History - Legend - Stories - For Sale
important: chassis numbers are as reported by owners -- their appearance here does not guarantee authenticity.
Joe Nepsa's 1963 Lotus Seven
According to the Lotus Seven Register, SB1736 left the works on July 18, 1963 with a Cosworth 1500 engine. "Surprisingly few cars actually have "COSWORTH" engines in the records, although most owners seem to think that theirs is one! This car seems to have been a genuine COSWORTH car!"
The DOT Test Certificate from the UK stated that on 19th December, 1977 SB1736 had covered 87,589 miles. The fellow that I purchased it from wasn't a mechanical guy. He took it to the local Shell gas station for some maintenance whereupon they did a few hole shots and broke an axle and tore up the diff. He sent the diff out, a 3:89 of Spitfire origin, to DSK and they rebuilt it and supplied another axle. The diff still has a DSK sticker on it. Realizing he wasn't able to maintain the car himself and neither could the gas station guys, he decided to sell it. I purchased the car in November, 1979 and drove it home, about 160 miles. There was snow on the ground and it was very cold. The driver's side curtain flap's inside snap was broken so I had to hold on to the strap as I drove in order to keep the flap closed. The plan was to sort it out as an autocross car and then move to the next level as a road racer. Well plans change and after driving it during the summer I put it away, yes in a barn in Wisconsin, to recover it as my own "barn find" some 5 years later.
After recovering the 7 from its barn I brought it back home on a trailer. Then the rebuild started. Everything that could wear out or rust was worn out or rusted. Starting at the front end, the brake calipers, uprights, trunions, stub axles were beyond saving. All the way to the rear where, when I removed the rear drums, the brake shoe material was solidly rusted onto the drums and came off their metal backing. So the restoration started with a complete replacement of everything. All the suspension hardware is AN spec with either grade 5 or 8 for motor mounts and the like. It came with a down draft Weber and a really nice ported and polished 113E head with some big valves. I just put this head back on last year (2012) during a complete engine rebuild. I did a light refreshing of the engine using the 4 bolt crank and 116E rods with new bearings and rings, a spin on filter high output oil pump, a116E head, new 7 1/2 inch clutch, etc. Apparently it had been hit in the right rear corner and some "butt" butt welded on a rear section but was off by about 1/2 inch too low at the outside which caused the car to be a little darty to drive. I drove it around for a few years in Illinois then shipped it to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Well Florida isn't the best place for a 7 -- straight, flat roads and heat -- so I shipped it back after a couple of years. Now I had completely rebuilt all the rolling gear and sorted out most of the bugs but the chassis was in dire need of repair. I had known Pat Prince for a few years and was able to talk him into taking a look at it to see what could be done. After an inspection he suggested replacing the entire rear section and "oh well we're at it" we might as well add; the additional bracing to the chassis, pickup points for seat belts, a rollover bar, heim joints to the frame pickup side of the front track control arms and rear trailing arms, additional bracing for the front lower A arms, a spherical bushing for the rear end A arm (all original the suspension parts were retained), a fuel cell, relocate the battery to the rear, do a reskin, etc.
It was a really smooth running project and Pat was terrific to work with. I picked up the CBU in March, 1993 and the work began. I enlisted the aid of my fellow Lotus Corps members which really helped get this project completed. What a great bunch of guys!
By this time it was too nice to turn into a race car so going forward it became a "restore to original" goal. As with the rest of the car the fiberglass was in pretty bad shape with some really beat up front wings and incorrect wide rear wings and but the original nose was in fairly good shape. I was able to source new front wings from Curtis in CA, narrow rear wings from Caterham UK and had the nose redone. As the original color was yellow we chose Miata yellow for the fiberglass leaving the body in bare aluminum. I had 2 of the Elan style wheels that came with the car modified for the rear by increasing the backspace which allowed for running Pirelli 165/80 x13 tires with no clearance problems with the narrow rear wings. Recently as the Pirellis were 20 years old and NLA, I decided to go with a set of Vredestein H rated 155/80 13 as their 165/80 were a bit wider than the Pirellis and I would need to take off the rear brakes, wheel cylinders and backing plates to pull out the axels, hopefully knock out the 3/8 inch wheel studs without bending the hubs so I could replace those with 7/16 inch longer ones that "may" fit in the hubs, refit all that stuff, bleed the brakes etc. just so I could get an 1/8 to 5/16 inch spacer in. What a pain -- so I took the easy way out! New uprated front and rear springs with SPAX adjustable spring perches were added. The "bump" adjusters on the shocks are set on the 2nd or 3rd click. The steering rack blocks and bolts were upgraded and a tie in plate installed. We rebuilt the steering rack and bumped steered the suspension. What a difference that made.
