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In 1983/4 I had the 4th Lotus Super 7 clone to come out of the Birkin factory in Pinetown finished in bright yellow with a modified kent engine using a Richie Jute camshaft and twin side draught Webber carburettors.
In 1985 we had an 18 month sojourne in the U.K. and I took both of my Lotus cars, the Super 7 and a Lotus 61 single seat racing car over with me. The Lotus 61 I eventually sold in the UK and when I returned to Durban in 1987, I brought the Lotus Super 7 back with me as well as a 1978 Citroen CX Pallas.
Around 1989 I decided to sell the Super 7 and placed an advertisement in a Jo'burg paper and one fellow contacted me and as he had a brother who lived in Durban the brother came around and looked at the car that was in immaculate condition and a deal was made. Once I had received the money, I had to take a trip to Jo'burg on business and took the Lotus Super 7 with me on a hired trailer. For a very breif moment, I handed over the car to the purchaser who told me that he worked at Sun City.
In 1994 I retired down to Plettenberg Bay and shortly after arriving I heard about another Birkin Lotus Super 7 for sale in George. Missing my original one, I paid the asking price and bought the later model that had been made in 1987 which was finished in BRG with the same motor as my original one.
In 2004 we sold the farm in Pletteberg Bay and moved down to a small village in The Overberg called Napier and as the housing boom had not yet reached Napier, we invested in a few properties that we rented out waiting for the boom to reach this outlying area.
The one property I advertised to rent in a Cape Town paper and I was contacted by a gentleman from Namibia who wanted to move to Napier and he paid a deposit to secure the house. On arriving at Napier some weeks later, I was showing him around the house when he asked why I was not living in the house. I explained that my own house in the village had bigger garaging for my collection of classic cars and the property that I was showing him only had a double garage. He then enquired what classics I had and I told him about my Citroen SM, my Citroen DS21 and my Lotus Super 7. On mentioning the Lotus he said that he had owned a Lotus when he worked in Johannesburg and that he had to sell the car when he moved to Bulgaria on business. I asked him what business he was in and he told me that he went out there to set up a Casino for the group that he worked for. I immediately went home and picked up some photographs of my original Lotus Super 7 in Yellow and showed them to him. To say that we were both amazed is an understatement. Here was the fellow who had purchased my Lotus Super 7 in 1988 now renting a house from me in Napier some 16 years later. Is this an amazing coincidence or what.
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NO 62, for many years, I believed to be an Austin 7 Ruby, but I was informed recently that as it had 4 doors must have been the Big 7 with a slightly larger engine than the Ruby.
I purchased this car immediately after passing my driving test in 1960 and I remember my first night drive that evening. The 6 volt headlights were appalling and I became very unsure of my abilities to drive in the dark and quickly turned around and headed home.
The Austin 7 was not without problems. Pushing the clutch down too far made an awful noise in the clutch housing so I fashioned a piece of wood to fit under the pedal so as to limit its travel. The brakes were absolutely dreadful and one needed many seconds of advance warning to slow the car down. Emergency braking was out of the question, especially with a car full of pals. I can remember once dicing a Ford Zodiac on the North Circular and pushing the car to its maximum down this one hill near to Wembley. The traffic lights in the distance changed from green to red, but it was no use, try as I may to slow the car down, with its full occupancy, it was as if there were no brakes whatsoever. We hurtled through the red intersection, missing all crossing traffic and left the Zodiac sitting at the lights and with my heart pounding in my chest. I did not let on to the others that I could not stop, they just thought that I was showing the other driver who owned the road. On another occasion traversing around Hyde Park a set of traffic lights turned to red and as I hit the brake pedal the brake cable snapped and as there were people crossing the road, I steered the car into the traffic light pole to arrest my motion resulting in a rather bent bumper. I manage to drive the car, very cautiously, right through London, back to my home in Enfield with no brakes at all.
Another episode with the brakes was when I was doing a bit of off road driving to get to a remote camp site one night. Driving up a track, there was a tree stump that fouled the brake mechanism under the car and the car came to an abrupt standstill pointing up the hill. All four of us jumped out of the car and proceeded to lift the car clear of the stump when gravity took over and the car rolled backwards, gaining speed and with the headlamps glaring at us as we stood helpless. At the bottom of the hill the track went off to the left but the car continued straight and was about to disappear down a rather deep gully when it came to rest, up in the air, on top of a large Holly bush. I managed to gain access into the car to switch of the lights and ignition and we walked on to the camp site to await the morning for another car to arrive with a tow rope.
One weekend four of us young blades decided that Brighton needed visiting and off we tootled in the 7. You can imagine 4 of us, after consuming a meal of fish and chips, sleeping in the tiny car. On our return to London on the Sunday afternoon, the car developed a terrible whine from the back axle and I slowed down and limped back to Enfield. It was only the following morning that it was found that the back axle differential housing was totally devoid of lubricant and after having it filled, the noise almost disappeared.
One other problem with FNO 62 was its penchant for overheating. Many was the time clouds of steam would emit from under the bonnet and a quick stop and search for water and something to carry it in to quench the radiators thirst. The only other time that the car let us down was when a petrol pipe feeding the carburetor broke. A temporary solution was for all of us four occupants to chew as much chewing gum as possible and with the collected offerings wind the gum around the broken pipe to enable us to get home for a more reliable fix to the problem.
Motoring is just not the same these days. Gone is the adrenaline rush when the car comes to a sudden standstill when it shouldn't or won’t when the brakes are applied. Gone is the smell of smoke emanating from the clutch housing where oil is leaking from the rear engine seal.
Oh those heady days of real motoring.
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In April 2005 I saw an advertisement in the Cape Ads for a car that I have always admired and wanted to own, a 1984 Lotus Esprit Turbo, little did I know that this would be the start a 2 year nightmare.
