Robert Lane - Lotus Seven style car build.
My son is a keen motor sport fan and regularly buys car magazines. He pointed out an article in the April 1999 edition of Cars and Car Conversions where a racing series was to be introduced, based upon a road car built from a Haynes book containing plans and guidelines. The book was entitled "How to build a sports car for £250" by Ron Champion.
One look at the semi-detailed drawings and flexibility of build convinced me to start my own build. (Please be aware there are measurement errors in the books 1st and 2nd editions)
I had always wanted a Lotus 7 but was always put off by what I considered to be too high a price for a summer car. So this seemed the ideal project to build a Seven style car.
The result of my efforts is shown in the accompanying photo pages.
I've estimated the car cost about £2500 with some major spares included. The build started on April 12th 1999 with the delivery of the steel tube. Substantial completion and testing took place on 17th July 1999.
The car was originally based upon a 1300cc Ford Escort Mk2. With the GT version uprated engine (70 bhp) and four speed gearbox. Ford Sierra dual circuit brake master cylinder. Collapsible Mk1 Sierra steering column with true ignition key. The only non-Ford part used is the electric fan which was sourced from an early Nissan.
The completed car weighed in at exactly 522kg with a split 268kg front and 254kg rear with full fuel tank, near ideal as far as I'm concerned. The car was tested on private roads and after about 20 miles test shakedown was taken up as far as 80mph and a test 0-60mph time of 11 seconds with very slow easy gearchanges (Exhaust was falling off due to not being fastened correctly). I believe the car capable of 7 to 8 seconds 0-60 dash, thats not bad for 1300cc.
The car passed the SVA test on 28th July and is now road registered with the original donor car plate ('78 T ). It's certainly fun to drive and attracts much attention.
Changed column stalks to smaller Sierra type along with indicator cancelling bush. (Well worth doing, better fit and no more leaving indicator going for 5 miles) Now redundant as new quickrack just doesn't turn enough to cancel the indicators, so I've fitted a bleeper reminder.
Windscreen is now fitted. This is a Caterham screen and surround with new glass fitted.
Wipers fitted using a Mini 2 speed wiper motor with modified spindle centres.
Flush aircraft type filler is fitted to rear panel. It seems these cars are always difficult to fill at the pumps and require a large tank vent breather to ensure no blowback during filling.
Carbon Fibre type dash is fitted along with full array of instruments, new 80mm speedo and tacho. This is a tricky job to wire neatly and is probably one of those jobs that will be redone in order to please me.
Chrome exhaust system has been fitted. This sounds great and produces just the right 'growl' sound, as well as looking good.
Fitted 1660cc Crossflow engine and gearbox in place of 1300 at present. This single change has improved the car out of all proportion to original. It's amazing what difference 360cc makes. The car is much more relaxing to drive and has just the right blend of acceleration and cruise power.
Twin Weber 40 DCOE's and manifold fitted. Source of much aggravation at first but once set up they have added that extra urge to the car. The intake roar on full acceleration is superb.
A Bosch electronic distributor from a 1989 Fiesta has been fitted to improve the spark generation. With the above carburettors it's necessary to fit a side entry distributor cap from a Fiat Strada 85 Super. This ensures clearance for the spark plug leads.
Fitted a Kent Cams 234 camshaft along with new followers and double valve springs to cylinder head. The pistons had to be taken out and larger valve clearance machined into piston tops. Whilst they were out I took the opportunity of balancing pistons and conrods.
Gearchange remote control has now been fitted. This works fine but is just above central tunnel and in view. I am looking into the possibility of making one up to fit below the tunnel and it will enter the gearbox through the blanking plate on tail end.
Since the above, the engine has been changed for a much more powerful 1700cc crossflow. This is fitted with high compression pistons, a gas flowed big valve cylinder head and a 244 fast road cam. Estimated around 115bhp at rear wheels.
UPDATE: I've obtained a Toyota Twin Cam 16 valve 1600cc engine which I've fitted in place of the crossflow. I'm hoping for a much more smoother driving car and one that is free of oil leaks. There were a few modifications needed but they were overcome.
The Toyota engine was installed and running superbly for 200 miles or so when the sump plug decided to unscrew on the way back from Newark Kit Car Show. This dumped the oil for about a mile before there was none left and the engine ran it's bearings, wrecking it.
I've since obtained another engine. This was a low mileage import with around 25k miles on it. I've fitted this engine and the car is running again, although I feel that this engine is less willing at the moment probably due to being quite a tight engine. The car does not seem quite as quick with this engine.
I've now made some prototype sidescreens and driving the car is much more pleasant. It's possible to hold a conversation up to 70mph. There's also minimal wind buffeting but an overall increase in cabin noise. I can now hear all the mechanical noise that was drowned out before.
There are various small jobs to continue at my leisure. I wonder if you ever really finish one of these cars?