A-Z of marques: No.9 Caterham

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The marque: Affordable exhilaration. Supercar performance at Mondeo prices.

The history: The story begins in 1957 with the introduction of Colin Chapman's Lotus Seven. In the Sixties, the car achieved worldwide fame as Patrick McGoohan's preferred mode of transport in the cult TV series The Prisoner. By 1973, Lotus was moving on to grander things and Caterham, already a seller of Sevens, took the manufacturing rights. The badge changed but the Seven recipe remained the same; a car light enough to offer electrifying performance, even when fitted with the British motor industry's humblest four-cylinder engines. The short-lived 21 followed the apparently promising route of wrapping the Seven's great lightweight mechanicals in an attractive modern bodyshell that offered more protection against the elements. But all it showed was the impossibility of improving on Chapman's brilliant basic design. Recent development has been evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, with the optional SV "increased dimension chassis" offering more space while preserving the styling.

Early Sevens had Ford OHV engines but today's Caterhams use MG-Rover's K-series. The nuttier performance models get XPower-tuned versions of the "K" churning out up to 230bhp.

Curiously, for a car that inspires such affection, the car has really had a name; it has always just been the Seven. What did Patrick "I am not a number" McGoohan make of that?

Defining model: The green and yellow Prisoner car, KAR 120C, supplied by Caterham Car Sales when the Seven was still a Lotus.

They say: Designed for racing, built for living.

We say: Do not change a thing.

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