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Caterham Planning Higher-End Sports Car: Report

 

Caterham Supersport

Caterham Supersport

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Caterham Cars is best known for building its version of the no-frills, bare-bones Lotus Seven sports roadster. While big on performance and value, Caterham Sevens have never been much for creature comforts, and even with a top and side curtains fitted are best described as “somewhat water resistant” in the rain.

That limits the bulk of their appeal to fair weather track day driving, which is an awfully narrow window of opportunity, especially in Caterham’s native England. Now, Whatcar quotes Caterham boss Graham MacDonald as saying that a new model, complete with a hard top and a more comfortable cockpit, is in the initial planning stages.

Designed to slot in above the open-air Seven, the new car would still be powered by a Ford-sourced four-cylinder engine. To make up for the car’s added weight, it’s likely that a supercharger would be standard equipment, while a six-cylinder variant could also be considered.

The target price for the proposed hard-top Caterham is said to be 40,000 pounds ($62,416), and the company (correctly) feels such a car would have a broader global appeal than the Seven. As with other automakers, Caterham is eyeing the growing Asian market, but MacDonald says the car may even be built for sale in the United States.

That seems a bit ambitious to us, since even more established automakers (like Lotus) have pulled back from building cars for the U.S. market. While it may be easier to engineer smart airbag systems when you're starting with a clean sheet of paper, it's likely that U.S. safety requirements will drive up the cost of a new Caterham noticeably. Color us hopeful, just not optimistic.



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Comments (4)
  1. Ummm... I think you guys forgot the Lotus Evora. Lotus is far from "pulled back" from the US market. IN fact the Evora was designed for North America.

    I wish Caterham the best in their endeavor. It's a competitive market and as you mentioned, there are significant hurdles to overcome on the road to production. That said, talent like Phil Holland and Tony Shute have already proven an ability to pull together such endeavors.
     
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  2. @Robert, good point on the Evora. I was actually referring to the Elise and Exige, neither of which are sold in the U.S. these days.
     
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  3. The other point, is that I would not assume that "building a car for the US market" somehow equates to getting a car federalized. Why would they not just use their existing US dealer network and continue to supply cars as kits? Makes far more sense than spending millions getting a car approved by DOT. IMHO.

    I should note I am a Caterham Cars dealer in California so I have a vested interest in this, though I would LOVE to see a federally approved import car... I do not see this happening. But maybe it will. If it does, it could be a game changer.
     
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  4. @Randy, very good point. There's also a possibility that such a car could be imported "for track use only," as Lotus is reportedly considering for the Exige S. The new Caterham, though, sounds more like a mainstream sports car and less track-centric.
     
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