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'The Seven was a winning formula in 1957 – thanks to Caterham, it's still astonishing today'

Caterham claimed the rights for the Seven in 1973, and the platform has gone from strength to strength ever since

Caterham Seven evo Edition

I first drove a Caterham in 1987. It had a Ford 1.7-litre Kent engine on twin-choke carburettors and flowing front wings that acted like umbrellas, but the intensity of the driving experience was extraordinary.

It was raw and loud and exhilarating like it should have been illegal, yet once I’d acclimatised to the noise, the buffeting and the explosive performance, I realised that the Seven was brilliantly responsive, agile and controllable. And so small that you could thread it down lanes and still play with power oversteer. The Seven of today is no different, just better finished and, if you want, even more potent.

Caterham got the rights from Lotus in 1973 and developed the Seven first out of necessity to keep it in production and then to improve it. For me, the Rover K-series cars remain the high spot, with the original Superlight the pinnacle – six-speed ’box, limited- slip diff and 135bhp. The R300, R400 and R500 Evo were brilliant, but in a 400kg car, 135bhp is as much as you need.

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Yet Caterham was stalked by the fear that the Seven would go out of fashion or be legislated out of existence and created the 21 and, later, the wide-bodied, independently suspended CSR. We covered the CSR’s development extensively in evo and it was a great car, tangibly more capable. We had an amazing time racing one at Spa. But the 103bhp K-series that I raced for a season back in ’92 was just as absorbing and entertaining and every Seven long-termer we’ve run has had the standard chassis. It’s simply more exciting, more challenging, more visceral.

That’s why the ‘original’ Seven hasn’t just survived, it still thrives, selling in the hundreds each year and providing thrilling one-make racing for racers and spectators around the world. The Seven was a winning formula when Colin Chapman created it in 1957, and an astonishing 67 years later, thanks to Caterham, it still is.

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