The Lotus Seven Series One 1957-1960

And One for the Road…………….The Lotus Seven Series One 1957-1960


Figure 1.Editors photograph of Series 1 Seven generalized specification/appearance


Our subscribers will be well versed in Seven folklore, mythology and incidental anecdote.

Here we examine the context and competition that influenced the creation of the Seven.

The Seven was a phenomenal piece of automobile design and well placed in the market taking advantage of opportunities.

We record the outcomes and variants.

There is a risk that Colin Chapman is stereotyped.

Not all will appreciate the holistic nature of the man and the activities he engaged in are structured and integrated.

There is very much a dialectic crossing between is racing programme and that of road car manufacturer.

Simultaneously Colin Chapman was:-

  • Race Team owner and strategist
  • Engineer and designer
  • Manufacturer of high performance road and competition cars for sale to the public
  • PR and marketing professional
  • Manager and motivator
  • Entrepreneur
  • Competent driver and pilot

All these activities had to be performed in order he could draw a living and support a family.

The production road car sales made a significant contribution to the racing programme and there were degrees of synergy between.

The Lotus Mk.VI was a remarkably success both commercially and competitively. As a dual purpose car it offered value for money as both competition car that could also easily be used as sports car on the road.

Approximately 100 were built. The editors maintain that the Mk.VI established Lotus as a force. In competition the Mk.VI garnered disproportionate success and a spiral of beneficial publicity. It very much established Lotus both in competition circles and valuable capital.

The production life of the Mk.VI was in practice 1952 through 1956 into 1957 approximately.

Chapman probably realized in establishing the parameters for the Seven Series One:-

  1. He had partly created an ongoing market with the Mk.VI
  2. That as the decade proceeded new audiences, customers were interested
  3. Club racing at national level was a major hobby and competitive sport
  4. That the Mk.VI was capable of being improved technically [and also from value engineering having its costs reduced]
  5. There were some excellent engine choices available from major mass production manufacturers
  6. He might have appreciated and deducted an economic cost effective sports car was needed. It would earn income, provide continuity of employment, retain craftsmen, perpetuate reputation, earn competition success and generate publicity.
  7. Exploiting the Purchase Tax laws surrounding component cars worked for Lotus vis overheads and enthusiast owners
  8. He might have been influenced to provide an upgraded car for existing customers hence retaining loyalty and a model in the range that could be traded in as customers progressed up the range
  9. Hazel Chapman must be credited with probably recommending the commercial advantages

Having made these comments the editors have seen no published figures as to what Chapman might have determined as the numerical extent of the potential base for the Seven. All indications are that it would be a success:-

  1. Based on recent experience of the Mk.VI
  2. Demographics of post war era
  3. The popularity and participation in motor sport which had probably grown year on year
  4. Lotus had an established reputation , and there weren’t that many credible alternatives

Crombac suggests:-

“Since the demise of the Mk.VI ……….Chapman had been besieged with a stream of requests for a similar replacement car, much cheaper than the Eleven and perhaps more adapted towards club racing, where the Eleven’s all-enveloping bodywork design was susceptible to minor damage which was expensive to repair”

Subscribers might like to see structured and integrated A&R pieces on:-

  • Lotus Trials cars
  • Mk.III
  • Mk.VI and 1172 formula
  • Seven Series 1-4 including componentry
  • Seven Sales to the Sunset
  • Winding road series[driving experiences]

The Lotus Seven Series One: Context of the Times

Chapman and Lotus came into existence in the late 1940’s early 1950’s based at Hornsey in North London.

The decade of the 1950’s in fascinating and subscribers are directed to our dedicated article “Lotus Design Decades-the 1950’s”

Within ten years Britain moved from austerity towards affluence and from rationing to readily available turn-key affordable sports cars.

The post war return to normality witnessed a big expansion in amateur motorsport.

The 750 Motor Club were particularly efficient, supportive and facilitated this.

The era encouraged innovation and improvisation in which Colin chapman was major player.

