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The Caterham sports car that could have been brilliant

Caterham Cars visit

You’re looking at a tragic missed opportunity. This is the stillborn Caterham coupe codenamed ‘C120’ – the joint-venture with Alpine that became the A110. Sadly, Caterham was unable to match Renault’s investment and withdrew from the project in 2014. With hints of Jaguar F-Type and Ford Puma, this curvaceous full-size clay model shows what could have been.

Clay pride

Caterham Cars visit

Alpine and Caterham began working together in 2012. The French wanted to re-launch their defunct sports car brand and the Brits hoped for a more mainstream model to complement the back-to-basics Seven. The plan was to build 6,000 cars a year, split evenly between the two brands. These were the heady days when Caterham had its own Formula One team, remember. Anything seemed possible.

Gatwick express

Caterham Cars visit

A manual gearbox was mooted, something the production Alpine doesn’t have. And the C120 would likely have spawned a GT4 race car. Given the rapturous acclaim the A110 has received, the prospect of a Caterham version is a poignant one for petrolheads. This model is now displayed at Caterham Cars’ showroom near Gatwick – alongside other highlights from the marque’s history. Read on for a guided tour.

A British car to beat the world

Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Today, Caterham is back to being a one-model marque. Nonetheless, with a car as unique and iconic as the Seven, there’s still plenty to get excited about. Launched in 1957 as the Lotus Seven, Caterham has manufactured the retro-look roadster since 1973. A six-month waiting list suggests it has plenty of life in it yet.

Read our first drive of the Caterham Seven Sprint

Top Gear track starSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This Seven Superlight R500 takes pride of place in the Caterham Cars’ foyer. It’s the very same Seven that blitzed the Top Gear test track in 1min 17.9sec in 2008 – earning the team’s Car of the Year accolade in the process.

Endorsed by Hammond – and the StigSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

With a 267hp 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, the R500 explodes to 60mph in just 2.88sec. Richard Hammond remarked: “The Caterham is faster than the £1m Veyron. What an amazing little car!” The Stig, meanwhile, declined to comment. But we suspect he approved…

The bare essentialsSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Inside, the Superlight lives up to its name, with nothing but the essentials for fast driving. Note the racing-style Stack instruments, gearshift indicator lights above the steering wheel and six-speed sequential manual gearbox. Serious stuff.

Caterham Seven SprintSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

At the opposite end of the Seven spectrum is the limited-edition Sprint. Only 60 examples of this retro-look roadster were made, to celebrate 60 years of the Seven. Launched at the Goodwood Revival in 2016, it was sold-out within a week.

Old-school coolSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The Sprint resembles the original Lotus Seven, with flared front wings, a powder-coated grey chassis, cream steel wheels, a polished exhaust and classic-style badges. Underneath, however, it has a modern three-cylinder Suzuki engine.

Into the redSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Inside, the Sprint boasts sumptuous scarlet leather, retro Smiths gauges and a wood-rimmed Moto-Lita steering wheel. The only options are armrests, a tonneau cover, stainless steel rear wing guards and a lower floor for extra cabin space. Squint and you could be in a Jaguar E-Type – or any other 1960s British sports car.

Plaque in blackSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

There’s also a numbered plaque in front of the passenger showing which of the 60 cars is yours. The Sprint is a surefire future classic, so little details like this matter. Note that Caterhams are now built in Dartford, Kent – rather than their original home of Caterham in Surrey.

Sprint and SuperSprint

Caterham Cars visit

The success of the Sprint led Caterham to launch the Seven Supersprint (left) a year later. Another evocative retro remake, it was again limited to 60 units, but this time the production run sold out in seven hours. Very apt.

Wet and wild

Caterham Cars visit

With tiny aero screens and no doors, weather protection on the SuperSprint is best described as ‘rudimentary’ (you could also opt for a conventional windscreen and roof). Delicious details include an aluminium cut-off switch, chrome mirrors and a Sebring-style fuel filler cap, plus a range of period paint colours and decals.

Chairman of the broad

Caterham Cars visit

One of the (many) unusual things about the Seven is that its wheels stand proud of the chassis. That makes the cabin surprisingly narrow – and a tight squeeze for tall drivers. The £2,500 wide chassis option seen here helps counter this, increasing the overall width of the car from 1,575mm to 1,685mm.

Caterham AeroSeven conceptSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Fast-forwarding into the future, here’s the fabulous AeroSeven concept car. It was unveiled at the Singapore Grand Prix and could have been the replacement for the ageing Seven. However, budgets were tight and customers weren’t convinced, so the Seven lives on.

Packed with F1 techSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The AeroSeven featured plenty of tech from Caterham’s F1 exploits, including inboard pushrod suspension, launch control and advanced aerodynamics. It’s powered by a 240hp Ford Duratec engine and reaches 60mph in ‘less than four seconds’.

Naked launchSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

We love all the naked carbonfibre inside the AeroSeven, although it doesn’t exactly look cosseting. Still, who cares about fripperies like a windscreen when you’re driving something this cool? We want one.

