Designed by Lotus founder Colin Chapman the Lotus 7 is the pinnacle of the Lotus philosophy: Performance is directly related to simplicity. Open wheels, two seats, no roof, no bumpers, everything but the drivetrain is the bare minimum. The Seven was first released in 1957, being named after a previously abandoned design. It would go on to be one of the fastest street legal track cars ever made. The first model of the Seven was released with a 40 horsepower ford engine displacing just over 1,100 cc's. The car was so light, even this small motor made it a rival on the rece course. Four versions of the seven would follow, with the Series 2 being released in 1960, followed by the Series 3 in 1969 and finally with the Series 4 in 1970. Each new edition added more exterior elements to the car and made it more usable in size. The 4th iteration was too far from the Lotus bare bones standard and sold few models.
British tax law at the time allowed the car to be sold as a kit and assembled by the buyer. This allowed buyers to circumvent the tax surcharge that would apply if the car was purchased as a whole. Tax laws required that no assembly instructions could be included, otherwise the surcharge would be applied. To get around this Chapman included disassembly instructions, which technically were allowed by law. This allowed buyers to easily build the purchased kit cars. The British Magazine The Motor bought a test lotus for 1100 pounds, this included the tax surcharge. If the car had been purchased as a kit and built the cost would have been under 700 pounds. The low cost of the Seven combined with its performance made it one of the top selling track cars of the day.
In 1973 in an attempt to move away from the kit car tax credit image Lotus sold the rights of the Seven to Caterham Cars. Caterham has continued to sell versions of the Lotus 7 Series 3 to this day. Although much of the car remains the same, the advances in power output of small engines has made the Seven just as good of a performer today as the original was when it debuted. Much like the AC Cobra, and Porsche 550 Spyder the Lotus Seven is one of the biggest selling replica cars. Over 160 companies offer versions of the Seven with parts sourced form different motor companies. These replica's are often simply called clubmans.