Earlier this year, the Seven, the iconic British sports car, celebrated its 60th anniversary. While it is now produced by Caterham, rather than Lotus as it had been originally, the car’s evolution has survived any significant efforts to modernize Colin Chapman’s original design. And by modernize, I mean evolve into something that bears some similarity to a driving an actual car, as opposed to a ballistic missile on wheels.
I recently strapped myself into the 4-point harness seat belt, more commonly used in fighter jets, and took to the quiet lanes of Norfolk in the 620s – the highest powered roadworthy model.
Once I had finally worked out how to get the immobilizer working, the engine roared into life with such ferocity I actually felt slightly queasy at what lay ahead.
Forget about any modern comforts (you know, like doors and stuff). Everything is stripped back in the car, so you are left with two tiny racing seats (a rigorous gym regime is required simply to fit in the car) a dashboard containing a small selection of switches, and a 2-litre, 310bhp engine. Bearing in mind the car only weighs 610kg, that creates exhaust popping power unlike almost any other road legal car.
Motoring journalists regularly described the Caterham 7 as about as much fun as you can have on four wheels, and as I hit the empty coast road on a clear autumnal day it was hard to argue with that.
Other than a few angry birdwatchers, whose subjects were disturbed by the thunderous roar of the engine, probably about a mile before I drove past them, it was difficult for the car not to bring a smile to the face of other drivers and passers by. Even the the group of cyclists I passed chose not to swear at me, which is increasingly rare these days.
There is a rear trunk with just enough space to squeeze a small weekend or beach bag in, but this is not a car for busy road use. You are so low down, that at times I found myself just hoping that the rare oncoming farm vehicle on the road would see me. Fortunately they did, even if it took my wife to wave her arms in the air at one point just to be sure.
Although Caterham remains very much a British brand, if you look carefully enough, you will be able to find some in the US where around 20 models a year have been imported since 1997. Recent legislation change however looks set to allow that number to increase with Caterham currently looking at expansion plans.
Caterham Seven owners club posses a cult like enthusiasm for their cars, with regular owner’s racing days and meet ups arranged by the company. Before experiencing the Caterham Seven, I was unsure whether it could possibly live up to its hype. I’m pleased to say it did, and more. Though saying goodbye to it felt rather like waving off relatives after Christmas; great fun was had, but a touch of relief to have made it through unscathed.
For more information – please see caterhamcars.com