Buyers Guide to:
1973 to date
Lotus 7 Club
Starting life as the Lotus 7, the history of the Caterham goes back more than forty years. The company had started in the 1960s when it was a distributor for the Lotus model, but in 1973 the owner, Graham Nearns, purchased the rights to the 7 from Lotus founder, Colin Chapman. The deal included all of the tools and jigs, and since then the Caterham name has become synonymous with these lightweight but high-performance two seaters. Thrilling to drive on road or track, these basic sports cars really pack a punch and will out-perform many more exotic cars, and you can still build one yourself if you choose. With a huge variety of model types and specifications over the years, there’s almost certainly one that fits your budget.
- See checklist
- The chassis carefully as damage to the powder coating can lead to rust in the joints and seams. It’s also worth checking for signs of corrosion where the aluminium panels meet the steel chassis
- That the chassis hasn’t been damaged or distorted. If possible, remove the nosecone and bonnet to check at the front
- The GRP wings for cracks, and take a good look underneath as the floor pan could have been damaged by a trip into the gravel trap during circuit use
- Whether you’re looking at a factory or home- built car. The chassis number will tell you, and if it’s the latter you might want to get an inspection for peace of mind
- That the engine hasn’t been abused by hard use on a race track. A wide variety of power units have been fitted over the years, including Ford, Rover, and Vauxhall, and it’s important to ensure they have been serviced regularly
- Whether the car you’re looking at has been upgraded or modified. Plenty of owners have sought even more performance, so make sure you know what’s been done and how well. Get a specialist inspection if you’re unsure about the work
- Like the engines, various types of gearbox have been fitted and it’s mainly a case of checking for worn synchromesh or any odd noises. The clutch can take a pounding so ensure its not slipping, and be sure to ask whether a limited slip differential is fitted. If so, check for noises or judder on the test drive
- Check the suspension for worn bushes,
- and for play in the wheel hubs and bearings. Upgrades are common so make sure you know what’s fitted. Uneven tyre wear or wandering on the road could indicate bent wishbones or a distorted chassis, so be wary
- For worn brake discs and pads, although the light weight of a Caterham means they generally last well unless subjected to abuse on the race track
- The cabin for scuffs and signs of water damage, the latter causing problems with the electrics. Many examples are fitted with a quick-release steering wheel, so check that it engages/releases properly
- That any weather equipment such as hood and side screens are present and in good condition. They don’t offer great protection from the elements, but are useful to have all the same
- The electrics for signs of scruffy wiring. It’s a good indicator of how well the car was assembled if it was home built
- Whether you can fit in the car comfortably. Things are pretty snug in the cabin, and if racing seats and harnesses are fitted will they suit you?
- That you know what you’re buying. The wide choice of engines and model types means no two are likely to be the same, so get specialist advice if you’re unsure about the specification
Everything Check Out?
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