1997 Caterham Vintage SE Helps to keep Enjoying the Hits

From the April 1997 factor of Automobile and Driving force.

Quite a lot of old-fogy automo­tive wankers are perpetually lamenting the death of rattletrap roadsters—the type that had been round when the typical man may just let you know who Neville Chamberlain used to be. Neatly, cheer up, graybeards, a couple of of those old-timer vehicles are nonetheless round.

Caterham Vehicles of Cater­ham, England, produces a vari­ation of the unique Lotus 7 that first gave the impression in 1957. When Lotus determined to forestall generating the automobile in 1973, Caterham bought the rights to provide the tiny English roadster. These days, Caterham gives two fashions on the market in package shape within the U.S.: the Supersprint and the Vintage SE. Each vehicles use 1.6- or 1.7-liter carbureted Ford Cortina-based 4­-cylinder engines that date again to the Nineteen Sixties.

The Supersprint has an impartial rear suspension; the Vintage makes do with a cast rear axle similar to the unique. It additionally eschews bucket seats in want of a bench that stretches around the cockpit—­similar to the unique—with most effective the trans­project tunnel and belts left to carry the driving force in position. Plus, the smaller tires of the Vintage are dwarfed through the automobile’s rear fenders. The aluminum masking the body used to be polished (you’ll get it painted), and the fiberglass fenders and the nostril cone had been painted crimson.

In 1982, Caterham lengthened the automobile through two inches to extend its legroom, however it is nonetheless extraordinarily tight within. To get into this roadster, you first stand at the seat after which fortify your frame at the roll bar and facet sill as you slide your legs underneath the steerage wheel. After a couple of tries, it turns into quite simple, however there may be little room as soon as you are in there. Fortunately, the park­ing brake is situated underneath the passenger-side sprint so it does not intervene.

Footroom may be valuable. If truth be told, this tester needed to power barefoot as a result of his measurement ten­-and-a-half footwear merely would not paintings—miserable the seize intended making use of the brake, too. However being cramped is a part of the joys, proper?

The automobile weighs simply 1124 kilos. Weight is the enemy of efficiency, and this automotive’s gentle weight makes for a really lively power. Our take a look at automotive’s 100-horsepower 1.6-liter motor did the 0-to-60-mph regimen in 6.5 seconds, which beats each a Mazda Miata and a BMW Z3. The engine pulls cleanly proper off idle, and a correct exhaust bark bellows proper underneath your left ear. The one clue that there are carburetors meter­ing the gas drift is the semblance of 2 air cleaners poking thru a hollow reduce in the fitting facet of the hood—or will have to we are saying “bonnet”? But even so that, the engine ran simply as easily as a fuel-injected one all the way through our fair-weather take a look at. Skidpad grip is spectacular at 0.91 g, however an inclination to fasten the fitting entrance brake stretched out stops from 70 mph to 220 ft.

My revel in with outdated sports activities vehicles is proscribed to a few aged Triumphs I as soon as thought to be purchasing. After only a few miles in both the TR3 or the TR6, I walked away amazed that I used to be in a position to power each for brief journeys with no need to stroll again—the vehicles felt able to fail at any second. The Caterham no doubt seems like a classic automotive, however someplace alongside its evolution, it has misplaced that rattle­entice really feel. You’ll boost up exhausting, dive into corners, and mash the brakes with­out concern of approaching breakage. You end up hustling round and grinning so much on this kooky-looking device.

The four-speed gearbox is pirated from a Nineteen Seventies-vintage Ecu Ford Escort. It is easiest for the automobile. The lever is tiny—smaller than a Miata’s—and snicks into gears with an significantly pleasing mechanical really feel that so few vehicles be offering nowadays.

Despite the fact that the automobile begins as a package, you’ll hardly ever realize it when riding. The body is reinforced through aluminum honeycomb panels which might be riveted to its facets, and the result’s an impressively stiff automotive. No rattles or squeaks accom­pany exhausting riding, which speaks volumes in regards to the automotive’s high quality.

The package for the automobile pictured right here, which contains the engine, prices $23,500. A Caterham broker will put it in combination for you for $2500. Doing it your self is alleged to take about 50 hours. A 1.7-liter assembled Supersprint prices $33,000. Of the 700 Caterhams professional­duced each and every 12 months, most effective 50 make it around the pond, and that has created the cur­hire 16-week ready record.

Did we have now amusing riding the Vintage? Sure, however almost definitely no longer up to guys sufficiently old to bear in mind Neville Chamberlain.

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1997 Caterham Vintage SE
Automobile Sort: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 2-door convertible


Base/As Examined: $26,000/$26,000

pushrod 8-valve inline-4, iron block and head

Displacement: 98 in3, 1599 cm3

Energy: 100 hp @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 100 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm 

4-speed guide 


Wheelbase: 88.5 in

Duration: 133.0 in
Curb Weight: 112.4 lb


60 mph: 6.5 sec

1/4-Mile: 15.5 sec @ 84 mph

Rolling Get started, 5–60 mph: 6.5 sec
Braking, 70–0 mph: 220 feet

Roadholding, 100-ft Skidpad: 0.91 g 


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