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Questions for a first seven

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  • Questions for a first seven

    Hi everyone,

    I am looking into getting my first seven and I have a few questions for the group that I hope will not be too anoying.

    My most pressing concern is with registration. I am aware of the SB100 process, but I am afraid of the scenario where it is 9:24 AM on the first buisiness day in January 2006 and I get sequence number 504 since the numbers went pretty fast in 2005. Is there an other way to get a car registered in California? Suppose I gan get an engine that can pass the emissions tests, can I get the DMV to sign off on it?

    The other route would be to buy a car already registered in Ca but I haven't seen any.

    What are your opinions on the new vs. used question? I would love to build a seven myself, but I don't currently have a garage that would work.

    How reliable are the Zetec/Duratec engined cars? I am not expecting a Honda Civic here, but I would ecpect a simple car with a modern engine to have relatively few problems.

    Ever since I drove a superlight R I have been hooked. It took me about a week to wipe the grin off my face! Now I just have to figure out how to actually get one.

    Thanks for the help,

  • #2
    Hi Matt,
    Welcome to the world of Sevens. I hope you are able to get yourself a car. I can't tell you about SB 100 other than I was a lucky one who got my sequence number this Jan 3. Was I ever surprised to see them gone halfway through the next day.

    I am in the process of building a Superlight R Zetec SVT 5speed. Not wanting to go through the early Durtatec stage I chose the Zetec and happened to be at the right time to get a SVT motor from Caterham USA. Zetecs are supposed to be bulletproof. Duratecs are thought to be by their owners too though I have heard of some issues with them that will probably get ironed out soon if not already done. You probably can't go wrong with either. If you want the SVT motor get on it right away. As of last week Caterham USA had about 8 engines and there are NO MORE after that (no more anywhere I'm told). The SVT seems like the best of both worlds. Totally stock like mine they made right around 185 HP which is about ideal in a 7 for the street unless you have to impress every one with more HP. Take it into your Ford dealer for repair/servicing if you choose to do that (I won't). A cam change will probably get you to around 220 HP and there is some more from there. Duratec can get you more at a lighter weight. Cody at Caterham USA is somewhat partial still to the Zetec. Could that be because they aren't yet selling Duratecs or is the Zetec better in some ways? I bought my kit from Rich Kamp up at Sears Pt. and he will build one for you if you want and are looking for a dealer. Hoping you find out more about California registration and get yourself a car soon. If you do plan to go the SB100 route just show up the first business day of 2006 and get in line. You will probably(?) get your number if you are there an hour early to get in line and have all your necessary papers together. Good luck.


    • #3
      Duratec is the way forward. Millions of engines being built now, all alum. motor weighs less, 2.3 liters displacement, an ever-expanding aftermarket where you'll find steel cranks, H beam rods, forged pistons, juicy cams, etc.

      I believe you can order the kit w/ a Duratec spec (hole for the exhaust on the correct side etc.), at least in the UK.

      Caterham are putting them in their new hyper-car. Sez Cosworth on it.

      Enough said.
      A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted


      • #4
        I'm in SD and have a Superlight R. There are a number of cars around if you are a buyer. Buying a car with a title is what many of us have already done and is certainly a worthwhile option for you to consider.

        You should absolutely attend our event @ Willow Springs April 9 & 10 if you are serious about buying a 7. Bring an approved helmet and ride in a bunch of the cars and talk with all of us because we will be your support group/dealer network if you have a 7. Email me through the website system and we can get together sometime here in SD. 8)


        • #5
          Thanks for the info. I've been reading the forum as well as Magnus' write up about regietering specially constructed vehicles. This is very good stuff!

          I am still a little concerned about the smog issues. If you get a sequence number under SB100, the car can be a 1960 lotus seven and then the smog checs are easy. BUT, what if you don't go the SB100 route and you put a 2004 ford engine that passes the sniffer test for that year? Can you still pass a smog check or will they be upset that the exhaust plumbing is not the same as a Focus? This seems to be a sticky situation that may not have a definitave answer but I am curious if anyone here knows how this would work.

          I am asking this as a mostly hypothetical question because I plan to either get a car with a california title or get an SB100 sequence number. I am posing the question as a backup if the numbers are hard to come by or the law goes away.

