Lotus Seven: Humor about driving a Super Seven

The Return of a Legend - Rock Steel's back for one more lap!

Once a month, members of the Lockheed Sports Car Club get together to stage an autocross. There is a friendly rivalry amongst the big blocks, the foreign cars, and us little people.

I run my Super Seven. Two months ago, the course was set up by a Corvette driver, and was an obvious attempt to favor those machines with big blocks. I was making my first run, down the longest straight I have ever seen. At the end of the straight, the A suspension bracket on the bottom of the differential housing broke, the axle rotated 90 degrees, bending the coil over shocks in a U shape, breaking the pinion and jamming it against the ring gear, breaking teeth, and the U joint on the driveshaft, bending far beyond the anticipated engineering limits, broke loose. I ended up, after the spinning stopped, sitting in the ultimate low rider machine, with zero clearance, wondering what happened.

I made a couple of joking remarks about the course designer to the Lotus group, prompting the following response:

Rock wiped a trickle of sweat off his forehead, his grimy hands leaving an unintended black streak on his brow. He turned to Dire Joe, a club mainstay for many years, who was surveying the course. The red cones glistening on the blacktop, their forms distorting in the shimmering air heated by the August sun.

"Well, Joe, what do you think?"

"Dunno, Rock," Joe answered. Looks like a Vette course to me."

"Not really," Rock replied. "See, we have nice sweeping turns with the entrances and exits that allow speed to be maintained.. Every driver can pick his or her own line and decide between maintaining the quickest line through the corner or attaining the highest exit speed. This puts a premium on driver technique and knowing your own car. Times should be close in all classes."

"It'll be pretty fast."

"Not over 60-65mph. That shouldn't cause anyone problems."

"You're forgetting. There'll be Fillbees out here today."

Fillbees! God no! The Fragile Little British Cars, FLBC's or Fillbees, as they were known, had been the terror of the autocross circuits in the old days, not only for their speed, but for their tendency to scatter multiple pieces of hardware along the track as they passed. Rock remembered the old days when he'd campaigned in an Uncle Shel special, a hybrid of American and British engineering. Broken half-shafts, shattered differential mounts, lost wheels were all part of a typical driving weekend.

Horrified, Rock sprinted toward the start/finish and the red flag, but he was too late. Sandy Michaels, driving one of the flimsiest of the Fillbees, had just taken the green flag. Joe and Rock watched helplessly, as Sandy exited the sweeping turn and screamed up the back straight, his engine howling as the car accelerated to a mind blowing 50 mph.

"Shift, Sandy, shift!" they yelled in unison as the revs increased, eventually, to an incredible 5,000 or more.

But they were too late. The tortured Fillbee, stretched well past its design limits at 55 mph and nearly 6,000 rpm, self-destructed in a fountain of twisted metal shards, hot oil, smoking rubber and melted plastic. When the debris finally settled, there sat Sandy, a remnant of scorched steering wheel still clutched in his moldering deer-skin driving gloves. Except for the driver-side seat cushion beneath him and the American-built roll bar and shoulder harness, no more than two square inches of the Filbee structure could be found intact. Miraculously, Sandy had escaped unhurt!

Later, Rock and Dire Joe discussed the events of the day.

"Well, that does it," said Rock grimly. "From now on, no more high speed turns or letting drivers pick their lines through corners. We'll have short straights connecting tight, tricky corners."

"Can't make the turns too tricky," interjected Joe. "Forces of 0.5 g or higher might be too much for Fillbee suspensions."

"Then we'll slow the drivers of even the smallest Fillbees down to 20 mph or so and lead them through the corners."

"That may not be good enough," replied Joe. "My own Fillbee snapped a front bolt that attached the right trailing link into the frame going over a cable covered speed bump at 3 mph."

"Okay," replied Rock, "Then we'll guide all the cars through tight box corners at 3 miles per hour, then shoot them up straights that are too short to require shifting into the next 3 mph corner. Put four or five of those together and you've got a course that's safe for even the flimsiest of the Fillbees."

Joe thought about it for awhile. "There's only one thing," he finally replied. "Besides the fact that such courses won't be fun for anyone, with all the low end torque the Vettes have and all the cars having to slow down that much for each corner, the Vettes will win every event easily."

"I know," said Rock, with a sad smile. "That's just one of the sacrifices we're all going to have to make."

(This parody was submitted for publication by Milan Maximovich)