In order to compete owner/driver enthusiasts accessed what was available and this generally included:-

  • Austin 750 specials e.g. Cambridge, Speedex and Ashley bodied 750 specials
  • Ford Specials based on Ford saloon’s etc. dating from 1930’s e.g. Falcon –see below]
  • Specialist marques constructing low volume cars like Buckler ,Dellow , Ballamy ,TVR and Ginetta [see below]

Towards the end of the decade mass production and exports were in full swing .Greater affluence, wages, disposable income availability of credit, demographics and export opportunities encouraged manufacturers to produce affordable sports cars like the Austin Healey Sprite Mk.1 [see below]

Austin 750 Specials

These became popular particularly in the 1950’s as an alternative to the larger Ford Specials [see below] with their 1172 cc side valve engine.

Chapman created the Mk.III to compete in 750 Motor club events and our dedicated article chronicles the Austin Seven in some detail.

Many of the specials retained the basic chassis with lighter weight bodies in sports car canon.

A tuning and aftermarket industry developed around the Austin 750.There were some specialist body suppliers ranging from Cambridge to Ashley [fiberglass bodies] to Speedex [special chassis improvements] one body type in aluminium slightly resembled a Seven without elegance and attractive proportions, another looked like a scaled down aerodynamic sport racer.

The Austin Specials of the 1950’s were inexpensive and many were constructed by young amateur enthusiasts. These were often on extremely low budgets. This was part possibly because of mass production and availability of Seven parts dating from 1930’s.

They were also cheap to insure.



Figure 2.Editors photograph of Dellow

The Dellow was competent production sports and trials car. Several models variants were made. Many used the Ford side valve engine.

They were rugged and could be dual used.

The practicality of these machines ensured healthy sales.


The Ginetta Mk.II of the late 1950’s is interesting in that it rather copied the Lotus Mk.VI.

It possibly attempted to undercut the Mk.VI but in the intervening period technology had moved on.

The Seven Series 1 although more expensive was far superior even when both were fitted with the Ford 1172 engine.

Specification from the net [note retail price –also as component /kit car]

Model    G2
Appearance Lotus Mk 6
Power plant Ford 8/10 hp
Further details Ford E93A-based kit
Cost £156 (kit)
Production 30
Year 1958 – 1960

1950’s Ford Specials e.g. Falcon Shells

During the 1950’s there was craze for building Ford Specials. This was possibly a spin off from:-

  1. The 1172 Formula
  2. The aftermarket tuning industry
  3. The advent of glamourous glass fibre bodies with promise of transforming Ford saloons dating from 1930’s
  4. The mass production salon offered affordability , availability and spares
  5. The technology was proven and cars easily worked upon


Figure 3.A&R sales brochure

The Ford Specials were slightly deceitful and the editor’s suspect more bodies were sold than cars completed. The explanation being that more work was required than suggested.

The basic Ford saloon chassis and components could be transformed but significant limitations existed.

Bodies were available from about £25 and a competent completed car might be built for £200-£250 but this was probably far greater than enthusiasts wanted and of course at that price other alternatives existed.

The Ford specials were a relatively short lived phenomena as they were soon overtaken by production cars like the Austin Healey Mk.1and the Mini.

It’s important to note that the 1172 Formula created in the early 1950’s continued in importance right through to the mid 1960’s.

Many specialist books on constructing and tuning Fords were published [see our extensive bibliography in MkVI and 1172 articles]

Austin Healey Sprite Mk.1


Figure 4.AH Sprite Mk.1 sales brochure A&R collection

The Austin Healey Sprite Mk.1 is an important motor car and worthy of serious study.

Its significance is likely to have impacted on Chapman in the following ways:-

  • The specification , performance , practicality and serviceability of the Mk1 was good[ see deliberate extended technical details below particularly note chassis construction details]
  • It came with reputation and major credibility
  • It was an attractive package in the small British sports car tradition , it followed the MG tradition
  • It was appealing to a young motoring audience at an international level
  • It entered the market at approximately the same time as the Seven and when credit was becoming available in the UK
  • Most importantly the engine gearbox of the A30/A35 was considered sufficiently attractive and promising for adoption in the Seven Series1
  • The Mk.1 was a small capacity efficient affordable package
  • It developed a competition following

[It might be worthwhile exploring production volumes.]

