Caterham Cars Ltd
Type Private Limited Company
Founded 1973
Founder(s) Graham Nearn
Headquarters Dartford, Kent, England
Industry Automobiles
Products Caterham CSR, Classic, Roadsport, SV, Superlight
Parent Team Lotus Enterprise/Tony Fernandes

Caterham Cars is a manufacturer of specialist lightweight sports cars based in Caterham, Surrey, England and part of the British motor industry. Their only current model, the Caterham 7 (or Seven), is a direct evolution of the Series 3 Lotus Seven designed by Colin Chapman and originally launched in 1968. A track-only car, the SP/300.R, was proposed to be released during 2010. On 27 April 2011, Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes announced that his team had purchased Caterham.[1][2]

History Edit

Caterham 50th anniversary

1957-2007 Seven 50th Anniversary logo

Lotus Origins Edit

Colin Chapman's Lotus Cars launched the Series 1 Lotus Seven in 1957. The car was immediately embraced by enthusiasts as a low-cost, lightweight sports car and successful race car. Revised Series 2, Series 3 and Series 4 versions were subsequently launched in 1960, 1968 and 1970 respectively.

Caterham Cars had been a major Lotus 7 dealer during the 1960s, and its founder, Graham Nearn, purchased the rights to continue manufacture of the Seven design from Chapman in 1973, after Lotus announced its intention to discontinue the model. Caterham initially restarted manufacture of the Lotus Seven Series 4; however, when this proved unpopular, production switched to a Series 3 model in 1974.

The Lotus/Caterham 7 is widely regarded by car enthusiasts and the media as one of the iconic sports cars of the 20th century. With 2007 marking the 50th year of continuous production, the Seven still enjoys strong support and success in clubman-style racing.

Since 2006 Caterham Cars has been run by an ex-Lotus management team led by Ansar Ali (CEO) and Mark Edwards (COO).

Construction Edit

As with its Lotus Seven precursors, Caterhams are constructed of aluminium sheet attached to a tubular steel chassis. Nosecone and wings are either GRP or carbon fibre depending on specification. All Sevens are front engined with rear-wheel drive and two seats. Their extremely high performance is achieved through light weight (less than 500 kg (1,102 lb) on some versions) rather than particularly powerful engines. As well as a lightweight chassis and bodywork, Caterham Sevens achieve their very low mass through their lack of comfort and safety oriented features such as a fixed roof, doors, radio, air-conditioning, airbags, traction/stability control, ABS, satellite navigation or cruise control. As a result, the Seven is somewhat limited in its practicality for everyday usage and is instead recognised by driving enthusiasts for its focus on driving enjoyment, making it an ideal track/race car or 'Sunday' car.

Kit format Edit

Chapman and Lotus helped to pioneer the British kit car industry. The Lotus Seven was offered in kit form to allow buyers to avoid new car tax in the UK. Subsequently Caterham continued offering cars in 'complete knock down' (CKD) kit form as the tradition of hand building your own Seven was well established amongst enthusiasts. Today, all Caterham Sevens are still offered in kit form in the UK except the CSR (Series 6) model. Modern Caterham kits differ from the majority of kit cars as all parts are supplied ready to assemble, not requiring a donor car, fabrication or any special skills.

International Edit

Although the Seven has always been popular with enthusiasts outside of the UK marketplace, export of the Seven to other markets has increasingly been limited by homologation, safety and emissions regulations in the modern era. As a result, the chassis/engine combinations, specifications, pricing and kit-form availability vary widely between countries.

In the United States Caterhams are currently sold as kits only, lacking some modern safety features required of manufacturers, but which are not required for individually assembled vehicles. Buyers can either choose to construct the cars themselves or pay their regional dealers or local builders to assemble them. Typically the engine and transmission are sourced separately as a unit - often from Caterham - but all other components (including frame, suspension, differential, driveshaft, interior, wiring and instruments) are provided in kit form. In the UK, the vehicles can be obtained as kits or entirely assembled by Caterham and registered for the road under SVA (Single Vehicle Approval) regulations. In the '60s, the original Lotus Seven was sold only in kit form in both the UK and the US, in order to evade the very high taxes on complete new cars that were not assessed on automobile parts.

Location Edit

Until 1987 the offices, factory and showroom of Caterham Cars were located in the town of Caterham, Surrey, UK. In 1987, the production and administration of the company moved to a new factory in Dartford, Kent, UK. Caterham Cars still retains a showroom and servicing facility in the town of Caterham adjacent to the train station. Additionally the 'Caterham Midlands' showroom operates from just outside of Leicester.

Caterham 21 Edit

In 1994 Caterham also produced a model called the '21'.[3] Mechanically the 21 was very similar to the 7, using a modified 7 spaceframe chassis with a new GRP roadster-style body, including a wrap-around windscreen and fold-away fabric hood (convertible top) manufactured by Oxted Trimming Company.

