1. introduction

2. suspension lessons

3. stressing

4. chassis 101

5. Autodynamics

6. jet set

7. sun set

8. Raceware

9. enter the Seven

10. skin deep

11. the DSK concept

12. the list list

13. DSK hits the road

14. postscript

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11. The DSK Concept

It was not long after that I realized what was going on. I was redesigning the car one component at a time in my head. The principles that I had learned in the crucible of professional racing were so ingrained that the now decades-old Super Seven technology simply looked wrong. There was no way that I could build myself a car with all those "mistakes" in the design. So I began discussing with Paul, Norm and the others in the shop a completely new Super Seven kit car of our own. Our design would retain all the old mounting points, but between the bolts we would create new stronger parts that worked according modern formula car practices. We would offer a fully triangulated chassis of our own with up-to-date suspensions and other systems that a Seven owner could retrofit to an original Lotus as upgrades or "when things broke." It would give us all a new market, perhaps even help mitigate the winter business doldrums.

Bulletin detailing the complete DSK Chassis, indication of torque loads to rear axle and comparison to original frame.

(A selection of additional bulletins will soon be available in another area of this web site)

As we began the project in the shop, we also contacted Caterham Cars. RaceWare became a dealer for their kits and spares and we found sources for many other Seven replacement and modification parts. We took on the Caterham importer deal as natural extension of buying and reselling Lotus Seven spares they supplied us. We had some tensions with Caterham, but generally enjoyed selling their Seven (and working in the shop with all new parts for a change).

We never did consider ourselves in competition with Caterham Cars, but they did. That was one of the tensions. They knew that we were developing our own model and always seemed a bit paranoid about that.  We saw them as two different niches in the market.  Theirs for the "classic" and ours for the "street-racers."  In hindsight, that may have been naive.

We also began to fabricate some improved bits, First improved rack blocks, then triangulated front A-frames. I still handled morning business for RaceWare and ran my consulting practice (that we called an advertising agency because we did not know what a consulting company was) in the afternoon.

One of the first 'Technical Bulletins' offering DSK upgraded 'A-arms'

(A selection of additional bulletins will soon be available in another area of this web site)

One day Clayton Seitz walked into my office and asked me to help him evaluate a business enterprise. He was a friend of Avrum Belzer, a young D-13 racer that I had helped set up in the BMW repair shop business that shared the shop floor. I completed the assignment for Clayton and we talked several times at my office. He peered through the window to the shop one day and asked me about the Seven project. I described my ambitious plans to build a modernized Seven with the character of the classic and he loved the idea. He opined that he might like to invest in such a venture. I replied that it was not a venture, but an adventure and that investment was probably not prudent. So he asked if he could help finance the project by buying the second car we built. We agreed on a price of $15,000 and shook hands.

As the project was gaining momentum, Norman Marx got married. His beautiful fiery red headed wife did not like me at all. We had an uncomfortable parting of ways and I have always missed my dear friend Norm. I wonder what ever happened to him and Katherine. Not too long after that, I moved across town to the stone shop on Pond Street and Clayton bought a substantial minority interest in DSK Cars in exchange for non-paying job. He wanted to learn about cars and business and thought this would be a fun place for him to grow. I liked him and his enthusiasm. His willingness to back the growth of the dream with hard cash made him even more likable. We had a lot of fun.

Tom Robertson and the 1977 SCCA National Champion Lotus Seven
Tom Robertson was a successful Lotus Seven racer in the SCCA. At some point, after winning the SCCA National Championship, he came to DSK looking for a "racers deal" on parts. A sponsorship deal was arranged, but DSK never really worked closely with Robertson although his name and photos adorned DSK promotional folders and flyers.
from Tom Robertson:
Hi John, Dave Kaplan simply copied and sold several of the suspension components of my championship winning car in 1977. He also sold artistic drawings etc. of my car. He never asked my permission or paid me anything from the sales. He even asked me to sign the artistic renderings of my car. However it did not really bother me. Most of these components were designed by me and transformed the car from a good handling car to a great handling car that was capable of winning the runoffs, which it did. Some of those same ideas were used in the Seven Pat [Prince Race Engineering] built in 1995, which we raced very successfully for 4 years, with many national wins and lap records. Included were June Sprints wins in 1996 and 1997 and pole position at 1998 runoffs. Interesting thing about the 1977 dream season (won every national race entered) was we raced all season with a weak engine which was down about 20hp from the normal full race output. we had approx. 118hp compared to 138hp available from the 1500 ford with dual 40dcoe's at the time. If you have specific questions, I can probably answer them for you. By the way, Pat and I designed and he built the lightest racing Seven for SCCA F Production in 1993/4 which only weighed 825lbs.(948cc sprite powered) Regards, Tom

David Kaplans Response:
I think Tom Robertson is right. I don't think that he got much out of our deal either. Nor did we. He bought some parts at a discount and we used his name in advertising. We shared a little technology, but not much. That was a typical deal with a racer. After all, Tom was an amateur racer and we were a small shop. Being the biggest Lotus Seven shop in the US is like being the biggest hypnotist in Milwaukee - no big deal. Like most racers, Tom probably thought he was bestowing greatness on us by allowing us to use his name and image in advertising. He may well have believed that it was worth more than he received. But we did what we could to help him and Tom raced. He was not nearby and was a secretive sort of recluse by nature back then. We were a struggling small shop with only a few customers that raced and a handful more that autocrossed. The SCCA had arcane rules about what modifications were allowed, so things on Tom's car just were useful. What he had worked out was not very important knowledge to people who did not plan to race in SCCA production sports car events. It just was not a significant part of the market, nor very important to our business. Nor was DSK Cars important to Tom. He was probably only in our shop two or three times, and I was never in his.

from Pat Prince:
John, You'll get a kick out of chatting with Tom. He's full of crazy stories that are all true! We didn't exactly prepare the world's lightest seven, we built it from scratch. All .035 wall 4130 tubing, fully triangulated, Fabricated uprights, wishbones, Penske shocks, Stack dash, etc., and right on the improbable SCCA min weight for FP. Tom, who I had known casually for years, called winter of '94 to pitch the FP Lotus project. He had such enthusiasm, and such an easy, enjoyable manner, that I signed on. The car went together quickly... When the season arrived, Tom asked if I would like to travel and race with him. That was the start of many years of wild and wacky adventures, great highs and lows, and a life- long best friendship. The punch line is that, as sophisticated and light as that car was, it had a higher top end riding in the trailer than on a race track. We hadn't yet developed 7 aero, and couldn't make the power to compensate. Later, we devoted a year and a half to aero development in EP, and Tom put our little buzz-bomb on the '98 Run- Offs pole.

I had nothing to do with Tom's 1977 Run- Offs winning 7. We had done 3 racing 7's together before the FP project. The big front spoiler is definitely not part of the aero program! Pat

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