The ex-Tonio Hildebrand
1959 Lotus-Climax Seven Series 1
Chassis no. 804
During the early 1960s Dutch amateur racing driver Tonio 'Tony' Hildebrand starred in home events up to and including International status as a floridly-moustachioed, larger-than-life and extrovert character who proved capable of beating robust opposition in his "indecently rapid" Coventry Climax powered Lotus Seven.
We understand that Olav Glasius bought this early-model Lotus Seven in 1996 from a Mr Menick, an artist based in Amsterdam who was a fellow enthusiast member of Club Lotus Holland. Mr Glasius had always wanted to add an early Lotus Seven 'Series 1' to his growing collection, and recalled how much he had enjoyed watching the colourful Tony Hildebrand confronting and often beating very much more august, refined and expensive machinery in his Seven on the sand dunes circuit at Zandvoort. Mr Glasius had discussed the possibility of purchasing the Lotus from Mr Menick and after prolonged negotiation the artist reluctantly agreed to part with it.
At that time the car was equipped with a 1275cc BMC engine breathing through a pair of SU carburettors and driving via a BMC gearbox. The car's typically Spartan body was unpainted and the Seven rode on wire-spoked wheels. The chassis had been largely replaced by now, the original having been so heavily corroded that the frame maker's number was no longer legible nor had an original data plate survived.
The chassis number on such Lotus cars was scribed or punched onto an aluminium data plate pop-riveted into a conveniently visible position upon a fixed internal bodywork panel. The separate frame number was drawn from a different system, applied by the frame maker in the early days Progress Chassis, and later Arch Motors Ltd - for accounting purposes and could be found blind-stamped onto a convenient chassis frame member. John Watson, joint Lotus Seven Registrar for the Historic Lotus Register, advises us that such independent frame numbers were not applied on Lotus Sevens before the factory moved from Hornsey to Cheshunt in June/July 1959.
Once acquired by Mr Glasius, the Menick Lotus Seven was entrusted for complete restoration to F. J. Fairman & Sons in Cornwall, England. Clad in new aluminium paneling the project was then passed to Ken Myers of Northampton for completion, and it was there that the current original specification Coventry Climax engine was fitted.
The finished car joined the Glasius Collection in tribute to fellow-Dutchman 'Tony' Hildebrand's racing exploits of the early 1960s. The Historic Lotus Register has confirmed to us that they have not had any other claimants for 'Mk.7/804.'
Hildebrand was a very popular member of the amateur motor racing fraternity during that period, and ran his racing activities absolutely on a shoestring budget. When he purchased the Seven from Lotus in 1959 he pushed hard for the lowest price possible, even to the extent of having the car delivered on worn-out tyres since he wanted to save on the cost of new...
Olav Glasius recalls: "Tony Hildebrand had great contacts. He knew everybody and everybody knew him, and was very interesting to listen to when we reunited him with the car in recent years..."
Colin Chapman himself described the Seven as being "the sort of thing you could dash off in a weekend" and as so much loved today appeared in 1957, in parallel with the Eleven sports car, Type 12 single-seater and Elite GT model. From June, 1960, the Lotus Seven Series 2 emerged simplified and less costly to manufacture into which model's revised chassis frame the Coventry Climax engine would no longer fit. So the 1959-style Lotus Seven-Climax offered here is a fine example of a rarefied original design, and one with an evocative link to one of the model's earliest and most colourful motor racing characters...Tonio 'Tony' Hildebrand.