Caterham Cars: A British Racing Legacy

Beneath the sleek curves and roaring engines of Caterham cars lies a story of passion, perseverance, and unparalleled craftsmanship. As enthusiasts and engineers alike flock to experience the thrill of driving a Caterham, it’s essential to delve into the brand’s roots and understand what sets it apart in the competitive world of high-performance vehicles.

Join us as we delve into the heart of the giant British automaker, exploring the fusion of tradition and innovation that fuels every model and uncovering the secrets behind its enduring allure.

History and Origins of Caterham Cars

In 1957, the brilliant Colin Chapman, sporting his trademark moustache, crafted a spirited little two-seater sports car. His vision? To create a car that enthusiasts could assemble themselves and then unleash on the track. Thus, the Lotus Seven was born with the mantra “Simplify, then add lightness.”

Fast forward to today, and Caterham, which acquired the rights to build and develop the Seven in 1973, remains true to Chapman’s original philosophy. Their lineup of Seven variants caters to every taste and driving experience, with power ranging from 125bhp to a blistering 310bhp. Each car weighs just over 500kg, emphasising the pursuit of lightness and agility.

The company’s commitment to the driver experience extends beyond the road. Their acclaimed one-make motor racing championships have produced over 1,000 new racing drivers through the Caterham Academy program. Whether you’re behind the wheel of the relatively sedate Seven 270 or the adrenaline-pumping Seven 620R, one thing remains constant: fun.

The brand’s journey has been marked by milestones—from supplying a Seven for The Prisoner TV series in 1965 to winning Top Gear’s “Car of the Year” with the Caterham R500 in 2008. And let’s not forget their recent collaboration with LEGO, creating a model of the Seven 620R.

So, as the Seven turns 60, Caterham continues to embody the spirit of speed, simplicity, and sheer driving pleasure. It’s not just a car; it’s an exhilarating experience that makes every driver feel like a hero, whether on the road or the racetrack.

The Birth of Caterham Cars: Early Classics (1959-1973)

Step back in time and explore the origins of Caterham Cars with a journey through its early classics, spanning from 1959 to 1973. In this section, we delve into the pioneering years of the brand, tracing its roots from the iconic Lotus Seven to the emergence of Caterham as a symbol of British automotive excellence.

The Lotus Seven Series

The Lotus Seven Series, a cornerstone of automotive engineering and design, has left an indelible mark on the world of sports cars since its inception in 1957. Continuously evolving through the decades, the legacy of the Lotus Seven Series lives on in the modern-day iterations crafted by Caterham Cars, preserving the essence of Colin Chapman’s visionary creation while embracing contemporary innovation.

At its core, the Lotus Seven Series epitomises simplicity, agility, and driving purity. Chapman’s philosophy of “simplify, then add lightness” is evident in every aspect of the design, with an emphasis on minimalism and raw performance. Originally conceived as a lightweight roadster aimed at providing an exhilarating driving experience, the Seven Series quickly gained acclaim on both the road and the racetrack, earning a reputation for its unmatched handling and responsiveness.

Caterham 7 (1973)

With Caterham’s acquisition of the rights to manufacture the Seven Series in 1973, the torch was passed to a new generation of craftsmen dedicated to preserving Chapman’s vision while embracing advancements in technology and engineering. The result is a lineup of meticulously crafted models that pay homage to their Lotus heritage while pushing the boundaries of performance and innovation.

From the iconic Seven 160, with its spirited 80 horsepower engine, to the exhilarating Seven 620R, boasting a blistering 310 horsepower and a 0-60 mph time of just 2.8 seconds, each model in the Seven Series offers a unique driving experience tailored to thrill-seekers and driving enthusiasts alike.

But it’s not just about speed and performance; the Seven Series is a testament to the enduring appeal of analogue driving in an increasingly digital world. With its minimalist cockpit, open-air driving experience, and unparalleled connection to the road, every journey behind the wheel of a Caterham is a visceral reminder of why we fell in love with driving in the first place.

