Enthusiasts may argue over which is the “real” 7, but Caterham brought the vehicle forward without losing the essence of the Chapman Lotus 7 and that was something he would have entirely approved of. When the 7 celebrated 50 years in 2007, it was still firmly within the concept of the first Lotus 7. It seems likely that there will still be numbers of 7s being driven on track and road when it comes time to celebrate the first century of a magnificent vehicle. It is also likely that this book will still be the definitive account of the Magnificent 7.
NAME: The Magnificent 7
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: Chris Rees
PUBLISHER: Haynes Publishing
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: DIY, home mechanics, self-build, automotive, two seat sports car, open sports car, street legal, competition car, Colin Chapman, Lotus Caterham
DESCRIPTION: Colin Chapman was a talented practical engineer, sailor and pilot. He was also a marketing pioneer. This book is a new edition of a very popular title that looks in detail at the Lotus 7 (and the Caterham Seven) that was the start of Chapman’s automotive company and arguably his greatest memorial. Author and publisher have presented a beautifully illustrated book that catalogues every variant. Chapman started in humble surroundings with a design that was to become a highly successful circuit racer that could be used on the roads, to become the longest surviving sports car. In concentrating on the vehicle, the author has produced an excellent book for the enthusiast but has devoted little attention to what is probably the most important part of the Chapman vision and this is what made Chapman designs so very successful. Chapman was obsessive about engineering. He worried at every component until he was satisfied that it was right, then he got bored and looked for a new challenge. He was also an early exponent of consumer marketing that today is commonplace. He aimed to bring into a market people who had previously been excluded. The Lotus 7 was a starting point in a journey that was incomplete at the time of his death. He designed a vehicle that was affordable to people who would previously have been unable to afford a high performance vehicle that could be used on the roads or on the race track. The design was simple, the number of components was the minimum needed to make the vehicle function reliably. Tooling and construction was provided at the lowest cost for a high quality build. Chapman also intended to move from his first cramped workshops to a modern purpose designed factory where he could produce with the latest technology in production lines. He was not the easiest person to work or deal with, not tolerating fools lightly and not ready to accept criticism. In one example, he took control of his company aircraft, landed in a French field and turfed out a young marketing assistant who had made the mistake of questioning his judgement. Chapman then took off, leaving the young man in his shirt sleeves without money or papers. Chapman drove himself as hard as he drove others, and he was prepared to leave what he considered a finished design to others, freeing him to move to another project. From the Lotus 7 and his first premises, he moved on to Hethel in Norfolk, where he built a modern factory on the airfield where once the B-24 Liberators of the “Stars Group” had been based, built up the highly successful Formula One JPS race team and then moved on to boat building where he applied the same approach that he had employed on the magnificent 7, producing motor boats that could compete with the best American designs, revolutionizing the way that boats were built and sold in Europe. He set the basis that is still followed decades after his death and he developed production techniques that were licensed to boat builders around the world. His involvement in the DeLaurean cars scandal was both characteristically Chapman and a rare error of judgement. The part that played in his premature death has been long debated. At the time of his death he had become bored with cars and boats, devoting his attention to micro light aircraft where he again intended to bring an advanced engineering product to a market that had previously been unable to afford what was already on offer. It was a testament to his engineering and marketing ability that so much survived after his death. The Lotus 7 moved to the stewardship of Caterham Cars and the principles of the Chapman approach were maintained and enhanced. Enthusiasts may argue over which is the “real” 7, but Caterham brought the vehicle forward without losing the essence of the Chapman Lotus 7 and that was something he would have entirely approved of. When the 7 celebrated 50 years in 2007, it was still firmly within the concept of the first Lotus 7. It seems likely that there will still be numbers of 7s being driven on track and road when it comes time to celebrate the first century of a magnificent vehicle. It is also likely that this book will still be the definitive account of the Magnificent 7.