Sad news today out of England that Graham Nearn, the man most responsible for keeping the Lotus 7 flame burning bright has passed away. Nearn, who was 76, started out as a “dealer” for the immortal 7 back when they first hit the market in the late 1950s, and later, went on to save the brand, and continue producing them under the Caterham name.
Graham Nearn created Caterham Cars in 1959 as a retail outlet for the lightweight Lotus 7 roadster. It was originally designed, built and sold by Colin Chapman as a kit car, literally a box of parts and a set of build instructions. Nearn started Caterham both as a dealer of the kits, and as a way to help out buyers figure out the intricacies of building their own car.
Graham Nearn was also instrumental in getting the Lotus 7 used as a set piece on the opening of the BBC’s “The Prisoner” television show. That’s Nearn on the right with Prisoner star Patrick MacGoohan. MacGoohan loved the idea of his character driving a 7, feeling that it showed #6 to be an independent thinker, self-reliant and resourceful.
When Chapman and Lotus tired of producing 7s, and were going to axe production entirely in 1973, Nearn and Caterham bought the rights and tooling from Chapman, and continue to produce the car to this day.
Nearn took over manufacturing and kept the car true to its origins – light, basic, and an absolute blast to drive. Since its inception, the Lotus 7 has consistently beaten cars with more power. TO go fast, add lightness, said Colin Chapman, and the 7 is the living embodiment of that credo. And the fact that we still have a car this good around can be laid at the feet of Graham Nearn.
Nearn passed away last weekend and we send our condolences to the entire Caterham family worldwide.