Thu, Jun 1, 2017 10:30 AM
Few owners would want to tinker too much with the basic looks of a Caterham - after all, when the look itself is so iconic, why would you want to change a formula which has stayed largely unchanged since the first car emerged in 1957?
But the whole philosophy of Caterham - to produce a car which owners can truly become involved in looking after and getting the best from - means that the bare bones of the basic car can be almost endlessly refined and tweaked to individual tastes.
A total of 24 different models using the K-series engine have been produced to date, and Pistonheads.com rates it as “simple, easy and surprisingly affordable to look after” - the very essence of a model intended to hark back to a time when motoring itself was a much simpler pleasure.
The same site hosts a large Caterham owners’ forum, where those who run one of these iconic cars, and others who’d love to share lots of their experiences. This is also a vast knowledge resource which covers pretty much any topic to do with running, maintaining and fixing the cars.
The light, all-alloy Rover K-series engine was by far the most popular power unit for the Seven, and during its time when it was the main engine used, between 1991 and 2006, it became synonymous with the car. The collapse of the British car-maker put paid to the free availability of this power plant, which had come to be available in three different sizes, power outputs ranging from 106bhp to 254bhp, and with options of a standard cylinder head or variable valve timing.
The K-series engine is widely believed to work at its best when mated with Caterham’s own six-speed gearbox, rather than the Ford-derived five-speed box. The engine is also renowned for being pretty adaptable, and, notes car enthusiasts’ website Pistonheads.com, there’s also “a huge aftermarket tuning industry based around the K-Series engine and many Caterham owners upgrade their cars, so a car that left the factory in a fairly modest tune can now be substantially more powerful.”
And if you’re after squeezing out every last bit of power from those free-revving, versatile engines, a limited-slip differential would be a wise investment. This is designed to help with the car’s handling at high speed or on tricky surfaces by ensuring that power is transferred to the wheels proportionately, and is certainly a good idea if you plan to put your Caterham through its paces regularly on a track or in demanding, off-road conditions.
Fortunately, it’s the kind of job which isn’t outside the scope of a reasonably experienced mechanic, as access to the rear axle is good.
Lots of owners like to customise their Caterhams in ways other than under the bonnet, and there are plenty of options for this if you’re mechanically-minded, know someone who is, and have access to a covered workshop.
But in the rest of this article, we’re going to concentrate on the interior and exterior parts which are available so that you can personalise your Caterham - because when you’ve gone so far as to buy such a distinctive car, why should you stop with just a basic spec?
Three-quarter LED headlights are one of the more practical additions you can make to your Caterham. They’re a very useful extra, which help give you extra visibility to other motorists, as well as very effectively lighting the road ahead.
While on the subject of putting safety first, a high-level brake light kit is another addition which ensures that your car can be seen by all those drivers who are sat higher up than you.
You can make sure you’re sitting comfortably, too, with a variety of cloth or leather road or racing-style seats. You could even forego two individual seats for a three-piece fixed seat unit - it’s certainly handy if you don’t fancy spending too much time with cleaning!
If you want to take your Caterham out onto the track, then a set of fibreglass or carbon/kevlar race seats should be on your shopping list - but with prices ranging from a shade over £450 to £750, this is a mod you’d need to be pretty serious about using to justify the expense.
Of course, when you mention the Caterham Seven to most people, they’ll automatically think of the car with an open top. But then, if no protection from the elements was available, it would severely restrict owners’ opportunities to hit the open road.
That’s why some of the best-selling aftermarket additions to any Caterham include the variety of hoods, tonneau covers and boot covers and fittings which are readily available. These are even supplied as complete weather kits if you have the means to have the fullest protection fitted in one go - which is a good idea if there’s even the remotest chance of you getting caught far from home when the weather whips up its worst!
You might also find some protection for the car’s interior desirable, as a downpour can soon penetrate areas such as the seats and carpets - as well as some of the more important mechanical areas. But true to its image as an engineering company which can find a solution for any problem, the Caterham team offers a wide range of carpets and floormats, which are designed to offer the right protection.
Finally, what do you buy the man or woman who has everything - including a Caterham? Well, the official store also offers plenty of official Caterham merchandise to help with gift ideas for birthdays and Christmas, and although it’s a cliche, it really is true that all budgets are catered for!
To start finding out about how you can customise your Caterham, with factory-supplied parts, available through the north-west’s leading Caterham cars specialist, take a look at Northwich-based Oakmere Motor Group.