Lotus Seven Series 1: Specification Comparison from Rees

Seven Model Series 1:A Series 1: Super Seven -C C’ Climax
Engine :Austin A35/Morris 1000 A series Coventry Climax FWA
Capacity 948cc 1,098cc
Induction Single SU [7America twin SU] twin SU H2 carburetters
Bore x Stroke 62.94×76.2mm 72.4×66.6mm
Compr’Ratio 8.9 to 1 [America 8.3 to 1] 9.8 to1
Max.Power 37 bhp [27kW] at 4800 rpm [America 43bhp [32kW] @ 5,200] 75 bhp [56kW] @6,250rpm
Max.Torque 50lb ft. [68Nm] at 2500 rpm [America 52 lb ft. [70Kn]@ 3300 n/a
Gearbox Austin A30 four speed Austin A30 4 speed
Brakes 8 in. drums front and rear 8in .drums front and rear
Steering modified Morris Minor rack and pinion modified Morris Minor rack and pinion
Weight 896 lb [407kg] 924 lb [419kg]
Top Speed 85mph [137kph] 104 mph [[167kph]
0-60 mph 14.5 sec [America 12.2] 9.2 sec
50-70 top 10.3 sec [through the gears] 6.5 sec [through the gears]

Chapman enlists in the AA: The Austin-America

The Seven “America” was a very commercial proposition .It demonstrates Chapman’s commercial awareness of markets.

It was deliberately executed to be attractive to an American audience. Its specification confirmed this.

The adoption of the Austin engine was important because of spares and servicing facilities in the US. The US also had the climate advantage.


Figure 5.Seven America featured on front cover “Sports Car Illustrated”

Good research would be to discover how many Series One Sevens were produced to this specification and actually exported.

The Seven America also contributed the clamshell front wings. These were both attractive and functional feature of the Seven .They became a significant design cue and point of read identification.

Specification for Seven America as quoted in Sports Car Illustrated, 1960

Engine type BMC A-Type
Displacement 57.8in.[948cc]
Dimensions 4 cylinder 2.48×3.00in
Compression Ratio 8.3 to 1
Power SAE 48bhp at 5200rpm
Torque 52lb-ft at3,300rpm
useable rpm range 800-6000rpm
piston speed 2365ft/min.
fuel recommended premium
mileage 26-35mpg
range 220-290miles
wheelbase 88in.
tread F-R 47in.
length 132in.
front ind’coil,wishbones,inc’anti roll bar
rear rigid axle,coils,radius arms
turns to full lock 1.5
tyre size 5.20×15
swept breaking area
curb weight [full tank] 960lb.
test weight 1300lb
%on driving wheels driven 62
Drive train gear ratio
1st 4.66
2nd 2.37
3rd 1.41
4th 1
final drive ratio available 3.73,.89,4.22,4.55,4.875,5.125,5.375 to 1


Figure 6.Editors sketch of Austin A30/A35 in Series 1 Seven

And now for something completely different: Lotus Seven Series 1:

“This One is different” Lotus &Sports Car Owner, 1958

Lotus Seven 1100
Year 1958 specification
Engine Coventry Climax
Bore&stroke 72.4mmx66.6mm
Cubic capacity 1098cc
Compression ratio 9.8 to 1
Power output 80hp at 6800rpm
wheelbase 7ft-8in.
front track 3ft-11in.
rear track 3ft-11in.
o’length 10ft-3in.
o’width 4ft-5in.
height to scuttle 2ft-3.5in.
ground clearance 5in.
brakes 9.5in Girling Disc
front 4.50×15
rear 5.00×15
Gear ratios: to 1
1st 2.5
2nd 1.67
3rd 1.23
4th 1to1
reverse 2.5
final drive 4.9
Maximum speed in gears
1st 43
2nd 65
3rd 89
4th 110
Speed per 1000rpm in top 15.5

The Coventry Climax powered Seven Series One was the top of the range.

