This page is divided into two halves... the original R500 (1.8 Rover engine - year 1999 onwards), and the new R500 (2.0 Duratec Cosworth engine - year 2008 onwards).,
~ A short history of the Super Seven ~
The first Seven was built in 1957 by Lotus, the brainchild of Colin Chapman, who was convinced of the advantages of small lightweight racing cars, giving huge power to weight benefits. He actually referred to the Seven as something he had dreamed of designing since he was a schoolboy - a 'four wheeled motorbike'.
The first sevens were priced at £587 and were powered by a 40bhp Ford engine coupled to a single dry plate clutch and a three speed Ford gearbox. The design proved to be an instant success, Graham Hill being the first driver to race the seven in 1958. Over the next decade there were three more series of the Seven developed, improving transmission, suspension and increasing power to 84bhp.
In 1967 Caterham Cars became the sole distributor, and have continually developed and improved the car since. Major developments over the years have included the introduction of double wishbone front and de Dion rear suspension, four wheel disc brakes, a six speed close ration gear box, a torsionally stiffer spaceframe chassis with honeycomb panels for side impact protection and lead free engines with catalytic converters. The cars can be bought in kit form, or can be factory built to SVA approved standard (£2,250).
In 1976 the R.A.C. banned the seven from racing, as they said it was "too fast" - so the Caterham Seven developed its own racing championships (of which there are now four).
Introduced in 1999, the first R500, had a 0-60 time of 3.4 seconds (autocar) and a top speed of 146 mph, and in a comparative track test (Oct 2000) posted the following time round the Croft racing circuit along with the following: (the R1 is a 1000 cc racing bike with a 0-60 of 2.8 and a top speed of 170mph ridden by Ronnie Smith - tester for 'Performance Bikes' magazine).
Caterham R500 - 1.31.53
Yamaha R1 - 1.32.96
Stealth B6 - 1.35.37
Lotus 340R - 1.35.78
Caterham Blackbird - 1.35.98 *
Nissan Skyline 600 bhp - 1.36.55
Mitsubishi Evo VI RS Sprint - 1.40.55
Porsche 911 Turbo - 1.40.95
TVR Cerbera 4.5 - 1.41.22
Ariel Atom - 1.44.80
"The best driver's car ever built. A higher power-to-weight ratio than anything bar a McLaren F1 " 'Evo'
"Makes all normal sportscars look utterly hopeless " 'Autocar'
"The most fun on four wheels" 'What Car'
"Simply.... brilliant fun" 'Top Gear magazine'
"One of the purest sports cars on the planet" 'Redline Magazine'
"A car stripped to its bare essentials to deliver the rawest, most focused and exhilarating driving experience you can have on four wheels" 'Evo'
R500 breaks world record 0 - 100 - 0 mph
Sept 2002 - Autocar runs the 0 - 100 - 0 mph (road car) challenge - top 10 results below
"It doesn't matter how many times you've driven an R500: every time you plant the throttle the first burst of acceleration seems genuinely shocking" 'AutoCar'
Choose one from the following or scroll down to read all about it...
From What Car ...
Anyone looking for an antiestablishment symbol of the new millennium should look no further than the Caterham Seven Superlight R500. It does without doors, windscreen, hood or any other creature comfort, but serves up an intoxicating cocktail of sheer delight. Its 1.8-litre Rover K-series engine produces 230bhp at 8600rpm, while the Caterham tips the scales at just 460kg, giving the car designers' magic figure of 500bhp per tonne. Performance is suitably striking with 0-60mph taking just 3.4sec. The hyper-sharp steering, powerful brakes, and short-throw, six-speed gearbox are such tactile delights that it's great at low speed, too. At £29,950 for a kit, or £32,000 fully built, the R500 isn't cheap, but four-wheeled fun comes no better.
From Autocar ...
The Superlight R500 is the latest and wildest Seven to roil out of Caterham's Dartford factory. Building on the success of the original Superlight R from 1997 Caterham has now taken the Seven beyond even the mind-bending £37,000 JPE from 1992 to what must surely be its ultimate incarnation.
