Hello kit car: Caterham is now owned by the Japanese
Caterham, the tiny British sports car maker, is no longer quite as British. The company has been sold to Japanese auto group VT Holdings, which also imports Lotus cars to Japan.
Much loved by Hagerty’s own Sam Smith and, er, me, Caterham’s Seven is the ultimate continuation car. Back in 1973 Graham Nearn bought the rights to the Lotus Seven from Colin Chapman and founded Caterham Cars. In the decades since, the company has taken Chapman’s very simple recipe and kept it much the same, only making it progressively spicier.
Today’s Sevens come with a choice two Ford engines, a 1.6-liter Sigma or a two-liter Duratec in a wide range of tune. The entry level Seven 270 offers 137 hp and is a lovely way to enjoy catching flies in your teeth, while the 620 is an insane 314-hp track rocket that will tear your face off unless you wear a helmet as its supercharged engine fries tires, and accelerates from 0-60 mph in 2.79 seconds.
No matter what model you choose the basics are the same—and they are very basic indeed. You get a steel tubular chassis with rudimentary body panels riveted around it, four wheels, two seats, an engine, and an all-up weight of little more than 1200 pounds. Caterhams are available fully built from the factory in 20 countries, but can also be bought in kit form. U.S. buyers only have the option of self-assembly with prices starting at under $40,000.
Caterham’s new owners VT Holdings have imported Sevens to Japan since 2009, selling over 120 cars there each year. Chief Executive Kazuho Takahashi has pledged to “protect and develop the Seven to meet the legislative challenges that lie ahead.”