Caterham CSR 260: Spotted

Curious car, the CSR. It was launched in 2005, and was billed as the first genuinely 'new' Seven in 48 years. Caterham had a proper swing at it, too. Bigger, stiffer, plusher, faster, better was the general idea, and, to all intents and purposes, the range-topper fulfilled its ambitious brief.

A significant period of development rendered a car larger than the Series 3 (it was based on the SV), one specifically re-engineered for enhanced torsional rigidity and with lift-mitigating aerodynamics. The Seven's cheerfully rudimentary suspension was replaced, too, double wishbones now featuring all-round, with pushrods linking coilover spring and damper units.

It was as trick as a magician's card deck, and Caterham reputedly worked its way through 36 possible settings for the front shocks to ensure it was perfect. Along with 89 for the rears. The result, according to Chris H while he still called Autocar home, was 'the best damping on UK roads of any sports car I have ever driven.'

High praise indeed. Its ability to levitate over British B roads was rounded out with a different breed of engine. Rather than pushing a K-Series motor further into the realms of improbability, Caterham had Cosworth breath on a much leggier 2.3-litre Ford Duratec unit until it produced 264hp at 7,200rpm. And 200lb ft of torque at 6,200rpm.

The latter figure, combined with the slightly less stressed character of the larger engine, made the CSR seriously fast, but also a mite less frenetic (if only for the fewer gear changes it demanded compared to its stablemates). Married to the suspension's unflappable level of control, that helped make it a ground coverer par excellence.

And because it was roomier and (optionally) ritzier than the stock models with an uprated dashboard, it was comfier, too. As a result, it seemed well placed to appeal to a customer that might not have previously considered a Seven among the three or four British-built two-seat prospects. Harris himself thought it was an "extraordinary vehicle, and one that will have a profound effect on the company."

Ten years later though, today's Spotted signalled the end of production without much fanfare. The fact that it hadn't propelled the firm into an entirely new orbit was lamentable - although understandable enough in hindsight. For a start, while the concept was impressively well conceived, it indubitably remained a Seven, and therefore retained many of the car's infamous limitations.

No impediment whatsoever to the established fanbase, but a marked disadvantage when compared to impermeable options like the Lotus Exige - newly launched in Series 2 format in 2004. Then there was the cost: fully £34,500 if you built it yourself; £37,000 if you got Caterham to do it for you. Enough for even the most ardent enthusiast to pause and consider whether or not one of the less sophisticated Sevens might not do the trick.

Of course, the combination of Cosworth mechanicals with Caterham running gear was easily persuasive enough for some, and even if it failed to properly crack the sports car-buying mainstream, a ten-year life cycle is obviously testament to the CSR's enduring appeal among aficionados. Certainly the last of its kind fits that billing, especially with just 2,635 miles on the clock. The asking price of history? £45,995. Oof.


Engine: 2,261cc four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 264@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 200@6,200rpm
CO2: N/A
Year registered: 2005
Recorded miles: 2,635
Price new: £37,000
Price now: £45,995

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Comments (16) Join the discussion on the forum

  • PaulD86 11 Oct 2018

    A friend had one of these and I spent a few hours driving it. Never have I been in another car that rode so differently to how I had expected it to. One of the most complaint suspension setups I have experienced. Looks like it will be rough as hell, is actually Mercedes S Class smooth. It shifted too. I had wheel spin at just over 30 in 4th when I gave the throttle a good prod. And the noise it made - side exit exhaust beside your ears and an engine than pops and bangs plenty on the overrun certainly didn't make it a peaceful drive. Great fun though!

  • JerryF 11 Oct 2018

    Year registered is 2015 not 2005 as stipulated above.

  • Turbobanana 11 Oct 2018

    Love, but it's a bit monochrome isn't it? I'd want some colour in there somewhere.

  • yonex 11 Oct 2018

    I never understood why Caterham didn’t stick with this and went back to the S3?

  • sideways man 11 Oct 2018

    That’s going in my lottery win garage without a doubt.

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