Caterham Seven 310R: PH Fleet

By now you will hopefully be familiar with the premise of having a Caterham Seven on the PH Fleet; not only does it give us chance to try the 310R, Caterham's self-proclaimed successor to the R300, it also meant PHers could get involved too. Seven readers, seven months and seven stories with a Caterham Seven is the plan...

The first report from Ben Nicholls is in the links below, so here's the second from Jan Hatton. We've managed to pack quite a few weekends recently so expect the next few updates to follow thick and fast - stay tuned!

So, a Caterham 7 - why would you want one? As a middle aged man yearning back to my days in rusty Mexicos, RS2000s and a few pre-family motorbikes, it seems the obvious choice for getting right back to basic, analogue motoring.

A very happy man on collection day!
A very happy man on collection day!
Following the pick up in Twickenham I decided to make the most of the glorious weather and take the slow route through central London, to take in the sights and enjoy the drive; very quickly, however, I realised this was probably an error of judgement! But it was still great, the car actually quite comfortable and pretty easy to drive, my forehead reddening nicely and people with rucksacks stepping out into to take photos of the car.

Finally, the A40. I was apprehensive, my other experience of Caterhams being a slightly clumsy 270S test drive - which didn't quite do it for me - and then a quick lap of Gatwick in a 310S on the build day. That was better, although I was still not quite on board with the Caterham marketing line of 'if we could only build one it would be the 310'. However, take the passenger out, remind yourself that this isn't a diesel and that there there is life past 4,000rpm, and it flies! And then there was the A40 underpass - what a noise! So should this be the only Caterham? Well actually, even if money was no option, I think that this is still the engine I would have...

On day two I planned to cross from Berkshire, through Hampshire and into West Sussex, and then the rain started. Even in a light drizzle it became clear that this car is quite simply exceptional: the grip, the communication and control through the tiny Momo wheel is just right, and it's not even too heavy at parking speeds.

Just like a supercar, right?
Just like a supercar, right?
Is it perfect? Not quite. I never did feel completely confident in the brakes. And until I found some slinky surf shoes I was driving in socks due to the tiny pedal box. Another dilemma you may have as a prospective purchaser is the limited-slip diff; it's an absolute hoot on damp quiet junctions and no doubt a requirement on the track, but between 50 and 70 it is really noisy, even through ear plugs. For me that's not something I could live with in a road car; it would be a lot to give up though...

As the day progressed from drizzle to cats 'n' dogs we conceded that it was time to erect the comedy roof - if you ever want to make other road users happy, fitting a Caterham hood in a thunderstorm will do it! Apparently it is easier when warm, an irony not lost on me while trying to stretch the fabric to reach the poppers in a torrential downpour. Once in the visibility is OK, the wipers are tiny but effective and water drips in but not excessively. In the end it seems that it is possible to even have fun in a Caterham in a storm.

The plan for the final two days with the car was a trip from Berkshire to Bath for a stay in a fancy hotel. Given the introduction of a slightly disbelieving and uncertain passenger, the pace for this journey was going to be very different. Once on the road though it was all remarkably civilised, cosy but comfortable enough and a joy to be in the open air. With the doors on, heater vents open and a warm hat we were fine; in fact, once you get over 50mph most of the rain blows over the top of the screen. Despite a sceptical start we both agreed that with regular stops a tour could be quite painless, even fun. I would probably consider the larger SV for road use with inertia belts and an open/quieter diff though.

"Where's the key dad?"
"Where's the key dad?"
Over a weekend of quite varied driving the car had managed to do everything I had asked of it and I had loved every second. I have also never found it so easy to make friends; every time I stopped someone would stop to chat about how they had one/helped build one/could they lift their son in for a photo... Do I still want to buy one? The annoying thing is I am really not too sure. Every second in the car was a joy and I loved it, but really, £39K? That is a lot of money for a car that you rarely find the limits on the road, but which gives up so much of the civility that you may find in other less extreme but still excellent roadsters. I do however have the Caterham bug - next step is to find a track day. If I love this as much as I think I will then who knows?

Caterham Seven 310R
Run by: Whoever makes Matt the best coffee
On fleet since: April 2017
Mileage: 4,161
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: August weekend with the roof on a Seven? Good old Britain!

Previous updates
We need help building 'our' 310R

It's built, now to get it on the road
A splendid start for summer in a Seven
One PHer down, six more to follow...

Find out more about Caterham here.







P.H. O'meter

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Comments (11) Join the discussion on the forum

  • cybersimon 29 Aug 2017

    "Another dilemma you may have as a prospective purchaser is the limited-slip diff; it's an absolute hoot on damp quiet junctions and no doubt a requirement on the track, but between 50 and 70 it is really noisy, even through ear plugs."

    It's not the LSD that makes the noise. It's the crownwheel and pinion. A feature not a fault.

  • ghibbett 29 Aug 2017

    My LSD is super quiet (2012 Supersport) when on-throttle, only whining on coast down, but not too badly.

    As for the brakes, I had the same reservations throughout the last 3 years of ownership...until I took the car on track. Once you achieve temperature in both brakes and tyres - something you're unlikely to do on the road - then the brakes come alive. In fact it was the brakes that impressed me most on the trackday(s)!

  • Numeric 29 Aug 2017

    Quite simply the best thing about these cars is the lack of aggression they seem to engender. In anything else of similar performance you get a degree of trouble, but in a Caterham you seem to be given everybody's kindness.

    I remember going up the King's Road in the tipping rain with the door held open to try and demist the windscreen while the comedy tent leaked like sieve - my progress was hardly smooth, but even London Bus drivers were trying to get out of my way.

    As an ex said to me - either people go what the heck is that and laugh - or go wow one of those and want to talk to you. And that doesn't always happen in a Porsche

  • xjay1337 29 Aug 2017

    I do hope no-one pays the £1000 for "paint protection".

  • Simon Owen 29 Aug 2017

    Don't get too hung up on buying new & building yourself.

    Nice to do yes, but at a price.

    We had 2x 7's over a 16yr period, both cost less than £20k to buy and likely provided the most fun we will ever have in a car at any price. 'Upgradeitis" cost us a bit but that was all part of ownership .... buying used its one of the safest places for your hard earned.

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