Me And My Car: Business consultant's Magnificent Seven

Mr John Conrad Lee and his Lotus Seven. PHOTO: JOHN CONRAD LEE

SINGAPORE - The Seven is the longest-running model in 70-year-old Lotus' line-up.

Founder Colin Chapman set out to build a simple two-seater car with a low centre of gravity and precision handling, and the Seven was born in 1957.

It continues to be produced today as the Caterham Seven, with its basic design mostly kept intact. The quick, no-frills open-top is meant purely for driving pleasure.

This was what Mr John Conrad Lee found most fascinating about the car. His 1971 Seven was imported from Britain two years ago and is registered under the classic car scheme, which comes with lower taxes and restricted usage.

Despite its age, it is fairly well-maintained and did not require much work after it arrived in Singapore.

"The twin Weber carburettors required only new gaskets and seals. Otherwise, they were in good shape," says Mr Lee, who paid about $150,000 for the car, including shipping and registration costs.

Because the bodywork is all fibreglass-reinforced plastic, there was no corrosion. Mr Lee fitted the wing mirrors and period-correct Pirelli Cinturato CN36 tyres himself.

The 46-year-old business consultant, who is married with two children, is an avid go-karter who has taken part in several amateur kart races.

He used to own an Audi RS4, and has a BMW M3 for work commutes and an Audi A3 Sportback for family duties.

He describes the Lotus Seven as a go-kart made for public roads.

"Driving in its purest form is interacting with the surroundings, feeling the road, inhaling the smells around, enjoying the wind in your face, appreciating the scenery," he says. "So, I got the Seven because I feel the freedom and connectedness to the environment."

He adds that the ride, which has been kept in its original "racer" condition, is "very engaging". "It's like you have an engine fitted to your body and you're blasting along a mere 20cm off the ground."

The last of the Sevens to be built by Lotus before Caterham took over, Mr Lee's Series 4 model has a relatively reliable 1.6-litre Ford Kent engine driving the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox.

The car is built on a tubular spaceframe chassis and rides on a double-wishbone suspension, with its front wheels situated far ahead of the engine.

One of approximately 670 units built by Lotus, Mr Lee's Seven had clocked 115,000km when he bought it. He has added just under 2,000km since.

Mr Lee says the previous owner gave up the car as he was getting too old to drive it. "So, I took over, promising to continue the ongoing restoration. It needed some maintenance work and I've DIY-ed all of it so far."

He adds: "I don't know of any car that can replace this directly. If I ever sell it, I may just give up driving and start walking everywhere."

What's in the boot?

- The Lotus Seven has no boot

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