History - Legend - Stories - For Sale

MKVI - MK7 S1 | SB1000 - 1499 | SB1500 - 1999 | SB2000 - 2499 | SB2500 - 2999 | SB3000 +
important: chassis numbers are as reported by owners -- their appearance here does not guarantee authenticity.

Mike Carpenter's 1961 Lotus Seven
West Virginia, USA

On 22-April-1997, John W. Watson, the Historian & Archivist of the lotus 7 Club of Great Britain, sent Ron Lester of Gahanna (Columbus) Ohio, a letter stating that he would like to include his Lotus Seven America (SB1061) in the Lotus Seven Register. In return for frame number and chassis number verification, information, as well as pictures of Ron's Lotus Seven, John W. Watson would share what the available Lotus factory records state for SB1061.

According to Lotus records : Lotus Seven Series II - C/N 7/B 1061 is an early Series II car having been built during the first six months of manufacture.

CHASSIS NO: 7/B 1061
DEALER: Lotus Cars New York
ENGINE NO: 9C-U-H49217 -- Austin Healey Sprite
EX WORKS DATE: 26-Jan-61

The previous owner, Ron Lester, located SB1061 through an advertisement in a November 1969 issue of Competition Press and Autoweek. The advertisement stated:

"LOTUS 7, FP, A winner, mag wheels, alum. Flywheel, Firestone tires, very strong BMC engine, clean body, $1990, Charles V. Hansen, 246 Engle St., Tenafly, N.J. 07670; (201) 569-0222. W".

Charles Hansen raced SB1061 in Eastern Motor Racing Association (EMRA) club races Class F Production for one season prior to selling the Seven to Ron Lester. It was already a full race car when Hansen purchased it in March of 1969 from a fellow racer by the name of George Paulas (or possibly Paulus) who resided in Commack, NY. SB1061 had known success at Bridgehampton, NY and Lime Rock CN while raced by Charles Hansen. From a recent email (Oct 22, 2008), Hansen wrote "In 1969 when I raced it in club events, it usually won "F" production. I had one exciting race for first place with a Datsun at Bridgehampton, NY. He was faster on the straights and I was faster in the corners. He would pass me a little later on the main straight each lap. I finally kept in front of him to the first turn and he tried to go on my inside. I shut the door on him and he went into the dirt on the inside of the turn and rolled several times. He was O.K. except for a broken arm. I won the race. Because of the results from the 1969 race season, I got a sponsorship from a Triumph dealer to drive in SCCA. I drove a sponsored Triumph GT6 for two race seasons and then drove a Formula B racer in 1972 and 1973. I finished my racing driving a Formula Atlantic in 1974." -- Chuck Hansen.

The race history, when owned by George Paulus and earlier, is largely unknown and any added information would be much appreciated. In its pre-1969 race history it was flat-towed to races in the typical manner of the times -- plate steel towing brackets were permanently welded to the front lower swing arms. Charles Hansen did state that he thought that George Paulus must have raced it because he gave him a "wild" ride drifting through the turns around his neighborhood to demonstrate the Lotus while he was buying it. The special plastic windscreen is thought to have been fabricated by Peter Pulver and his crew at Duchess Auto Company of Millerton, New York. Duchess Auto Company was more commonly known as Lotus East and their racing division known as Lotus Racing East.

Ron Lester purchased SB1061 from Charles Hansen, on December 12th 1969. The notes that Ron wrote while discussing the ensuing deal by telephone, with Charles Hansen, show the condition of SB1061 as slightly race-modified with no frame cracks or tubes replaced and chassis strengthened with gussets and four extra frame tubes added to front suspension area per allowable SCCA rules. The differential was noted as not limited slip or locked with 4.1 gear ratio. The engine was noted as the original 948cc - .040 over Hemi-lite pistons, Isky full race cam, Mueller aluminum flywheel, competition Lotus oil cooler, cylinder head skimmed .018 in., new nitrided BMC Gold crankshaft and MK III Sprite gearbox. When Ron Lester purchased SB1061 from Charles Hansen at the end of the race season in the winter of 1969, it was a typical race car and pretty much undrivable on the street without detuning the engine a bit. Ron determined that the oversized 1 ½ SU carbs would have to be changed to stock 1 ¼ SU carbs and the cam was too much for his intended road use. The Seven would idle, but coming off idle the engine would pop, bang, and fuss until the revs reached around 3000 and then it would take off in that usable power band. Great for racing but not so great for stop lights. During the Winter of 1971, Ron completely rebuilt the engine so that it would be usable as a road / autocross car. From his notes, the following parts were used in his rebuild.

