Caterhams are to driving what a good baguette is to eating; a physical manifestation of the simplest and purest joy that activity can bring. Now Caterham is back with a throwback ’70s-ish Super Seven that I can’t help but entirely fall in love with. This is what you want every car to be.
A little history is important. Colin Chapman, the man behind Lotus, is now infamous for his “simplify and add lightness philosophy.” The phrase has been repeated so many times it’s almost meaningless and it would be contradictory to weigh it down with too much explanation. Essentially, the less you have to add (in weight or complexity) to a car to make it perform the better that car will be.
In the ’50s, Lotus decided to build a car that was just that: Light and simple. That’s what the original Lotus 7 is. It’s an amalgamation of parts that could be easily found (mostly Ford, including the motors in most cases) put together with the balance and poise and suspension genius of Chapman. It was a hit and when they stopped making it the Caterham company bought the rights so that they could build it indefinitely.
There are two ways to get a new Caterham: You can buy one they made (easiest if you live in the UK) or they’ll send you a kit and you can do it yourself.
Over the years, the demands of consumers and of the world at large have resulted in a few changes and, more importantly, in wild versions like the Seven 620 with over 300 horsepower and a sub-3.0-second 0-60 time. That’s too much power for a Caterham. I’ve driven a Caterham. I don’t want 300 horsepower.
You want something light and fun and not too fast and, oh, hey, they’ve built new ones that look like Jim Garner if Jim Garner was a car! Would you look at that?
It’s called the Super Seven and it looks like it’s powered by good scotch. It’s so perfectly ’70s it should come with a tweed houndstooth sports coat and Twiggy’s phone number.
Details are important for a heritage-inspired vehicle (though, a “heritage” edition of a car that looks so fundamentally unchanged for 50 years is silly, but in a good way) and they nailed it. Those big, floating front fenders are stellar and harken back to a bygone era when the UK was ruled by a queen and people thought cigarettes were healthy.
The colors! You have to see the colors. They have the normal stuff, but also Bourbon, Ashdown Green, Windsor Blue, and Fawn.
For the launch, the color they’re showing (or colour in fancy) is Bourbon and you’d be a fool to get select anything else. Get the Bourbon. Get the Bourbon. Get the Bourbon. I know it’s a cliche for me as an online automotive writer to encourage you to get the brown one but… BOURBON.
There are two flavors of Super Seven available right now. The Super Seven 600 gets a 660 cc Suzuki turbo three-cylinder motor, a live-axle suspension, and can scoot to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds. I promise you that 60 mph in a Super Seven is going to feel like 200 mph in just about anything else. If you want more power, the Super Seven 2000 gets a 2.0-liter Ford four-banger with 180 horsepower, the de-Dion setup found on most Caterhams, and can reach 60 mph in just 4.8 second.
Options include a limited-slip differential (yes), gold or body-colored centers for the alloy wheels (yes), and custom colors for just about everything (brown or gold).
The Super Seven 600 is a UK-only offering and can be had for £29,990. The Super Seven 2000 is for sale in the United States as a kit and should be around $45,000 before actually having to build the thing, which, if you’re curious where to start these fine folks can help.
All I can say is: Bourbon. Bourbon. Bourbon. Bourbon. Bourbon.