The most obvious (and successful) of these is the Lotus Seven, first developed by pioneering Lotus founder Colin Chapman in the late 1950s, with the rights to the basic roadster sold off to the Seven’s most prolific dealer, Caterham Cars, in 1973 as Chapman aimed to reposition Lotus away from its former simple kit car roots. Caterham’s MD Graham Nearn initially continued production of the funky, beach buggy-esque Seven Series 4, launched just three years earlier by Chapman in 1970, with Caterham removing the Lotus badges and replacing them with generic Super Seven logos, although the authentic Hethel Twin-Cam engines were still retained.
In 1974 Nearn took the bold but far-sighted move to replace the Series 4 Seven with the less complex, purer and more timeless Series 3 model, as first introduced as a Lotus in 1968. Today, almost half a century after acquiring the rights to the Super Seven, Caterham’s reintroduced Series 3 model remains the quintessential Seven, with a wealth of variants created over the years.
As well as transferring the tooling and production rights to Caterham in 1973, the ever-canny Chapman also sold the Seven Series 4 licence to his Spanish Lotus importer, Hispano Aleman, as well as the selling the model’s rights to Steel Brothers Limited of Christchurch in New Zealand. The Spanish ‘Seven’, named Mallorca, was SEAT 1430 Twin-Cam-powered. Late examples used Ford engines. The Kiwi models stuck with the Lotus Twin-Cam unit, the last of these being built in 1979 with Lotus badging.