SOLD for £36,750
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“Regardless of the weather second gear is utterly violently unhinged. The engine picks up smartly at 4000rpm, then shrieks into life from 5000rpm, at which point the rear tyres rapidly turn from a solid into a gas.” Road test of the Caterham 620S, Evo, 29th January 2016.
Caterham. For some the sleepy Surrey town nestling in a North Downs valley while for others, the birthplace of comedic actor Bill Nighy. However, for 95% of the UK population (and 100% of the people reading this), it can only be makers of a basic two seater sports car that is universally accepted as providing more smiles per mile than pretty much anything else; keepers of the flame lit by one Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman and continuing the bloodline of his Lotus Seven that can be clearly traced back to the 1957 original. Though it had bailed Lotus out throughout the 1960s, the Seven was cast aside in 1973 by the relentless Mr Chapman and his desire to up profits by moving up-market. Fortunately for the grass roots enthusiast, the whole kit (sorry) and caboodle was gladly picked up by staunch Seven supporter and dealer Graham Nearn, founder of Caterham Cars. After they had produced a few of the less popular Series 4 versions Caterham reverted back to the classic aluminium bodied Series 3 still recognisable today. Iconic certainly, but consequently tricky to develop without alienating your loyal customer base and Caterham did take a side turning with the 21 though this road turned out to be blocked (ironically) by the Lotus Elise. Just as co-niche market roadster manufacturers Morgan found, a process of gentle, steady improvements to both performance and refinement was the answer, though arguably they had less to go at than their Malvern counterparts… As the sports car market evolved, fewer customers used their Sevens as an everyday car and weekend racer rolled into one so having a Focus on the drive means that a focused Seven in the garage makes great sense and sales have remained strong.
The current range is based around a chassis which is much the same as the Series 3 Lotus incarnation, give or give a few tubes and a considerable improvement in rigidity. Tweaks have made it a more comfortable place to sit and though the wider SV’s visual impact divides opinion somewhat, the dropped floor option takes one further out of the considerable airflow and manages to make one feel part of a car that was already more of a garment than conveyance.
With namby-pamby carpets, plush seats and such like added to the mix on top of the extra chassis metalwork, one might be forgiven for thinking the Seven had put on a significant amount of weight in the last sixty plus years (many of us have after all) but use of 21st century carbon fibre and CAD as opposed to a slide rule has limited the increase from the S1’s 500 kg to just 10% in the case of much of the current range. Power on the other hand has increased (to paraphrase Rolls Royce) ‘significantly’ with the 620 model in S trim all but matching the power to weight ratio of the Bugatti Veyron and the R specification version comfortably eclipsing it… To save you looking it up, the answer to your question is ‘list’ for the top of the range VW was just over £1 million.
So, as the subject of this auction is a 620S, these are the key points of the model. Even with all the bells and whistles (actually we had a look and don’t think it has any of either but it is pretty plush) it tips the scales at just 610 kg so the 310 BHP from its dry-sumped, lightened flywheel, supercharged 2 litre Ford Duratec engine will punt it to 60 in 3.4 ‘Evo’ ratified seconds and on to a top speed of 145 mph; we did some physics calculations on this and the answer was, “it’s quick”.
Being the ‘road’ version of the 620 twins it is well specified from the factory with a conventional 5 speed gearbox (as opposed to the somewhat brutal sequential shifter in the R), limited slip differential, windscreen, hood, heater, Momo steering wheel, carbon fibre dashboard with bespoke instruments and switchgear, four point harness’, plus seats that don’t look (and feel) like they’ve been lifted from a go-kart. More compliant suspension than that of the R emphasises that despite being an absolute hoot on the track, this is a very road usable machine.
The seller is a serial Lotus and Caterham Seven owner (your correspondent sold his beautiful Series 3 for him a decade or so ago) so he was keen to have a new car that stayed close to its roots with Caterham’s ‘Series 3 non-SV Chassis’ and 13” wheels. Getting his kicks from various historic race cars did mean that performance had to be impressive and having looked at the 620’s little brother the 420, he was quickly convinced that the relatively meagre premium for a supercharger, 50% more power and a host of trim and chassis improvements was well worth it. Having enough race cars to scratch any track itch he may have plus wanting to use the 620 for occasional commuting meant that the choice between the laser sharp R and the lush-plush S was a relatively easy one to make.
As is so often the way, the spending didn’t quite stop there and a carefully considered run through the options list bumped the £45,000 list price up by another £2,630. Peppermint Green metallic (you may recognise it from a 964 generation Porsche) was selected from Caterham’s Premium paint range, while the dropped floor, carbon leather seats and arm rest side screens were all specified to up the driver and passenger comfort levels. A tonneau cover in carbon vinyl and matching half hood were also added to further increase the driving opportunities. 13” Black Apollo wheels shod with Avon ZZR tyres were lifted from the ‘R’ specification list and dropped into the virtual shopping basket along with a battery master switch.
With his order lodged with Caterham Gatwick on 25th June 2016, the owner then had to endure a six month wait, time he spent selecting a highly appropriate registration number direct from the DVLA (OK, he did other things too). The 620S was eventually registered on 1st December and the owner was delighted to see that, due to supply problems, his pride and joy had been fitted with the optional extra ‘aero’ front suspension, perhaps proving just how closely Caterham are related to Lotus of the 1960s.
At just four years and 1600 miles old, there is not really much to say about the Seven’s condition and a run through the photo gallery will show you what you need to see. Yes, a bit of a clean wouldn’t go amiss – not something the owner would do in preference to driving to be frank and the fact that the courtesy valeting pack from Caterham that came with the car remains unopened is not hugely surprising. Speaking of driving, a trip out in the car was eye opening to put it mildly. Visceral is the adjective that springs to mind and the wine of the supercharger above 5,000 RPM is totally addictive. A stunning drive in anybody’s book, regardless of their terms of reference, with not only mind bending acceleration reminiscent of Star Trek’s Warp Drive but when clipping an apex where the road surface was crumbling away to form a deep and sharp edged crater, the 620S barely flinched (certainly a lot less than I did) and carried serenely on its way; other Sevens we have experienced would have been launched into the next postcode if not county. The upside of the, shall we say ‘confident’ tyre choice is cornering speeds that are certainly way beyond our previous experiences. Having said all of that, the owner reports that the Caterham is more than viable as a ‘commuter’ – which is what he uses it for when the mood takes him and carrying capacity requirements allow. Though the carefully specified interior has much to do with this, the supercharging of the engine results in it having something of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ nature; fairly ‘normal’ at lower speeds though still sprightly due to the Seven’s lack of weight but there is definitely the opportunity to play Hyde and seek with your licence when the Duratec is spinning at anything above 5,000 RPM.
The Caterham’s history file (if you can call four years ‘history’) contains a presentation box with Owner’s Handbook, spare keys and unused fob, the original order and specification form, the aforementioned valeting pack and a more MOT test-friendly front number plate.
We spent an entertaining half an hour on the Caterham website reproducing this 620S’ specification, hit total button and the number £52,590 popped out. Factor in something like a nine month wait and this nearly new example looks super attractive at the owner’s very realistic reserve. With a property purchase the only driver behind the sale of the Seven and its 1st service and MOT undertaken in last 100 miles it looks like a great opportunity for someone to be enjoying one of the most mind-bending driving experiences we have ever encountered. Spring is just around the corner…