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Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

By Susan Caba
Photograph by Theresa Arnold

Folded into a Lotus Seven—1,200 pounds of speed and nerve in an aluminum skin—we were doing 85 along a winding suburban road. The car hugged the road like a crouching cat, so low that an admiring bicyclist gazed down at us at a red light. “It’s the real thing,” he breathed, just before we sped away.

This is the car that Road and Track magazine called “the pure, minimalist sports car,” the straight-line descendant of the classic British racer introduced in 1957 by design genius Colin Chapman. The Seven and other examples of Chapman’s creativity—some nearly priceless because of their scarcity—will be on display at the Muny in Forest Park on August 27. The occasion? LOG25, a silver-anniversary gathering of Lotus owners, with local hosts including the St. Louis Area Lotus Lovers club (www.stalls-club.org) and Mid Rivers Lotus in St. Peters. On August 28, drivers will take to area roadways (at legal limits). On August 29, they’ll ramp it up at Gateway International Raceway.

The Lotus isn’t just a pretty pretender. Light and swift, some versions of the car can hit 180 mph, going from 0 to 60 in less than six seconds. Don’t even mention the Lotus in the same sentence as NASCAR, begs Lotus Lovers club president Mark Pfeffer: “Those cars are made to drive in circles—they haven’t figured out how to turn right yet.”

And sexy? Think James Bond in For Your Eyes Only and The Spy Who Loved Me, or Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, speeding off in a Lotus with Richard Gere. “Lotus pedals are made for a woman’s feet,” she purrs.