air conditioning, it shows you why it does not have air conditioning. I also love that since Caterham bought the rights you can buy it in kit form. I love building stuff and would love to build my own car, pick the perfect engine, make my own steering wheel, lay out the controls etc.

Is it realistic? Well, money does not grow on trees as they say. So having a car that only seats 2, and can only be driven on nice days, and has to be parked in a garage... not so realistic (I don't even have a garage!) But none of this stops me from wanting one and appreciating all that it stands for. Maybe I should start designing a garage.

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