For the latest classic car news, features, buyer’s guides and classifieds, sign up to the C&SC newsletter here
News of yet another retro-inspired modern is enough to make the blood run cold, but it takes on a different complexion when the model in question is as true to its roots as the Caterham Seven.
It’s a car that remains instantly familiar as a direct descendent of Colin Chapman’s 1950s creation.
This new effort follows hot on the heels of the limited-edition Sprint and SuperSprint, which combined period styling, colours and simple steel wheels with modern technology and a characterful if slightly uninspiring 660cc Suzuki triple.
As an homage to a bygone era they were a huge success, but you could be forgiven for wanting just a little bit more excitement.
Enter the latest dose of nostalgia, the Super Seven 1600, this time inspired by the Caterhams of the early 1970s with its swooping front wings that run from the headlamps to the bulkhead, 14in Minilite-style alloys, Smiths instruments, quality leather interior and an almost impossibly small wood-rim Moto-Lita wheel.
As the ‘1600’ badging suggests, Suzuki’s three-pot has fallen by the wayside, replaced by the much peppier four-cylinder Ford Sigma engine shared with the entry-level 270 model.
In this application it’s fitted with 40DCOE throttle-body injectors for added bark – and bite because, at 135bhp, it’s the most powerful ‘Super’ Seven yet.
That might not sound a lot but in a car this light (just 565kg), and with your backside only inches from the ground, it feels like more – particularly from a standing start.
The little Seven will hit 60mph in just 5 secs, quick enough to match cars with three times the power, but once you reach motorway speeds the Sigma begins to lose its edge and, while there’s enough in reserve for safe overtaking and getting you out of trouble, it doesn’t feel half as lively.
Take the car back to its element, on twisting B-roads, and it has the ability to embarrass pretty much anything that tries to keep it in sight.
The steering is incredibly direct, the balance perfect. Here, the torquey Ford ‘four’ and slick Mazda-sourced five-speed ’box really come into their own, allowing you to exploit the performance without too much fear of losing your licence.
Despite not being a limited edition, the Super Seven could still prove to be a rarity when you consider that a standard 270 can be had for a whopping £6000 less.
Yet it has a style all of its own, with a polished exhaust, spare wheel and carrier, and a chrome grille and fuel filler.
It can be customised to your taste, too, with seven ‘heritage’ paint finishes and various colours for the wheels and headlamp bowls.
All you need are the flares to match – though to accommodate your platforms you might need to fork out an extra £2500 for the Large Chassis variant…
Images: John Bradshaw
- Engine dohc 1600cc 16v ‘four’; 135bhp @ 6800rpm; 165lb ft @ 4100rpm
- Transmission five-speed manual, RWD
- 0-60mph 5 secs
- Top speed 122mph
- Mpg n/a
- Price £33,495