The 21 benefited from a considerably stiffer setup than a 7, due to the work on the chassis and having a full body. Comfort was introduced in the same minimalist style as the 7, adding just enough to make it a proper roadster without adding too much weight.

The level of finish and comfort as well as build quality of the cars far exceeded its mid-1990s contemporaries including the Renault Sport Spyder, Lotus Elise and indeed the TVR's of the period.[citation needed]

Caterham unfortunately underestimated the effort involved in creating a completely new car and took far too long from its inception to deliver the first customer cars, seeing many people who had placed deposits defect to the Lotus Elise and other vehicles. Early ones were used as "prototypes", leaving customers to help iron out some of the foibles of the new car.[citation needed]

Whilst given excellent reviews by the UK automotive press,[clarification needed] the 21 never sold particularly well, with only 48 ever made. It had moderately good racing success in the Belcar 24 hour series in Europe and is credited with helping Caterham develop the widetrack setup used in SV's (amongst other developments) and the CSR's sweeping interior is reminiscent of the original 21 design.

Caterham SP/300.R Edit

The SP/300.R, a new track-only model, is due to be released during 2010. It is designed by Caterham alongside Lola Cars. The SP/300.R is a limited edition with limited production to 25.

2010 model line-up Edit

Caterham Classic

Classic Caterham

Chassis variants Edit

In 2010 Caterham offers three different chassis variants in the UK.

Series 3 (S3) Edit

The most popular variant retains the same dimensions and layout of the Lotus 7 Series 3.

Series 5 (SV) Edit

Caterham introduced this variant in 2000 to accommodate larger drivers (space is restricted in the S3 for drivers over 6 ft (1.8 m) tall.) Although visually very similar to the S3, the SV is longer taller and wider and has significantly more space for taller and broader drivers with the added benefits of more luggage space, a larger fuel tank and more stability. The SV chassis is 25 kg (55 lb) heavier than the S3.

CSR (Series 6) Edit

The CSR was launched in 2005 following extensive research and development by Caterham with the objective of creating an improved Seven. The CSR is based on the larger dimensions of the SV but with a substantially revised and stiffer chassis, inboard 'pushrod' front suspensions, fully independent rear suspension, improved aerodynamics, potent Cosworth engines and a new 'integrated' dashboard layout.

Model/trim variants Edit

Classic Edit

The most basic version of the 7 was traditionally offered with a 'live' rear axle but now comes with De Dion rear suspension as per the other models in the range. This trim level strips away all non-essential equipment and comforts.

  • Classic trim is available on S3/SV chassis
  • Engines: 1.4-litre K-Series (105 bhp) or 1.6-litre K-Series (120 bhp).

Roadsport Edit

Roadsport is the trim level intended for general usage, different weather conditions and touring. The spec includes a full windscreen and weather equipment to increase practicality. A large range of performance options are available. The Roadsport dates back to 1996 when it was called the Superlight R, in 1998 a much softer version came out called the Seven Clubsport 1.8. The range continued to be developed in the years as a great alternative to someone who wanted a little bit more than a Classic, but a bit less than a Superlight.

  • Classic trim is available on S3/SV chassis
  • Engines: 1.6-litre Ford Sigma (120,125 or 150 bhp) or 2.0-litre Ford Duratec (175 bhp).
Caterham R300

Caterham R300 Superlight

Superlight Edit

The Superlight is intended for track and fast road usage. Superlight spec includes performance options such as carbon bodywork and a close ratio 6-speed gearbox. A wind deflector in place of the windscreen makes a helmet more or less mandatory. The Superlight R400 uses a 2.0 litre Ford Duratec engine tuned to 210 bhp (157 kW/213 PS). The R400 name indicates the car's 400 bhp-per-tonne power-to-weight ratio. The R500 has been made Top Gear car of the year 2008. In another appearance earlier in the series, it placed fifth on the Power Lap board with a 1:17.9. This time beat the €1,100,000 (£899,000/$1,550,000), 1000 hp Bugatti Veyron.

  • Superlight trim is available on S3/SV chassis
  • Engines: 1.6-litre Ford Sigma (150 bhp) or 2.0-litre Ford Duratec (175 bhp, 210 bhp or 263 bhp).

CSR Edit

Main article: Caterham CSR

The CSR chassis comes in two basic trims which mirror those of the S3/SV cars. The 'basic' CSR has a road and touring oriented spec with full windscreen and weather equipment. This is available as the CSR200 (200 bhp) or CSR260 (260 bhp). The CSR Superlight (also 260 bhp) is the current Caterham performance flagship strips away the windscreen, integrated dash and other comfort-oriented components for maximum performance, with specialist 'Dynamic dampers' added to improve its already phenomenal grip. The 'basic' CSR set an unofficial time of 1.17.4 on the BBC Top Gear test track at Dunsfold, placing it ahead of many of the world's most expensive performance cars.

