Caterham Seven 310R: Part four – Tips for buying a Caterham
What do you really need when you're looking to buy a Caterham?
When you buy a new car you don’t often get the benefit of hours of in-depth testing, so it isn’t always possible to know exactly what you want or need.
Over the last few months I’ve spent well over 100 hours behind the wheel of both the new Caterham 310R and the 420R, and in the process discovered some things that may well prove useful to those of you who are looking to take the plunge into Caterham ownership.
A new Caterham can be equipped with a number of accessories and options, and each car is built specifically to each customer’s specification. It all starts with which model to choose, and when it comes to Caterham, power isn’t everything. As we discussed in part 3 of this mini-series, more BHP doesn’t necessarily equal more thrills, with the 310R providing a thrilling experience despite being down on power on the 420R. The difference between the two cars is rather big, despite being based on the same Caterham Seven foundation. For most, the 310 will provide more than enough power for road and track enjoyment, being the sweetest spot in the Caterham range to date.
There is a choice of ‘S’ and ‘R’ packs, the former being a pack designed to provide a softer, more road-friendly setup for the Seven. However, let’s say it as it is – the Caterham Seven is an extreme machine regardless of what pack it has. It’s better to stick to the ‘R’ pack and enjoy the Caterham Seven as intended –a stripped-back super-featherweight of a sports car that can go toe-to-toe with just about any other mean machine on the tarmac.
Do consider adding a little weight with the ‘SV’ larger chassis though, extra cabin space is useful for showing off to friends and family, but it also provides a slightly larger fuel tank and load space. For those determined to squeeze into something smaller, it has been said that the standard chassis has proven to be a useful motivation for people looking to lose a little weight, especially in the competitive Caterham Academy environment.
Beyond the obvious choices, there is a range of options. Four-point racing harnesses are a must, as is a heater and both roof options. The full-roof is near-useless to use in the wet as a lack of ventilation means it steams up rapidly, it is far better to drive in the wet with the half-roof, and with a towel in the cockpit for any spills. Keep the full-roof for parking, and get the removable Momo steering wheel to take with you for extra security. All seating options should be tried before purchasing, and don’t be put off by the look of the composite racing seats. They look flimsy and unforgiving, but are actually rather comfortable once you get settled into them.
It might seem obvious, but a Caterham cannot be driven daily. They come alive on fine seasonal days and allocated track days, but suffer in poor conditions, so make sure you have other solutions for daily travel. The more serious models are a handful even in the dry, so in the wet they can be dangerous, be sure to treat yourself to some expert tuition to get the most out of your Caterham.
They aren’t perfect, and they can infuriate at times – don’t forget your AA membership – but for all the flaws, the Caterham Seven is still one of the most thrilling cars on the road.
It’s one of the all-time great driver’s cars, and 310R is the best so far.
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