Block: stock 948cc Sprite block over-bored .040 in. giving a total displacement of 980cc
Head: stock Sprite head milled .118 in. with enlarged and polished ports -- 10.8 overall compression
Crank: BMC AEA406 Competition crank
Connecting Rods: BMC 2A654 and 2A656 lightened, shot peened, and balanced
Pistons: AE Hepolite .040 over flat top lightened and balanced
Camshaft: BMC AEA731 268 degree duration and .320 in. lift at the valves
Intake Valves: stock 1.16 in.
Exhaust Valves: BMC AEA400 1.00 in.
Valve Springs: Iskendarian double springs, light weight retainers and chromoly tubular pushrods
Carburetors: two 1 1/4 SUs
Intake and Exhaust Manifold: optional Lotus one-piece "Downton-manufactured" combination manifold
Flywheel: Mueller aluminum with standard 1275 clutch and roller release bearing
Gearbox: BMC 38G374 MK III Sprite Close Ratio
Final Drive: 4.55:1 65 mph road speed is approx. 4500 rpms

The whole car, aluminum and fiberglass, was painted the 1970 GM Corvette color of Mulsanne blue per Ron’s request. The fiberglass nose was repaired and strengthened by laying on woven fiberglass to the inside of the wings and nose. He also replaced most of the wiring. This work was completed in the spring of 1970.

During the 1970's the car was autocrossed locally with much success. SB1061 enjoyed a brief foray into the drag strip world when Ron took it to National Trails Drag Strip along with his friend's Bugeye Sprite with a 1275 engine. SB1061 weighed in at 935 pounds and turned a 17.0 at 72 mph in the quarter mile. The Seven barely beat the Sprite with the larger engine as Ron overtook the Sprite right before the speed trap. As a comparison, a Lotus Seven America was road tested in the July 1961 issue of Road & Track magazine. The Road & Track test Seven had the stock 948cc BMC motor with the one-piece Downton intake/exhaust manifold and 1 1/4 SUs. Road & Track listed the power at 40hp as opposed to the 43hp of the standard Austin Healey Sprite 948 cc engine. So equipped, the test Seven America turned the 1/4 mile in 19.2 at 67 mph.

SB1061 spent its early 1960s racing career up until Ron Lester purchased it in 1969 racing on Lotus Wobbly Web magnesium rims. The Wobbly Webs stayed with SB1061 until 2005 when it was purchased without the Wobbly Webs by Mike Carpenter. Ron Lester purchased the Minilite Sport Wheels with aluminum lug nuts, that you see in many of the pictures, on Feb. 22 of 1974. At the time, he paid $244.27 for the Minilite wheels. SB1061 still retains its original Lotus-supplied European Beech laminate steering wheel.

Ron enjoyed the Seven for nearly 36 years, keeping it licensed and insured every year. The Seven received fair-weather exercise every Summer. Ron's children grew up riding the 50 miles to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to enjoy the vintage sports car races along with his wife driving her 1965 Lotus Elan S2 that his father-in-law purchased new.

In the Summer of 2005, SimpleSevens, in the likeness of John Donohoe, attended the Sprint Vintage Grand Prix at Mid Ohio where the present owner Mike Carpenter was enjoying the sights and smells of the races . John Donohoe and Mike had known each other for a few years as friends and fellow Lotus Seven owners. As John was there with his Seven America (SB1135), a fellow came up to him and reminded him that they had met a few years before and his name was Ron Lester. Ron did not have his Seven with him at this Mid-Ohio event, and informed John that it was about time to pass SB1061 along to someone else who would care for and appreciate it as he had. That is when John thought of his good friend, Mike and sprinted across the car show field to inform him of the unforeseen good fortune that had crossed his path. That is when Mike had to thank John again for helping him to spend entirely too much money on a second Lotus Seven. The first Lotus Seven that John helped Mike spend money on was a very original Series one. That is another story for another day.

When I introduced the two fellows, Mike's first question was "how much" and when Ron mentioned a price, I literally laughed and and looked at Mike for his repsonse... I thought the price was very low, but Mike looked back at me with daggers coming out of his eyes suggesting to me in an instant that the car was SOLD, sight unseen (he had seen it previously on SimpleSevens), but that he wasn't going to close a deal without a little haggling!

Above, SB1061 now in Mike's possession. Below, the results of Mike's work cleaning up and preparing the car closer to its original state. The Seven is an on-going process of improvement and enjoyment of driving. The wings and nose are to be painted soon to the original Lotus supplied shade of dark red and the aluminum will stay natural in appearance. This appearance is more “kit-like” and contrary to how SB1061 was delivered as a complete fully painted turn-key sports car when new.

History - Legend - Stories - For Sale

MKVI - MK7 S1 | SB1000 - 1499 | SB1500 - 1999 | SB2000 - 2499 | SB2500 - 2999 | SB3000 +
important: chassis numbers are as reported by owners -- their appearance here does not guarantee authenticity.