This is evidenced through the comparison of performance figures.

This is the variant that most entered competition.

Several very significant cars were built .We feature two examples here.


Figure 7.Editors sketch interpretation of Series 1 with Coventry Climax engine installed

20150825093111_00001 20150825093052_00001

Figure 8.Editors photographs of Seven S1 fitted with Coventry Climax engine. Registration no: VJG4

The Coventry Climax powered car was expensive as our figures in appendices indicate.

It was possibly the smallest production run in the total of Series One.

However it gained the important competition success which generated significant publicity.

This in turn would assist sales and justified it.The Coventry Climax powered car performed an important role in the model range providing choice but also demonstrating the potential of the concept and the power the chassis could take. Thus it possibly influenced future Seven development.

Ford 1172 Side valve engine in Seven S1


“the very first Lotus Seven originally had the stalwart ford 1172 cc engine and the basic car was offered at a price of £587 in kit form ,which was considered at the time to be extremely good value for money”

The Ford 1172 cc Sidevalve engine Seven was possibly the most basic in the range.

Despite this it made a very significant contribution. The editors believe that a high proportion of Series One Sevens were built with a tuned sidevalve engine.


Figure 9.Editors sketch of standard Ford 1172 cc side valve engine in S1 Seven but fitted with twin SU carburetters

Seven Model Series 1:Ford 1172 cc sidevalve
Engine Ford 100 E sidevalve
Capacity 1172cc
Bore x Stroke 63.5×92.5mm
Induction single Solex or Zenith [optional twin SU]
Compr’Ratio 7.0 to 1 [optional 8.5 to 1]
Max.Power 28-40 bhp [21 -30 kW] @ 4,500 rpm option 48 bhp [36kW]
Max.Torque 52lb ft. [ 70 Nm]@2,500 [option 58lb ft. [78 Nm] @2,600 rpm
Gearbox Ford 3 speed
Brakes 8 in drums front and rear
Steering modified Morris Minor rack and pinion [early Burman ] Triumph Herald
Weight 918 lb [416 kg]
Top Speed 78 mph [125.5 kph] optional 81mph /130 kph
0-60 mph 19 sec optional 17.8
50-70 top n/a with optional engine 16.5 sec
No.Produced 243 all variants S1

The editors try to avoid repetition; therefore we direct subscribers to our dedicated articles that cover the Ford sidevalve in some detail including an extensive bibliography.

Here it’s important to emphasize the commercial dimension of the 1172 option. In period it would have offered potential Seven S1 owners:-

  1. The chance to possibly transfer an existing engine into an upgraded chassis[possibly an already tuned engine]
  2. Before word donor was used the Ford sidevalve was in plentiful supply including beakers yards
  3. Spares and aftermarket industry was well established [see separate dedicated articles on Aquaplane and Super Accessories for example]
  4. The 1172 Formula still proved important and was spawning ground for improvisation and many designers/owner drivers went on to work in F1 etc.

The Ford 1172 sidevalve for all its basic qualities could be transformed. Combined with the Seven’s sophisticated chassis.

This is was important exercise in added value.

The combination was also very commercial. At moderate costs an extraordinary sports car could be liberated affordability with assurances it could be maintained.

Mercenary considerations also dictated that future owners would appreciate the practicality of this option and resale values maintained.

As an aside many Specialist sports car manufacturers of the era adopted the Ford side valve and this included Morgan.

Seven S1: Component Cars


Figure 10.Seven Series 1: Photograph promoting component build

The Seven Series One is an important motoring concept worthy of detailed study.

