Caterham 7

Caterham 7 1970s British classic sports car

The Caterham 7 began life as the Lotus 7. Colin Chapman - boss of the latter marque - claimed to have built the prototype in a weekend, in '57. Lotus manufactured the Seven for fifteen years. It was marketed through Caterham Cars - run by Graham Nearns. In '73, Lotus stopped making the 7. The rights for it passed to Caterham. They set about building a plastic-bodied Series 4 Seven. Encountering issues with the new material, however, Nearns and his team went back to the aluminium-bodied Series 3 model.

Caterham were committed to the 'pure driving experience'. Key to that was light weight - always a top priority for Chapman, too. To that end, the 7's nose cone and wings were glass-fibre. As said, the light aluminium body was already in situ. Beneath, sat a tubular steel chassis. The 7's rear axles had been sourced from Ford and Morris - though Caterham would later install a De Dion-based set-up. Caterham kept faith with Lotus' Twin Cam motor. The 126bhp engine was spot-on ... until stocks ran out. Ford duly did the engine honours. Tuning options came in the form of GT, Sprint and Supersprint. Subsequently, more power was provided by a Cosworth BDA motor. And still more, by a Vauxhall 2.0-litre - producing 175bhp. From '91 onwards, Caterhams came with Rover K-Series engines. There was a choice of 1.4 and 1.4 Supersport - or, 1.6 and 1.6 Supersport - units.

The top-of-the-range Seven was the JPE - Jonathan Palmer Evolution - version. Named after the F1 driver who helped develop it, the JPE encapsulated the Caterham creed. Technically a roadster, its race-spec 250bhp engine catapulted it to 150mph. It hit 60 in less than 3.5s. The JPE 7 could out-drag a Ferrari F40 - right up to 100mph. Which made it the fastest-accelerating car in the world, at the time. With no windscreen - and wings made from carbon-fibre - the JPE 7 had 'track-day' written all over it. So, the Caterham 7 was - as Colin Chapman had made sure - a one-stop shop for automotive exhilaration!

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