Lotus Seven: Massive Historical Update
When our 1962 Lotus Seven #SB1290 was delivered October 31 of last year, I had already contacted its previous U.S. owners dating back to 1964. I'm that person. I like to know histories. I'm always searching for odd facts, photos, stories... and the lives that the car touched. Cars have a way of doing that.
In reaching out to the prior owners of the car, it came to the U.S. red in color after it was purchased through Formula One privateer Ian Raby by Delaware-native Willis Weldin, sometime in the fall of 1963/spring of 1964. It still had cycle front fenders, which were immediately swapped out for the clamshell type fenders which were all the rage in the US on Sevens. Willis is still with us today, and is thrilled that the car found us, and that we are giving it the restoration it badly needed. However, when I asked him if he thought the car was raced prior to his ownership, he didn't think so.
Before we purchased the car, I also reached out to Lotus Seven Registrar John Watson (not that John Watson) who shared with me the delivery date, the original motor number, as well as the color it was built in- green.
While I was filing through some pieces, I 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 me 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?
More digging. Lots of digging. Emails off to The University of Leeds, who now house the Bedford family collections and research archives, for which I 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."
I'll cut to the chase. J.V. Bedford raced #SB1290 quite a bit in 1962 and 1963- and I'm 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 the results indicate it ran green in color in 1962 and red in 1963. An advert listing the car for sale in August 31, 1962 talk of an uprated Cosworth motor. He apparently didn’t sell the car that time, for he had it out again at Goodwood that following May, fully equipped with a 1498cc Ford engine. It came over with the same power plant.
I had the help of a few great British racing historians via the Atlas F1 Nostalgia Forum, who pointed me 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 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 rollhoop? It slid into two larger I.D. tubes we had always wondered about that are still welded adjacent to the shock towers.
Thus, it has racing history across the pond, but I also found more about the car racing in the United States as well.
I mentioned Willis Weldin- his ownership came when he purchased the car from Ian Raby. What I failed to mention is he 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. Usually.
But then I dug deeper- newspapers.com is an amazing resource by the way. I then found a write up from August, 1968 that caused a lump in my throat. 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- I never met the man. He died 16 years before I was born. 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 me, or the rest of our team.
Finally, a twist. In my initial research back in 2020, I thought Willis Weldin was the only U.S. driver to race the car on circuits here- but then I 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 Datsun 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 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.
The research will continue, but what a car