If a cat has nine lives then the Lotus Seven has nine more. The iconic creation of Colin Chapman and company continues to thrive in Japan in one form or another with enthusiasts and racers supporting interest in the tube frame sprinter with great passion. While Caterham has been responsible for production of the Lotus Seven since 1973, one should not assume development of the car ceased at that time. Caterham has continued the evolution of the car over the years with suspension, chassis, and engine upgrades to keep pace with the market offering a formidable track weapon to this day.
Japan Lotus Day 2012 brought out a large contingent of Sevens and Caterhams of all varieties. Japan continues to be one of Caterham’s largest markets and Caterham Japan does a great job of promoting their products as well as supporting enthusiasts with continued development of parts for the local market. It was great to see a variety of Lotus Sevens and Caterhams in one place with a host of modifications like period styled wheels and and even innovative hard tops to help increase top speed.
These 14″ Watanabe wheels look great on a Caterham. The Watanabe wheel has been popular with historic Japanese car fans for years, but this was the first time I’ve seen them on a Seven.
These carbon fiber hard tops are produced in Japan by ART International and evidently increase top speed by a significant amount. The development of the Caterham continues with this type of product along with engine, exhaust, and suspension products all with the aim of improving performance.
Most of the Lotus Sevens at Lotus Day were actually Caterhams produced from the early 70’s and beyond, but this 1961 Lotus Seven S2 (Series 2) with front cycle fenders and 13 x 3.5 steel wheels stole the show for many. The early cars have a certain delicate look that was lost in later years. The fragile and light appearance should not be underestimated as the S2 cars tore up racetracks the world over. The classic British Racing Green and bare alloy panels along with the red interior look perfect.
AC Minds had this 1965 Type 37 on display. The Type 37 incorporates a unique front and rear suspension compared to the standard Lotus Seven. It features independent rear suspension and double A-arms in the front, improvements all designed to remain competitive in club racing in the UK.
Also in action was this very original 1959 Lotus Seven S1. The Lotus Seven S1 preceded the S2 with slightly different features like larger (15” vs. 13”) wheels, different steering rack position, and assorted other minor variances. It was exciting to see this S1 one track keeping up with new cars. While modern technology brings along many advances, there is no substitute for lightness.
There was no shortage of Elans either. It was refreshing to see so many nice cars in such great condition. There is such a pride of ownership in Japan and the cars are maintained to the highest level. One of my favorite Lotus race cars is the 26R, basically a full race Elan built with light weight components, larger brakes, and a high output engine. Enthusiasts were honored with two for this year’s event, and both were driven in anger around Fuji to the delight of fans. The 26R’s magnesium wheels, a removable hard top, and enclosed head lamps combine to offer a great looking car. Even at 50 years old they continue to look better than many modern cars.
This beautiful Elan S2 belongs to Tomoharu Ono and was imported into Japan when Tomo-san moved back after spending some years in Southern California. The car is finished in a unique, almost jade green that does a great job of highlighting the car’s body lines. The black hard top also adds to the overall looks and combined with the Panasport wheels was one of the best looking cars at the event.
BRM (British Racing Motors) Elans are somewhat rare so I’m not sure if this is a tribute car or not. Regardless it looks great either way. The vibrant green paint combined with the BRM red bumpers is striking. Something that really attracted my attention were the Dunlop CR65 period tires. It must be fun driving this Elan on these bias ply “racing” tires.
This great looking Elan had the rather rare red interior option. I’ve not seen too many of those and it looks great with the white exterior. Also like many of the S1 and S2 Elans at the event, this car featured the removable factory hard top. It’s a nice addition to the car to combat the cold winters in Japan.
British Racing Green and Elans go hand in hand. The early 26R type wheels in day glow red and bright yellow racing stripe present an interesting look to this series one car and reflect the attention to detail evident in so many cars at the event.
Lotus means different things to different people, and the collection of cars at Japan Lotus Day revealed the diversity of interest in the brand. There were so many cars and to see them all would require several days. In the next installment we’ll start featuring some of the race cars that were in attendance along with a few of the very rare models that were there. In the meantime, please let us know if you enjoy this coverage by leaving a comment.
Coverage from Japan Lotus Day Part 1 can be found here.