Engine Series – Vegantune

Power is a Vegan Issue

Engines associated with Lotus series:Vegantune


The engine series are neither technical treatise nor Haynes Manuals. This information is readily available in published form or on the net.

Rather our study concentrates on how and why Chapman and his colleagues sourced engines and their contribution to Lotus success and sales.

In his selection of major mechanical components Chapman added both performance to a sophisticated chassis and extraordinary added value.

Lotus were not a major engine manufacturer until quite late on .Despite this they used and adopted a range of mainstream engines to extraordinary effect.

Chapman and Lotus practice provides inspiration for all Industrial Designers /Specialists in their search for urgency and added value.

Our study focuses heavily on the fitment of these engines along with a visual representation. We debate the appeal to owners / racers and the beneficial publicity accredited to the manufacturers.

We believe that subscribers will be well able from this base line to research specific topics according to their needs.

Vegantune has a connection with Lotus through the Lotus Twin Cam engine and the Seven through the descent to Caterham.

We believe it worthy of study. We postulate that Vegantune engines might have found their way into Lotus Seven’s and we have constructed a sketch drawing suggesting this.

Subscribers might like to see the directly relevant and integrated A&R pieces that complement and help structure this article:-

  • Ford Lotus Twin Cam engines and Types
  • Cosworth engines in Lotus
  • Holbay
  • Ford Cosworth DFV
  • Engines used in Lotus cars

Ford –Lotus Twin Cam

Subscribers are directed to our dedicated pieces. Here are some sketches of the unit.

Vegantune would be one variant.

Figure 1.Editors sketch of Lotus Twin Cam

Figure 2. Editors sketch of Twin Cam fitted in Caterham Seven. 165 bhp ,1600 Twin cam with 2 Weber 45 DCOE carburetters

Figure 3.Editors sketch, Lotus-Holbay Twin Cam in Lotus Seven

Vegantune From net etc.:

For those who don’t know, the VTA ENGINE has a twin cam alloy head on a Crossflow block, with some other special castings. Produced for some years prior to the birth of Evante it was used in Formula Atlantic racing and wherever a 1600 twin cam was eligible. The output of 100Bhp per litre, for a two valve engine was, at the time, “state of the art” (In the Evante it was produced with 140 and 160 Bhp outputs)

Figure 4.

” The Vegantune VTA engine has also enjoyed a historic association with the Caterham 7. When Lotus decided to cease production of the Lotus Twin Cam it was necessary for Lotus to provide continuing support to Caterham Cars. To enable continued production of the Lotus Twin Cam, kits were supplied by Lotus to Vegantune in order to fulfil orders from Japan for the Lotus Twin Cam Engine. Approximately 300 Caterham 7s were produced with the Vegantune Lotus Twin Cam Engine fitted. ”

Figure 5

Vegantune were originally a firm in Spalding owned by George Robinson & his son, they did a lot of work on Lotus Elans and the Twin-Cam Lotus engine.

Wilkins also suggests John Sisme was a partner and the company was formed c 1964.
Vegantune (Spalding) also developed their own engine VTA as mentioned above.

First they assembled Lotus Twin cam engines.

But in any case it is easy to distinguish a VTA from a Lotus twin-cam engine because the Lotus Twin-Cam has an internal timing CHAIN for the camshafts, whereas the VTA has an external timing cogged-rubber belt.

By 1966 Vegantune were supplying Ford with rally engines and Alan Mann Racing.

In addition their engines went to America for Formula B&C along with SSCA racing.


Weale commented that:-

“the Lotus engine was virtually unavailable by 1978, but continuing demand led in turn to Caterham offering the Vegatune VTA engine , based on the Lotus design but using the their own cylinder head with belt driven camshafts. Difficulties with the engine led to reversion to effectively modified Ford cross flow engines ……….some rivalling the Lotus twin cam in power output”

Lotus Vegatune Twin Cam:-

Wilkins covers the Vegantune story very well in Lotus Twin Cam.

Much emerges from the Lotus Caterham agreement on the Seven c 1976.

In 1977 Vegantune supplied Caterham

On 1/3/1978 Lotus appointed Vegantune as official twin cam re-conditioners.

Here were technical and supply problems.

Up to the 1980’s there were political issues between the parties.