Caterham 21Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The stillborn 21 is another Caterham that could have replaced the Seven: indeed, most used the same Rover K-Series engines. It was launched in 1994 and remained in production for five years, yet only 48 cars were made.

A softer SevenSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The 21’s interior is certainly more accommodating than a Seven (not hard, admittedly) – and it’s more practical, too. However, the shape of the doors means the windows don’t wind down. If you want a side-draught, you need to remove them altogether.

It’s the Mondeo, manSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

An extra point if you spotted that the 21’s tail lights come from the Ford Mondeo. It also used front indicators from the Suzuki Cappuccino and wing mirrors from the Rover 200. Such parts were simply too expensive for Caterham to make in-house.

The Lotus positionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The main reason for the 21’s failure was the launch of the Lotus Elise soon afterwards. The car from Norfolk was better resolved and more fun to drive: the Caterham didn’t stand a chance. Ironically, Caterham Cars had this lovely S1 Elise for sale in its showroom. A trade-in against a new Seven, perhaps?

Caterham SP/300.RSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Hardcore, you know the score… This is the track-only Caterham SP/300.R, a joint project with British racing car constructor, Lola. With a supercharged 300hp engine (355hp on overboost), this four-wheeled weapon will reach 170mph. If you’re brave enough.

The ultimate track-day toySeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham says of the SP/300.R: “The feeling of the car beneath you, inspiring you to push boundaries. The aggression of the forces acting on your body. The satisfaction of placing the car with absolute precision. The way the car communicates with you, constantly feeding a stream of data to every sense, synapse and nerve ending. Only a true driver knows these feelings. This is driving.” Well, quite.

The wheel dealSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The SP/300.R’s steering wheel is pure racing car, with gearshift indicator lights and a button for calling the pits. Spot the yellow ‘Pass’ button the right – used to give an extra power boost for overtaking. The sequential gearlever is also to the right of the wheel.

Prisoner of phwoarSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

A classic Seven in for a service. It’s painted green and yellow – the same colours as the Lotus Seven that famously featured in 1960s TV drama series, The Prisoner. Interestingly, the ‘KAR 120C’ registration plate of the Prisoner Seven is still owned by Caterham Cars.

Caterham Seven ClassicSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This lovely 2006 Classic would make a great starter Seven, with a 120hp 1.4-litre K-Series engine and just 7,441 miles on the clock. It’s advertised at £14,995 – further proof that Sevens simply don’t depreciate.

Kamui Kobayashi EditionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Just 10 examples of this lightweight, single-seat Seven were made. Designed by Caterham F1 Team’s Japanese driver, Kamui Kobayashi, it boasts a limited-slip differential, plenty of carbon fibre and a dashboard signed by Kamui himself. Yours for £34,995.

Mini Me Seven 620R

Caterham Cars visit

A first glance, this cut-down, single-seat Seven 620R looks terrifying. However, it’s powered by batteries rather than a 306hp supercharged Ford Duratec. Probably for the best.

Cutaway CaterhamSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Want to make your Seven even lighter? Why not remove the bodywork altogether? In truth, this stripped-down 160 is a show car – designed to reveal the inner workings of the Seven. A lot has changed since 1957…

Powered by SuzukiSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

That 660cc Suzuki engine might be small, but it still looks a snug fit beneath the Seven’s low-slung bonnet. No wonder all those louvres are needed to keep it cool. Imagine how hot the 306hp 620R parked next to it must get.

Sporty suspensionSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Here’s a closer look at the Seven’s double wishbone suspension, which delivers taut handling and keeps weight to a minimum. A variety of set-ups are available, for road or track use. The cheaper Seven 160 and Sprint models use a live rear axle.

Do it yourselfSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

If you’re handy with a spanner, you can save around £3,400 by building a Seven yourself. Caterham supplies a painted chassis with wiring loom, dashboard, fuel tank, fuel lines, brake pipes and pedal box already fitted. Reckon on 80-100 hours to complete the job, after which your car will have to pass an Individual Vehicle Approval (IVA) test.

Lotus Cosworth T127Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Like the Seven itself, the short-lived Caterham F1 Team began life under the Lotus banner. This Lotus T127 has a Cosworth V8 engine and was raced by Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen in the 2010 season. Sadly, it never managed a podium finish.

The car that became a CaterhamSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Team Lotus was rebranded as Caterham F1 Team at the end of 2011, at the behest of Caterham’s charismatic owner, Tony Fernandes. The decision followed a legal battle between Team Lotus and the rival Group Lotus over the use of the name in F1.

Caterham CT01Seventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham F1 Team made its debut in 2012 with the CT01, powered by a 2.4-litre Renault V8 and piloted by Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov. Its best result was an 11th-place finish at the final grand prix of the year in Brazil.

Going with the flowSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Just look at the design of the Caterham CT01’s carbonfibre front wing. It ain’t pretty, but it sure is effective. The car hits 100mph in 2.5 seconds, with a top speed of 225mph. No Seven even comes close.

