Old-school kit cars set records, Land Rover rallies for 007’s 60th, rear-drive Mazda6 rumor squashed

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Caterham

Caterham’s record year proves that simple, old-school fun still sells

Intake: It’s not often that a company’s yearly sales record runs in the triple-digits, but Caterham is no ordinary company. The U.K.-based firm, which is known for dutifully carrying on the tradition of Colin Chapman’s iconic Lotus Seven, sold 670 cars last year, beating its previous record of 667. This, all while a pandemic still rages across parts of the globe, interrupting supply chains and hampering economies. Caterham credits series-production models such as the Seven 420 for buoying sales while pandemic conditions throttled the usual run of special-edition cars, such as the Seven SuperSprint, an ultra-minimalist version of the already modest Seven. The Seven features a steel spaceframe with aluminum body panels and is powered by a 2.0-liter Ford Duratec engine in various states of tune here in the U.S. The U.K.’s lightest model uses a a 660-cc turbocharged three-cylinder made by Suzuki. All Sevens feature five-speed manual transmissions, and a limited-slip rear differential is available on many models. The U.K. was responsible for 37.6 percent of sales, while in the U.S., the 49 models sold was more than double the 21 units delivered in 2019.

Last spring, VT Holdings, a Japanese auto group that is also responsible for importing Lotus cars to Japan, purchased Caterham. The firm pledged to “protect and develop the Seven to meet the legislative challenges that lie ahead,” according to a statement from chief executive Kazuho Takahashi, who backed up that promise by introducing the kei-class Seven 170 last September. Part of the regulatory adaptation will be an electric version, due in 2023. While this may upset the purists, Caterham CEO Graham Macdonald tells Autocar that an EV Caterham will “see this brand continue for another 50 years.”

Exhaust: With cars only gaining heft and size these days, the Caterham is an anachronism that’s worth celebrating. The cars can only be sold as kits here in the U.S., but that hasn’t stopped nearly 50 customers from seeking out a driving experience purer than that of any other four-wheeled object on the road. Though plenty of skepticism remains around the electric Caterham, it may become a necessity for the firm to offer anything to customers in major urban areas such as London, which is increasing its Ultra Low Emission zones that mandate electric propulsion. The future may be murky for the little brand, but the present is cause for celebration.

Invite-only Florida car museum opens to the public

Intake: The secret is out. The Dauer Museum of Classic Cars, which since 2001 had been available only to private groups, is now open to the pubic in Sunrise, Florida. Owned by Drs. Edward and Joanne Dauer, the 30,000-square-foot museum is home to 70 vehicles, most of which are fully restored classic cars. According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Dauers are particularly proud of three cars they refer to as “the triple crown:” a 1953 Cadillac Eldorado, 1953 original Buick Skylark (shown above), and 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta, of which only 458 were made.

Exhaust: At a time when too many museums across the country have been forced to close—often due to COVID restrictions, which eliminated their cash flow—it’s great to see a new one open, especially one that’s related to the automotive industry.

Toyota continues to bait U.S. with affordable, five-door fun

Intake: Toyota knows how to play coy when it’s got something fun on its hands. The latest evidence lies in a (very entertaining) promo short for another enthusiast darling, the heavily revamped GR 86 (the BRZ twin previously badged as the Toyota 86): A shadowy garage reveals the rear silhouette and lit taillights of the GR Corolla Hatch. We’ve known that Toyota is bringing a high-performance hot hatch to the U.S. since May of 2020 under its Gazoo Racing department/sub-brand. As of last December, Toyota confirmed that such a pocket-rocket would be based on the five-door Corolla, and not the Yaris. 

Exhaust: This video casts GR staff as advocates for enthusiasts, noble fighters against the boring, safety-minded higher-ups at Toyota. Advertising narratives don’t always track with reality, but the thoughtfully reworked GR 86 lends some credence to the story. The GR Corolla hatch, whenever it arrives, will be Gazoo Racing’s next opportunity to prove its commitment to affordable, giggle-inducing performance.

Land Rover rallies to celebrate 60 years of 007

Intake: Land Rover is marking six decades of James Bond movies by sending a 007 stunt driver into action with a special rally-ready Defender. Mark Higgins, who drove in Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, and No Time To Die, was a three-time British Rally Champion before his stunt career, and will return to the rally stage in the North Wales leg of the 2022 Bowler Defender Challenge on March 26. Despite wearing a 007-themed livery, Higgins’ Defender is surprisingly gadget-free, with only a roll cage, uprated suspension, extra cooling for the P300 Ingenium diesel engine, and off-road tires on Bowler 18-inch wheels.

Exhaust: Higgins will be hoping to perform rather better than the Defenders in No Time To Die, which get comprehensively outclassed by 007’s 1998 Land Cruiser.

Here’s the next Mini chilling in the Arctic with its ancestors

Intake: The fifth-generation Mini is chasing its predecessors across the frozen lakes of Sweden as engineers fine-tune its “go-kart feeling.” The next Mini will be electric from the outset with Hardtop two-door and Countryman versions appearing first, followed by combustion-powered models. “With every lap it completes on packed snow and ice, the test engineers can precisely tune the spontaneous power development of the electric motor, the control systems for optimizing traction, the cornering behavior, the suspension and damping characteristics as well as the character of the steering and braking system,” says Mini.

Exhaust: The new Mini is not arriving until 2024, but it’s great to see Mini making all the right moves to make sure the next-gen car preserves Mini’s spunky personality. Hopefully the company will improve upon the Mini Electric’s 110-mile range as well.

A RWD Mazda6 may not be in the cards, after all

2016 Mazda6 rolling
Mazda | Mike Ditz

Intake: Mazda is on the move upmarket with a fresh platform, a new straight-six engine, and ambitions to elevate the small but resolute Japanese brand. For a while now, a rumor has been circling that a new Mazda6 sedan is in the works, built on that new rear-drive architecture, which also underpins the Europe-only CX-60 crossover and will arrive stateside underneath the forthcoming CX-70 and CX-90 SUVs. Alas, it appears that rumor was indeed just a rumor—one that’s now dead. The report comes from CarBuzz by way of the latest print issue of the U.K.’s Autocar, where Joachim Kunz, Mazda Europe’s engineering and development boss, put such rumblings to bed. “It would be very nice … to have the FR [front-engine, rear-drive] concept and six-cylinder engine for a Mazda6 successor or a large sports coupe,” he told Autocar, “We would like to have it, but at this point in time, it’s most important to sell SUVs.” The Mazda6 exited stage left from our shores last year, and sadly, with the company focusing its limited resources on the cars people are buying (crossovers), it doesn’t look like we’ll get a successor anytime soon.

Exhaust: Mazda never actually confirmed any plans for a Mazda6 successor. Spokesman Drew Cary made that much clear in a statement to Hagerty: “Mazda discontinued the Mazda6 in the US last year and has not announced future plans for the vehicle. Last October, we announced three new SUVs coming to our market in the next two years, including the CX-50, CX-70, and CX-90. The CX-70 and CX-90 will be built on Mazda’s new large platform. No other models have been announced for the large platform for the U.S.”

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