It’s rare for Sevens to do more than 5000 miles a year, and owners are generally fastidious, so if the car you’re viewing looks anything less than well-loved, walk away. Don’t be afraid of cars that weren’t factory-built; the SVA test that a home-built car has to pass is extremely thorough. There’s no need to steer clear of cars that have been used on track either – they’re very much at home there, providing they’ve been serviced and maintained accordingly.
With only around 500kg to move, both Ford and Rover engines are unstressed and generally reliable, even when tuned. The K-series has a reputation for head gasket failure, but largely through its installation in the MGF and Freelander; it tends not to be such a problem in the Seven, and though it’s not unknown, if it’s spotted early the consequences are seldom serious.
Gearboxes are either the Ford T9 five-speeder or Caterham’s own six-speed ’box. The T9 is fine – cheap and durable – but the six-speed is perfectly matched to the Seven, and particularly desirable to get the best out of the smaller K-series engines. It is normal for there to be some transmission noise transferred through the chassis. Make sure that cars advertised as having a limited-slip diff actually have one! Jack up the back of the car and turn one wheel – the other wheel will rotate in the same direction if it does have one (or the opposite direction if it doesn’t).
Suspension and brakes
Caterhams are extraordinarily sensitive to suspension set-up so it’s well worth having the car set up properly once you’ve bought it. This can be tailored to both how you drive and even how heavy you are! Pads and discs last a very long time, even when used regularly on track.
Bodywork and interior
The bodywork is entirely aluminium and composite, so no rust issues there, but the space-frame does rust, so check carefully that there are no signs of perforation and that the powder coating is sound. Look out for small cracks in the bottom corners of the windscreen, caused by people leaning on it as they get in and out of the car.
Roadsport 125 (2007-present)
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1595cc
Max power 125bhp @ 6100rpm
Max torque 120lb ft @ 5350rpm
Weight (kerb) 539kg
Top speed 112mph (claimed)
Price when new £18,495 (2007)
Supplied by Caterham Cars. Tyre prices from blackcircles.com. All prices include VAT at 20 per cent
Tyres (each) £39.89 front and rear, 185/60 R14H Toyo Proxes
Brake pads (front set) £46.20
Brake discs (front pair) £47.88
Front dampers (each) £144.00
Oil filter £9
Spark plugs (set of four) £15.60
Prices from Caterham Cars
Regular service (years 1 and 3) £325
Intermediate (year 2) £525
Major service (year 4) £705
What to pay?
The cheapest Caterhams you’ll find in the classifieds tend to be the Roadsport’s predecessor, the Super Sprint from the late ’80s and early ’90s, with the cross-flow Ford ‘Kent’ engine. These start at around £7K, rising to £10K and more for a really nice example with all the right bits. Just check you fit, as they don’t have the longer body that arrived with the Roadsport.
The cheapest Roadsports are around £11K, often ex-Academy cars, which makes them trackday naturals. £12-13K buys you a decent basic K-series car. A factory service history adds value. Desirable options include the six-speed ’box, vented front brakes, limited-slip diff, quick rack for track-work, and a removable steering wheel.
Caterham itself usually has a good selection of Roadsports, with prices starting from around £15,000.
lotus7club.com (owners club, including Caterhams)
caterham.co.uk (new and used cars, tech support)
jameswhiting.com (parts and servicing)