I first saw a Caterham Seven close up when I visited Brands Hatch in 2007. I finally had a passenger ride in a Caterham Seven kit car several years later. My Father-in-law sprung the surprise on me one morning while we were visiting them in Kent. He said over breakfast that their neighbour had a car I would be interested in seeing. They had arranged for me to visit her later that day. This beautiful bright yellow Caterham Seven greeted me when we went round later to visit!
The car was much smaller than I remembered from when I saw them at Brands Hatch. It turns out that their neighbour was keen on racing. She had taken part in a Caterham Seven racing academy several years before. She had fallen in love with the Caterham Seven as a car and later bought this ex-academy car for herself. The car’s 1.6 Ford engine had been tuned to 150bhp for the track, which is beyond the standard output. Their neighbour had racing shoes on due to the narrow footwell not providing enough space for normal shoes.
I squeezed myself through the roll cage to get into the car for my first passenger ride in a Caterham Seven. There is no graceful way of getting into a Caterham. I’m not particularly large in stature, which made it easier.
It was a beautiful hot day in the middle of the summer with a clear blue sky. The weather was perfect for driving. I buckled myself into the 4 point harness, put on my shades and we set off.
The hedges seemed even higher, now that we were so close to the ground, as we went along the narrow country lanes. My backside can’t have been more than 6″ (15cm) from the ground. It felt like I was sitting in an oversized go-kart, which I guess in reality I was. The car was now up to temperature, I could smell and almost feel the heat of the engine only a few feet in front.
I couldn’t stop grinning from ear to ear, it was such a rush. It felt much faster than reality due to the proximity to the ground and the height of the hedges all around. The car certainly had a lot of grip as we went round bend after bend. The route must have been very familiar to the driver.
After a few minutes, we arrived at the nearby A-Road where I then experienced the full power of this little marvel of a car. With my head firmly planted back against the headrest we took off up the road like a scolded rabbit! What a rush, the car pulled strongly through all the gears, rapidly approaching the horizon. The car stuck to the road like it was on rails as we went hard on the brakes and round a roundabout and then back hard on the accelerator again. We passed several cars on the dual carriageway with ease. The noise of the wind rushing past was getting louder by the second. All of my senses were doing overtime, but I was still grinning like a Cheshire cat.
We continued driving for several miles further before making a U-turn at a roundabout before retracing our steps and returning back to base.
My first passenger ride in a Caterham Seven was amazing, it is truly an amazing car! It is a raw driving experience with very few mod cons and it is a true British sports car. Although, this Caterham Seven did at least have a windscreen, unlike some of the more race-focused versions!
Thanks to my Mother and Father-in-law for arranging this experience and for their neighbour for kindly agreeing to take me out for a spin. It was a dream come true and has rekindled the dream of one day building my own kit car.