This ought not to be overlooked as is principles have continued to the present. Delivered by most famously Caterham Cars and other kit car builders [many in Seven idiom]

The importance of the Seven packaged as component car include:-

  • The affordability aspect. Subscribers are directed to appendix where the cost savings and indeed the relative costs prove conclusively the advantage of this method. The car thus became more attractive and affordable than it otherwise might
  • Although expensive all components were brand new
  • The concept was green and sustainable –much more than has been credited. The body parts of cars often suffer but the mechanical with care can be extened.This was the case with 7S1parts perhaps dating from 1930 could be reincorporated. Many 7S1 of this specification are still in existence
  • The concept lend itself to personalization for needs , budget and specific competition use
  • The 7S1 was ideal for enthusiast owner racers who could prepare and race their own car. Mechanical empathy can be an important contribution to race success[ see stepping stone below]
  • The idea also contains inherent learning /skill opportunities. These include through the act of participation in build critical evaluation, inspiration and as a launch pad. Cars built from kits often received considerable attention pride and were presented to very high order [note examples here most significantly the Coventry Climax]
  • The 7S1 was probably deliberately designed with flexibility in mind and its capacity to incorporate a range of engines. Upgrades are known and there is ample evidence to confirm this
  • The package did not rely on Lotus providing engines .This economy was important for the survival of the brand .It also reduced dependency and allowed customers choice and opportunity
  • The kit car industry took off during the 1960’s with notable examples from Marcos, TVR, and Ginetta etc. They took example from Lotus. Caterham took over production and continued the component car package. Many of the kit cars are based on the Seven and Lowcost among others have attempted to reinforce and extend the principle

Sales material promoted the component function as:-

“Build yourself a Lotus replica” and

“This is how you buy your Lotus Seven [see typical illustration above] It is a matter of straight forward assembly .No technical knowledge is required .The amateur can accomplish a first class job.

“He designed it [with picture of Colin Chapman] you build it” Do it yourself at home, no special tools –only 60 ours work –all new parts ……….write for prices”

Lotus Seven S1: Marketing

The editors believe that Lotus marketing materials and brochures are worthy of close study, particularly for the Seven. We are proud to hold examples in the A&R library.

We wish to avoid repetition and therefore direct subscribers to our dedicated article on this subject covering all Seven Series.


Figure 11.A&R collection: Seven S1 sales brochure from c 1959


Figure 12.Unfolded additional imagery and specification on Seven S1

Briefly pertaining to the Seven S1 Chapman and his colleagues produced some attractive eye catching inspired in- house brochures. Examples can be studied on the net and in Lotus Collectibles and The Lotus Book.

In bullet form the factory sales brochures were:-

  • Powerful using dramatic black and white photography
  • Often as above using a two tone approach; one quite startling with red cover comprising 4 pages folded
  • One nicely presented Seven [UOW 429 and 7 TMT ]featured one with close up head on image [typically 6 page folded layout
  • Overall presentation was bold and graphic
  • Advertising was cost effective yet economical in production
  • Suggested the component option mixed with romance, driving pleasure and competition [see image above]

We don’t know how much material Lotus commissioned but the evidence is that it was well focused for the product and audience. Printers included A.G.Wood Ltd; Leicester .1958 and Richmond Hill Printing Works, Bournemouth, c 1957-58.

The editors would suggest it was radical more so than might be expected.

The marketing people knew their subject and pitched the Seven bang on symbolism.

There are commercial lessons for today in this respect.

In addition to the factory offer several other redolent advertising material appeared from dealers and in the motoring press. Often black and white for economy they featured the Seven and a notable example links the Seven with the Elite.

Subscribers are invited to examine as many of the 7S1 factory brochures as possible. They are educational and inspiring not only as graphic works of art but from commercial aspect of persuasion. A theme might be detected.

Seven Series 1: Production Numbers

The editors have seen considerable variation in the production volume of the 7S1.

This varies from 740 [Crombac] to the mid 200’s.for example Taylor 242]

The editors tend to think the lower figure more accurate. This assessment is made on the following criteria:-

  • Proven demand/sales of Mk.VI at 100 approximately
  • The 7S1 was even in component form relatively expensive[see price relativities –appendix below]
  • Towards the end of the decade significant competition entered the market not least from the Mini –capable of seating 4, inexpensive to buy and run with considerable performance/handling

Despite this the sales were important to Lotus. Much of the brands iconic reputation was launched with this model.

