It was this philosophy that made the 7 the icon it is today and provided it with an esteemed motorsport heritage. Given the 7’s illustrious history it’s no surprise that many have attempted to recreate the legend – none more successfully than the United Kingdom’s Caterham company.
Slowly but surely Caterham has been fitting bigger, more advanced and more powerful motors to that same basic structure that Mr Chapman pencilled on his drawing paper back in the 50’s – which means their cars are still light as a feather and pack a mighty punch.
Their most revered model, the R500 Superlight, sports a supercharged 2.0 litre Ford Duratec motor that pushes some 200kW to the rear wheels. In case that doesn’t sound so impressive, I must remind you that the whole car only weighs 500kg, giving it more power per ton than a Bugatti Veyron.
In the event that the R500’s 0-100km/h time of 2.88 seconds seems a bit, well, pedestrian, Caterham recently announced a new model known as the 620R. In case maths isn’t your strong point let me point out that 620 is more than 500 – and more is definitely what you get.
There’s still a supercharged Ford four pot under the hood, only this one produces a terrifying 230kW leaving it with the power to weight ratio of an atom bomb. So you’ll only need 2.79 seconds to hit 100km/h – that’s much more like it.
Under the shell there’s a gunmetal chassis and newly designed nose to help the race-derived cooling system and aid airflow. Rear suspension is dealt with using a de Dion tube (yeah, I don’t know either), while coilovers manage affairs up front with the help of Avon ZZR semi slick tyres.
Inside things are pretty sparse, which is probably a good thing as you’ll need every ounce of concentration to keep an eye on those 311 rampant horses. Oh and in case you hadn’t noticed, there’s no roof either.
Pricing in the UK will start a fraction under £50 000 (which thanks to Mr President Zuma, using all his foreign-investment-coaxing-knowhow is around R750 000). And that’s quite a lot of Rands. It’s even a lot of Pounds.
But think of it this way, the 620R is around R1 500 per kilo. When you consider truffles costs R60 000 per kilo – and no matter which way you swing it truffles are no fun on the open road – that Caterham looks like a genuine bargain.
First published in Autodealer KZN