New Old Wheels – Caterham Seven Sprint

caterham-seven

We say: 160 classic gains period fittings with great results

caterham-sevenThe car you’re looking at is brand new. I haven’t done, as a bloke at a petrol station commended me, “a very nice restoration job” on an old Seven. It’s designed to look like one, though, as next year the Lotus Seven (as it was known until Caterham bought the rights in 1973) turns 60.

So Caterham is making 60 of these retro Sprint models. They cost $34,000 each, and have already all been sold. Underneath it’s identical to a 160 Classic, so you might question the value. However, when you have a poke around the Sprint you quickly appreciate a few things. The detailing is glorious, period-authentic and extends to every nook and cranny. It looks and feels expensive in a way no other Caterham ever has.

The pity of it is that the engine doesn’t follow suit. It’s the Suzuki-sourced 660cc turbo triple, and although it parps

caterham-seven-1
The car is worth buying for the lovely Moto-Lita steering wheel alone

loudly through a side exit exhaust, there’s no tune or rortiness to it. And the only reason I’m not criticising the turbo lag is that the gearing is so short the rev needle is soon swinging beyond 3,500rpm. Also, while the gearbox is OK when you’re batting about, getting into first and reverse can be challenging.

But you don’t care. You just don’t. Because soon you’ll be on a little road, the kind where pheasants hang out, your eyes will be full of British countryside and glorious detailing, your fingertips will be caressing a gorgeous thin-rimmed Moto-Lita wooden steering wheel, the chassis will be joyfully excited to be out at play and you’ll be having a ball.

A word on that steering wheel, because it’s core to the appeal of the car, not just visually, but dynamically. It’s 70mm wider than a conventional Seven wheel. This causes access issues and forces you to drive with your elbows out. However, with more leverage on the rim, it’s easier to keep a tight grip on. Steering effort is reduced, as are kickback and fight. It makes the Sprint feel gentler than other Sevens. And that suits it.

This is all by the by as they’ve all been sold, but it’s evidence that Caterham understands its past and knows how to celebrate it authentically. And it’s hard to put a cost on authenticity.

 

Verdict: Loveable, desirable and hugely amusing way of recreating the swing-axle Sixties.

Caterham Evokes Its 1960s Roots With New Retro Seven

THE CATERHAM SEVEN Sprint, a retro-themed version of the Seven sports car, has been unveiled at the Goodwood Revival. Powered by the 80bhp three-cylinder Suzuki engine also used in the entry-level Seven 160, the Sprint sports a nostalgic theme throughout. The powder-coated grey chassis is period-accurate for a Series 2 Lotus Seven, while the suspension and rollover bar are also reminiscent of Colin Chapman’s original. The car features flared front wings, a polished exhaust silencer and retro-styled individual rear lights. Wheels are painted cream and finished with polished hubcaps, while the bodywork wears retro Caterham branding and a Sprint logo.

Seven Sprint uses an 80 bhp Suzuki engine
Seven Sprint uses an 80 bhp Suzuki engine

A choice of six body colours reflects those that were available in 1966-1967: Cream, Mellow Yellow, Regency Red, Camberwick Green, British Racing Green and Misty Blue. In the cockpit is a wood-rimmed steering wheel and wood-effect dashboard. The tachometer features red and yellow sectors, another 1960s throwback. The interior panels and Muirhead Scottish seat upholstery are hand-stitched in the period style and finished in scarlet red. The Seven Sprint will be available as a factory-built car only, priced from £27,995. Only 60 examples are destined for the UK and European markets.