Any British sports car maker billing a new model as “the ultimate in accessible fun” would make ears prick up all about these parts. But when it’s Caterham making the claim of its latest debutant, the Seven 160, tools are downed at Autocar HQ, keyboards fall quiet and the sound of excited hubbub duly fills the void.
If any firm owns the concept of low-budget, high-performance, all-out entertainment motoring, it’s Caterham. Very few cars from volume makers can compete with the speed and thrill that this car’s enduring formula continues to create, more than half a century after Colin Chapman nipped up the bolts on the very first Lotus Seven.
Chapman's original Lotus Seven, launched in 1957, was powered by a 40bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder Ford engine, making the new 160 look positively overblown. Like the 160, it also used live rear axle suspension.
Autocar's then-rival magazine, Motor, figured one in 1958. It took 16.2sec to hit 60mph and topped out to 80.4mph. By the time Caterham acquired the rights to build the Seven in 1973, engines had grown to the 1.7 litres of the Ford 'Kent', and to 135bhp.
If Caterham really has exceeded its own exceptional standards with this new car, it will have created something very special indeed. But that’s a sizeable ‘if’, and an awful lot to prove for a car powered by an engine from a Suzuki microcar, with wheels and tyres that could have been pinched from a Brian James trailer.
Time to find out if this flyweight sports car’s stature is greater than the sum of its decidedly humble parts.