  • Engines: 2.3-litre Ford Duratec tuned by Cosworth (200 bhp or 260 bhp)

Future models Edit

Caterham announced a CSR175 model at the Tokyo Motorshow in November 2009. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Seven 2007 Caterham showed a concept car known as the X330 which utilised the CSR chassis but with a supercharged 330 bhp (246 kW/335 PS) Duratec engine. Production is unconfirmed.

RS Performance RST-V8 Engine Edit

The 'Caterham Levante', built by RS Performance Engine Developments Ltd. (RS=Russell Savory), is a mostly-carbon-fibre bodied Caterham, with Kevlar seats, combined with an "over 500bhp" 2.4-litre, 40-valve supercharged V8 and a reduced body weight of 520 kg (1,146 lb) boasts almost 1,000 bhp (746 kW/1,014 PS) per tonne (initial announced specifications were 550 bhp (410 kW/558 PS) and 530 kg (1,168 lb), but the RS website specifies "in excess of 500bhp," and 520 kg (1,146 lb) or 530 kg (1,168 lb); the math may or may not achieve "over 1,000 bhp (746 kW/1,014 PS) per tonne"). The eight cars, costing £115,000, sold out. and only eight will be produced to celebrate more than 50 years in production. Two days' of mandatory "driver training" are included in the price of the car. [4] [5]

Kit build Edit

All of the 2008 model line-up is available as a 'CKD' complete kit for build by the owner, with the exception of CSR models.

Engines Edit

Historically, engines have been supplied by Ford, specifically Ford Kent engines or Cosworth-derived race-prepared BDA/R units, enlarged to 1.7 litres and generating 150–170 bhp. In the early '90s, Caterham started using powerplants from other sources, with the least expensive models using 1.4-litre K series engines from MG Rover for the base model, and Vauxhall engines including full race versions of the 16 valve 2.0XE "red top" as fitted to 1990 Vauxhall Works Touring Cars. Rover engines span a power output of 110–250 bhp in the R500 Evolution, Vauxhall engines 165 bhp (123 kW/167 PS) to 320 bhp (239 kW/324 PS) in some factory built versions of the car. A 250 bhp (186 kW/253 PS) Caterham JPE (Jonathan Palmer Evolution) briefly held the world record for production car 0–60 mph times (at 3.4 seconds) until it was bettered by the $1M McLaren F1.



The many aftermarket tuning companies for these cars have also offered the Ford Zetec, Honda Fireblade, Honda Blackbird, Suzuki Hayabusa and even the Mazda Rotary engine.

In 2001, Caterham designated MG Rover the sole engine supplier for factory-built Sevens, with Ford Zetec, Honda Fireblade, Yamaha Firebird and Suzuki Hayabusa engines still available for kit assembly. The Rover engines were based on the K series and carried the 'Xpower' branding. However, the partnership evidently came to an end with the buyout of Rover by China, with the 2005 model introducing a Ford Duratec engine.

Typical powerplant output ranges from 140 bhp (104 kW/142 PS) to over 300 bhp (224 kW/304 PS), depending on specifications and modifications.

The gearbox is either the classic Ford T9 five-speed or Caterham's own six-speed box. The T9 is cheap and durable, but has gear ratios meant for a much heavier car. The six-speed gearbox is expensive and had early 'teething' problems, but its ratios are considered the perfect match for the Seven. Independent companies such as Quaife do offer replacement gearkits for the T9 as well as sequential boxes for those with a racing fever and the need for a more robust transmission.

The most extreme engine/chassis combination available from the factory as of 2008 was the R500 with the 263 bhp (196 kW/267 PS) Ford engine, bringing the car's 506 kg (1,116 lb) from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.88 seconds. The previous model also held a production car world record for zero to 100 mph (160 km/h) back to zero at 10.73 seconds (faster than many modern family saloons can reach 60), set in 27 April 2004.[citation needed]

Motor racing Edit

Because of its relatively high power-to-weight ratio and its exceptional, Lotus-heritage, handling the Caterham has been a favourite among club racers since the beginning of its career. In the United Kingdom and elsewhere, the Caterham is used in a variety of one-make series and sports car championships, both regional and national.

However, the Caterham has proven so successful against bigger and more powerful sports cars that it has been banned from FIA competitions[citation needed] and most international races[citation needed], coining the phrase "too fast to race".[6]

References Edit

  1. "Tony Fernandes buys Caterham". (2011). Retrieved on 2011-04-23.
  2. "Team Lotus confirms Caterham takeover". (2011). Retrieved on 2011-04-27.
  3. "Welcome to 2010 at". caterham21. Retrieved on 2011-04-23.
  4. Biggs, Henry (2008-02-26). "Revealed: 550 bhp V8 Caterham V8 Caterham". Retrieved on 2011-04-23.
  5. "''RS Performance website''". Retrieved on 2011-04-23.
  6. "''Too Fast To Race, Again!'' - April 21, 2003". Retrieved on 2011-04-23.

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