It provided a useful income stream and directly indirectly contributed to the racing programme and fed the development of British racing drivers through Club racing.

The Seven Series 1 was produced at both Hornsey and Cheshunt.We believe that there was similar number at each.

Seven Series 1: Retail Prices and Comparisons

Year Marque Model Price
1948 Land Rover £450
1949 Citroen 2CV £564
1955 Citroen DS £1726
1959 Austin Mini £497
c1952 Lotus Mk.VI £400-500 Depen’spec
Lotus Eleven £2,155 inc’ p’ tax
Lotus Seven £1036 inc’ p’ tax
Series Desig’ Engine Year Basic £ Engine Kit PT Complete Export
One F Ford 1172 c 1957 536 /690 347 1,037
One F Ford 1172 c 1957 536 No PT
One F Ford 1172 c 1957 1,267
One C C’Climax c1959 499 356 892 [incl] 1,546
One A Austin c1959 511[inc]
One Ameri’ Austin c1959 $2795/2897

In the appreciation of the Seven subscribers are invited to undertake a forensic cost breakdown. [See our Value analysis of the 7S4 for guidance]

The Seven gave phenomenal performance advantage but this was at a cost.

The 7S1 was not cheap.

Production value engineering today must examine cost benefit analysis in many products not just automobiles.

Such analysis will conveniently lead to a study of the Series 2.

We also recommend that subscribers see these figures not from today’s costs but those of the era. It’s for this reason we provide comparative costs of income into which we can make deductions about who was able to afford this car.

Seven Series One: Concurrent Lotus Model Range

The Seven S1 was launched in October 1957.

The following list shows the concurrent models.

It also indicates the structure, range and subscribers might like to check the respective retails prices for all cars.

The Seven played an important role.

Type No Year/s
Seven 1957-1960
Eleven 1956-1958
12 1957-1959
Elite 1957-1963
15 1958-1960
16 1958-1960
17 1959
18 1960-1961

Seven Series 1: Inspiration and Legacy

The Seven S1 has achieved considerable impact .These include:-

  • Cultural and popular culture through TV [see our dedicated article on “The Prisoner”]
  • It inspired many famous FI designers like Gordon Murray [soon to be subject of dedicated article]
  • It was responsible for kick starting many racing drivers careers like Graham Hill
  • The Seven has been imitated many times
  • The Caterham has taken over and evolved the concept without fundamental change, including a race series

Learning Opportunities

Our learning /educational opportunities are intended to be challenging thought provoking and requiring additional research and/or analysis.

These opportunities are particularly designed for a museum/education centre location where visitors would be able to enjoy access to all the structured resources available in conjunction with any concurrent exhibition.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • Outline the history and development of British specialist sports car industry
  • What are the merits /demerits of incremental kit car build?
  • What is significance of donor /mass produced engines to kit car and specialist sports car industry
  • Benchmark Lotus 7 in British specialist car market, which marques have been its nearest rival?
  • What has been the role of Caterham Cars? How would you assess their contribution to the Seven concept?
  • How do the principles and concept of the Seven sit with Industrial Product Design

Exhibitions, Education and Economics

In the museum context the editors believe that commercial considerations are both necessary and complementary with its educational objectives.

For these reasons our suggested outline Business Plan includes provision for promoting products and services which share Chapman’s ideals of mechanical efficiency and sustainability. In addition we propose merchandising that explain and interprets the social and cultural context of Chapman’s designs in period. It’s suggested there will be catalogue for on line purchasing.

In this instance we suggest the following might be appropriate:-

  • See all titles contained in all articles relating to Seven series
  • “Trad”
  • Seven Series1:A serious bit of kit
  • All kited out
  • Seven Series1Component car: All the right ingredients
  • First Time Out of the Box



“In fact it was the Lotus Seven, in its first few years of production, which was the key element in Chapman and Lotus staying in business”

It possibly saved Lotus and almost certainly the Elite.