Caterham kartSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

If all that sounds a bit intense, we also discovered this rather cool Caterham-branded kart in the corner of the showroom. Cue cliché about ‘go-kart handling’, etc…

Grass-roots motorsportSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Speaking of racing, Caterham runs no less than six Seven-based series, depending on your talent and budget. The Caterham Academy is the first rung on the ladder, with road-legal cars and seven points-scoring events throughout the year. This 2011 Academy racer was for sale at £17,995.

Caterham Tracksport racerSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Tracksport is Caterham’s mid-range racing championship. The number of rounds increases to 14, with each race lasting 30 minutes. The cars are no longer road-legal, so you’ll need a trailer as well.

One careful ownerSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

For serious Seven racers, there’s the Superlight R300-S Championship. A car alone will cost you £38,000 – and you’ll spend plenty more on consumables and travel. This particular R300-S was driven by Dan Prosser, a motoring journalist for EVO magazine.

Simplify, then add lightnessSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The ghost of Colin Chapman looms large at Caterham Cars. Indeed, his famous mantra: “Simplify, then add lightness” is writ large on the wall. Ironically, this is actually a heavier Seven SV: the wide-bodied version for drivers with, well, wider bodies.

Out of the blocksSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

This year, the Seven has been replicated in Lego as part of a new 770-piece kit. It includes fully-detailed engine, removable nosecose, opening boot and axle stands that allow the wheels to be removed. One for the Christmas list.

A simple formula for successSeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

The Caterham Seven might look old-fashioned, but don’t be deceived. A process of continuous evolution has kept this much-loved icon at the top of its game – putting smiles on faces and embarrassing Bugatti Veyrons along the way. Let’s hope it’s still going strong in another 60 years.

Caterham in CrawleySeventh heaven: inside Caterham Cars

Caterham Cars’ showroom in Crawley is open to the public if you’d like to see these cars, and many others. They can also arrange test-drives if you are looking to buy. Just don’t expect to drive a Seven and go home without wanting one…

Caterham Seven 270 track review: driving in its purest form

Caterham Seven 270“You wear a Caterham like a glove. It’s pure driving – that’s why everyone loves them.” So says Jack, my instructor for the day, as I lower myself into the skinny-fit seat of the Seven. If this is a glove, I must have oddly large hands.

At 9am sharp, the light goes green and I edge cautiously out of the pitlane. Brands Hatch is damp with morning dew and the Caterham’s Avon track tyres are cold. Fortunately, these are just sighting laps to learn the circuit. The real stuff comes later.

This isn’t my first time in a Seven, but it’s still a culture-shock after a ‘normal’ car. You feel hard-wired into the controls, every input amplified by the tiny steering wheel and taut suspension. There are no driving aids and no excuses. Which is what I’m worried about.

Caterham driving experience 

Caterham Seven 270Caterham track experiences at Brands Hatch are organised by MotorSport Vision (MSV) and a half-day costs £549. Alternatively, you could opt for half a day drifting in a Seven for £189. MSV also runs driving experiences at Donington Park, Oulton Park, Snetterton, Cadwell Park and Bedford Autodrome.

I start at 7:30am with signing on, a safety briefing and a strong coffee. This is an ‘open pit lane’ track day and around 70 drivers are here – although only 25 can use the circuit at once. Some want to test home-built hot rods, others are shaking down race cars. I studiously avoid mentioning this is my first ‘proper’ track day.

Thankfully, Jack puts my mind at ease. A professional racer and driver-for-hire, he’ll be in the passenger seat, watching the mirrors, showing me the racing line and keeping me out of trouble. Time to jump in the Caterham…

Story of the Seven

Caterham Seven 270

The story of the Caterham Seven starts with the original 1957 Lotus Seven, a back-to-basics sports car popular in club-level motorsport. When production ceased in 1972, Caterham Cars bought the rights. The company, now based in Crawley, has been building Sevens ever since.

Today, the Seven is effectively a range of cars: 160, 270, 360 and 420. Those numbers refer to each model’s power-to-weight ratio in horsepower per tonne. So, as the car weighs around 500kg, you approximately halve each figure to know its power output.

I’m driving a 270S, which uses a 137hp 1.6-litre Ford engine and five-speed manual gearbox. Zero to 62mph is quoted at 5.0 seconds, with a top speed of 122mph.

The ‘S’ refers to a £2,995 option pack aimed primarily at road use. It includes a heater, leather seats and a full windscreen, hood and side-screens. There’s also a track-focused ‘R’ pack (£3,995) with uprated brakes, stiffer suspension, four-point harnesses, a lightweight flywheel, composite race seats and a limited-slip differential. 

Re-learning to drive

Caterham Seven 270

MSV has two cars here, one standard size and one with the wider SV chassis. Being vertically challenged, I do most of my sessions in the former. I’m practically rubbing shoulders with Jack, but we still need helmet intercoms to communicate clearly above the engine and road roar. 