An old friend and ex-Spitfire racer, Bruce Chandler, did an excellent job with the optimal bump steering, setting up the suspension and chassis alignment. Overall the ride is very secure and not harsh at all, it's just windy! The cardboard interior side panels (yikes) were replaced with aluminum panels and the interior was redone in red with white piping. A new top (hood) was fitted along with a 5 piece tonneau. I acquired a NOS pair of side screens but never mounted them. I added a Smiths chronometric tach, the other gauges are correct and original except for the water temp gauge that came with the car which is a Smiths. We installed a new wiring harness. Turn signals were added by replacing the original Lucas 516 lights with the larger Lucas 1130 lights to the front wings and rewiring the Wingard tail lights as turn signals. Lucas 539 lights were added to the rear for brake and running lights. Additional safety items: a collapsible steering column, a dual brake master cylinder, stainless steel front brake lines plus Aeroquip hoses for the oil pressure gauge, clutch hose and fuel system were installed.
The car came with a later replacement Lotus "L" block, with the large square main bearing caps and push in oil pickup. It had been sleeved to 1500 specs and was in great shape -- a good surprise - but the rest of the engine was simply worn out. The etched number on the top of the right hand motor mount boss is 122E and right below is B564950 (as the best I can tell). A complete rebuild and upgrade was in order this time around. I installed a hardened six bolt crank, 125E rods, Hepolite pistons, aluminum flywheel, baffled oil pan, and a hot street/mild race cam plus all the other stuff. A used pair of original Cosworth intake manifolds were obtained and mated to a set of 40 DCOEs along with a new set of headers. It came with a wide ratio transmission that wasn't the best choice. Since I had a few transmissions lying around I chose to lightly freshen a semi close ratio box, with new shift forks and seals. This restoration was completed in the summer of 1993. At that time the car had 96,480 miles. During its maiden voyage to Road America that fall we only had one glitch; I overfilled the overflow bottle and leaked about a quart of antifreeze at our first gas/inspection stop. Other than that it has been a very reliable car and a pleasure to drive. I've driven the car to LOG 16 and LOG 18 in Atlanta as well as to Nashville TN for an Alfa Owners Gathering. I disguised it with a few laminated Alfa stickers to sneak in! We didn't make it to the to the LOG 16 concourse as my traveling partner's Elan had some mechanical difficulties that required immediate repairs. We worked on it the whole day Saturday so we could make it back home Sunday. At LOG 18 Lotus' 50th anniversary the 7 was awarded 2nd place, albeit the best 7. The class was changed that year to include Mark 6s one of which, owned by a Lotus Ltd board member at that time, won! We regularly take it to Road America and local Lotus and non-Lotus events.
During the engine rebuild in 2012, I did some improvements and refreshing. The engine rebuild was done by Barry Sales at PHP. It produces 108 HP @ 6,000 rpm on the dyno with a real flat torque curve and a 6,500 rpm redline. The 113E ported and polished head that came with the car was installed. It was refurbished and new valves, springs, valves guides etc. were installed. As part of the engine rebuild the block was cleaned up and bored out to .060 over giving 1558cc. Barry also installed new forged pistons at about 9.75:1 compression and a custom profiled cam. Engine ancillaries were upgraded with a Pertronix Flame Thrower distributor and coil, an 8 1/2 inch clutch disc and a new pressure plate, an alternator, the Weber carbs were rebuilt and heat shields added. This time around I built a semi close trans with new shift forks, syncros, bearings, seals and the best parts available from my trans parts inventory rather than building one of my "light up the tires" close ratio boxes. The semi close ratios boxes are much easier to live with for everyday driving. I had the radiator rebuilt with a 3 row core with many more cooling fins than the original. A pair of 7.5 inch Spall fans were installed rather than a single larger 11 or 12 inch - just in case one fails. Just imagine no fan- you're in big trouble when you get in traffic! We machined a spacer with an ID as large as the opening in the head to go between the swirl pot and head which allows for the fitment of a thermostat and provides a small but necessary air chamber. The thermostat is drilled with a few 1/8 inch holes to allow air to bleed out of the cooling system when changing or adding coolant. Additional items included: new front brake pads, replaced the SS front brake lines, changed all the fluids, new battery and replaced the fuel cell. I have a set of drilled and slotted Brembo rotors complete with hubs and bearings that are ready to bolt on but I think it's a bit of overkill. Even though the fiberglass paint, aluminum body work and chassis restoration are 20 years old the car still presents in excellent condition overall(except for a few minor stone chips on the rear wings and that shiny spot on the bonnet from you know what!). With the recent engine and trans rebuild plus the upgrades I can say that the drive train is also in excellent condition with just a little over 700 miles. Current mileage is 112,160.
important: chassis numbers are as reported by owners -- their appearance here does not guarantee authenticity.