There is no denying the Seven is a prenominal design concept. Although an extraordinary automobile it can be viewed as an exceptional piece of Industrial Product Design and packaging.

This was credited on the grounds of:-

  • Performance
  • Aesthetic
  • Choice of engine, budget permutations etc.
  • Tool that equipped many to enter motor racing
  • Fundamental technical engineering correctness and design strategy recognizing demand
  • DIY/Purchase Tax component concept with choices and packages to suit individual owners budget and requirement
  • Educational role of component build
  • Start of iconic legend continued through Caterham Seven
  • Imitations

The Seven is a fundamentally correct concept well executed.

From its origin it has been flexible and adaptable.

The totality of every aspect of the Seven has rendered it an enduring icon. It has to be acknowledged the Seven was not without faults. There can be few more indications of the “power” of the Seven than the continuing relevance and sales of the Caterham Seven.

In this article we have attempted to examine Chapman as a motor manufacturer in a free competitive market. He often attempted the impossible. In many respects this was idealistic. He wished to produce a superior product to mainstream mass producers but also undercut price wise. This is why we include much detail of the Austin Healey.Technology is relentless competition is ruthless. Chapman was competing in a market place. [There are ongoing lessons of product planning to assimilate].The Seven was expensive –primary costs in the high labour content of the space frame chassis and hand formed artisan skilled aluminium body. But these qualities also rendered it with a superior form and function aesthetic. A factor that registered with customers then and now.

The editors believe the Seven is such an important concept that a thorough and holistic exhibition is necessary. It possess that much in terms of inspiration.

Since its inception for the motoring –driving enthusiast the Seven has been the “One” to own and certainly One for the Road.

The Seven Series One was built at Tottenham Lane, Hornsey, London, and N8.

Appendix 1

Austin Healey Sprite Mk.1 [wiki]

Mark I
Production 1958–1961
Designer Donald Healey
Engine 948 cc (0.9 L) A-Series I4 43HP[2]
Wheelbase 2,032 mm (80.00 in)[3]
Length 3,480 mm (137.01 in)[3]
Width 1,346 mm (52.99 in)[3]
Height 1,200 mm (47.24 in) (with hood up)[4]

The Sprite quickly became affectionately known as the “frogeye” in the UK and the “bugeye” in the US, because its headlights were prominently mounted on top of the bonnet, inboard of the front wings. The car’s designers had intended that the headlights could be retracted, with the lenses facing skyward when not in use; a similar arrangement was used many years later on the Porsche 928. But cost cutting by BMC led to the flip-up mechanism being deleted, therefore the headlights were simply fixed in a permanently upright position, giving the car its most distinctive feature. The body was styled by Gerry Coker, with subsequent alterations by Les Ireland following Coker’s emigration to the US in 1957. The car’s distinctive frontal styling bore a strong resemblance to the defunct American 1951 Crosley Super Sport. 48,987 “frogeye” Sprites were made.[5]

The problem of providing a rigid structure to an open-topped sports car was resolved by Barry Bilbie, Healey’s chassis designer, who adapted the idea provided by the Jaguar D-type, with rear suspension forces routed through the bodyshell’s floor pan. The Sprite’s chassis design was the world’s first volume-production sports car to use unitary construction, where the sheet metal body panels (apart from the bonnet) take many of the structural stresses. The original metal gauge (thickness of steel) of the rear structure specified by Bilbie was reduced by the Austin Design Office during prototype build, however during testing at MIRA (Motor Industry Research Association) distortion and deformation of the rear structure occurred and the original specification was reinstated. The two front chassis legs projecting forward from the passenger compartment mean the shell is not a full monocoque. The front sheet-metal assembly, including the bonnet (hood) and wings, was a one-piece unit, hinged from the back that swung up to allow access to the engine compartment.