The R500 has two distinct advantages over the old JPE. It's £5000 cheaper at £32,000 and a full 50kg lighter at 450kg. This puts it in the elite group of featherweight four-wheelers that tip the scales at under 500kg, a group that includes the Westfield FW4OO and the Light Car Company's Rocket. With 230bhp on tap, the R500 is easily the most powerful, with an incredible power-to-weight ratio of 500bhp per tonne. It's a showcase for all the technology that Caterham can currently muster. It boasts numerous carbon fibre components, including the silencer, nose cone, all four wings, the bucket seats, dashboard, wind deflector and all three rear view mirrors. The three-piece 13in wheels are predominantly constructed from lightweight magnesium, as is the bespoke bellhousing.
Even the integrated Stack instrumentation saves weight compared to separate clocks and gauges. Co-developed with Minister Race Engines, the 1796cc, four- cylinder alloy Rover K-series unit has high-lift camshafts, Cosworth forged pistons and an ultra-lightweight flywheel. The result is a surprisingly smooth engine that is neither too peaky in its power delivery nor lacking in tractability when ambling along in slow traffic.
But the powerband is still narrow for a road car, the fireworks coming in at 5000rpm and trailing off at around 8600rpm. Thanks to Caterham's own six-speed gearbox, that's never a problem. There's no overdrive ratio, top being a direct drive that provides only 17.6mph per 1000rpm, so it's crucial that the engine has a potential 9200rpm on tap. The short gearing does nothing to assist fuel economy. On the open road we recorded a best of 27.0mpg, while our test average was 20.1mpg. The R500 is so quick, conventional notions of speed, and in particular acceleration, need to be recalibrated. The power comes with unrelenting urge and even the tiniest stab of the throttle releases a huge surge of power. The figures make outrageous reading. Its 0-30mph time of 1.6sec is 0.2sec quicker than the McLaren Fl. The benchmark 0-60mph run is dispatched in a meagre 3.4sec (only 0.2sec slower than the Fl), while our 0-100mph time of 8.1sec almost beggars belief. Consider that Lamborghini's brutal new 569bhp Diablo GT can only manage S.7sec and you begin to get the picture. Westfield's £40,000 FW4OO can only manage it in a tardy 10.3sec. In our experience, only a McLaren Fl and Jaguar's XJ220 have the measure of the R500 to 100mph. The in-gear acceleration times are simply astonishing 50-70mph in top gear takes only 4.Osec. A Ferrari 360M F1 takes 6.9sec, while even the Diablo GT remains 1.7sec shy of the Seven. But the one figure that guarantees this car a place in the all-time-fastest lineup is the staggering 2.3sec it takes to scoot from 70-90mph in fourth gear. Which is exactly the same time as the McLaren.
Poor weather meant we were unable to record a maximum speed, although the 146mph we saw on the Stack Speedo makes Caterham's claim of 145mph seem plausible. Similarly, our brake test was hampered by rain. We recorded a 60-0mph time of 3.Ssec, a figure that belies the terrific fade-free performance offered by the AP four-pot calipers. On your favourite B-road, the R500 is sublime. The lightening quick steering needs only the tiniest input to place the car accurately. Turn in, squeeze the throttle and you're out again before the bend has even registered. The ride is hard, but the use of progressive spring rates does allow a certain level of low-speed compliance. Body roll is almost non-existent. Cornering speeds in dry conditions are immense, thanks to massive grip from a set of bespoke Avon CR500 tyres. But there's more than enough power to break traction in any of the first three gears.
For all its adrenalin-raising talent, it's certainly not an easy car to live with. On the public highway, without a windscreen, flies, stones and even raindrops hit you like shot from a gun and the hard carbon fibre seats quickly become uncomfortable. It also begs the question of how fast is too fast. A 1.6-litre, l32bhp Caterham Roadsport would satisfy most owners. And at £32,200, the R500 is an expensive toy. True, this sort of performance normally costs six figures, but it is a high price for a such a minimalist car. The R500 is a promotional showcase; a publicity tool designed to keep Caterham at the sharp end of Britain's specialist motor industry. But as was proved by the JPE, there are enough enthusiasts out there willing to part with the necessary cash to make the R500 a viable proposition. And good luck to them. The car world would be in a sad state if all cars made perfect sense.
The R500 makes no sense at all, but we can't help loving it.
From Auto Express ...
There is one absolutely dead-cert recipe for ultimate straight-line performance. Maximise the power-to-weight ratio in a chassis capable of handling its explosive force.
The proof is here.