The pedals are packed tight, too, making it easy to press the throttle and brake at once. Still, I manage to exit the pit lane smoothly and ease right into the steep downhill at Paddock Hill Bend – “one of the best corners of any UK circuit,” says Jack. The sighting laps are a steady procession with no overtaking allowed, but getting accustomed to the Caterham’s controls takes time. 

The steering is so sensitive that at first I’m turning too much, hugging the inside of bends instead of slicing apices. Slowly, though, I begin to relax and concentrate on Jack’s commands. “Being smooth is key,” he says, “and only do one thing at a time: accelerate, brake or steer.”

A balancing act

Caterham Seven 270

My first proper session feels like a steep learning curve. It’s intimidating with so many quicker cars on-track – including a McLaren 720S, several BMW M3s and a Porsche 911 3.0 RSR replica – and I frequently pull over on the Brabham Straight to let others pass. Not that the Seven feels slow. With so little weight to shift, it revs stridently and punches hard out of bends.  

At Jack’s suggestion, I start by staying in fourth gear, concentrating solely on braking and steering inputs. The Caterham’s coil-sprung chassis is so lucid, it’s all too obvious when you get something wrong. Fail to brake in a straight line or hit the gas too soon and you instantly feel it lose focus, like a spinning top teetering off-centre. Finding its limits is, to a large extent, a game of trial and error, pushing gradually harder until grip turns to slip.

By late morning I’m shifting gears confidently and (mostly) in the right places. I even attempt some heel-and-toe blips on downshifts, although the proximity of the Seven’s pedals makes this tricky. Around the long 180-degree right-hander at Clearways, I goad the car into a slide, steering with the throttle as much as the wheel. It’s brilliant fun; I’m constantly learning more and driving faster.

How the pros do it

Caterham Seven 270

For the final session of the day, Jack has something different in mind: “Now I’m going to shut up and let you drive,” he grins. “Time to put everything you’ve learned into practice.” I’m tired, both physically and mentally, from a day of wrestling the Seven around Brands Hatch, but I soon find my flow. It’s far from a virtuoso performance, but his thumbs-up as we pull into the pit lane matters more than I care to admit.

Before I go, there’s one more surprise in store. Jack and I swap places and he shows me the huge gulf in talent between an enthusiastic amateur and a true racing driver. I bite my lip and clench my stomach as we blat between bends, clipping kerbs and even overtaking a stripped out M3 (with probably twice the power). I’m glad we didn’t attempt this straight after lunch.

I’m also quietly glad to climb into my oh-so-sensible Volkswagen T-Cross for the drive home. The reality of the rush-hour M25 bites hard, but I’ve experienced a different sort of driving today – and I’m already itching for another go.

Many thanks to Simon Reid at Fokus Media for all photos.

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The Caterham Seven SuperSprint sold out within seven hours

Caterham Seven SuperSprint sells out within seven hours

The Caterham Seven SuperSprint sold out within seven hours

As a celebration of 60 years of making the same car, Caterham revealed its SuperSprint special edition at last weekend’s Goodwood Revival. It proved to be a hit with Caterham fans, as the limited-run model sold out within an incredible seven hours.

Limited to just 60 units, one for each year in production, the SuperSprint has become the fastest-selling car in Caterham’s history. Similar to last year’s Caterham Seven Sprint special edition, the SuperSprint is powered by Suzuki’s 0.8-litre turbocharged three-pot, with power turned up to 95hp.

“After last year’s incredible sales result with the Sprint, we were hoping for similar success with the SuperSprint,” said Caterham’s chief commercial officer, David Ridley. “Having said that, to sell out within seven hours is something we’ve never seen before and it has set a new sales precedent for Caterham. Considering that last year we took orders for over 600 Sevens, the SuperSprint’s success is likely to account for around 10% of our annual sales in 2017 and we are on track to beat last year’s sales record.”

The Caterham Seven SuperSprint is priced at £29,995, with the 60th car being sold by Caterham at 1.30pm on Friday – just seven hours after it was revealed. Half of those sold are remaining in the UK, while the rest are destined for Europe, says Caterham.

Ridley added: “There is quite clearly an appetite for retro styled cars and we’ve tapped into that trend with the Sprint and SuperSprint.

“Having sold all 60, Goodwood’s wet weather far from dampened the mood on the Caterham stand.”

The Caterham Seven SuperSprint takes retro styling to the max, with a tiny ‘Brooklands’ windscreen, quilted seats and a wood-rimmed steering wheel. Buyers get a choice of six paint schemes, including Aintree (green with orange noseband), Hockenheim (silver with red noseband) and Imola (red with white noseband).

There’s even a single-seater option available for the dedicated enthusiast.

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Chris Rea is driving home for Christmas in a Caterham

Chris Rea is driving home for Christmas… in a Caterham

Chris Rea is driving home for Christmas in a Caterham

Ever wondered what the ‘Driving Home for Christmas’ singer is driving in his 1986 seasonal hit? Wonder no more… Chris Rea has just bought a brand new Caterham Seven 620S.

