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Caterham - marque/manufacturer information

List of all Caterham cars

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 Seven, is a direct evolution of the Series 3 Lotus Seven designed by Colin Chapman.


Caterham Cars had been a major Lotus dealer during the 60's, and its founder, Graham Nearn, purchased the rights to continue manufacture of the Seven design from Chapman in 1973, after Lotus announced their 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 production entering its 50th year in 2007, the Seven still leads the market in track performance and driving enjoyment.

As with their Lotus Seven precursors, Caterhams are constructed of aluminium sheet attached to a tubular steel chassis. 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 on some versions) rather than particularly powerful engines.

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' 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 model.

In the United States Caterhams are 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 60's 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.

In 1987, production moved to the Dartford factory.

In the late 90's, Caterham also produced a model called the '21'. Mechanically the 21 was almost identical to the 7, but instead of the uncompromising narrow, open body and wheels, the car had a wider roadster body, including a proper windscreen and fold-away hood (convertible top). While a solid car, the 21 never sold particularly well due to competition from the Lotus Elise and was discontinued after only a few years.

Model Line-up


The 'original' Caterham had a live rear axle, which was generally held to have poorer handling on rough roads than the later-option de Dion rear axle, the sole currently-offered option. Engine: 1.4-litre (105 bhp).


The Roadsport offered an updated rear suspension with a de Dion tube and optional Watt's linkage, paired with an adjustable anti-roll bar allowing for more detailed control of the rear wheels during heavy cornering. Engines: 1.6 and 1.8-litre (115 to 160 bhp).


The SV is similar to the Roadsport, but lengthened by 80 mm and widened by 110 mm, resulting in a slightly-less-cramped interior at the cost of 25 kg (55 lb) extra weight. The handling penalty of the additional weight is offset by the wider stance of the front wheels. Engines: 1.6 and 1.8-litre (115 to 160 bhp).


The Superlight is a pure track version of the Roadsport with nose cone, cycle wings and other parts replaced by carbon fiber. The wind deflector in place of the windscreen makes a helmet more or less mandatory. The current lineup starts with the Superlight then continues with the the R300 and the R400 (named after their power-to-weight ratios of 300 and 400 bhp/Tonne). Engines are : 1.6, 1.8 and 2.0 litre (150/160/210 bhp) respectively. The R500 (230 bhp), introduced in 1999, and the R500 Evolution (250 bhp), introduced in 2004, are not produced anymore.


Introduced in late 2004 , the CSR is similar in size to the SV but with a completely new (and heavier) chassis including independent rear suspension and F1-style inboard, pushrod-style front suspension. The aerodynamics of the vehicle have been greatly improved, with roughly 50% less front-end drag at 100 mph. In place of a MG Rover powerplant is a 2.3-litre Cosworth-tuned Ford Duratec engine (200 to 260 bhp). The 260 bhp variant is capable of a 0-60 mph time of 3.1 seconds.


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 outout of 110–250 bhp in the R500 Evolution, Vauxhall engines 165 bhp to 320 bhp in some factory built versions of the car. A 250 bhp Caterham JPE (Jonathan Palmer Evolution) briefly held the world record for production car 0–60 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, Suzuki Hayabusa and even the Mazda Rotary engine. It is rumoured one owner even fitted a rotary diesel engine from a military drone.

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 introduction of the 2005 model, powered by a Ford Duratec engine.

Typical powerplant output ranges from 140 to over 300 bhp, depending on specs 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 'toothing' 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 2004 was the R500 with the 230 bhp (169 kW) MG Rover engine, bringing the car's 430 kg from zero to 60 mph in 3.4 seconds. This model also has the current production car world record (as of 27 April 2004) for 0-100-0 mph at 10.73 seconds.

Motor racing

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 sportscars that it has been banned from FIA competitions and most international races, coining the phrase "too fast to race". This was further extended to the Caterham Seven's (as Caterham Fireblade)appearance in Gran Turismo 4 that the Fireblade was banned from almost any race in the game.

List of all Caterham cars

Source: Wikipedia


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