First all-new model for 15 years is mid-engined sports prototype racer
Caterham has unveiled the dramatic new Caterham-Lola SP/300.R at the Autosport International show at the NEC - the first all-new model from the Dartford company for a decade and a half, and its first-ever sports prototype.
The new car - Caterham's first mid-engined offering - has been developed in conjunction with legendary chassis builder Lola Cars, and marks the debut of a new supercharged version of the familiar Ford Duratec motor.
That's expected to produce around 300bhp, with up to 330bhp available for short bursts via a 'push to pass' button. The sub-600kg kerb weight will give the car around 500bhp per tonne (excluding the driver).
Caterham reckons this should allow the SP/300.R to reach 60mph from rest in just 2.8secs, while the gearing has been developed to allow the car to hit its maximum 170mph on the Spa-Francorchamps circuit's Kemmel straight.
Only 25 SP/300.Rs will be built each year, and the finishing touches are currently being put to the car's powertrain and chassis before a one-make race series is launched for the car in 2012.
The SP/300.R will initially focus on racers and track day customers and, although a roadgoing version is being considered, motorsport is the new model's main focus as it is intended to provided the next step up for Caterham's domestic and international racing 'ladder'.
"Motorsport is not only part of the history of Caterham, it's been the lifeblood running through the character of our vehicles - race cars for the road," says Caterham MD, Ansar Ali.
"Today, racing is not only the heartbeat of the business, it's an intrinsic part of our fabric both here and abroad and the SP/300.R represents the next logical step in the development of our product offering."
Oh, and if you're a Seven fan don't worry - the evergreen roadster is still dear to Caterham's heart and will continue to be developed...
Caterham SP/300.R Technical Specification
Supercharged Ford Duratec 2.0L
450kg @ 250kph
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I was refering to people suggesting that a company could just remake the Elise and make money off it though. The aluminium chassis of that car you've referred to is about as similar to an Elise chassis as a VW Golf is to a Radical. It may be made of the same material, but the construction couldn't really be more different. And needless to say, I haven't seen any accounts for this other car, so until they make significant profit from it, my point still stands!
I have to say, although it may not be available as a kit car, the 'engineering' is very much from the kit car world. There are a multitude of errors with that front suspension which are caused by a fundamental lack of understanding. Whilst it's actually not that difficult to make a car handle, making it durable an refined require a lot more time, and I can tell you that with that front suspension, they'll struggle to get either. These are precisely the problems faced by anyone designing a car from scratch. You need experience and a volume of people to design a car that will be cheap to make, reliable, well engineered and refined. The Mastretta is a clear example of what happens when you don't!
odyssey220018 Jan 2011
Your post suggested that an Alluminium tub was not being used by anyone else. The Mastretta is NOT a kit car and clearly has an Ally tub and similar suspension.
This was the second prototype IIRC
Edited by odyssey2200 on Tuesday 18th January 23:07
Not quite sure I understand? The car in those pictures looks like your typical average uk kit car? If you're suggesting that would be a suitable car for Caterham to produce, I think it's pretty unlikely. Cars like that never see commercial success.
The engineering on them is really pretty basic, and they lack a great deal of development and polish. I'm not belittling the effort people put in to them, but 90% of the time, they're just an enthusiasts project that has been turned in to a business. They're not valid business prospects as it's effectively just a project car that someone has tried to turn in to a production car.
Whilst the general quality is definitely impressive for a kit, the basis for a refined and reliable production car just isn't there. I can tell you as an automotive engineer that a lot of fundamental understanding is missing from the design and to achieve the level of quality you need for a good road car would require a complete redesign of the suspension and even then, a lot of time needs to be spent tuning rubber bushes, geometry and durability.
If you look at even an Elise's front suspension, there's a lot of tooling investment involved and the fundamentals are considerably better to begin with:
Overall, I think Caterham realise from their experience with the 21 that they don't have the money or resource to develop a successful road car and they've done the right thing and focussed on where they can make money and be at the top of their game.
I think the general public generally don't realise the effort involved in making a good road car. I'm not trying to be condecending here....there's no reason that anyone not involved in automotive engineering should know what's involved as frankly a lot of of it's pretty tedious (as I'm sure I'm demonstrating), but I think there's plenty of evidence out there that shows that it takes a lot of careful planning and even more money to produce a good road car. Whilst many people wheel out TVR as some kind of bastion of how it can be done on the cheap, you have to remember that they were clever with their marketing. Towards the end, they spent a lot of money and a lot of time developing their cars. They also had a formula they could stick to using developments of their previous technology.
Be thankful that Caterham are wise enough not to waste money developing another road car and be thankful that the 7 still exists!
Edited by ArosaMike on Tuesday 18th January 21:22
odyssey220018 Jan 2011
MG Rover made quite a range of cars in the process of going out of business - does that tell you that it is impossible to turn a profit making those kinds of cars, or that MG Rover was poorly run?
The point is simply that just because Lotus can't make a commercial success of a niche doesn't mean that nobody can.
Making and developing are two very different things though. Their entire range was based on 15-20 year old designs and they invested very little in tooling or development, and the money they spent on development was very poorly judged. The last two projects they worked on were the MG-SV (effectively a Qvale Mangusta) and the MG-75 V8. Both were great enthusiasts cars (and as an engineer, working on either would have undoubtably been great fun), but commercially they were useless. You simply can't make money from medium value enthusiasts cars that have massive development costs. There's just no way you get any of the money back from development.
The issue with the Elise is the manufacturing methods needed to make it are far too labour intensive and expensive. The fundamental cost of the car is too high to make it economically viable. It says it all that the only other cars in production that use hydroform chassis' are expensive Supercars. I doubt anyone apart from a large scale manufacturer of a similar scale to VAG or Ford could ever turn any decent profit from the Elise architecture. Why else do you think small kit car and track car manufacturers like Caterham, Radical and Ginetta stick to steel space frames and Aluminium monocoques?