Caterham 21 (1990s)

In the 1990s, Caterham explored new horizons. They introduced the Caterham 21, a two-seater soft-top alternative to the popular MGF and Lotus Elise. While the latter models sold in greater numbers, the 21 carved its niche with its distinctive styling and open-air driving experience. It was a nod to the past while embracing modern sensibilities.

Origins and Purpose

The Caterham 21 was unveiled at the 1994 Birmingham Motor Show to commemorate 21 years of Caterham Cars’ association with the legendary Lotus Seven. Designed by Iain Robertson and developed by a team led by Jez Coates, the 21 aimed to offer “Caterham motoring in a more practical format.”

Design and Styling

While mechanically akin to the Caterham 7, the 21 stood out due to its distinctive body design. Inspired by the classic Lotus Eleven, it featured a curved, low-slung shape that garnered universal acclaim. However, practicality took a hit—no wind-up windows and high, wide door sills raised eyebrows.

Chassis and Suspension

The initial chassis design was notably more rigid than that of the 7, thanks to extra strengthening in the sills and front end. Adjustments to the suspension, coupled with an additional 100 kg weight, resulted in an improved ride quality.

Powertrain Options

  • The 21 offered a range of four-cylinder engines:
  • Rover K-Series variants (1.6L and 1.8L) controlled by the Rover MEMS ECU.
  • Two cars featured the Very High Performance Derivative (VHPD) specification.
  • The standard gearbox was the Ford Type 9, with Caterham’s own 6-speed manual as an option.


The base model, equipped with a 133 hp (99 kW) engine, sprinted from 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 6.7 seconds and reached a top speed of 127 mph (204 km/h). A single fixed-roof variant, the 21 GTO, built for racing, boasted a 230 hp (172 kW) engine from the Caterham 7 R500. It achieved a 0–60 mph (97 km/h) time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 153 mph (246 km/h).

Production and Legacy

The British carmaker initially aimed for 200 cars annually but ultimately produced only 40 to 50 examples. The project quietly faded away in 1999, leaving behind a unique chapter in Caterham’s history.

Current Range

The legendary British sports car manufacturer continues to push the boundaries of lightweight performance with its diverse lineup. Whether you’re a seasoned track enthusiast or a weekend thrill-seeker, Caterham has a model waiting to ignite your passion for driving. Let’s delve into the current Caterham range, highlighting each model’s unique personality and capabilities:

Caterham Seven 170 & Super Seven 600

For those seeking an exhilarating introduction to the Caterham experience, the Seven 170 and Super Seven 600 offer an accessible yet thrilling option. Both powered by a punchy Suzuki 660cc turbocharged engine, they deliver 84bhp and a 0-60mph time of around 6.5 seconds.

The key difference lies in the bodywork: the Seven 170’s narrower design emphasises lightweight agility, while the Super Seven 600’s wider stance provides enhanced stability. Starting from £29,490, these models offer exceptional value for the performance they deliver.

Caterham Seven 360 & 420

For drivers who prioritise raw performance and driver engagement, the Seven 360 and 420 step up the game. Both powered by a 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, they offer 180bhp in the 360 and 210bhp in the 420, translating to exhilarating acceleration and a top speed of 130mph. The 420 further sharpens the handling with upgraded suspension and brakes, making it a track-focused weapon.

Caterham Seven 420 CUP & 620 Supercharged

For those who crave the ultimate in-track performance, the 420 CUP and 620 Supercharged stand at the pinnacle of the Caterham range. The 420 CUP retains the 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine but pushes it to 175bhp, combined with a stripped-down interior and racing-focused suspension for an uncompromising track experience. The 620 Supercharged takes the crown with a supercharged 2.0-litre Ford Duratec producing a staggering 310bhp, propelling it to a 149mph top speed.

Caterham Academy Race Package & 420R Race Package

Caterham doesn’t just cater to seasoned drivers; they also offer pathways for aspiring racers to hone their skills. The Academy Race Package utilises a 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine with 125bhp, paired with a dedicated training program to develop young talent. For experienced racers looking to compete, the 420R Race Package offers a 175bhp version of the 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, optimised for various racing series.