It started life in 1957 as Colin Chapman's brilliantly simple and uncompromising Lotus 7. Then, in 1973. the Caterham 7 picked up the baton of using minimum body, trim, frills and weight, the result being top power performance and nerve-tingling thrills. When design genius Chapman created the 7 (a car simple enough to be sold as a tax-saving, build-it- yourself kit as well as a fully built showroom model) it looked little different from the way it does today, save for noticeably skinnier wheels and tyres. Under the thin aluminium skin, of course, it was subtly different.
An original Fifties Lotus version might have had a 1.2-litre four- cylinder Ford side valve engine and a three-speed gearbox. But in a straight line, even a handful of horsepower and three cogs in a car weighing barely half a ton would murder virtually anything else on the road in its day.
At the start of a new century, the 7 is making its point even more spectacularly, especially with the latest Superlight R500. It has more grunt per pound than any rival bar the mighty McLaren Fl. It's way ahead of current production models From T,V,R, the Lamborghini Diablo, Porsche 911 Turbo, Aston Vantage 600, even the once unbeatable Ferrari F40 or its successor the F50.
The Superlight R500 is the 7 stripped bare and loaded for speed. All nonessentials are binned: the hood, windscreen, cockpit trim and heater. Even the conventional instruments are replaced with a super lightweight, race-style Stack electronic display. The race seats are thin carbon fibre shells; the 185/55 and 215/5 shod l3 inch wheels are magnesium, as are the sump and clutch housing. The space frame chassis, coil and wishbone suspension, disc brakes and telepathically quick steering are all familiar, but even the bodywork has been on a diet. This car weighs only 460kg. Power comes from Caterham's VHPD (very High Performance Derivative) 1.8-litre 16v four cylinder Rover engine, tuned to give 23Obhp. In a 460kg can that equates to precisely 500bhp per tonne, hence the name. While the McLaren can boast around 560, it's at a price rather higher than the R500's £29,950.
The Superlight will give even the Fl a hard time on the dragstrip, until the very biggest numbers come up. It will merrily scream to 60mph in less than 3.5 seconds, and do it in the first of its six gears, because it will rev to an ear-splitting 9,000rpm- plus. It will go on to a top speed of 146mph if you can stand the windscreen-free blast in your face and, of course it has all the agility and instant responses of any 7. How's that for minimalism? R500 figures make outrageous reading. Its 0-30mph time of 1.6sec is 0.2sec quicker than the McLaren Fl. The benchmark 0-60mph run is dispatched in a meagre 3.4sec (only 0.2sec slower than the Fl), while our 0-100mph time of 8.1sec almost beggars belief.
Consider that Lamborghini's brutal new 569bhp Diablo GT can only manage 8.7sec and you begin to get the picture. Westfield's £40,000 FW4OO can only manage it in a tardy 10.3sec. In our experience, only a McLaren Fl and Jaguar's XJ220 have the measure of the R500 to 100mph.
The in-gear acceleration times are simply astonishing 50-70mph in top gear takes only 4.Osec. A Ferrari 360M F1 takes 6.9sec, while even the Diablo GT remains 1.7sec shy of the Seven. But the one figure that guarantees this car a place in the all-time-fastest lineup is the staggering 2.3sec it takes to scoot from 70-90mph in fourth gear. Which is exactly the same time as the McLaren.
From Top Gear - Tiff Needell ...
The war between Caterham and Westfield has been long and bloody. Surrey-based Caterham is the official guardian of the original Lotus Seven shape and model number, but their Midland rivals, Westfield, have been stepping on their toes – even to the point of a court case – ever since the launch of their lookalike Seven in '83. When Caterham produced their screenless, 250bhp, Vauxhall two-litre-powered JPE model in '92, it seemed they had created the ultimate Seven.
Record books were broken and its light weight was the main key to its success. Weighing in at just 515 kilos, it had a power-to-weight ratio of 485bhp per tonne and rocketed to 60 in a mere 3.7 seconds, but the arrival of the Single Vehicle Type Approval in July '98 stopped it dead in its tracks as it failed on both noise and emissions. So Caterham's honour was left in the hands of the 190bhp, Rover K-series-engined, 485-kilo Superlight R – but that took an astonishingly long four seconds to do the sprint to 60. Westfield seized their chance to steal the limelight and produced their featherweight FW400 that blew our Road Test Editor's mind on the track, and his eardrums on the road, in issue 73.