The 43 bhp, 948 cc OHV engine (coded 9CC) was derived from the Austin A35 and Morris Minor 1000 models, also BMC products, but upgraded with twin 1 18 inch SU carburettors. The rack and pinion steering was derived from the Morris Minor 1000 and the front suspension from the Austin A35. The front suspension was a coil spring and wishbone arrangement, with the arm of the Armstrong lever shock absorber serving as the top suspension link. The rear axle was both located and sprung by quarter-elliptic leaf springs, again with lever-arm shock absorbers and top links. There were no exterior door handles; the driver and passenger were required to reach inside to open the door. There was also no boot lid, owing to the need to retain as much structural integrity as possible, and access to the spare wheel and luggage compartment was achieved by tilting the seat-backs forward and reaching under the rear deck, a process likened to potholing by many owners, but which resulted in a large space available to store soft baggage.


  • 1958–1961: 948 cc A-Series I4, 43 hp (32 kW) at 5200 rpm and 52 lbf·ft (71 Nm) at 3300 rpm

A car was tested by the British magazine The Motor in 1958. It had a top speed of 82.9 mph (133.4 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 20.5 seconds. Fuel consumption of 43 miles per imperial gallon (6.6 L/100 km; 36 mpg‑US) was recorded. The test car cost £678, including taxes of £223.[4]

Appendix 2.Relative car prices UK 1957

Marque Model Retail £
AC Aceca Bristol 2497
Alfa R 1900 C Super’snt 3676
Allard J3R Compet’ 2548
Aston M DB2-4 2888
Austin A35 Saloon 569
Austin H 100-six 1144
Bentley Mulliner Cont’spts 7606
Berkeley 574
BMW 5CT Sports 4201
Bristol 405 Saloon 3586
Cadillac Elderado Convert’ 5513
Chevrolet’ corvette Sports 2723
Citroen 2 CV Cabriolet 598
Dellow Mk.II Sports 698
Fairthorpe Atom Mk.IM 391
Fiat 600 Saloon 649
Ford Anglia Saloon 571
Frazer N’ Targa f Gran-Spt 3376
Goggomo T300 494
Isetta motocou 359
Jaguar XK 150 f/h coupe 1763
Jensen 541 Saloon 2153
Lancia Aurelia GT 3346
Lotus Le Mans 75 2405
Lotus Le Mans 85 2501
Lotus Club 2 seater 1937
Lotus Sports 2 seater 1511
Merc-Ben 300 SL 4651
MG A Coupe 1087
Morgan Plus 4 TR3 991
Morris Minor Saloon 625
Oldsmob 88 Holiday 2431
Porsche 1500 Carrera 2978
Rolls-R Silvercld’ Saloon 5386
Land Rov SWB St’wagon 1028
Standard Eight 616
Sunbeam Rapier Saloon 1043
Triumph TR3 Sports 1021
Turner Sports 2 seater 789
Unicar Saloon 399
Vauxhall Victor Saloon 748
VW Standard Saloon 635
AC Petite 399
Bond Minicar 293
Gordon 3 wheel 301
Heinkel Cabin Cruiser 379
Messers’ Scooter KR 200 325
Reliant Regal Mk.III 433
Tourette supreme Junior 288

Appendix 3: Comparative costs through 1950’s from “The Value of a Pound”

Item Year
1951 1952 1954 1955 1957 1959
Average wage
Solicitor £2086[a]
Police Constable £400[a] £445[a] £475[a]
Teacher £776[a] £891[a] £1465[a]
Nurse £420[a] £540[a]
Train Driver 138/0d[w] 178/6d[w] 229/0d[w]
Austin A30 2door £335
Austin 12 hp £820
Road tax £12-10-0d
Insurance [London] £34
Gallon petrol 4s-11.5d
Battery 12V £10-18-0d
Labour charge hr 15s-0d
Tyres [each] £6-8-6d
Vespa Runabout £125-1-3d
3 bed semi Stretford £1,400
2 bed terrace, Rochdale £500
New house [average] £2,330
4bed detached, Chapel
Cheshire £3,950


Motoring Specials.Dussek.Shire.1991.

ISBN: 0747801185

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