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Andy C

Caterham 7 Roadsport 140 SV



A birthday treat which nearly turned out to be a handful of laps in a Ferrari limited to 5k up changes luckily turned into a full day hire of a Caterham Roadsport 140. Now, Iíve never driven, or even sat in anything like this before, so I didnít really know what to expect. I knew it was going to be good, I just didnít realise how goodÖ.



Starting out in 1973 and formed by Graham Nearne, Caterham cars started with the Caterham 7, which was based on the Lotus Seven. When the Seven ended production, Caterham bought the rights to the design, and 42 years later, here we are. Technological advancements have improved the engines, suspension and tyres over the years, but the same fundamental car remains: A simple, lightweight, rear wheel drive sports car which aims to offer maximum focus on driving pleasure. The end.



ĎMyí car for the day was a 2011 Caterham 7 Roadsport 140 SV, in bright orange.



After paying up and signing the forms, we wondered out to the car where we were shown around by one of the helpful employees. He explained how the roof worked, what all the buttons on the dashboard did and then it was time to Ďget iní the car. †SV stands for Special Vehicle, meaning 110mm extra width and 25kg heavier over the standard car. I dread to think how tight a standard car must be, as me and Tara arenít the biggest of people, but once sat in and belted up with the 4 Ė point harness, it was Ďcosyí †shall we say!



A quick safety brief from the guy, which went something like: ĎIt has no ABS, take it easy at first, and by the end of the day, youíll find yourself really pushing the carí, he told me to fire the engine up and waved us off.
Iím still sitting there at this point, just amazed by how low you sit, how closely the pedals are to each other, how small the steering wheel is, and how loud the engine is at idle. The 1.6 ĎSigmaí Ford sourced engine has a very rough and gravelly idle, but the exhaust, which runs down by the side of the driver, is mega loud. The engine does settle down after a minute or so, but even still, the exhaust is still whirring away, constantly to the right of you. At this point, I looked over at Tara and she said with a worried laugh ĎIím not going to like this!í † ĎI FUCKING AMí, I thought to myself!



A bit of urban, stop-start driving first before we hit the country lanes and the attention it got was unreal! People waving, pointing and putting their thumbs up. †We didnít hang around too long in town, and made our way to some nice roads.



The controls on this car are like nothing else Iíve ever experienced. The steering and throttle response is magical. †Itís another level to anything Iíve driven, I just canít describe how instant and precise the steering and throttle response is; a tiny amount of steering lock and the car just points to where you want it to go. Itís not car like, more Go-Kart like. And then just a tiny prod of the throttle, no matter what gear, or what revs, fires you up the road without a hint of hesitation. Itís accurate, precise and totally instantaneous.



After a quick lunch, I started to get more of a feel for the car, pushing harder and really starting to see what it could do. †Rear wheel drive, 520kg and sticky Avon CR500 tyres really started to show why these cars are held in such high regard. †You can make hysterically quick progress down a country lane, without putting much effort in at all thanks to the lightening quick responses of the controls. I had 2 queef moments on a couple of roundabouts (all I was allowed!), where I deliberately tried to get the tail out on a couple of quiet roundabouts. Iíve driven RWD cars before, but never pushed that hard, so I thought I would probably spin. Nope. Nowhere near. It was progressive and so, so balanced. What a mega, stupendous, fantastically fun car to drive.



Caterham used to use the Rover K-series engines, but binned them off in the early 00s due to emissions and were replaced by Ford Sigma units. My car had 140bhp and 120lb/ft of torque and did 0-60 in 4.9secs, which was plentiful! If anything, it was the torque that impressed most. It pulled hard from 1000rpm, and felt unstoppable from about 2000-5000rpm. I wasnít quite sure where the redline was on the car, but when I did rev it out past 5000rpm, it didnít feel like it had much left to give. The exhaust, being so close to the driver sounded great, and you could really hear everything going on which added to the experience. The pops and bangs were also very amusing, even when just driving normally; take your foot off the throttle, and it would pop and bang like a bastard. †



I could mention how impractical, noisy, windy and hard riding it was, and that it seemed to hit an aerodynamic wall at Ďmotorway speedsí on the motorway, where it felt like it was about to shake itself to bits. Instead, when we did get a brief bit of rain and pulled over to have a go at putting the stupid roof up, we soon ditched that idea, looked up at where there was blue sky, got in the car and headed for there.




Getting back into my car after handing the keys back was strange. Not many cars make a Focus ST feel like a lazy, wallowy old bus in the bends. As a driverís car itís outstanding, and itís been a nigh on life changing experience in terms of throttle response, steering feel and balance. Itís a motoring memory that Iíll never forget; the right weather, the right road, in a car that gives such an intimate sense of whatís going on around you.

Twelfth Monkey

That sounds like a hell of an experience.  Must copy you at some point.
PhilD

Re: Caterham 7 Roadsport 140 SV

Andy C wrote:



And all that was left was this steering wheel...

Big Blue

Is that picture the new anti drink-drive campaign.

Great cars, and I like the idea of a whole day experience. Nice write up.
PhilD

Big Blue wrote:
. Nice write up.


+ 1
Martin

Excellent write up and a great birthday present!

I've only driven one on track, it was great fun and I'd really like to have a full day on the road in one (or an Atom).
JohnC

I think driving a Caterham/Westfield should be compulsory for anyone who has an interest in cars.