Using the same 190bhp, K-series VHPD Rover engine, but in a car with a kerb weight of just 435 kilos thanks to its carbon-fibre construction, the FW400 got to 60mph in 3.6 seconds and became the new leader of the pack. Naturally, the onus was now on the southerners to fight back. They didn't want to go to the vast expense and complication of trying to manufacture a carbon-fibre car for the road, so there was only one route to follow – lose more weight and find more power. With the VHPD engine in plentiful supply and already snugly fitted into the front of the Seven, they didn't want to start looking for an alternative power source. The answer had to be to squeeze more power out of the existing engine, and race engine specialists,
Minister Race Engines, were brought in to help take up the challenge. Minister worked on the mechanics of the engine itself, adding Cosworth lightweight pistons, forged-steel, cross-drilled crank and forged-steel con-rods with finely tuned high-lift camshafts. Caterham did their bit too, by developing an inlet manifold that features a roller-barrel throttle – this gives an uninterrupted airflow on full opening.
There wasn't a lot of room for weight-saving left in the chassis, but the more powerful engine also became lighter as the new innards together with the inlet manifold and a specially developed exhaust system – complete with carbon silencer – all saved weight. New wheels and seats saved a little more weight, as did the new magnesium alloy bell-housing and dry sump system. The resulting 230bhp and 460 kilos, when you get the calculator out, comes up with the magical power-to-weight ratio of 500bhp per tonne and, Caterham claims, a 0-60 time of just 3.4 seconds – not quite but very nearly, McLaren F1 figures (550bhp per tonne and 3.2secs) for a fraction of the cost.
You can buy the kit and build it yourself - or do the sensible thing and pay Caterham to do it for you. You should also add a windscreen complete with wipers, side-screens and a hood so you don't have to drive around, possibly illegally, with full-face helmet on, or with so much wind in your face that a baby sparrow will seem like an elephant with wings if it hits you.
But the Caterham Superlight R500 isn't supposed to be about comfort, it's supposed to be the ultimate track day car. It will burble along with quite comfortable noise levels on the open roads, making it more user friendly than the Westfield, but start winding on those revs and it'll tear your head off. The six speeds of the Caterham ‘box pass so fast you're never sure which one your in. The stubby lever has so little movement that it's position doesn't give you much of a clue either, and initially there's a constant terror of dropping from fifth to second instead of fourth, or, even worse, changing ‘up' from fourth to third instead of fifth as the hypnotic gearchange lights tempt you all the way to the 9,200rpm limit. Little has changed in the way the Seven handles, it all just happens that bit faster. It's rather like an exaggerated nervous tic. Slides have to be killed very early with a deft flick of opposite lock. Sensations, both through the steering and great-fitting new lightweight seats, scream so loud you can feel everything that is going on beneath you, but try to hold the Seven in a long graceful powerslide and you'll end up facing the wrong way down the track. It's all mind boggling stuff, intended more for track use than on the road.
Thirty two grand would buy you something flash and comfy like a 328I convertible or SLK, or perhaps something raunchier like a four-litre Chimaera, but on a circuit they'd be completely devoured by this Seven, as would just about any other road car, at any price.
to downlaod some Windows wallpaper - left click on the size you require (under photo)
and when it has loaded, right click on it and 'set as background'
~ Video ~
Right click and 'save target as' here to view a 5.5 mb 'in car - bullet cam'
Windows Media Video of R500 COM on various track days (Autumn 2002)
The mics were not working well, so I added some of me' music (in copyright)
From the manufacturers website:
The original R500 was legendary, with the old Rover K-series powered machine rewriting performance records for 0-60mph and 0-100-0mph times. This new variant has been equipped to supersede its predecessor by embracing the very latest in lightweight engineering techniques and technology.
Engine: 2.0-litre Caterham Powertrain (CPT) Ford Duratec
A review from Evo ...
"Now there's a new R500. The K-series engine is gone, replaced by a 2-litre four-cylinder Ford Duratec unit rated at a mighty 263bhp. With a special lightweight chassis, thinner-gauge aluminium for the body panels and carbonfibre for the dash, nose cone and front and rear wings, the new Superlight R500 weighs just 506kg, giving a power-to-weight ratio of 528bhp per ton. For reference, that's 7bhp per ton up on a Bugatti Veyron.