Notes From The Archives – Lotus 7 Survivor
April 20th, 2017 by James Chartres
In my January 2017 I wrote about that great production sports car from Colin Chapman, the Lotus 7. Then a few days ago I received an email from a former autocrosser, Lawrence (Larry) Trice who lives here in the Bay Area. Larry said he owns and drives a Lotus 7A on the street most every week, a car he bought in 1970 and has had for the past forty-seven years. We exchanged emails and arranged a time for a telephone conversation since I wanted to learn more about the history of his car.
During our conversation, Larry gave me contact information for one of the cars early driver/owners, Don Stiver, also living in the Bay Area. I spoke with Stiver who added to the background Larry had given me to provide a pretty complete picture of the cars early racing days.
Stiver was an engineer working at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and in his spare time helped maintain his friend Bob Bent’s race cars. Bent had been racing since 1957 in a Corvette (1957-58), Austin Healey’s (1959 -60) and a RAM Formula Junior (last two races in 1960). In 1961, Bent and Stiver partnered on the purchase of a new Lotus 7A through local Lotus dealer and friend, Rod Carveth. The car, in kit form, was air freighted directly from Lotus to Stiver’s home where it was assembled and prepared for the upcoming racing season.
Stiver, explained he and Bent split the driving duties while running a full season in 1962. He ran the Regionals and Bent the Divisional races where he scored thirty-six points good at year end for fourth in F Production. With some success and seat time in the Lotus, the “team” was looking forward to the next season. To help ensure they would be ready for the competition, they had Huffaker Engineering bore the engine, perform some head work and install a hotter cam.
The 1963 season began in fine style with Stiver taking the Lotus to a first place finish at Stockton, then Bent reeled podiums in six straight races where he placed first four times and second, twice. Stiver finished the season with another first in October at Laguna Seca. In eight races the team scored six first place finishes and two seconds with Bent finishing first in F Production Divisional Points with one hundred eighteen. With the Lotus having won a championship, Bent and Stiver felt this would be a good time to sell the car which they did, but the buyers name has been lost over time.
The Lotus reappeared in September 1969 in the hands of Dave Rauch at Sears Point where he finished fourth in F Production. He then ran four more races at Ontario, two at Laguna Seca and one at Vaca Valley with mixed results. At the end of the season, Rauch put the car up for sale where his ad was spotted by Larry Trice.
Trice competed in autocross with the Northern California Sports Car Council (NCSCC), running a Camaro but always liked the Lotus 7. He answered Rauch’s ad and bought the car which he ran in NCSCC events for the next several years before retiring the car to pursue a teaching career. Then in 1978, Trice received a call from Bent who asked about driving the car in a vintage race at Laguna Seca. Trice agreed and the car was prepared for road racing once again. Unfortunately it didn’t go that well as on a fast section of the track, the transmission popped out of fourth car causing Bent to loose control and smack a barrier damaging the car and send him to the hospital with several injuries. Trice took the damaged car home and parked it where it sat for the next thirty-two years.
In 2010, Trice decided to bring the car back to life and with the help of John Buddenbaum Fabrication, the bent frame tubes and other sheet metal were repaired or replaced. Trice added the necessary components to make the car street legal and fifty years after the car arrived from England in a crate, it was back on the road where it is driven at least once per week. Thus proving the point that (some) old race cars never die, they continue to provide pleasure to their owners.
Words by: Gary Horstkota – March 2017