The car, in beautiful Calypso red and a Connolly leather interior but with its engine in pieces, was inspected at a house in Camps Bay. A deal was struck with the seller whereby a deposit of R 10 000 would be paid and the car would be completed by him for collection within 6 weeks.
After a contract was drawn up between the seller and myself the deposit was duly paid and after the allotted 6 weeks had elapsed, I drove down to Camps Bay with high hopes, but of the car and the seller there was no sign. On contacting him on his cell phone, I was given the news that the car was with the Sheriff of the Court as he was not the registered owner of the car. On requesting the return of the deposit paid, he told me that he has no money and his wife had thrown him out of the house. (Strike 1)
I eventually managed to trace the registered owner and he told me an incredible tale of his taking the Lotus Esprit Turbo into a car repair shop where it was left for repair as the engine had snapped a sodium filled exhaust valve. Later, when he went to see what was happening to his car both the car and the owner of the shop had disappeared.
It transpired that the seller of the car originally had a panel beating shop in Paarden Eiland and he had rented out some space to the above mechanic who had arrived with the Lotus Esprit in tow. Later, when this fellow could not pay the rent, the Esprit was taken as payment for the unpaid rent and although the car had no papers he decided to put it up for sale to recoup his losses.
As he needed the papers to sell the car to me, he managed to find and contact the registered owner and, after a deal was struck and a bounced cheque, the registered owner contacted his lawyer and the car was impounded from Camps Bay to the Sheriff.
Many months later I managed to strike a deal with the registered owner and I collected the Esprit, with its uninstalled engine, from the Sheriff’s warehouse. The rogue seller said that he would still like to install the engine and I thought that this was a way of recouping my 10 grand deposit. Was this ever a mistake! The car was left at his workshop in Chiapini Street in Cape Town and I was to make three equal monthly payments for him to complete the car.
When I went down to check on progress, I was told that the engine had dropped an exhaust valve and had been rebuilt using VW Kombi pistons and liners and that the entire induction system, including the carburetors had been stolen whilst in his care at Paarden Eiland. He said that he would modify a Mercedes W123 mechanical fuel injection system for the car and that he would have it ready for collection within 2 months. What a fool I was to have listened to him as after a further 14 months and so many downright lies, the car was still in a totally unusable condition. (Strike 3).
In October 2006 I collected the car on a flat bed trailer and in January 2007 took the car to Goch and Cooper in Brackenfell where the engine was removed and stripped. It was found that the engine was totally beyond repair and could not be salvaged. I had thoughts about fitting a Honda or Mazda engine to the car, but fortunately luck was on my side for once, as I found a wrecked left hand drive Lotus Esprit Turbo of the same year, but amazingly, the entire induction system was also missing from this cars engine. The wreck was purchased and delivered to Brackenfell where the engine was removed from the chassis, stripped and rebuilt whilst the missing inlet manifold, plenum chamber, dump valve and induction casting were imported from England at huge expense. Instead of replacing the missing Dell’Orto carburetors, it was decided to have throttle bodies made, and to fit an after market fuel injection system recommended by Goch and Cooper which was made by TBO.
In July of 2007, after many months of waiting, the car was eventually ready for collection and driving the car from the garage in Brakenfell to my home in the Overberg, the engine was found to be misfiring badly below 3000 r.p.m., but bags of power.
Replacement of all plug leads remedied some of the problems, but it was found that the car was running far too rich on idle and the plugs would foul with black soot below 2 000 r.p.m.. A different set of plugs stopped the misfire, but the car still ran extremely rich at idle and low speed.
After owning and driving the car for two years, but now living back in Plettenberg Bay, I decided to get the engine management to run correctly so I drove the car the 500 kms down to Cape Town and left it with the garage at Brackenfel. When I later collected the car it was worse than ever with high fueling on overrun and after the drive back to Plett. the back of the car was covered with black soot.
It transpired that the original fellow who had installed the EFI was no longer working for them but was now working for Koos Swanapoel Developments and G and C had put some untrained fellow on the dyno to tune my car. On speaking to KSD they requested me to send down the TBO EFI box, which I did, but in connecting it up they must have reversed the polarity as it was now totally blown. The technician sent it back to me saying that he did not want to work on it and that TBO were no longer in business. (Strike 4).
Once again I had a lovely car but with no engine management. I bit the bullet and contacted Dicktator in Gauteng who put me in touch with their recommended installer in Mossel Bay. The car was eventually towed down to Mossel Bay and the new EFI installed. On collecting the car it appeared to run well, but after driving it for a while I found that the car has no power below 2 800 rpm but bags of it when the Turbo spools up. Also on overrun, the engine backfired awfully and was so violent I expect the silencer to fall off.
On taking the car back the 300 km round trip to the installers, they said that they can do no more to the car as there are only 3 bars of mapping to adjust the EFI within the limited vacuum due to the engine having four throttle bodies and also the Turbo engine having low compression for the turbo boost. (Strike 5)
Eventually I persuaded Dicktator to modify their controller to take a Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) and the car was once again taken down to Mossel Bay and left with the installer. I am pleased to say that on collecting the car we now have a car that is useable, economical and powerful. No more flat spots when hot. No more back firing on overrun and a very clean and tidy installation.
Comparing my two 1984 Lotus Esprit Turbos that I have, the green one with carburetors and the red one with EFI, I have to say that I think that the carburetor fed one has a little more grunt at lower rpm, but the EFI one just wants to give more and more when the turbo spools up. Unfortunately there are just not the roads or the laws to allow me to give the car a good blast, but I am quite sure that the EFI one will give me 260 kph plus. Not bad from a little 4 pot 2.2 litre engine in a car that is 27 years old.