60-year-old Cars Are Great, but Caterham Desperately Wants Something New

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Postwar British nostalgia and racing heritage is nice, but there’s no denying the kick an automaker can get from launching a wholly new vehicle.

That’s the situation Caterham finds itself in. After dutifully cranking out continuously updated examples of the original Lotus Seven since 1973, the company now wants to court drivers who have never seen the opening titles of The Prisoner. While the British company has a pretty good idea of the car it wants to build, it first needs to find a partner.

According to Autocar, the failed 2014 partnership with the resurrected Alpine brand lit a fire under the company. Open-top, doorless niche roadsters patterned after a 1957 vehicle may represent the ultimate in motoring purity, but they don’t do much to attract new, comfort-loving buyers to the Caterham brand.

A modern, enclosed vehicle would be just the tonic, but the company simply doesn’t have the capacity to pull it off on its own. A past attempt — the Caterham 21 of the late 1990s — saw just 48 units built. That lesson taught the company not to spread itself too thin. While Caterham has no plans to stop production of the famed Seven, the company’s CEO feels a second model is needed more than ever.

Graham MacDonald claims the company is in talks with other automakers for a potential joint venture..

“The Seven is 60 years old next year,” MacDonald told Autocar. “While we love and cherish that, we have to think about the future. It’s important to get the right engine and product for our customers. It has to have Caterham DNA.”

Caterham has tapped Ford as a possible source of engines for the not-yet-realized model, though it doesn’t want to go the EcoBoost route.

“While the 620 is supercharged, we like naturally aspirated engines,” said MacDonald.

The desire to create a new Caterham model goes beyond simple boredom. Because of its size and proportions, MacDonald claims that consumers in emerging markets don’t see the Seven as much of a “car.”

[Image: Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)]

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