March 10, 2008

Caterham Seven

A while back, a family friend was looking to buy the Caterham 7 you see here. We took a drive with him out to Warren, PA so he could see the car first hand. The owner's house was in a very nice little wooded area with great driving roads all around it which made the prospect of driving a Caterham all the more appealing that day. This example was hand built by a Lotus/Caterham enthusiast in the mid 1990s out in the pacific northwest if I recall correctly, and was intended to be a very simple interperitation on the Lotus 7 design while utilizing modern Caterham parts. It's powered by the "Kent" Ford engine, mated to a 4-speed and a DeDion live rear axle. Having driven this car, let me put it simply:

The most amazing handling car that I think anyone could ever experience.

The beauty of this car is certainly not it's exterior bodywork (or lack thereof) but it the way that it's such a purposeful machine that connects so well with its driver. You can feel everything through the wheel, you hear exactly what the engine is doing, you feel the heat, and the wind and essentially, it makes you feel like YOU ARE the car. The only thing about this car which wasn't so amazing at first was the feeling that I was going clip the left side of it off in oncoming traffic. Right hand drive on a left hand drive road is a very unique experience. Shifting with my left hand took a little getting used to as well. The car isn't extremely powerful, but since it weighs next to nothing, it's like driving the world's best go-kart. You can easily break the back end loose without trying on acceleration, and yet you don't feel the least bit scared by it. It accelerates rapidly through it's rather tall 4 gears and all in all, it makes you feel like Graham Hill in a Lotus 49 with fenders and headlights. It is small, and if you really consider the thought of encountering a small animal or a large SUV that you're not prepared for, you start to back off the throttle a bit. In summation, I won't call this post a "road test", which would require a bit more time and experience with the car. However, I will say that I've driven this one enough to know that I'll be hard pressed to find anything else more fun and enjoyable.
Unfortunately the price negotiations didn't work out and our friend didn't get the car. But he's still hooked, and hopefully in the near future I'll be able to write about a Seven more thoroughly here. 





(that's me in the driver's seat, owner in the passenger's seat)



2 comments:

Ian Scott said...

Are you familiar with the Locost 7 scene? Really cool stuff, a have a couple older family friends who are engineering and building one while my dad is forming body panels with an english wheel... They're powering this with an old Mazda rotary engine paired with Weber carbs. I believe that equates to a thrilling power to weight ratio!

I. R. Rothwell said...

Oh yeah, my old CAD teacher in high school first turned me onto that. He was designing a frame for one on the CAD system we had and planned to build it using his materials and know-how from building recumbent bicycles (Bentech bikes). Somewhere around the house here we have the Locost book and one that's the same concept but using Miata parts. As far as Seven type cars that arn't a Lotus or a Caterham a Birkin looks really appealing too. They've VERY well made from what I've seen of them.