Love of motor-racing runs in the family for proud Watton Lotus owner

It has been in the same family since 1983 and is as well-loved now as it was the day it was bought. Reporter Sophie Wyllie spoke to Chris Edwards, from Watton, about his 1970 series four Lotus Seven car to find out why it was so special to his late father and how it continues to impress years later.

'He was so excited - his cars were always a big thing in his life. To have a Lotus sports car was a great thrill for him and he never lost the enthusiasm for it,' said the 58-year-old about his father.

Ernie Edwards bought the second hand yellow car from David Wilkinson in Milton Keynes for �2,700 and loved to drive it around the country and in rallies for pleasure, according to his son.

Chris, 58, the owner of a Edwards Newsagents on Watton High Street, which has been in the family since 1846, said: 'We lived in Norfolk and we are motorsports enthusiasts and living near the Lotus factory made them our passion. When father was able to, he wanted to own one.'

Ernie, who died in November 1995 following a stroke, was a former go-kart racer and used to compete at Rye House Speedway track in Hertfordshire and Kimbolton in Lincolnshire.

'He was competitive and enthusiastic. He always said driving a Lotus was like driving a go-kart on the road,' Chris added.

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The love of motor racing has spread throughout the family - in the past Chris has driven the Lotus Seven car in competitive regularity rallies, hill climbing events and auto rallies abroad and his son, Jack, 22, from Northacre near Watton, is an amateur motorcross rider.

Chris said: 'It has always been our passion.'

Ernie drove his treasured Lotus Seven in the first Norwich Union Motor Sports Association Classic Car Run in 1986, when 437 cars entered from three start points around the country and ended at Silverstone Circuit.

He stopped driving the car after suffering from a stroke in February 1995, while mending a rear brake light on the vehicle.

After his death, Chris inherited the Lotus which had not been modified by Ernie, a keen member of Club Lotus, based in Dereham.

He said: 'It was a much-loved part of the family. It was never going to be sold.'

The car was rebuilt and adapted between 1995 and 1996 and Chris continued to use the car, just as his father had, in various car events in Britain and abroad.

From 1997 until 2002 the newsagent, along with his friend Julian Riley, drove the Lotus Seven in Motor Sports Association rallies in Europe, including the Alps, Spain, France, Hungaria and the Czech Republic.

He added: 'It was really good fun. I made a tremendous amount of friends. They route you through some fantastic scenery.'

Following on from those events he completed the Tour Auto Rally from Abbeville to Nice in France.

'It was like completing a Times crossword at 50mph. They take a great deal of skill,' Chris said.

The car was also used in regularity rallies in Britain, which are partly timed, between 2006 and 2008 and hill climbing challenges.

In 2010 the Lotus Seven was modified to become a racing car and has since been raced at Swinging 60s Series, organised by the Classic Sports Car Club, which Chris is a member of.

Any classic cars can take part in the 40-minute races and he has competed at Snetterton and Brands Hatch, among other circuits.

Chris added: 'Racing has been a big learning curve which I have enjoyed tremendously. I know the members of my family love to see it different things.

'My father would be absolutely thrilled to think that the car was being used competitively. I hope it has a continuing motor sport history over the next few decades.

'It isn't the most beautiful car in the world but it does create a fair level of interest by people who are not generally moved by motorsport.'

When asked what Lotus meant to him, Chris said: 'Lotus means passion for motoring. As a schoolboy Jimmy Clark was my hero and Colin Chapman was my guvnor.'