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Lotus Seven & Caterham

Lotus Seven & Caterham Published: 13th Jul 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Lotus Seven & Caterham
Lotus Seven & Caterham
Lotus Seven & Caterham
Lotus Seven & Caterham
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Chapman’s first serious road car is going stronger than ever under the Caterham name. Launched over 60 years ago, and for something Chapman was alleged to have knocked up in over a weekend, the purest sports car ever built has stood the test of time brilliantly and there’s still little to touch these four-wheeled motorcycles for raw fun. There’s tons to choose from to suit all pockets or speed freaks and can be surprisingly inexpensive to maintain if you buy right.

Driving

No enthusiast who gets behind the wheel of a Seven fails to emerge without a smile on their face. It’s quite simply the most infectious, purest drive you’ll ever experience and if road driving isn’t thrilling enough, you can race them in dedicated championships. As most weigh under a ton, whichever engine you choose – even the basic Ford Cortina 1600 unit – you will be rewarded with astonishing acceleration while models from the 80s provide supercar pace for practically pennies. But it’s the way a 7 corners that makes it so special. Near-perfect weight distribution imbues the brilliant chassis with incredibly balanced manners. On modern rubber they grip up to unbelievable speeds yet can be barrelled confidently into corners because the car’s reactions are so sharp; only the Elise comes close.

Values

There’s always a market, what you have to remember is the cost of used against self build or brand new. Generally, Lotus models are worth the most – nudging £40,000 – apart from the least loved square shaped S4 which can sell for half the price, even though it’s the better driver; you can get a good car for well under £10K. Caterhams sell for much the same although spec counts as some are very sought after indeed.

Timeline

1957 Launched, as MK7; a budget road/club racer 1959 7A uses Austin 948cc A35 power

1961 Anglia 105E engine fitted in 997cc and 1340cc formats

1962 Cortina 1500 engine now optional along with Cosworth tuning. Cycle wing changed for flared wings

1968 Series 3 with 1300/1600 Ford crossflow engines and front disc brakes

1970 Squarer cut S4 takes over with new chassis design

1973 New owners Caterham revert to old S3 with TC engines

1980 1600 Sprint has Morris Ital rear axle

1985-88 De Dion rear suspension available, better chassis and geometry

1990/91 Vauxhall 2-litre 16v engine option, followed Rover K-Series engine

1995 Six-speed gearbox out

2001 Major chassis revise using Superlight thinking

Top five faults

Restos

Vital first step is to establish provenance. You need to be sure that the car is what the seller says it is. Look-alikes are extremely common and it is not unknown to pass them off as real Caterhams. So always take care to check the chassis and other identifying details against the registration document

Build

Factory cars are the most desirable. Cars built with more than one major second-hand component have a ‘Q’ registration prefix, which are always worth less. Ask about mods, for many cars have been altered and personalised over the years

Chassis

Luckily most areas of the chassis are easily visible. Accident damage is common, particularly frontal impacts. First and second suspension legs are the most likely areas to be damaged: chassis tubes should be straight and have no joins in them, except at the ‘nodes’

Rust

Not a big concern, but it can begin inside the chassis tubes and then work its way outwards. Aluminium bodywork does not corrode, but dents pretty easily. Stress can cause fatigue on mounting points, while the rear radius arms vicinity can distort

Best models

Lotus

Made up to 1973, and with the exception of rare BMC 948cc versions all are Ford powered, a few with Elan engines. Lotus models command the value

Caterham

Overall better cars as engines moved with the times; now you can have Suzuki three-pot power. Most thrilling are JPE and CSR Cosworth versions

Specials

Limited runs include Lambretta, Prisoner, Roadsport, Superlights, posh Harrods and any Anniversary model. 21 was softer stylish GT that never caught on



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