1962 Lotus Seven SB1290
We have a new corporate car at KMPR.
It will allow us to take a single client to an immediate bad hair day, all-the-while gathering bugs in their teeth and get a proper blood letting from all the flying rocks.
But seriously, we completely lucked out on this find thanks to our friend Geoff Wise, who has one of the most pristine Series II Lotus Sevens in North America. Back in July, 2020, Wise sent a Craigslist link to this genuine 1962 Lotus Seven (#SB1290) that has an amazing story- although you'd have never known it by the advert.
This particular machine left the Lotus factory on July 28, 1961 and was sold to Mr. John Victor Bedford, a noted furniture and antiques dealer who lived less than a mile from Buckingham Palace in London. The address of delivery also belonged to Bedford's father, Brigadier Davis Evan Bedford CBE FRCP. The elder Bedford was a well-known British physician and cardiologist. During WWII, he helped treat Winston Churchill on many occasions.
The Lotus was delivered green in color, though no engine type was chronicled on its build sheet. It most likely had a Ford 105E motor, a mighty little 997cc contraption that was a forerunner to the larger capacity Pre-Crossflow and Crossflow inline-four engines that was to serve as Ford's basis for years to come.
In reaching out to the prior owners of the car, we found came to the U.S. red in color after it was purchased through Formula One privateer Ian Raby by Delaware-native Willis Weldin. Upon arrival in Philadelphia, #SB1290 still had cycle-type front fenders, which were immediately swapped out for the clamshell type fenders which were all the rage in the US on Sevens. When we asked Weldin if he thought the car was raced prior to his ownership, he didn't think so.
While we were filing through some pieces in our search of the car's history, we found the obituary in the August, 2020 copy of the Furniture History Society newsletter about #SB1290’s original U.K. owner, John Victor Bedford. A paragraph in the obit struck us as peculiar: "Any remaining energy was devoted to motor-racing, much to his father’s disapproval; he enjoyed much success, winning trophies at Brands Hatch, Goodwood and many other courses."
Wait. He raced?
We dug into even more research. Emails off to The University of Leeds, who now house the Bedford family collections and research archives, for which we received an email with another amazing line: "He was a good and keen driver and together with his old friend David Miller, from Hendon College days, they built two Lotus 7s in which he qualified for the Silverstone 6 hour race. His driving was rated highly by Colin Chapman the owner of Lotus cars."
As it turns out, J.V. Bedford raced #SB1290 quite a bit in 1962 and 1963- and we're still tracing all the results- but it did race at Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, Castle Combe, Rufforth Airfield, Goodwood and Silverstone before it was sold.
And as we found, it was delivered in bare aluminum with green rear fenders and immediately painted red-and-black for 1962.
An advert listing the car for sale in August 31, 1962 talk of a recent installation of an uprated Cosworth Formula Junior motor. Bedford apparently didn’t sell the car that time, for he had it out again at Goodwood that following May, fully equipped with the now 1498cc Ford engine. It came over to the US with the same power plant.
We had the help of a few great British racing historians via the Atlas F1 Nostalgia Forum, who pointed us to the September, 1962 Autosport magazine.
They said open to the centerfold, and you’ll be thrilled to see your car and Colin Chapman in the same shot. Sure enough, attached is image from the 1962 Silverstone 6 Hr. Relay, where #SB1290 was a part of Club Lotus’s team effort, sporting the #1F. A driver would come in when their time was done, and hand off the armband to the next driver and car. The next driver was Colin Chapman. The next car: the famous Lotus 7/20.
And that dinky roll hoop seen in the photo? It slid into two larger I.D. tubes we had always wondered about that are still welded adjacent to the shock towers.
Sometime during 1963. #SB1290 was listed for sale in an auto trade publication by Ian Raby Racing Ltd. and his Empire Motors firm in Brighton, England and sold to Weldin of Wilmington, Delaware. If you ever get a chance, do some proper research on Raby. He once raced the factory Cooper at Le Mans with Jack Brabham, was a top privateer Formula 1 driver in the mid-1960s, and was a well respected Formula 2 driver until his untimely death at a Formula 2 race at Zandvoort in 1967.
Upon arrival in Philadelphia, the Seven was noted by Weldin as being painted red with cycle-type front fenders, which were immediately changed out. UK registration plate no. 661 CXT was clearly still seen in its first few events in the US.
From 1964-1968, Weldin raced the Seven in SCCA regionals, nationals and Autosprints in the Northeast. He also ran and finished the Marlboro 6 Hr. event with the car, which was thought by many to be too tough for the fragile Lotus. Weldin capped off his time with the car win wins at the 1966, 1967 and 1968 Reading Airport races, taking the F Production crown each year.
Weldin also autocrossed the car with his younger brother Jacob, when he was home on leave from the United States Army. Often the Weldin brothers would autocross the car at events, with each taking home top class honors. Usually, Willis would win best overall time for the day, with Jacob taking home a class win.
But then we dug deeper and came across a write up from August, 1968 that stopped us in our tracks:
Sargent Jacob Robinson Weldin- 1st Cavalry Division, 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry, D Company – killed in action, Quang Tri province, South Vietnam.
He was 21.
Writing that still stings- we never met the man. But it goes without saying that the car probably gave him some of his happiest times in his young life. The weight of that is not lost on our team.
We thought Willis Weldin was the only U.S. driver to race the car on closed racing circuits- but then we found a result from the May 12, 1967 Cumberland Airport SCCA Regional, where Willis Weldin lent his #73 Lotus Seven to George Alderman’s wife Marilyn to obtain her SCCA Regional license.
George Alderman was a famed Can-Am, F5000, Trans-Am and sports racer on the east coast- his family still has a successful automotive business. Marilyn passed away in 2013, but not before being inducted into the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame as a chair of the Delaware 99’s- while also obtaining many flight hours aboard her SOCATA TB-20 "Trinidad."
And that May 12th, 1967 race? Marilyn rocked. She finished 2nd in F-Production behind Paul Longley’s Alfa, and finished third overall out of 18 cars. Quite the racer.
After the 1968 running of the Reading Airport races, Weldin sold the car to York, Pennsylvania's Jim Sieling for the sum of $3,000.
From 1968 through 2012 the car was a top hill climber and autocrosser with third owner Sieling, taking many top honors at various competitions.
Since 2012, it has been a street machine for two subsequent owners. We'll mainly use it on the street, but we know of a few events that it would be an absolute delight for.
But first, we have the chassis down to the frame for the first time since 1961. Frame repairs are currently underway, as are some light modifications to ensure #SB1290 is still in fine form in another 60 years.
We enlisted the expertise of Seven legend Chris Beebe to get the rear end and axles in fine working order, and the 120E engine and Cortina transmission are currently being rebuilt to fresh form. Then it'll take some time before it all comes back together, but it'll be a head stopper for sure.