S2-style S3: advice sought

S2-style S3: advice sought



Original Poster:

7 posts

80 months

Tuesday 9th February
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Hi folks. My first post in this section, so by way of introduction: I'm Gaz.

I'm hoping for some help. After reading dozens of vapour builds and threads that never go anywhere I though it would be sensible to offer a decent overview so that any doubts may be displaced. Feel free to skip this and jump to the question.


I've been building cars for years: predominantly older Land Rovers. Rather than stick welded off roaders, the have been true nut-and bolt rebuilds with a period mods - a couple of local show wins and my most recent has been a 1969 patina rebuild that maintains all its scarred & faded factory paint but is utterly perfect under the skin. There's been a few old fords too.

I was raised around Sevens (Westfields: one SEI and one pre-lit) and had an obsession with Mr Chapman since childhood (school projects on the history of Lotus rather than on pirates or things-that-are-yellow), but have never owned one.

I'm just finishing my new workshop - after years of single and double garages, I now have a 3-bay workshop with a lift. I also have a number of welders, formers, air and all manner of fabrication kit - but I do have an empty bay and time on my hands.

Been saving for a while to fund the next classic and have decided to pursue my dream: a Lotus 7 Series 2 - not a 3, rather the slimmer and more pure Series 2. Only I don't. Actually I want a 7 I can drive whenever possible, I want to do trackdays and I will want to modify it to suit my needs - it may get bumped and rebuilt and when battery packs get to a decent price-point it will inevitably be electrified. So I don't want a rare S2 at all - I actually want a more common 7 that can be replaced or rebuilt and that I won't get panicky when leaving at the supermarket.

So I'm going to build it. At a push, I could run to a genuine S2 - but I'd be afraid of using it. By building my own I could do it for half the market price of a Lotus 7 S2 without skimping on quality.

I've called Caterham and asked about a suitable starter kit (no joy: component packs only), I've looked at every kit-car manufacturer and for a long time planned to build my own starter kit: even built a welding table and re-worked the Prince & Cushing plans to fabricate my own chassis.

In the end, a friend reminded me I was being an idiot and that I should just buy a car and change it to suit. He's right.

The question:

I would like to find the scabbiest Caterham I can: £7/8K seems to be the starting point. I'll have the chassis sent back to Arch for a refresh and a reskin and then the work will start.

I want to build one that is an exact external match for a Series 2. No small feat: the track appears to be narrower - new wishbones and either a rear axle swap or (if an English) a custom narrow axle. I'll need S2 arches, correct Lucas lamps and some steel wheels with chrome caps as well as dozens of smaller items. And I'll have to do all of it while staying on the right side of the SVA regs (or IVA if its a later donor) or else the benefit of buying a pre-tested and registered 7 will be lost.

So - this is where I need the help. Step 1: finding the donor Caterham.

Am I right in thinking that the S2 and S3 chassis are identical in external profile/shape/widths and that it is just the inner tubes that are changed? If so does that mean that much of the bodywork (excl. the narrower wheel arches) is the same? Are nosecones/bonnets/scuttles and tubs interchangeable? Yes they look similar, but are they bang-on?

Does anyone know if the suspension mounts on the frame are the same? i.e. if you took S2 wishbones, could you bolt them to a S3 chassis?

If my assumptions are correct, then I believe I will just need *any* live axle caterham to achieve what I want. Sort the wishbones, axle width and wheel arches and I'm 90% of the way there.

If anyone could advise not he best year to look for or offer any other feedback, I'd be grateful. Yes, I know the resale will be affected, but I'll be keeping this for life.

Thanks very much for reading. I'm expecting it to take at least 6-months to track down the donor and all the parts, but I'll keep the thread updated and will post when I start the build.

Edited by Gasket999 on Tuesday 9th February 01:24

Edited by Gasket999 on Tuesday 9th February 01:26

Edited by Gasket999 on Tuesday 9th February 01:28


14,879 posts

175 months

Tuesday 9th February
quotequote all
Wow, that's some project, looking forward to seeing it come together. What motor are you going to have in it?
I don't really understand why you would do it, but very much each to their own!

I'd start with Bruce at Arch and check out the basics of the S2 chassis.

Keep us updated


18 posts

5 months

Wednesday 10th February
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There's one on e-bay for under 10k


Original Poster:

7 posts

80 months

Sunday 14th February
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thanks guys.

re: the engine, I actually don't mind. While its fun to think about dropping in a modern ford, in reality I've never driven a seven that wasn't fabulous to drive, regardless of power - even a 1400 K-series was fab - so most likely I'll stick with whatever the donor has.

I have made some progress in the past few days: I've managed to piece together a complete set of S2 lights, which are quite distinctive and in the case of the taillights, quite rare. Coupled with a set of repro Lotus cortina steels and hub caps and I'm a long way towards having all the styling cues that the S2 had - just focusing on getting the dash parts now.

I've also managed to pick up a MK2 escort RS2000 English axle - may not need it, but I'd prefer a Ford axle to an Ital, so handy to have under the bench. Mainly for the 3.5 diff and 9" drums.

I have spotted that Seven on eBay. Really quite a nice thing with plenty of history - not quite ready to pull the trigger on the purchase yet (travelling that far to view/collect isn't possible at the moment due to the current situation.

Plan A is still to build a narrower-track car, which will be a dead ringer for a S2 (assuming I'm right in thinking the profile and width of the chassis and panel work is the same from S2 to S3) but with the later chassis improvements and tougher Ford running gear. The last hurdle would be sourcing wishbones and a set of narrower 8.5" curvy S2 rear arches.With the English axle, narrowing this to suit the front is very doable as is the steering rack.

Plan B is far more straightforward: stick with the S3 track width and just add the S2 styling cues. Similar to the Current Seven Sprint, but a bit more sympathetic to the older design.

Edited by Gasket999 on Sunday 14th February 00:49