          I am not sure if I can make it to the streets of willow, but I will try to arrange it. From what I have seen, the seven community is 100% enthusaist so I'm sure it would be a blast to meet people and see these cars on a track!



          • #6

            Smogging a vehicle outside SB100 is tricky, and its success is sometimes up to the BAR referee certifying your vehicle.

            There is a lot of myth here, so everything stated below may not be true.

            One of these days I will contact CARB and order the complete requirement specifications.

            The exhaust system should be fine as it has a catlytic converter and fittings for dual narrow band lambda probes.

            A Zetec (and I believe Duratec as well) with a stock intake manifold fits in a seven, so this will not be problem.

            The Seven comes with an tank vapor charcoal canister that can be controlled by the ECU, no problems here either.

            The tank, however, is another issue. According to this site,, a gas tank from an CARB approved car must be used in a kit car. I don't know how stringent the referee are on this requirement.

            The Caterham's tank does not have a tank pressure sensor, whose absence will get noticed by the ECU with a MIL (malfunction indicator light) as the end result. For the less legal among us, this pressure sensor can be replaced by a suitable resistor and a prayer that the referee will not look too close.

            On top of that, modern Zetecs (such as later Focus) has a returnless system where the tank pressure sensor on the fuel rail is read by the ECU, which then pulses the fuel pump until it delivers a correct fuel pressure.

            A Caterham can, in theory, be retrofitted with such a system quite easily, but I don't think anyone has done that.

            Earlier Zetecs (in Contours for example) had a standard return system where excess fuel got piped back to the tank by the fuel pressure regulator.
            In other words: Pick your donor vehicle carefully.

            Other problems according to various sources:

            The gear ratios must be within a certain percentage of the donor car's.

            The weight of the car must also be within a certain percentage of the donor car's.

            On top of this. There may be other requirements I haven't hear of. Anyone car to extend the list above?

            I think it, for now, is easier to get a used car with an SB100 sticker.

            /Magnus F.


            • #7
              Build a car. It's the best way to get to know your 7. The knowledge gained from bolting it all together is invaluable imo. And SB100 just wasn't that hard to do - just make sure that you're at the DMV early on the 1st possible morning.
              A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted


              • #8
                Greetings, all, from So. Or;
                We moved up here to Grants Pass 5 1/2 years ago after living ~ 50 years in and around Santa Barbara. Both my '61 Lotus 7 and '79 Caterham (owned at different times in the late 70's and early '80's) were registered in Ca. as SPCN's. I don't think there was a year designation on the title or the registration. Life was so much simpler then. :D
                Since the roads and climate are so good up here, 2 years ago I sold my '89 Esprit to get back into a 7. Buying a new 7 was an easy titling and registration process, as there is no smog requirement here in Josephine County. Registration consisted of the proper paper trail from England to Rich Kemp's of the chassis, a description of the assembly process on a DMV form, and a separate invoice for the engine and transmission. The DMV only wanted to see the car to verify the VIN on the firewall. I also had to provide them with the serial # stamped on the block of the Zetec. :shock:
                I got it all done in one day with only one visit to the DMV. I was issued my temporary paper plate and ordered the "vanity" plates I couldn't believe were available: LOTUS 7. It doesn't matter a bit here in Oregon because our 2 year registration is quite inexpensive, but it had to be registered as a 2002 (the year of manufacture for the chassis - 11/02), even though it wasn't assembled and complete for delivery to me until 6/03. If the car ever winds up with a new owner in Ca, I haven't a clue what the DMV might require. Even though I came pretty close to buying a Birkin from him, Woody Harris is probably as good a source as there is for info on registering a 7 in Ca. :P 8)
                With Best Regards,
                Jim F.


                • #9
                  My recommendations would be: Build first, buy second. However, factors influencing the final decision include budget, time required to build, time in the sense of how soon you want to be on the road, space required and??? Are you willing to wait until next year, or do you have to "have it now"?

                  If you can make it to the Streets of Willow for the day on saturday April 9 you will greatly ramp up your knowledge of 7s and get a better idea of which direction is best for you. Some of the cars participating may be acquirable. Be sure to bring a helmet for trips around the track. That will be the highlight of your day. Observe the speed differential between the 7s and other cars on thre track.

                  Congratulations on making the switch from the Elise to a 7. Both are excellent vehicles, but the 7 is in a performance world by itself!! Nothing drives like a 7!!!