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40 Years Of The Caterham Seven

By raccars Published

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To the untrained eye, the classic British open topper looks almost exactly the same now as it did at its birth almost 40 years ago. In fact, the Seven's genesis goes back even further, created originally as the Lotus Seven in the 1950s. When Lotus founder Colin Chapman went on to ostensibly greater things in the 1960s, Caterham Cars undertook distribution and then, a decade later, production of that model, renaming it eponymously.

While details have moved with the times, the Caterham Sevens on sale now are firmly rooted in the rear wheel drive, four cylinder, humble capacity concept that powered those original cars. The spaceframe platform is still topped by glass fibre and aluminium components but under the surface the Caterham Seven has undergone serious evolution.

Over the years the Seven has been driven by Ford, Rover and Vauxhall engines, while a double wishbone suspension now supports the front end. Safety features have necessarily been updated to keep up with changing regulations and the cockpit is slightly more generously proportioned. In fact, positioned next to an original Seven, the newest models look far heavier and more robust than their flighty looking predecessors. The silhouette is familiar, as are myriad components, but the new car is curvier and more pugnacious than its forebear. This is welcome news for loftier drivers, who would find older Sevens distinctly uncomfortable, but those who have driven them in the past will find the cabin layout and all the switchgear reassuringly familiar.

At its inception, the Seven boasted astonishing performance statistics: here was a car that could be bought in kit form and built at home, but then keep up with a 5.0 litre powered Ferrari Berlinetta Boxer's 0-60mph time of 6.2 seconds. That 126bhp 1.6 litre twin cam engine could even beat a Maserati Bora or a Porsche 911 Turbo around the track, thanks to a power to weight ratio better than some modern sports cars – the Porsche Boxster S as an example.

The new Sevens barely weigh any more than their antecedents. This time a Ford 2.0 litre fuel injection unit churns out 180bhp. It doesn't emit the same sexy growl but is quite obviously pokier than the earlier unit. A five speed Ford Sierra sourced transmission is ripe for an update, but the handling is eye wateringly on point. It's quite simply one of the best driving experiences you can get for under £30,000, if slightly short of the retro charm of the early examples.

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