The British sports car manufacturer uploaded these pictures to Facebook showing Rea picking up his 620S from its flagship dealership in Crawley, West Sussex.

The Caterham Seven 620S is the slightly more user-friendly version of the hardcore 620R. It packs 310hp from a 2.0-litre supercharged Ford Duratec engine, hits 60mph in 3.4 seconds and has a top speed of 145mph.

Chris Rea is driving home for Christmas in a Caterham

The total price before options is £45,495 – no doubt Rea is cashing in on royalties at this time of year.

Rea was born in the North East of England and wrote Driving Home for Christmas when his wife was driving him home to Middlesbrough from London in her Austin Mini.

The star posed for these pictures in front of a Christmas tree in Caterham’s showroom – and even signed three 2017 Caterham calendars.

7 things we learned during a weekend with a Caterham

7 things we learned during a weekend with a Caterham

7 things we learned during a weekend with a Caterham

When Caterham chucks you the keys to a 310R for the weekend and tells you have some fun, a weekend pootling around the South East seems a bit of a waste. A plan was formed – a cross-country blat towards the Severn Estuary, where we’d meet a local with another Caterham, and cross into Wales for some tomfoolery.

This is what we learned…

The lights are… temperamental

Caterham hasn’t changed the Seven much over its 40-odd year history, but a recent development is the introduction of LED headlights – an £800 option, debuted on the 310. Our test car had them fitted, and we were looking forward to trying them out – Caterham Sevens aren’t known for their excellent lights, after all.

Friday teatime, getting into the car as the sun was setting and looking forward to the weekend, we flick the lights on, hit main beam (ah, that’s what that switch does…), and a fuse is blown leaving us without headlights. A friendly AA man changes the fuse, but it blows again as soon as we try flicking off mainbeam. Verdict? Don’t use the lights.

Harnesses are a pain in the rear

Because the Caterham Seven is proper track day, yo, it shuns conventional seat belts in favour of four-point harnesses. While these do a great job of holding you in when the G-forces increase, the rest of the time they’re just a frustration.

Want to jump out of the car and taking a phone pic to brag on social media? That’ll be at least five minutes getting in and out. Need to reach for the card machine at the Severn Bridge toll? Same again.

It is kinda practical

It is kinda practical

Luggage capacity isn’t even a figure Caterham provides on the spec sheet for the Seven – practicality isn’t what this track car’s about. But giving a friend a lift home from Wales we found that two people plus luggage for a weekend away could fit in the Caterham. Just.

Admittedly the passenger needed to wear a few extra layers, and the full boot meant we couldn’t remove the roof without leaving it behind, but we managed.

You have to visit a lot of petrol stations

You have to visit a lot of petrol stations

It’s not that the Caterham is thirsty – not that we ever bothered to work out its fuel consumption. But even after driving several miles on empty, the most we ever got into the tank was £20 worth of petrol. Apparently it has a 32-litre fuel tank, but driving a Caterham on a road trip is stressful enough without worrying about how much petrol you’ve really got left.

It makes every other car feel like a Routemaster bus

It makes every other car feel like a Routemaster bus

The steering wheel in the Caterham is tiny and the whole driving experience is different to any other car. After driving it for the weekend, we jumped into a Bentley Bentayga and found that the steering wheel felt huge. And then we tried a Vauxhall Astra, and found the same.

You sit very low down; anyone driving a MINI Countryman seems to dwarf you. But the trade-off for the slight feeling of vulnerability is an analogue driving experience that even much faster, more expensive supercars can’t provide.

Everyone loves it…

Everyone loves it

Whenever we drive an eye-catching supercar, we notice how reluctant many people are to give it attention. People glance before diverting their gaze, determined not to boost the ego of whoever’s behind the wheel. And that’s before we even come close to trying to get out of junctions.

The reaction to the little red Caterham is infinitely more positive. Kids love it – it looks like a proper racing car (it is a proper racing car) – and their dads have plenty of questions.

…Apart from one angry man

That is, apart from one angry man who lives on a lovely road in South Wales. We cheekily used the end of his driveway to turn around, and he was furious. Threatening to use his paintbrush to add some extra stripes to the Caterham (he was painting his house at the time), he described the Caterham as a ‘boy racer car’. I don’t think he likes the Caterham. Or us. Sorry, mate.

We’ll be writing a full review on the Caterham Seven 310R soon – keep an eye out on MotoringResearch.com.

Caterham Seven Sprint

Caterham Seven Sprint review: Two-Minute Road Test

Caterham Seven SprintFrom the Fiat 500 to the Ford Mustang, retro-look cars are more than a passing fad. Now it’s the turn of the venerable Caterham Seven for a dose of classic cool: meet the limited-edition Seven Sprint.

Of course, the Seven was pretty ‘retro’ to start with. It’s a direct descendent of the 1957 Lotus Seven, assembled by Caterham since 1974. The Seven has constantly evolved, becoming ever-faster and more focused, but the Sprint is an affectionate nod to the past. Powered by an 80hp Suzuki engine, it has flared front wings, cream-painted steel wheels, a polished exhaust silencer and a wood-rimmed steering wheel.

