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Thursday, July 05, 2012

My Visit to the Town of Caterham and the Famous Catheram 7 Sports Car

To enlarge click on picture - double click to make it even bigger.

I am guessing the license plate stays with a car over here.

Caterham - pronounced KAY - ter - um - is a small town about 25 miles south of our place in downtown London. Since London is surrounded by a large freeway - Caterham is a very distinct and separate old town.

I took the train from Euston Station to London Bridge Station - then another  train to Caterham. Same way home - maybe an hour each way.

Since Colin Chapman started Caterham Cars in the 1950s - until recently when the manufacturing branch moved to Dartford - this has been the headquarters of this fabulous little car - the Caterham Lotus Super 7.

The first time I saw one it was beating everybody at the Hershey Hill Climb in Pennsylvania. The car is so light and quick that in many sports car racing events - it has been banned.

Chapman's idea was very simple and similar to the idea of Carroll Shelby - take a light British sports car and put a powerful engine in it for racing. Where Shelby focused on powerful Ford V8's - Chapman went with a featherweight tubular frame with tweaked out Ford Cosworth 4 cylinder engines. The first cars in the 1950s had only 43 horsepower - but they weighed under 1000 pounds - less than some motorcycles.

One need only do the math to figure out why this car can beat the Chevrolet Corvette through the slaloms. The present top of the line car has a 260 HP four cylinder in a 1000 pound car. That comes out to less than 4 pounds per horsepower.

There are a few Caterham Cars in the USA - but they demand premium prices. It is because the car cannot withstand the tough emissions and crash tests. They can be brought into America with the title stamped "Not for on the road use." I have heard of some crazy fans converting them over to run on propane to pass the strict tests.

I got off the train at Caterham - and asked the conductor where was Caterham Cars. It is physically attached to the train station - right on the main street in downtown Caterham.

There is an old glass showroom facing the main street - and a garage out back with about 40 cars all lined up with prices and specifications of each car.

The receptionist had her desk in the showroom - she answered the phone while we conversed. There were two other guys in the back - but in my one hour of taking pictures and gaping - neither one said a word to me.

Prices ranges from about $60,000 to about $18,000 - some were new and others were over 10 years old. I saw one with 41,000 miles on it - the rest of them mostly had miles under 5000. Needless to say the $60,000 ones were the 260 HP beasts. The $18,000 one was the cute little one I covet - because it is in my price range and it has sweeping gull wing fenders - similar to an MG-TC or a Morgan.

A couple of weeks ago - I went to an airport in Moultrie GA to watch Mark Hohmeister race his Mustang through the cones. There is nothing I would rather do than to show up in a Caterham and set the track record on my first run.

Last summer I visited the factory in Dartford - the boyhood home of Sir Mick Jagger. This year I went to the birthplace of the Caterham in Caterham.

I took a lot of pictures with my Sony H-5  - $70 craigslist camera - so you are going to suffer through them.

This is one of the very first 1950s Caterham Super 7's. It has 43 HP and could be had as a kit or a turnkey car - $700 and $1400.

This is the history of this early car.

This guy loved to talk about his car. He had it in for routine service. It is a 10 years old car with 4000 miles on it. He never uses the top and never drives it when he thinks it might rain - which it most the time over here. He bought it used 5 years ago.

Here is the guy is re-adjusting the 5 point shoulder straps - because the test driver changed them.

There were only a couple of cars outside.

This guy said the car is stiff - catlike quick - noisy - and he got out of it pushing down as if he were on the parallel bars not using his feet.

There were about 40 cars available - in various states of tune - ages - mileage.

British Racing Green and Yellow are the colors of the Lotus Racing Team

This window sticker goes with the car directly above it.

I coveted this car - about 10 years old - 4000 miles - and the old sweeping fenders. At $18,000 I could probably afford it.

$12,000 pounds times 1.5 = $18,000

The interior of the red car is pretty plain. Since I am left-handed shifting should be easy. Note the side curtains but no top. It has a top - but they seldom use the tops because they look funny.

$60,000 and 260 HP make this one a fire breather.

Fenders are made of carbon fiber to make these cars even lighter.

This is the maintenance shop - looks like an old garage in the USA from the 40s.

This one cost about $33,000 - it hardly had any miles on it.

If you enlarge the picture you can read the sticker.

A row of $60,000 cars.

My car - $18,000 - 135 HP - 1000 pounds.

Note the exhaust.

Note the two open carburetors

These yellow cars were trainers - they were also for rent.

260 HP.

4 cylinders - 16 valves - Ford Coswirth engine.

In 2007 - they released a 50th anniversary version.

The top is pretty ugly - it also looks like a pain to put up. Someof then had tight little tonneau covers.

 Caterham Cars is on the main street right next to the train station in Caterham Surrey

This 1958 Lotus was in the showroom.

The 1958 had a 950 CC engine - like a motorcycle.

To get past the US safety laws they were sold as kits. Here is a chassis and body. Add the engine - seats - wheels - and you have a car.

They sold all sort of accessories right in the show room.

This was the waiting room for service.

 This is a picture of downtown Caterham from 1906 when the first train came in.

See the Caterham 7 logo right next to the train station logo. The brick building in the foreground is a Waitrose Grocery - our favorite.

See Factory Tour Here

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