PalmerSport 28th August anyone?
Roadsterstu

Good write up. I like your attempt at the hood!

They are fantastic, raw fun, aren't they?
Dr. Hfuhruhurr

Superb - sounds like a wonderful day. I must do this myself soon.
Giant

Sounds great! Did Mrs C enjoy after the initial nervousness? In order for me not to be impudent and ask how much your gift was, what was the name of the company, I'd love to treat myself to something like that. It sounds like you got far more out of that than you would have a track day?
Stuntman

Great stuff, Andy.  I enjoyed reading your review and I hope Tara enjoyed the day too.
Humphrey The Pug

Excellent write up, I too like the attempt of hood erection!

I've driven an Elise S1, I should imagine; whilst one is mid engined and the other is front engined, the raw driving experience of both is very similar?
Michael

Great write up!
Alf McQueef

Great stuff! Lose the stripe and that looks so similar to how mine did. They are like nothing else to drive, aren't they - even other lightweight stuff... Even a basic engine takes on ridiculous levels of response and performance with so little weight, and Caterham just have the control feel and handling so right.
TreVoR

Great stuff - going to have to have a go in one at some point.
Andy C

It was £175 for the day, with 120 miles included. I did 117 miles and used £28 in fuel (pick up full, return full)

http://uk.caterhamcars.com/experience/hire

Tara wouldn't want to  do it again, but split the cost and driving between another petrolhead and its a bit of a bargain

I've driven an exige on track at silverstone,  but it was nowhere near as raw as this .

Speaking of which, I'd like  to do this next. Best start saving....
http://uk.caterhamcars.com/experience/caterham-circuit-experience
JohnC

Andy C wrote:

Speaking of which, I'd like †to do this next. Best start saving....
http://uk.caterhamcars.com/experience/caterham-circuit-experience


I have been on one of these days and have mixed feelings - they use open track days so you get lots of idiots firing off the track which brings out the red flag and stops the whole session. I reckon I had almost as many laps returning to the pits at slow speed as I did at full speed. Our car also broke down with an electrical problem and we missed a session. It probably didn't help that our instructor was useless with little or no feedback. They put us in a different car for the final session with a different instructor who was different class.

I must say that the hostess girl was outstanding but she left a bigger impression than anything else (apart from the 600hp Impreza who passed us and made a point of coming so close he nearly blew us off the track with the draught)
franki68

Dreamed of having one when I was 18,then sat in one at a motor show and it was a major turn off.it was so cramped ...in those days the wide body was not available.
Still never driven one ,still on my 'must drive one' list .
Alf McQueef

JohnC wrote:
Andy C wrote:

Speaking of which, I'd like †to do this next. Best start saving....
http://uk.caterhamcars.com/experience/caterham-circuit-experience


I have been on one of these days and have mixed feelings - they use open track days so you get lots of idiots firing off the track which brings out the red flag and stops the whole session. I reckon I had almost as many laps returning to the pits at slow speed as I did at full speed. Our car also broke down with an electrical problem and we missed a session. It probably didn't help that our instructor was useless with little or no feedback. They put us in a different car for the final session with a different instructor who was different class.

I must say that the hostess girl was outstanding but she left a bigger impression than anything else (apart from the 600hp Impreza who passed us and made a point of coming so close he nearly blew us off the track with the draught)


Agreed. Mrs ALF and I did one of those days in the year before I did the Academy, when it was at Bedford (a much better circuit to learn on that Silverstone, which unless you are on the GP circuit in something very quick, is hugely dull). A part-day at Jonathan Palmer, or sharing the cost of hiring a Caterham and doing a trackday through Bookatrack and choosing a good circuit (Donington, Goodwood, and Combe are all amazing and seem to be places where people don't trip over each other, avoid Brands unless its the GP, Silverstone, and Rockingham, which is good to drive but always sees people trip over each other). Days like that Caterham day are more like a track experience day, days like a Bookatrack day are like having your own track car and doing a full day in it.
PG

Re: Caterham 7 Roadsport 140 SV

Andy C wrote:
...He explained how the roof worked, what all the buttons on the dashboard did...


The first can't have been that successful based on the great "roof up" photo! And I bet the second didn't take that long.

Sounds like a great day. I did a quick Caterham session at a corporate day once (can't remember where, it was 25 years ago) and I still can remember how "raw" the car felt. I basically scared the crap out of myself!

Your day sounds really great as it would have been far nicer to have a longer time and get the feel first, at your own pace.
Dr. Hfuhruhurr

Andy C wrote:
Tara wouldn't want to †do it again, but split the cost and driving between another petrolhead and you've no chance of keeping to 120 miles for the day

FYP
Andy C

Haha - fair point I suppose. You've got me looking at the weekend package now !
Roadsterstu

JohnC wrote:
I think driving a Caterham/Westfield should be compulsory for anyone who has an interest in cars.

PalmerSport 28th August anyone?


Not now I have seen the prices!
JohnC

Roadsterstu wrote:
JohnC wrote:
I think driving a Caterham/Westfield should be compulsory for anyone who has an interest in cars.

PalmerSport 28th August anyone?


Not now I have seen the prices!


I agree that viewed in isolation the price seems very high but in terms of the laps you get, the lack of restriction in how fast you drive, the excellent tuition and the hospitality, it actually compares very well with other driving experiences. I know guys who have been who really struggle for money and they have booked again which I think says it all.

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