Time to don our rose-tinted driving goggles and hit the road…

Prices and dealsCaterham Seven Sprint

Caterham is only building 60 Sprints – to mark 60 years of the Seven – and they all sold out within a week of the car’s launch at Goodwood Revival. If you’ve got one, keep hold of it: the Sprint is a dead-cert future classic.

Prices start at £27,995 – a hefty £9,000 more than a basic Seven 160 with the same engine. Unlike other Sevens, you can’t save money by building it yourself either; the Sprint only comes in fully-assembled form.

What are its rivals?Fiat 124 Spider

A niche car like the Seven Sprint exists in a parallel universe of its own. Many who buy one will be collectors or existing Caterham owners – perhaps both.

If we’re obliged to pick rivals, the new, retro-flavoured Fiat 124 Spider seems an obvious place to start. The Mazda MX-5 and Toyota GT86 are worth considering, too.

Prefer to buy used? The Lotus Elise is another iconic British sports car that only gets better with age. Or you could go for the sensible (if somewhat predictable) option and get a Porsche Boxster. It’s less characterful than a Caterham, but much easier to live with.

What engine does it use?Caterham Seven Sprint

It looks like it’s driven straight out of a John Major anecdote about cricket grounds and warm beer, but the Seven Sprint is surprisingly modern under the skin.

It uses the same three-cylinder Suzuki engine as the Seven 160 – designed to meet Japanese ‘Kei car’ regulations that stipulate a maximum capacity of 660cc. Driving skinny 155-section rear tyres through a five-speed manual gearbox, it throbs at low revs, then buzzes and coughs. Half-motorbike, half-cantankerous wasp, its soundtrack is unlike any other car we can think of.

How fast?Caterham Seven Sprint

A power output of 80hp puts the Caterham on par with city cars such as the Fiat 500. Fortunately, it weighs just 490kg, versus 865kg for the Fiat. “Simplify, then add lightness”, as Lotus founder Colin Chapman used to say.

The Sprint, er, sprints to 60mph in 6.9 seconds, topping out at 100mph. That makes it the joint-slowest Seven (fastest is the 620R, at 2.8 seconds and 155mph respectively) – but frankly it feels quick enough when your elbow is almost grazing the kerb. And on that note…

Is it comfortable?Caterham Seven Sprint

If your feet are bigger than a size-nine, you may need to remove your shoes to drive a Seven. And if you have a ‘fuller figure’, you may struggle to fit in at all. The cabin is ‘snug’ if we’re being polite, ‘cramped’ if we’re not. Caterham offers its wider, SV chassis as an option on most Sevens, but not the Sprint – or indeed the regular 160.

We can’t fault the well-padded seats, though. Upholstered in hand-stitched Scottish leather and embossed with the Caterham logo, they’re a welcome contrast to the rigid buckets found in hardcore Sevens.

Will I enjoy driving it?Caterham Seven Sprint

We sampled the Sprint on a crisp, cloudless September morning and it felt nigh-on perfect. On a wet January evening things could be rather different, but let’s not dwell on that…

The Sprint is easier to drive than other Sevens, with a light clutch and a torquey engine that pulls strongly from 2,000rpm. A larger steering wheel makes it less darty than a standard 160, too. Only the stubby, chrome-topped gearlever requires a firm shove, although we suspect this would loosen-up over time. Our test car (number one of 60) had covered less than 600 miles.

With a live axle and Panhard rods at the back, the Sprint’s chassis is as old-school as its styling. The result is a car that’s more supple and forgiving than you might expect. Where faster, track-focused Sevens feel tied-down, the Sprint squirms, shimmies and – if you provoke it – slides.

But this isn’t power-oversteering GT86-wannabe. Nor is it a masterclass in driving dynamics. Contrary to its name, the Sprint is best enjoyed at eight-tenths. Savour the rasp of the engine, the smell of hot exhaust, the sight of those cycle wings bobbing up and down: it’s the British sports car dream.

Fuel economy and running costsCaterham Seven Sprint

We can’t imagine many Seven owners clocking up lots of motorway miles. This is very much a weekend car, making fuel economy a relatively minor concern.

Even so, the Sprint’s small engine and light weight mean it’s actually very efficient. Drive sensibly (easier said than done) and you may see close to the claimed 57.6mpg. CO2 emissions of 114g/km mean free car tax (VED) in the first year and £30 a year thereafter.

What’s the interior like?Caterham Seven Sprint

Cast-aside your preconceptions about low-volume British sports cars: the quality of the Caterham’s cabin is very good. Apart from being, well, snug, it’s an agreeable place to be.

Retro details help set the Sprint apart from a plain-Jane 160. Spot the toggle switches, exposed rivets, Smiths gauges and, of course, that lovely Moto-Lita wheel, which looks like it came straight off a Jaguar E-Type. There’s also a numbered plaque in front of the passenger, showing which of the 60 cars is yours.

