Life after 7

When you are the niche producer of a fifty year old product, what do you do for an encore?¬† Once before, in the mid 90's, Caterham had attempted to find the answer to this question. Led by Graham Nearn Caterham would have loved to produce a mid engined monocoque chassis, Nearn was known to have favored something in the style of the Lotus Eleven. Unfortunately, time, money and resources dictated that a modified 7 chassis be used, paired with a new fully enclosed body. This project, known as the 21, was rapturously received by the motoring press, sadly less so by the buying public. It's unfortunate fate was to be introduced into a world suddenly awash with cars of similar ambitions, cars such as the MGF, BMW Z3 and, perhaps most difficult of all, the Lotus Elise. From its debut at the 1994 Birmingham Motor Show to its final demise in 1999 only 50 cars were ever built, the last one sitting uncompleted for several years until claimed by the car's chief chassis designer, Jez Coates, becoming his personal transportation. Today Caterham is a much different organization, one driven by the vision of Tony Fernandes and his desire to leverage the Caterham Formula 1 Team into an expanded car business. The first attempt is another niche vehicle, designed by Lola for Caterham, the SP300R is more LeMans prototype than 7 relation, the only connection being the use of the ¬†supercharged power-train of the 500 Superlight. This is a dedicated track day car with no pretense of ever being roadworthy. Only 25 will be produced per year with at least half of the production going to use in a dedicated one mark race series in Europe. But, on the horizon, looms the children of the new agreement between Caterham and Renault to produce affordable fun sports cars for the masses.¬†One can only wait and see with anticipation to find out what Caterham will become when it grows up. There is life beyond 7.