Version of the Lotus Twin Cam assembled by Vegantune ;initially same specification as Lotus –built version then changed to use Ford 225E 1600 “tall” block “Kent” ;capacity 1,598cc bore 80.96mm stroke 77.62mm compression ratio down to 8.5 to 1 same power but greater torque.

Figure 6

Vegantune VTA:-

Vegantune designed twin cam unit on ford 225E block “Kent” , with belt –driven camshafts .Wilkins suggests the engine incorporated :-

Different porting, valves, belt driven camshafts , Vegantune pistons and capacity1,598cc bore 80.96mm stroke 77.62mm; compression ratio 10 to 1 .twin Dellorto carburetters . 130 bhp at 6,500 rpm”

Vegantune in the Caterham story – Arnold

Vegantune of Cradge Bank near Spalding, Lincolnshire were already established tuners and remanufacturers of the Lotus Twin Cam engine before they put the Lotus Twin cam engine, using the taller 1600 cross flow [Kent] block with a new front cover, back into production for the Caterham Seven.

This was done with the initial blessing of lotus but subsequently, this approval was withdrawn as a cautionary measure due to possible legal complications associated with product liability laws.

Vegantune therefore decided to produce their own engine. In doing so they designed out most of the original shortcomings of the Lotus engine, and created a new Twin Cam heads mated to the ford “Kent” 1600cc 5 –bearing bottom end. The new engine which resulted, featured belt –driven camshafts, water cooled exhaust valves, a choice of inlet manifolds and greatly improved oil circulation.

Designed from the outset to be turbocharged, the Vegantune VTA twincam produces 195 bhp in turbocharged form and around 140 bhp with twin Dellorto carburetters , when placed in the Caterham Seven.

Vegantune still rebuild and remanufacture original lotus twin cam engines as well as producing the VTA for Caterham and other customers .currently a big bore VTA is planned for selected export markets.”


” The news about Lotus ending production of the famous power plant was a bitter blow for Caterham .Even Vegantune’s efforts to keep production going using second hand cylinder heads was now exhausted .Caterham relied on the Twin Cam engine in the increasingly important Japanese market where they would not touch a 7 unless it had the Twin Cam engine .

So Caterham actually funded the development and pattern manufacture of a new Twin Cam replacement. Going to Gorge Robinson of Vegantune, a new VTA power plant was developed. Based as ever on the ford Kent crossflow block, the Twin Cam heads drew its inspiration from the Lotus, Cosworth BDA and Fiat equivalents. It also stuck with the twin Dellorto 40DHLA carburetters ……..it sounded just right and produced even more power than the Lotus Twin Cam unit at 130bhp …….although in gear acceleration and fuel economy were not so good ……

For a short time, the VTA engine was a useful direct substitute for the Lotus Twin Cam. But the manufacturing quality was not high, with two thirds of all power units supplied proving to need work before fitment. Common problems included oil leaks, broken camshafts and misaligned pulley belts.

Over a four year period only 41 [some sources 40 Super Sevens] Vegantune VTA engines were supplied to Caterham [with Caterham branded Cam covers] by 1985 there were also Cosworth BDR and 1700 Supersprint engines options that offered more power and greater reliability, and in the Supersprint’s case a more sensible price .The days of the Twin Cam, therefore, finally ended”

Coulter observed a specification for the VTA.

Engine Engine
Capacity 1,598cc
Bore x Stroke 80.96×77.62mm
Induction Twin Dellorto 40DHLA carburetters
Compr’Ratio 10:01
Max.Power 130bhp [97kW]@6,500rpm
Max.Torque 115lbft [156Nm]@5,000 rpm
Gearbox Ford Escort Sport 4 speed
Brakes Girling 9 in front .8in. Marina rear drums
Steering Triumph Spitfire r&P [modified mini from 1984
Weight 1,100lb [499kg]
Top Speed 017mph [172 kph]
0-60 mph 6.2 sec
50-70 top 8.8 sec
No.Produced 41


Novomotor produced engines for Lotus and their outputs are worthy of comparison with Vegantune.

