The previous two reports from Ben Nicholls and Jan Hatton are in the links below; here is the third, from Ben Hanford.
Entering the Caterham, with its four point harness and popper-shut doors, makes the scissor-kick-flop Elise entry that's become second nature to me seem laughably straightforward. The driving involvement too is drastically more theatrical; always the Caterham is talking to you, muttering in mild displeasure while kept at idle and shrieking with delight as you wring out the upper reaches. Even my cammed and ported K Series seems subdued in comparison. The exposed wheel arches play a part in this too; that vision of the exact positioning of the tyres giving you insight into your slip angle, even if you've never learned what that is. It's intuitive, immediate and curiously instructive. The black art of lightweight mid-engined handling (recently examined superbly by Mark Hales) is nowhere near as accessible, and my advice to anyone would be to start exploring the limit in a front rear car, ideally a Caterham, before you start dancing with the devil of oversteer in a mid- or rear-engined machine. Even my better half, a level-headed woman indeed, after five minutes at the wheel of the Caterham with the doors stowed, was proclaiming that "all learners should be made to start in a car with no doors, no roof and no electrics."
Thirdly, the secret 'keep above 50mph and you won't get wet' rule of open tops only works up to a point. Once the rain gets heavy enough you'll get wet all the same.
The elephant in the room is not, of course, practicality, luggage space, weatherproofing or lack of cup holders. It's the price. "£39K for a weekend toy?!" we bluster, "I could get a newish *insert German brand here* for that." But here's the thing, that you may well know already - the depreciation on these cars is almost nothing. Seriously, having watched the market since build day gave me the bug, I've been gutted to find that you cannot get hold of a Caterham in any sort of nick for less than £15k - and that's for an ex-Academy car or a 20-year-old model. Age makes little difference, nor does mileage (though that's hard to quantify as so few of them seem to ever accrue significant figures). So viewed from a total cost of ownership these actually make a great deal of sense. You buy it, run it for two or three years of occasional (wonderful) use, in which time you maybe change a set of tyres and pay for a minor service, and then you sell it for close to what you paid... Try doing that with a Boxster
Car: Caterham Seven 310R
Run by: Whoever makes Matt coffee. Oh yes, and the comp winners...
On fleet since: April 2017
List price new: £23,495 (As tested £38,930 comprising £2,500 for factory build, £4,495 for R pack, £200 for track suspension pack, £675 for ventilated front brakes with quad piston calipers, £200 for 13-inch Apollo black alloys on Avon ZZS tyres, £1,250 for full weather equipment and side screens, £95 for side screen arm rests, £80 for hood bag, £95 for boot cover in carbon vinyl, £115 for fully carpeted interior, £400 for carbon leather seats, £150 for Momo quick release steering wheel, £300 for heater, £300 for Sequential shift lights, £495 for lowered floors, £900 for high intensity lights with LED daytime running lights, £1,000 for Miami Blue custom colour, £395 for full decal pack, £995 for full paint protection and £895 for on the road package)
Last month at a glance: PH with a Seven - Practicality Matters
Find out more about Caterham here.