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Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

Above all, the Caterham 7 was fun to drive! The car was Colin Chapman's baby. It began life as the Lotus 7. Chapman - boss of the legendary British marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend. That was in '57. Lotus went on to manufacture the '7' for the next 15 years. It was sold by Caterham Cars - under the stewardship of Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped producing the Seven - the rights for it passing to Caterham Cars. Encountering problems with the plastic-bodied Series 4 model, Nearns and his team reverted to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 Seven.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight ... always a priority for Chapman, too. The 7's nose cone and wings, then, were glass-fibre. And the rest of the bodywork aluminium. There was a tubular steel chassis. The original rear axles were sourced from Ford and Morris. Later, Caterham came up with their own De Dion-based set-up. To begin with, Caterham stuck to the Lotus 'Twin Cam' engine. The 126bhp motor was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford rolled to the rescue. Tuning options came in the shape of GT, Sprint, and Supersprint. Still more power was provided by the Cosworth BDA engine. And even more by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre unit. It made 175bhp. From '91 onward, Caterhams came with Rover 'K-Series' engines ... in 1.4, 1.4 Supersport, 1.6, and 1.6 Supersport varieties!

Top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - model. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE car encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. Indeed, the JPE 7 out-dragged a Ferrari F40 up to 100mph. At the time, that made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world. With no windscreen - and carbon-fibre wings - the JPE 7 had 'race-track' written all over it! All in all, then - as Caterham had intended it would be - the Seven was a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

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