Special Editions

While the brand’s core range pulsates with raw, unadulterated driving pleasure, their special edition cars push the boundaries even further, captivating enthusiasts with their distinct personalities and performance enhancements. Let’s explore two gems exemplifying this dedication to individuality and adrenaline-pumping thrills:

Caterham Superlight Twenty (2015)

Marking the 20th anniversary of the revered Superlight model, the Superlight Twenty wasn’t just a commemorative badge; it was a stripped-down masterpiece. Its bare aluminium body gleamed with industrial honesty, showcasing its dedication to lightness.

Carbon fibre whispers adorned the cycle wings, rear wing, and nose, shaving a crucial 6 kilograms off the scales. Underneath, standard sport suspension, a lightweight flywheel, and a limited-slip differential sharpened its already agile handling, transforming every corner into a dance of pure, unadulterated control.

Caterham Seven Harrods Special Edition (2017)

Stepping into the iconic Harrods department store, one wouldn’t expect to find a raucous Caterham Seven. Yet, in 2017, that’s exactly what they got. This special edition wasn’t just about exclusivity; it was about showcasing the limitless customisation possibilities Caterham offered.

Dazzling paint schemes and bespoke designs adorned the exterior, while the dashboard and interior sported unique styling and personalised embroidery. Even the chassis colour bowed to individual preference, making each Harrods Seven a true one-of-a-kind.

Motorsport Involvement


Caterham Racing, formerly known as EQ8 Caterham Racing and Caterham Team AirAsia, rose to prominence as a formidable motor racing team competing in the GP2 Series and GP2 Asia Series. Established by visionary entrepreneur Tony Fernandes, who also played a pivotal role in revitalising the Lotus name in Formula 1 in 2010 through the creation of the Lotus Racing team, Caterham Racing embodied a spirit of innovation and excellence.

The team shared deep technical links with its Formula One parent team, with the GP2 operation integrated within the Formula One base, and shared technical staff. Notably, Caterham’s GP2 drivers also served as Caterham F1 Team’s (then called Team Lotus) test and reserve drivers during the 2011 Formula One season.

Throughout its tenure, drivers such as Alexander Rossi, Davide Valsecchi, and Giedo van der Garde showcased their exceptional talent behind the wheel of Caterham GP2 cars, further solidifying the team’s reputation for nurturing and developing top-tier racing talent.

Project V

Project V is an alluring, fully electric coupé concept car that may arrive in late 2025 or early 2026. Designed as an electric vehicle from the start, Project V is the brainchild of the new Chief Designer, Anthony Jannarelly, and brought to life by the world-renowned Italian engineering firm, Italdesign.

The Project V roars with a potent 200kW (272PS) single motor pulsating in the rear axle. Drawing energy from a 55kWh USOC lithium-ion battery pack with cutting-edge thermal management, it catapults the car from 100 kph in a heart-stopping 4.5 seconds. And if the need for speed wanes, rapid charging capability ensures a quick pit stop, replenishing 20-80% in just 15 minutes using a 150kW DC charger.

With an estimated top speed of 230 kph and a targeted WLTP range of 400 km, this electric Caterham offers exhilarating performance without compromising on practicality, making it a true game-changer in the world of electrified sports cars.

Design Philosophy

The design philosophy of Project V is a seamless blend of classic and cutting-edge. It pays homage to the iconic Seven with its minimalist approach, prioritising lightness and simplicity that are deeply ingrained in Caterham’s DNA.

To achieve a targeted curb weight of just 1,190kg (2+1 configuration), they’ve crafted a chassis using a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium composites. Flexibility is not forgotten, as the car offers a 2+1 seating layout (with an optional 2+2 configuration), making it suitable for weekend jaunts with friends or family.

To keep the driver engaged, the car features a driver-focused infotainment system with smartphone mirroring capabilities, paired with a digital instrument cluster displaying all the essential information right in your sightline. It’s a design that embodies both Caterham’s heritage and its vision for the future of exhilarating, lightweight driving experiences.

With a rich history rooted in the Lotus Seven design by Colin Chapman, Caterham continues to be a beloved brand among auto enthusiasts worldwide. Whether it’s their involvement in motorsports or their commitment to customer support, Caterham embodies the true spirit of British sports car production.

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