Caterham Seven Sprint

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Caterham has launched a ‘new’ Seven, the ‘Sprint’ with retro ‘swinging sixties’ styling reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original Lotus Seven, clamshell wings, steel wheels, chrome hubcaps and all.

The Caterham Seven Sprint is largely based on the entry level Caterham Seven 160, and uses the same little 660cc, 3 cylinder Suzuki engine, albeit with dohc, 4 vales per cylinder, and fitted with a turbocharger to give 80bhp and 79 foot pounds of torque.  That’s a lot more power than the 39bhp of the very first Lotus Seven, but in today’s terms, it’s pretty puny.  It isn’t a good looking engine bay.

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The Seven Sprint is also fitted with a live axle, which is fine in its way, but there is such a thing as taking nostalgia too far.  The last Caterham I owned used a very sophisticated de Dion rear end, and even that was very prone to power oversteer.  Every live axle car I’ve ever driven has had ‘interesting’ roadholding and handling ~ I’ve no reason to suppose the new Caterham Seven is any different in that respect.  Still, it all adds to the terrifying fun.

It could have been worse, Caterham could have gone right back to the 1957 Lotus Seven with a side valve enginedrum brakes and a three speed gearbox with no synchromesh on first.

I have built, owned, and driven a Caterham Seven with clamshell wings, and they are a mixed blessing.  On the upside they are so much better looking than cycle wings, on the downside clamshell wings have the aerodynamics of a box-kite.  Given a couple of Sevens with otherwise identical specifications, a car with flared clamshell wings will have a lower top speed and much worse acceleration at higher speeds, than a Seven with close-fitting cycle wings.

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However, there is no doubt that the new Seven Sprint is a pretty little car in those retro colours, flared wings, and with a brilliant red leather interior.  As a driver’s car it will be utterly brilliant too ~ you haven’t driven a sports car until you’ve driven a Seven.  But in comparison with other Lotus / Caterham Sevens available, it’s sort of the runt of the litter.  Pretty but lacking in spirit.

There is one huge problem with the Caterham Seven Sprint ~ prices start at £27,995, which is a stupid amount of money to pay for this particular little car.  Mind you, Caterham Cars aren’t the remotest interested in what I think of the Seven Sprint, the limited production run of  60 cars sold out in a week.

I have a sneaking suspicion that not many of the 60 people signed up to buy a Caterham Seven Sprint will be driving it much, if at all.  It seems to me this is a Summer Sunday afternoon car to take for a short drive to the country / beach / pub.  Or even worse, a lot of the buyers could be ‘collectors’ who will stick this Seven in their heated Motor House under a dust cover, and mostly leave it there.

Would I recommend a Caterham Seven 160 / Sprint to a friend?  No.

~

Sara

the BRG and yellow car is my last Caterham Seven

these opinions are mine and mine alone

Jack Collier

jackcollier7@talktalk.net

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