Born in London in 1928, Chapman studied structural engineering, earned his pilot's wings with the Royal Air Force, and went on to become one of the great innovators in motorsports design.
A highly successful race driver, Chapman founded Lotus Engineering Ltd. in 1952. Chapman’s vision of light, powerful cars and performance suspension guided much of his development work, and in 1957 Lotus débuted the 7 at the Earl’s Court Motor Show in London.
Entering production soon afterwards, the first Lotus 7s were priced at $1,643.00 and weighed only 725 lbs.; fast and responsive, the Lotus 7 was one of Chapman’s masterworks, an advanced machine that surpassed the earlier Lotus 6 as a vehicle that could perform beautifully on the track and be driven legally on the road. The 7’s basic design was to stand the test of time, continuing in its popularity for the ensuing 50 + years.
After its birth in the 1950s, the Lotus 7 continued to be a widely popular sports car for race and hobby drivers. The 7’s evolution continued when, in 1973, Graham Nearn obtained manufacturing rights from Lotus. 7s from then on were dubbed the Caterham Super 7, an apt name, as it was becoming clear that the car’s fundamental design was nearly impossible to improve.
After dominating open class races for decades, a one-make championship for Caterham's was introduced in 1986 and has since expanded to include club and competitive races in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, Canada, the United States and Asia. In 1999 an alternative SV chassis was introduced to accommodate a greater range of drivers.