Circuit-ready or not, this Seven definitely has the aura of a car intended for the stationary affection of car club collectors rather than for regular track sessions. From its polished chrome exhaust to its 1960s-era ‘Brooklands’ glass aero screens and its wooden-rimmed ‘Moto-Lita’ steering wheel, the Supersprint is delectable in almost every detail. It’s the kind of Caterham you stop to clean when there’s a splash of mud around the rear wheel arches; firing one into the gravel at Oulton Park would make you feel like burying your head in the paddock cesspit.
The car’s wooden-rimmed steering wheel is a fixed affair, mind you, and it doesn’t make the act of levering yourself into the Supersprint any easier. There’s no option of a larger ‘SV’ body with this Seven and, if you’re taller than average height, you’re likely to feel the squeeze in more ways than one. The standard Seven offers a narrow driver’s seat with limited leg and elbow room, and has a cramped pedal box. Unless you’re unusually slight, you’re also likely to find it difficult to use all of the steering rim’s circumference.
Caterhams have been this way for decades and it’d be churlish to criticise a car that derives so much advantage from its size for being small. The Seven is what it is; you either fit in one or you don’t. But it’s well worth noting that most of Caterham’s cottage-industry rivals now offer significantly more cabin space than you get in a standard Seven and make cars that are a lot easier to drive for those longer of leg and larger of foot. Credit that to designing your product more recently than the 1950s.
Once you are onboard, you’ll notice that even the Supersprint dashboard and battery master cut-off switch are retro-styled. The car’s three-cylinder engine is fairly quiet by Caterham standards; its exhaust routed down the passenger side of the car and away from immediate proximity to your ears, although it still makes a promising and characterful noise.
The gearshift’s action is short and can be a little bit stubborn and inconsistently heavy, with the lever feeling slightly less instinctive to use than Caterham’s habitual standard. The spacing of its ratios is also open to criticism, there being a significantly bigger gap between third and fourth than you find anywhere else, and this can be irritating until you’re prepared for it. But the engine’s got strong flexibility and likes to rev and, in terms of its outright potency, it certainly gives the featherweight Supersprint every bit as much performance as its skinny-tyred rolling chassis needs to entertain either on road or track.
Caterham’s been clever enough to uprate the Seven Sprint’s suspension for this car without adding grip. The Supersprint uses the same 14in steel wheels and 155-section Avon tyres as the Seven 160 and its handling can be even more lively and engrossing as the bottom-rung Caterham’s is.
The Supersprint’s hold on a dry road is gently tenacious and its body control has been improved just enough to make it turn in with exciting keenness and to feel nicely agile and composed at most road speeds. But there’s still no more adhesiveness here than is strictly necessary, and there’s a supremely delicate kind of adjustability on offer that is guaranteed to keep you giggling, corner by corner.
Down tough B-roads and over testing surfaces, the Supersprint’s suspension begins to show just a little bit of crudity. That live axle stumbles somewhat in response to bigger vertical inputs and can make the body fuss and fidget where it ought to be more hunkered down and under control. Through faster bends, it also seems to take the car’s body longer to settle on its outside rear wheel than other Sevens need. Only a fleeting instant, but one long enough to notice - and to take a little bit of confidence away from every corner entry.