Yet another special edition: roofless 3-Eleven gets 430bhp V6 for maximum track madness
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To the untrained eye, it’s the same old Seven. To the people at Caterham it’s the Supersport R, a muzzled track-car for the road that replaces the R300 at the fast end of the showroom. It’s based on a regular Supersport, from which it nicks some bespoke racy dampers, but ditches the 140bhp, 1.6-litre engine for a 180bhp, 2.0-litre Ford Duratec for extra R-ness.
Maths tells us that 180bhp and 535kg equals 336bhp per tonne, which is more than a Porsche 911 Turbo. Zero to 60mph takes 4.8 seconds, so it’s brisk, but just 0.1 seconds quicker than the regular Supersport. What really counts is the extra meat you get from the Duratec from, say, 40 to 70mph. No waiting for turbochargers, no time to gather thoughts, just instant chompy revving.
The firm suspension makes for a rather sweaty ride on bumpy roads, but it’ll give fair warning before sending you towards the verges. And besides, if you want squishy leather and a radio, get a Roadsport. Otherwise, prepare for thin seats and a stiff ride on your way to the circuit, which - obviously - is where you’ll be going. Once there, the limited-slip diff will help to trim corners into neat lines. And, at just 175mm wide, the rear tyres will feel far more playful than fat, grippy ones.
If you are James May, it will cost £24,995 for the parts, and you will build it yourself. Otherwise, it’s £27,995 if Caterham bolts it together for you. That’s £4k more than a basic Supersport, but still cheaper than the old R300, which had lashings of mostly unnecessary carbon fibre. For £1,250, you can have a removable weather pack, including a roof, flappy doors and a windscreen to deflect wasps. So it still takes a bit of commitment, but it’s not as silly as less roofy rivals such as the Radical.
Not too bare. Not too hard. Not too fast. But still amusing, and very satisfying. Could this be the perfect Seven recipe? It worked in the R300, and it works again here. Some will crave more absurd thrills, but there’s always the R500 or Ariel Atom for that. Just one grumble: the five-speed manual ‘box might strain for those last few miles-per-hour on longer circuits. You can have a six-speeder fitted for £2,995, but that pushes the price over £30k. And that would be daft.