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:-

  • Use spreadsheet below to build comparative analysis or graph of engine performance
  • Using Lotus Book, record engines used by Lotus and their production volumes – which was numerically greatest? Suggest why?
  • Against what other engines would you benchmark Lotus Twin Cam engine?
  • What other mass production have been significantly improved and used by specialist marques?
  • What aspects of Industrial Design philosophy can be seen in Lotus Twin Cam?
  • What advantages/publicity pass to Mass production engine manufacturers when their engines are “improved”
  • What were the technical problems Vegantune experienced in manufacturing components?

Figure 7.editors sketch

Exhibitions, Education, Economics and Entertainment

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:-

  • Suitable for Vegans
  • Put in tune
  • See themes outlined in Lotus Twin cam, Holbay and Cosworth
  • Harmony of Tune
  • Attuned
  • Eminently tuneable
  • The Machinist
  • In tune with the Times
  • Name that Tune


The Vegantune engine contributed to Caterham and the Lotus

It therefore powered racing and road cars of varying marques.

It was a piece of industrial design based on a mass production unit improved in several ways, but not without problems.

The engine was attractive to owners and generated sales in certain markets. Exports were possible because of the status and performance offered and possibly exclusivity.

These specialist engines are important

The engine has continuing legacy and relevance and being such a significant piece of industrial design is fully worthy of analysis and appreciation.

The Vegantune engine is interesting technically and commercially along with manufacturing processes. It helps explain why the improvement of well tested and developed mass production units have been so beneficial to specialist brands.

In the Vegantune we can explore the interrelationship between: –

  • Base product / design, engineering
  • Development
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Objective data comparison
  • Power to weight

Vegantune is one of the variants that helped Caterham and supports the thesis of Industrial Design and how small brands [not just cars like Morgan etc.] can benefit from mix and match.

Added value is an extremely important of Industrial Design, Chapman exploited to maximum effect and its principles are significant for a young entrepreneurs with low capital wishing to enter the market.

Appendix 1: Engines Adopted for Lotus& Caterham Seven

Marque Engine Maker Designation CC BHP
Ford 100E
Coventry Climax FWA
Austin A35/Morris 1000
Austin BMC “A” Series
Ford 105E
Ford 109E Cosworth
Ford 116E Cortina Cosworth
Ford 225 Cortina
Ford 225E Kent Crossflow
Ford Holbay Crossflow
Lotus Twin Cam
Lotus Holbay Twin Cam
Ford 225E Kent Crossflow
Lotus Twin Cam
Lotus Holbay Twin Cam
Lotus, Big Valve Twin Cam
Lotus tall block Twin Cam
Ford 225E Kent Crossflow
Ford Caterham mod’ Crossflow
Vegantune VTA Twin Cam
Caterham 1600 Sprint
Ford Caterham mod’ Crossflow
Holbay R120
Caterham mod’
Cosworth BDR
Cosworth BDR 1700
Ford Escort XR3i CVH/Turbo
Caterham 1700 Supersprint
Caterham-Vauxhall Twin Cam VX carb/VXI inj’
Caterham-Vauxhall Twin Cam SRE tuned
Sprint 1600
Supersprint 1700
Ford 1600 GT/1700
Rover K Series
Rover K Series Supersport
Caterham-Vauxhall SRE tuned
Vauxhall/Opel Twin Cam Rallye
Rover K Series Supersport
Caterham -Rover K Series Motorsport
Vauxhall. 1600
Rover K Series Supersport
Rover K Series XPower WC
Vauxhall. 1800
Rover Caterham mod’ K Series
Ford Zetec US -spec
Honda Blackbird
Honda CBR900 RRW Fireblade
MG XPower 1.8
MG Caterham mod’ XPower 1.8
Rover K Series Cat’ PTP/Minster
Motorpower RST-V8
Ford Caterham/Cosworth Duratec 2.3
Caterham Ford Duratec 2
Ford Sigma


The Lotus and Caterham Seven.Coulter.1986.

ISBN: 0947981063

The Magnificent Seven.Rees.Haynes.2007.

ISBN: 9781844254101

Lotus Seven.Weale.Osprey.1991.

ISBN: 185532153X

Lotus Twin Cam.Wilkins.Brooklands.1988.

ISBN: 9781855209688

Lotus Seven –Super Profile.Arnold.Haynes.1984.


Please note the editors of the A&R attempt to give the broadest spectrum of references but not all are available for consultation in an article. However by noting their existence it may assist students in their research.

*Items in italics non A&R library books.