Just back from driving the new McLaren 570S Spider in Barcelona. The mountain roads are sensational – the Spider a dream to sling fast into a bend. It costs £165,000 but would I really swap one for a back-to-basics Caterham 7?
Well, the way I see it, most people would choose the McLaren every time. It’s a genuine supercar, with a heritage to match the Caterham. It’s six times the price and you can even complete a phone call with the top down.
The Seven doesn’t even have a radio. You wouldn’t hear it anyway. This anniversary special model isn’t that quick either and just climbing inside with the roof in place requires yoga classes at my age.
Yet, there is something pure about the driving experience in the Caterham. Minus the carbon cermaic brakes, the driver aids and the three dynamic driving modes of the 570S.
I’m a huge fan of the McLaren but there are so few places to push a supercar to the limit these days, there’s actually more enjoyment to be had in a Caterham on British roads than the 570.
Think I’m wrong? Well, the McLaren is an experience – a dream car. The Caterham reminds me of a 1950s go-kart. But the fact it thills just as much for a sixth of price must tell you something…
‘Scarlet red, Muirhead Scottish leather adjustable seats’ – the key word being adjustable. No sooner had the Sprint been delivered, I was battling to move the driver’s seat forward a notch or two.
Now, I appreciate the Seven is iconic and a thing of beauty. But for this sort of money, I think I’d like my seat to move when required. And so it was that ten minutes later, I reached for the toolbox and started whacking the mechanism with a wooden mallet. Seemed to do the trick.
The last Seven I tested came minus windscreen wipers. Well, the 620 had wipers but they didn’t work. Am I missing the point here?
I love Caterhams – heck I used to have a savings account to buy one. But building a retro car doesn’t mean you can get away with old-fashioned build qualities. Theresa May is Prime Minister, not Harold Wilson.
I took the Sprint for a drive later and things got better, although the handbrake can’t be lowered without catch your thumb against the tunnel housing. Ouch.
Oh dear, as Tony Blair said, things can only get better…
Caterham Seven Sprint
Don’t go rushing out to buy one of these – the anniversary edition Seven Sprint is already sold out. There are plenty of other models to choose from but this deliberately retro Seven is destined to become a collector’s piece. Just 60 have been built, priced from £28,000. It features a modest, 80bhp three-cylinder engine, tiny 14-inch steel wheels and drum rear brakes. Double wishbone suspension, a lush red leather interior and a splash of chrome give this Caterham plenty of appeal. After a week on a Rolls, what could possibly go wrong…