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Caterham Super 7 Roadsport

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  • lack of luggage space
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      09.01.2004 20:09
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      • "lack of luggage space"

      I first got to know this car in its original Lotus 7 format. A close friend had one back in the Seventies and was my transport of delight to the Register Office for my first marriage in 1972. From then on, I never had the cash to think about buying one but I always hankered after the little car that looked like something belonging on a race track but was, amazingly road-legal. When I met my second husband and found he also had a secret longing for this car, we discussed the possibility of building one from a kit, which is an option many owners go for. Then we sold John’s flat in London, moved permanently to Portsmouth and suddenly disposable cash made ownership possible. In April this year, John started to get very mysterious about something he was planning to buy for my birthday. It was to start with a mystery tour. We got in the car on the morning of Saturday April 19th and headed up the A3 and onto the M25. My guesses at what my present was were getting wilder. By the time we got to the turning for Chessington Zoo, I decided that I was adopting a tiger or a sea-lion. Wrong, we carried on past and a few junctions further on, decided to leave the motorway to find a loo and a cup of coffee. Suddenly we were in Caterham and opposite the Caterham Cars showroom and to my amazement John told me that we had an appointment booked for me to test drive my birthday present. The excellent Caterham sales staff took us through the test drive and option selection process. The car comes in several different formats, some deliberately aimed at the track enthusiast, some better for regular road use. John had done his homework and had already decided the slightly wider SV Roadsport version was the best for the long distance touring we hope to do. This version is also slightly longer, although on all models the pedals can be adjusted to the owner’s height. Unfortunately the SV in the showroom had been set up for a 6ft 4" and I am only
      5' 2" so I didn’t get to drive that day, although I did go back a few weeks later. A short, but an exciting spin as a passenger convinced me though and John did get a go and came back with a VERY wide grin :-) We also got Caterham to make a minor mod to raise the drivers seat a little to help me get in a safe driving position. Because the cars are handbuilt to order, this is the kind of change that can be made. We had other choices to make like wheel size, removable steering wheel, seat spec and between the modern ‘cycle’ wing or the more traditional ‘gull’ wing. Colour is entirely up to the owner and is in no way restricted to the Caterham standard colours. There was another second-hand car in the workshop the exact metallic blue we wanted (actually a BMW colour) and we added a platinum silver nose trim and bonnet stripe. Now came the agonising 3 month wait till we got our Se7en. Finally it came to an end and on a beautiful sunny July morning we collected the car, already named ‘Barbarella’, from Caterham. It was an exhilarating drive home and over that weekend we put nearly enough miles on the car to take it back for its first service. I was a little wary of the speed and acceleration to begin with, but a long trip down to Cornwall the following week gave me plenty more confidence. We kept off the motorways and enjoyed the back roads. As you are so close to the ground and sitting between the wheels, the feel is entirely different to a ‘normal’ car, and different even to the few sports cars I have driven before. We tend not to drive when it is raining really hard although have been caught out a few times. The hood is quite quick to get up, and the alternative is to sit out a short shower in a layby with a golf umbrella over the cockpit! The dashboard seems very basic and old-fashioned if you are used to digital dials and electronic controls and there is no r
      adio/C D/tape - you couldn’t hear it anyway and you need to really listen to that engine purr and roar. We chose the 5 speed gearbox but there is a six-speed option, which is better if you are going to spend a lot of time doing trackdays etc. A four or six point harness is essential for safety and I find it more comfortable as standard seatbelts tend to cut across my neck, being not very tall. The leather seats on the SV are comfortable and figure-hugging. Of course its quite a hard ride, sitting so close to the ground it is bound to be. It is a little alarming to watch the suspension struts flexing and you soon find out how well or badly your local council maintains the roads. There is NO way to get in and out very elegantly. Throw away your skirts girls, with the stilettos. If your husband wants one of these, be enthusiastic and learn to love the car. Don’t be afraid of driving it, it won’t bite yer. The body is mostly aluminium, so regular washing to get corrosive road dirt off is essential and if the roads have been salted and gritted, Barbarella stays in the garage. Most road humps on public roads are no problem if you approach them correctly but you do have to watch out on some private car parks and estates and take it VERY gently to ensure you don’t end up with a bashed oil sump - we’ve seen the results on another unlucky car! Don’t try and splash through big puddles either. You will be soaked and the engine may stop embarrassingly, before you reach the other side. We haven’t had any problems with the car at all. It has been back to the Dartford factory for two services now and they take a great deal of care to ensure that any problems are rectified and to give advice on maintenance. Se7en ownership is maximised if you are a member of the owners’ club. We have had endless help and advice online, plus we have made some great friends. There are club me
      ets country wide mostly on a monthly basis and other regional events where you can look at the huge number of variants including some of the original Lotus cars (Caterham took over the marque and manufacturing rights 30 years ago) You can join well organised track days if that is what you want to do with your car, although some mods. from the standard are needed to comply with safety regs., such as a different roll-bar. We have talked to people who have built from the kits and they have found it an enjoyable experience and have saved a lot of money. There can be problems to get a kit-built car through the necessary road test but other owners and Caterham themselves are very helpful. Many different types of engine can be used, even motorbike engines. There are any number of modifications we could make, and a visit to any club meet or event will send you home with ideas for changing or adding things. At present the only thing we really want to change is the side mirrors - there are alternatives which give a better view and don't vibrate so much. There are owners who drive their Caterham full-time and don’t have a ‘tin-top’ for cold and rainy days. We are lucky to be able to choose when to use our Se7en and it saves a lot on insurance to be able to limit our annual mileage. I used to look admiringly at Ferraris, Lamborghinis and modern Lotus cars, but now I have Barbarella, I know who is having the most fun! Official Caterham website http://www.caterham.co.uk Owners' club http://www.lotus7club.co.uk

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