The Caterham Seven is the eternal solution for the weekend racer. A 2.0 liter two-seat roadster with a wheel, a shifter, and not much else, the Seven offers a ton of fun for ounces of money. It was born as a Lotus in 1957, designed by Colin Chapman himself, and sold as either a kit car or a factory build. Popularity exploded, and the Seven enjoyed a fifteen year production run before Lotus decided to call it quits. But, like George Lucas with Star Wars, Seven dealer Graham Nearn just couldn’t let it end and bought the rights to the Seven, upgrading his dealership business to a manufacturer.
This week the Malaysian owned Team Lotus, the F1 contender, bought Caterham, their owner and Air Asia chairman Tony Fernandez opting to replace Caterham’s current owner Corven Ventures but thankfully keeping managing director Ansar Ali at home. Good, you’re thinking, the Seven is back in Lotus hands. Except it’s a sight more complicated than that.
Team Lotus is a separate entity than Lotus Cars, who make beauties like the Evora and the mouth watering Exige. The two are currently embroiled in a fierce naming dispute, which Team Lotus’ purchase of Caterham is sure to complicate and confuse. Both claim Colin Chapman’s legacy, like medieval twins fighting over a birthright, and to muddy the waters even further, Lotus Cars also sponsor an F1 team.
I’m happy to let them fight it out, as long as they the Caterham Seven stays a safe distance from the front lines. And it looks like Team Lotus are happy to keep their new acquisition safe, as they’re commemorating their purchase with a special edition Seven. The Team Lotus Edition features a dashboard plaque, ever the mark of a fundraising gimmick collector car, and comes with a golden ticket to tour the Lotus factory and a shiny commemorative book, likely about Team Lotus’ Roman rise to power and how Lotus Cars are a bunch of stupid doo-doo brains.
Best, and most noticeable, of all, the Team Lotus Edition Seven comes slathered in the Team Lotus F1 paint scheme, the base of which, perhaps as another backhander to Lotus Cars, is British Racing Green.
Caterham is only making fifty Team Lotus Edition Sevens, and half of those will be right hand drive versions for the UK market, so if you want your shiny book and golden ticket, you’d better order quickly. You can get the package on any of variant of the Seven, the best most powerful of which, the Superlight R500, puts out 263 hp. If you’re new to the Seven and think that isn’t much, take a moment to factor in the weight. It’s feathery, almost bench-pressable, at 1,115 pounds dripping wet. According to the polite, British Caterham website, the R500 can hit 60 in 2.88 seconds. It tops out at 150 mph, and while this might be a disadvantage on the Mulsane, it’s plenty to impress the guys at your autocross club.
The Seven sits in my dream garage. Fast enough to hold its own on the track and cheap and (almost) practical enough to drive daily, it is one of the only convertibles I really want. I probably won’t be able to land one of the Team Lotus Editions, but I’ve never had a thing for dust covers. Thankfully, the plain old, girl-next-door Seven has a strong American following, and even a factory of sorts in Colorado. It looks like it’s time for me to start farming my body out to medical testing facilities saving wisely for my dream Seven.