The iconic Caterham Seven is on the cusp of celebrating four decades of uninterrupted production and sales; hard to imagine that one of Colin Chapman’s first attempts at a sports car would outlast everything he produced in the post-F1 era of Lotus – hell, it may even outlast Lotus itself.
Britain’s Autocar magazine managed to procure a brand new Caterham Supersport R, considered to be the top-spec Caterham available, as well as a 1981 model – not quite 40 years old, but basically the same spec as the car that was sold in the early days by Graham Nearn when he purchased the rights to the Seven from Colin Chapman.
Both versions still have the same basic look, a spartan interior and a Ford powertrain. But that’s where the similarities end. The changes made in the last few decades have apparently had subtle but noticeable impacts on the way the later cars behave – though the essence of the lightweight, sporty roadster is still there. In many ways, it’s a familiar story that’s played out with a number of cars available Stateside. The Miata, the Volkswagen GTI and the BMW 3-Series come to mind, though some have strayed farther from the ideal than others.
I’d be happy with any of them. Since I’d never daily drive one, an older version with a carburetted Kent engine and a crude 5-speed gearbox would then allow me to be happy with commuting in one of the $18,000 Dodge Journey Canada Value Packages being advertised in the newspaper right now. Then again, an FM Westfield is a pretty enticing package, and I wouldn’t have to tinker with carbs either.