Is it practical?Caterham Seven Sprint

Ummm… no. There’s no boot and no stowage space to speak of. You don’t even get a glovebox.

If you do stash a bag in the passenger footwell, we’d advise you to remove it when parked. The Caterham’s fiddly hood and side screens are attached using poppers – hardly a failsafe security solution.

Tell me about the techCaterham Seven Sprint

OK, we’re struggling here. If you want sat nav, in-car wi-fi, Bluetooth phone connectivity – or even just a radio, you’ll be disappointed. Caterham doesn’t do ‘infotainment’.

Still, the Sprint is the sort of car you’ll enjoy getting lost in. And you wouldn’t be able to hear Radio 4 over the incessant thrum of the engine anyway.

What about safety?Caterham Seven Sprint

The Sprint’s powder-coated grey chassis is a homage to the Series 2 Lotus 7, while its full-width rollover bar also replicates the Hethel original.

Sevens have a fundamentally strong passenger cell – a fact proved time and again in the various Caterham racing series. Nonetheless, the complete lack of any electronic safety aids is a culture-shock if you’re used to ‘conventional’ modern cars. At least there’s no need to go fast to have fun…

Which version should I go for?Caterham Seven Sprint

This question is slightly redundant given that all 60 Sprints are now sold. Assuming you can persuade (bribe?) a prospective owner to give up their place in the build-queue, you have a few choices to make.

First, you’ll need to pick one of the oh-so-retro paint colours. The car in our photos is Camberwick Green, but you can also have Mellow Yellow, Regency Red, British Racing Green, Misty Blue or Cream.

Beyond that, there is less scope for personalisation than a typical Caterham Seven. The only options are side-screen armrests (£95), a vinyl tonneau cover (£170), stainless steel rear wing guards (£40) and a two-inch-lower floor for extra cabin space (£395).

What’s the used alternative?Caterham Seven Sprint

Why, a used Seven of course. When a car has been production for nigh-on 60 years, there are plenty of examples to choose from.

If you want an actual, pre-1974 Lotus Seven, prices range from around £15,000 to £35,000. Caterhams are better value, but we still only found a handful for less than £15,000. These cars don’t know the meaning of depreciation.

Should I buy one?Caterham Seven Sprint

The Seven Sprint isn’t for everyone. If you value refinement, long-distance comfort and the ability to carry more than just a toothbrush, you should probably look elsewhere.

Still, there’s nothing quite like a Seven. These quirky little roadsters get under your skin and hard-wire themselves into your soul. Forget over-sized and over-complicated supercars: this is driving in its purest form.

That said, you’ll have just a much fun in a basic Seven 160 as the ritzier Sprint – and save £9,000 into the bargain. Build your 160 yourself and, at the cost of a few late nights and grazed knuckles, you could save a whopping £12,000.

Faced with figures like that, it’s hard to recommend the Seven Sprint. But if you’re one of those lucky 60 owners, that doesn’t mean we won’t be Camberwick Green with envy.

Pub factAlpine Vision

The forthcoming Alpine sports car started life as a joint-venture between Renault (which owns the Alpine brand) and Caterham. The companies worked together for 19 months before Caterham left the project.

The car seen here is the Alpine Vision concept. A production version is due in summer 2017, powered by a 1.8-litre, four-cylinder turbo engine and expected to cost around £50,000.

The retro Caterham Seven Sprint has sold out within a week

The retro Caterham Seven Sprint has sold out within a week

The retro Caterham Seven Sprint has sold out within a week

All 60 models of the limited edition Caterham Seven Sprint have sold out within just a week – despite a hefty £27,995 price tag.

The Seven Sprint was revealed at this year’s Goodwood Revival and sold out within seven days of going on sale, the manufacturer says.

Caterham’s chief commercial officer, David Ridley, said: “We have been overwhelmed with the response to the Sprint. We knew of course it was a great product but the reaction we got is unprecedented.”

While it’s not unusual for limited edition models of desirable enthusiast cars to sell out quickly, the British sports car maker says it’s a big deal for the firm.

“In a typical year, we’ll sell around 500 cars meaning that, with the Sprint, we’ve sold more than 10% of our annual sales figure in a week,” explains Ridley. “It’s been the perfect scene-setter to our 60 Years of Seven celebrations.”

The retro Caterham Seven Sprint has sold out within a week

The car is powered by the same three-cylinder 80hp Suzuki engine as the entry-level Seven 160.

It features bespoke retro styling harking back to the mid-1960s, such as cream painted wheels and polished hubcaps.

Lego Caterham 620R

Bricking it: new Lego Caterham Seven 620R revealed

Lego Caterham 620R

Ever fancied building your own Caterham? The British sports cars are still available in do-it-yourself kit form. However, for a slightly easier challenge, how about the new Lego Caterham Seven 620R?

