1958, a certain Graham Hill took
delivery of the very first Lotus Super
surprising is that
Lotus-founder Colin Chapmans
iconic Seven was never conceived
as a racing car...
NEVERTHELESS, RACING DRIVERS were drawn to it because it could not only
win races out of the box but also because it was, quite simply, the purest sports
Some things never change. Sixty years on Caterham is still making the Seven
and it's still the purest sports car on sale. And I suddenly find myself
imagining I'm Graham Hill behind the wheel, thanks to Caterham's latest Seven:
the special edition SuperSprint.
The SuperSprint is a brilliantly detailed, race-themed throwback. Achingly redolent
retro touches are everywhere you look; for instance, the wheels are not alloys
but old-school steelies with a delightful cream finish, while the front wheels
are protected by 1950s-style cycle wings.
SuperSprint's retro paint schemes are all named after racing circuits. Our test
car is Dijon (navy blue with a white noseband). Others available include Aintree
(dark green/orange), Hockenheim (silver/red), Imola (red/white), Watkins Glen
(white) and Zandvoort (light green/black). More wonderful details include a
'Le Mans-style' mesh grille and side intake, a polished exhaust, classic circular
rear lights and a brilliant Caterham badge that twists and shouts '1960s'.
up the engine
and the soundtrack is
unexpected well, at
least for a Caterham:
a soft off-beat thrum
rather than an ear-
Thats because under
the lift-off bonnet sits
a Suzuki-derived three-
cylinder turbo engine.
Its been tuned by
Caterham Works Racing
to deliver 95bhp, all from
Ardent drivers familiar with Colin Chapman's 'add lightness' diktat can keep
the faith and order their SuperSprint with either one or two seats; and 'my'
test car was a single-seater. For the record, Lotus never made a single-seater
version of its Seven in the Sixties but if they had, this is what it would have
The passenger side is covered with a Mohair tonneau, while the rollover bar
has a special 'solo rider' shape. There's no windscreen just a single
'Brooklands' aero screen to blow every conceivable cobweb to oblivion
while the four-point race harness underscores the Graham Hill vibe.
Sitting ultra-low in this tiny car, you're greeted by a sea of exposed metal
and bespoke-finished wood. The Innes Tan dashboard is bedecked with period-style
Smiths dials and the steering wheel is a rather fab Moto-Lita wood-rimmed item.
To start the engine you twist the chromed battery switch (it really looks the
part) and press the starter button.
The sound that's emitted on doing this is unexpected well, at least for
a Caterham: a soft off-beat thrum rather than an ear-splitting rasp. That's
because under the lift-off bonnet there's a Suzuki-derived three-cylinder turbo
engine. It's been tuned by Caterham Works Racing to deliver 95bhp, all from
95bhp may not seem much for a real sports car, but since the SuperSprint weighs
just 490kg it's actually more than enough for surprisingly nippy performance
(0-60mph in 6.9 seconds). The turbo means there's always plenty of torque, so
the SuperSprint is very easy to drive at any speed. It also means you don't
need to change gear very often, which is a shame in my book because one of the
joys of a Seven has always been wielding the super-snicky gear lever across
its ultra-fast gate.
steering, as with all Caterhams, is an utter joy: completely analogue and ripe
with feedback. The suspension set-up is race-inspired and adjustable. You still
have a live rear axle, though, which is very 1960s. On narrow Avon 155/65 R14
tyres it's easy to get the rear-end to move around whenever you want, and at
comparatively low speeds, so there's endless fun to be had and all without breaking
any speed limits.
steering is an utter
joy: completely analogue
and ripe with feedback.
suspension set-up is
adjustable, and its easy
to get the rear-end to
move around whenever
That's precisely the genius of this SuperSprint: it's hilarious fun at any speed.
I've always thought the essence of the Seven's appeal boils down to being ultra-simple
a box the SuperSprint ticks fulsomely.
At £30K the SuperSprint isn't cheap and that's without options such as
a windscreen. But you're spared the quandary of whether to buy one because all
60 examples of the special edition were spoken for within seven hours of going
on sale. Shame. Still, you can always buy a Seven 160 (priced at a bargain £17,495)
and invest in a few period accessories. The message to Caterham is clear: Please
Sir, can we have some more retro! ~ Chris Rees
Caterham Seven SuperSprint
Maximum speed: 100mph | 0-60mph: 6.9 seconds | Average MPG: n/a
Power: 95bhp | Torque: 82lb ft | CO2: n/a