I am a highschool shop teacher. I teach Metalwork, Drafting, and Mechanics in a wee hick town in British Columbia. My trade prior to teaching was Auto Mechanics. I've been a gear head since forever. Had my first car at 12, my second at 13.
An uncle of mine had a Lotus Super 7 and took me for a ride in it back when I was knee high to a grasshopper. That experience put a smile on my face that I could never get rid of. I've wanted a 7 ever since.
I started Autocrossing in 1999, and through the development of a couple production-based cars, I came to accept that something more purpose-built is the only way to go. I'm too afraid to run a real 7, and too cheap to buy one. I bought Ron's book, and spent a few years planning a Locost. My hope was to have the car of my dreams, performing well, and built inexpensively.
The frame is essentially "The Book" using McSorely's plans, but I smudged the scuttle and footwell back about 2.5" - this made the proportions of the car a bit closer to a true 7 (I find the book locost too long in the saddle and too stubby in front). I added Aussie tubes, but most of the panelling is aluminum, not steel. The frame was painted with Rust Bullet in my back yard when the neighbours were away.
The engine and tranny are mounted 3/4" off centre to give a bit more driver's foot room.
The donor is an '86 Toyota Corolla GT-S. Initially I used everything I could off the car, with the intent that if you ever needed it serviced, it was merely a Corolla. I had some difficulties getting the car inspected with the shortened struts and narrowed rack that I was using, so Chevette spindles with big brakes and the rack, Datsun 210 hubs and rotors, VW tierod ends and an eclectic collection of steering shafts became part of the front end.
I made my own intake manifold to keep everything under the hood, and wired the car with the Corolla harness (stripped and shortened) including factory EFI.
The wiper motor is Corolla, but the arms and pivots are from an '80 RWD Mazda GLC (which had been donated to the school, but lost the wipers when we put a Chevy V6 in there).
The rad is from a Hyundai Excel. The Excel fan is mounted on the front, with the fan mounted backwards (to push) and the motor wired backwards.
The suspension arms are 1" diameter .093 DOM tubing. I made my own bushings out of Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. I also mounted the panhard rod ~under~ the chassis, to bring the rear roll centre down to a more sensible 5". I have since only found one other Locost done this way. The shocks are Monroe cheapies, with Afco sleeves and SSS springs. The fronts are 75 Corvette rears, the rears are 75 Nova fronts (which are a bit too stiff). Spring rates are 320/140#.
The fibreglass came from Curtis Unlimited out of California. They do reproduction Lotus bits, including wider clamshells, and a 1.5" taller nose which I am using. Rear fenders are 10" wide. I'm using the factory Corolla alloy wheels.
I painted the 'glass Toyota Red myself at the school shop. The paint's not perfect, but it only cost $67CDN in materials.
I taught myself how to sew while the Mrs. was at work one evening, and upholstered the seats out of plywood, old foamies and marine vinyl at 50% off from Fabricland. The dash is vinyl covered plywood with the Corolla cluster integrated in what I think is pretty tasteful.
It took me 2.5 years to finish the car. The work went much faster once the car was home instead of school, as now I can work on it whenever I feel like it, not try to squeeze in a few hours after an exhausting day - and I never went in on weekends.
As I mentioned I had some challenges in trying to get a shop to inspect it. Most shops seem pretty afraid of doing anything out-of-the-ordinary and worry immensely about liability. Worried that I might never get it inspected, I figured I should think about flogging it on eBay to get my money out of it, so I did the unthinkable: I added up my receipts
. Shocked Actually it wasn't that bad. I'm into the car for $5700CDN (About $5000USD). That also includes just about everything.
I've driven it about a week now. There is nothing like driving a 7. It is like no other car. The acceleration is ridiculous. Mine weighs about 1250lbs (without bumpers) and the engine's putting out about 120hp.
I'd like to estimate the 0-60, but the speedo cable broke and I don't really want to dig into it yet. It's quick. It gets noticed! I haven't experienced any overheating, and while the footwell gets warm, it's not bad. Temperatures here have been around 30-34°C.
The wind buffetting is something else - I wear earplugs now, not just because the non-louvered 2.25" glasspack is 2' from my ear, but because the wind off the windshield pounds right into your eardrums. Bring a jacket too, as once the sun goes down, that same wind will really chill you.
Everything feels very direct. There is no "comfy" to the driving experience. You feel everything. Going from this back to my F/SP Nissan Sentra is like driving an over-stuffed sofa around. You'll start to crave such a responsive car - nothing compares to driving a 7.
So, looking back on the project, it's close to what I imagined I'd end up with. All those little details that I thought were mistakes or compromises don't matter so much anymore. I've gotten many, many compliments on the build quality and attention to detail.
Some areas I need to improve are the steering - the Chevette rack is ridiculously slow. I picked up a Midget rack on eBay, which I'll try fitting this winter. Also the brakes just don't impress me yet. Also the UHMW bushings in the rear do not allow for much compliance - it is very easy to kick the back end out (yet very controllable). I've ordered a set of rubber bushings to see how that improves it.
If I were to do it all over again, I'd build a true Series 2 replica. The Locost is a bit too roomy (I know, hard to believe), and thus heavier than it needs to be. Also doing a true replica makes finding replacement parts (should the need arise) a bit easier.
And maybe a bit more power.... Very Happy
Check G's Website for more build details.