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Posts filed under ‘Caterham’

Red-Hot: Caterham’s New 620R

July 16, 2013 by Matt

Caterham 620R Red

Assuming the mantle previously borne by the Superlight R500 as the fastest road-going Caterham model, the British kit-car manufacturer’s new 620R represents another volley in the escalating track-day car wars.

The only logical response to such salvos as the Ariel Atom 500 and the KTM X-Bow, the 620R’s formula is simple: Retain the lightness and simplicity of the old car, but inject even more horsepower to maintain its competitive edge. Left Lane reports:

[T]he 620R is powered by a 2.0-liter Ford-sourced Duratec engine that sends 311 horsepower and 219 lb-ft. of torque to the rear wheels via a ZF-built six-speed sequential gearbox and a limited-slip differential. The sprint from zero to 62 mph takes 2.8 seconds, and top speed is electronically limited to 155 mph.

Caterham 620R Red Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

In addition to the aforementioned power increase and a few new bits and bobs, it’s nice to know that in the midst of all the escalating lunacy, “Caterham ensures that it has performed all of the necessary brake, chassis and suspension modifications to keep the power in check.” In other words, they seem to have an understanding somewhat lost on or ignored by other manufacturers (e.g. Mercedes) that if you turn your car’s engine “up to 11,” that power must remain accessible and manageable for there to be any point to the exercise. That explicit commitment is what keeps the automaker’s offerings at the top of my must-drive bucket list.

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Which Would You Buy?
Lotus Elise vs. Caterham 7

March 1, 2012 by Matt

Lotus Elise Federal Gray Grey Silver Gunmetal

Call this “The Battle of the Track Toys.”

Both the Lotus Elise and Caterham 7 prioritize light weight and simplicity as a means to performance over raw power and grip. Both cars are British in origin. And both feature off-the-shelf 4-cylinder engines sourced from other manufacturers, the Lotus’s from Toyota and the 7’s procured from Ford.

Beyond that, the two cars differ in notable ways. The Elise, while a bit less hardcore than the Caterham, is far more attractively styled, its rival not having undergone any significant sheetmetal revisions in 40+ years. The Lotus’s independent rear suspension is more modern than the 7’s ancient De Dion setup. And the Elise offers its occupants an actual roof and glass windows, among other amenities, and so could function at least adequately as a daily driver.

Caterham 7 Lotus Silver Grey Gray

For its part, as elemental as the Lotus is, if it’s a thoroughly visceral connection with the road you’re after, the Caterham is in a class by itself. At two-thirds of the Elise’s already light 2,000 lb weight, the 7 takes the Lotus’s formula to its logical end (no coincidence that the 7 started life in the ’50s as the Lotus 7, designed by company founder Colin Chapman). It delivers a tactile driving experience like few other cars can. Not only that, but for we shadetree mechanics, the fact that the Caterham comes it kit form conjures up scenes of garage-dominating, construction-related bliss. For some, that aspect of the 7 might generate trepidatious emotions, but for me in particular, the idea of building an all-conquering track car myself sounds like a little slice of heaven.

So perhaps the real question is: How “extreme” do you want your track toy to be? Do you want it “dialed up to 11,” a DIY project with few eventual concessions to everyday practicality? Or would you like to be able to use your weekend weapon on more than just sunny days, even if that takes a bit of the edge off?

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series wherein I stack up the pros and cons of two broadly similar cars from an ownership perspective. Read the other installments here:

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Lotus Elise vs. Caterham 7

Full Lock: Caterham Superlight R500

June 27, 2011 by Matt

Caterham Superlight R500

Maybe this’ll be the beginning of an ongoing series called “Cars I Would Give My Left Kidney to Drive.” Who knows.

The only thing for certain is that I would have more fun at the wheel of the Caterham Superlight R500 than almost anything on the road. I’m not known for my prognosticatory ability, but I think you can take that declaration to the bank.

Any doubts should be dispelled by a viewing of an R500 in being driven at 10/10ths, in this case at the hands of the Stig, wringing it out around the Top Gear test track.

I do wonder whether I’d fit in it, though—I’m 6’4″, and I remember vainly trying to look either over or under the structure at the top of a Miata’s windshield while conducting a test drive some years back. Small cars and my lanky frame don’t always get along.

But that very potential difficulty touches on the other major reason the R500, or cars like Caterhams in general, hold a special appeal: They’re kit cars. I don’t believe this applies to the R500 in particular (which you buy pre-assembled), but the “lesser” Caterhams, you assemble yourself. You specify the engine, transmission, suspension setup, gauge layout, and all the rest. So, in theory, I could customize the ergonomics to fit me perfectly.

All that said, when I start talking about building one and customizing it, I’m still off in la-la land; for as much of the assembly is required, it’s still a pricey proposition ($20K for the cheapest Caterham—with no engine), especially for a car with little-to-no practical value whatsoever.

But holy smokes, just to have five minutes behind the wheel at VIR. Heaven, I tell you.

4 Comments on Full Lock: Caterham Superlight R500