We say ‘slightly’ because the latest Lego kit consists of 770 pieces, including a fully-detailed replica engine, removable nosecose, opening boot and axle stands that allow the wheels to be removed. Should keep you busy on Christmas morning…

The model Seven was suggested to the Lego Ideas platform – where fans can submit proposals for new Lego sets – by Caterham fanatic, Carl Greatrix. Having gained the requisite 10,000 votes, it was then approved for production.

Lego Caterham 620R

Caterham claims the Lego 620R has a top speed of 6mph, although it admits this figure is “not scientifically proven”. That compares to 155mph in the real 620R, which also hits 60mph in just 2.79 seconds. Eek.

Caterham Chief Commercial Officer, David Ridley, said: “Our army of fans who build their own Caterham Sevens are equally discerning when it comes to the detail and craftsmanship which is central to Caterham, and we worked closely with the Lego team to ensure the model replicated that. It’s really satisfying to know that fans can recreate and build their own 620R with Lego bricks.”

The Caterham Lego 620R is available to buy from October 1st, priced £69. Want a proper 620R instead? That’ll be £49,995.

In pictures: Caterham Lego 620R

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Caterham reveals retro Seven Sprint special edition ahead of Goodwood debut

Caterham reveals retro Seven Sprint ahead of Goodwood Revival debut

Caterham reveals retro Seven Sprint special edition ahead of Goodwood debut

Caterham is celebrating 60 years of its Seven sports car by launching a limited edition model at this weekend’s Goodwood Revival.

Just 60 examples of the car will be sold, based on the entry-level Suzuki-powered Caterham Seven 160.

The brand says the Seven Sprint was “seemingly planned in the mid-1960s but never launched”, and is available in a choice of six paint colours that were original British manufacturer colours available in 1966/67.

Caterham Cars CEO, Graham Macdonald, said: “We have always prided ourselves on continually developing the Seven during the 44 years we have been custodian of the model.

“But we never wished to dismiss our heritage either and I know there are plenty of Seven purists and aficionados out there who will really appreciate the level of detail we’ve gone to with the Sprint to resurrect the spirit of those early cars.

“It’s a car that has been built today, with all the benefits that modern engineering brings with it, but the essence of the swinging ‘60s and is the perfect precursor to our 60th-anniversary celebration in 2017.”

Caterham reveals retro Seven Sprint special edition ahead of Goodwood debut

The Sprint’s chassis is powder-coated grey, making it period-accurate for a Series 2 Lotus 7. The suspension and rollover bar are also reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original.

Other retro touches include the flared front wings, polished exhaust silencer and retro-styled individual rear lights. The wheels will be painted cream and finished with polished hubcaps.

Inside the basic cabin, the Seven Sprint features a wooden-rimmed sports steering wheel and a wood-effect dashboard. The interior panels and seat upholstery are hand-stitched in scarlet red.

Caterham reveals retro Seven Sprint special edition ahead of Goodwood debut

Meanwhile, the interior panels and Muirhead Scottish seat upholstery is hand-stitched in the period style and finished in striking scarlet red.

The three-cylinder 80hp Suzuki engine accelerates the lightweight sports car to 62mph in 6.9 seconds.

Only available as a factory-built car at a price of £27,995, orders for the Seven Sprint open today.

Lego Caterham

Is the LEGO Caterham Seven the ultimate self-assembly toy?

Lego Caterham

Caterham is the king of self-assembly sports cars, so it was only a matter of time before the lightweight heroes were immortalised in LEGO. Soon, kids of all ages will be able to try their hand at building a Caterham Seven.

Later this year, LEGO will launch a Caterham Seven, after the concept was submitted to the LEGO Ideas system. Ideas that receive 10,000 votes of support are considered by the LEGO team, which selects the ideas that will make it through to production.

LEGO builder Carl Greatrix (who is now one of our favourite people in the world), duly submitted the idea, which easily received 10,000 votes between May and September last year. Now the excitement is… ahem… building, as we look forward to the launch of the new set. Although the price and colour scheme are yet to be confirmed, needless to say it will cost a lot less than the £15,995 you’ll need for the entry-level self-assembly Caterham Seven.

Mike McCoy of the LEGO Ideas team, said: “Carl is known in the LEGO community for his photo-realistic models of cars, trains and aircraft. He’s perfectly captured the classic British sports car in LEGO bricks and now you’ll be able to own one too.”

Caterham’s chief commercial officer, David Ridley, said: “The LEGO Company is one of the most iconic toy brands in the world, so to have our car recreated in the legendary bricks is an enormous honour.

“The great thing about LEGO toys is that they are timeless – it certainly isn’t just children you love it; we have a few of our team members who are avid fans despite being well into their 40s. If you know someone who has always wanted a Caterham Seven, you can now tell them you’re getting them one.”

Is this the coolest LEGO set ever created? We think it could be and you won’t even need a spanner or, dare we say it, hammer, in order to put it together. The LEGO Caterham is expected to arrive in toy shops later this year. Clear a space in your garage/toy cupboard.

In the meantime, we’re off to write a letter to Santa. Well, there are only 285 days to go until Christmas…