Obviously it's a testament to the inherent rightness of the Caterham Seven that little has altered over the past 50 years. It remains light, fast, simple, joyous fun on four wheels. The supercharged 620R won our best track car since 1998 against some esteemed competition, but truthfully any Seven chosen over the past 25 years would have been in with a shot. Nothing out there so perfectly blends speed and entertainment with responsiveness and purity.
It should be noted, however, that efforts to evolve the Seven haven’t typically been well received. All the more reason not to tweak the recipe. The 21, for example, just didn’t strike a chord with buyers. The AeroSeven concept never really went anywhere. And the Levnate proved that there probably was a thing as too extreme a Seven.
In the early part of the 21st century, the CSR was meant to be the most fundamental rethink of the Seven in decades. A redesign meant enhanced traditional rigidity and improved aero, with double wishbones at each corner, coilovers, and an independent rear axle replacing the standard Seven’s more rudimentary setup. That really was just the start, too, with a Cosworth-fettled 2.3 Duratec also fitted, alongside an overhauled interior, revised steering, bespoke tyres… while still looking a lot like a Seven (note the flat front wheelarches for aero benefit).
To drive, the S5-based, wider-bodied CSR was borderline extraordinary, a more mature and more capable Seven - albeit one with the inimitable appeal of loads of power moving not much weight. ‘This is one breathtakingly fast Seven, yet even when the Cossie engine is hollering loudly in the higher gears, the chassis remains relaxed and poised’, read one review; another said the CSR was ‘light years’ ahead of previous Sevens: ‘Whereas before you felt every drive was a white-knuckle ride, now you have the thrills without the fear’. Which makes it sound like the perfect Seven, but of course the rawness was part of the appeal for many. And a CSR, reflecting the engineering effort invested, was a chunk more money.
So there aren’t many around these days, especially in the full-fat 260hp spec (a 200hp version was also offered). On PH at the moment there’s one 260 advertised as a project, then this car - a 2005 Titanium Grey example with just 18,000 miles. It’s a stunner, all the more interesting for those little CSR details that mark it out and wouldn’t normally be noticed.
The rep and rarity of the CSR - combined with the strong residuals enjoyed by all Sevens - means one this good isn’t a cheap buy. It’s for sale at £41,995, which would buy a factory-built 360R for those willing to wait. But as the ultimate evolution of perhaps the ultimate track car - with more power than any naturally aspirated Seven available now - it isn’t hard to understand the temptation. There are still a few track days left this year…
SPECIFICATION | CATERHAM CSR 260
Engine: 2,261cc four-cylinder
Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 264@7,200rpm
Torque (lb ft): 200@6,200rpm
Year registered: 2005
Recorded miles: 17,603
Price new: £37,000
Price now: £41,995
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