The previous reports from Ben Nicholls, Jan Hatton, Ben Hanford and Stephen Charlesworth are in the links below; here is the fifth, from Martyn Banham.
It takes time to dial into driving a Caterham. Not ideal when everyone is looking at you. There were a few heart-in-mouth moments kangarooing onto roundabouts and out of junctions, not aided by needing to use the tip of my right shoe to control the sensitive throttle pedal.
The first surprise of the Caterham experience - it's not unbearable on the motorway. Earplugs are a must, as is keen observation, being so low and small. The nearly 360-degree vision really helps. A few counties come and go before I escape the monotony of the motorway. On more suitable roads I start to explore the car's abilities. The acceleration and the movement of the chassis at first can be overwhelming. It reminds me of stepping into a two-stroke racing kart after driving chuggy rental ones - it takes a little while for your brain to stop lagging behind everything happening. What would it be like with twice the power?
When the road was clear the Caterham was utterly thrilling. Time and time again it would take all manner of bends with incredible nonchalance, yet it was supremely involving and biddable. Free from traffic it covers ground voraciously. In the dry, the limits of grip appear so high that it seemed suicidal to challenge them. I did find it more difficult to read the (at times heavy) steering than I expected. A previous user said the brakes didn't give them confidence - constantly worrying about pressing the throttle at the same time does limit your faith in the them but the car loses speed as easily as it acquires it.
It was well into the afternoon when we reached the glorious Elan Valley. The views were stunning, enjoyed more with the slow pace forced by the narrow, uneven roads. The lost time meant our plans to explore the Brecon Beacons had to be abandoned. This turned out to be wise as darkness fell hours from home. Crossing the Malverns and ever-quieter Cotswold roads compensated for missing Wales' more prestigious tarmac.
Even the next day, I found myself wanting to go down another road, and another. This continued until the (wildly inaccurate) fuel gauge sat at 'empty' longer than I dared allow. When parked, I spent far too long gazing out the window at the car. Of all things, it was the Miami Blue paint that received the most compliments. Everywhere, excited kids shouted and stared ("look Daddy, a racing car"), drivers waved and motorcyclists nodded. In my experience only a Morgan 3-Wheeler is as universally well-received.
I'm left with many questions - would an SV chassis help with the pedal spacing? Would an S be less busy on the road; is the R pack justified on track? Would I be as happy with less power - would I want more? Will I ever see 'HVP' again? I feel blessed to have now experienced not just driving but building a Caterham. My ambition to have a one in my life, in one way or another, has only been reinforced. My unending thanks to PH and Caterham for making it happen.
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: The windy way to Wales for our latest Caterham custodian
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...
August sunshine in a Seven? Not quite!
PistonHeads - Practicality Matters
Three into Seven does go! Sort of...
Find out more about Caterham here.