I have owned a Caterham 7 for the last four and a half years, and it’s been a wonderful experience. There was nothing wrong with my car, it was in great mechanical condition, I looked after it well, I just got to the point on track days where I wanted the next level of performance.
Now those in the know say, and I completely agree, that there is much more performance to be gained from self-improvement and driver training.
To them I say “yes, but first I have to stop getting frustrated running out of puff on medium length straights on any race track”. Its disheartening to have cars that are so much slower into the braking and cornering zones then sneak back past a few moments later.
After trying a few cars out last year, most notably the Supersport R (180 Bhp) Duratec engined Caterham, I knew that I needed to be in the over 200 Bhp territory. The Supersport R did not feel that much quicker than my very well sorted circa 150 Bhp K series.
I then started thinking about buying second hand, but then the price difference between a very good condition 2-3 year old well-specified car was not that different to new.
And I am 6’5″ (198 cm) tall, and feel extremely uncomfortable in a Series 3 chassis car, so it had to be SV, with lowered floors. When I was looking on the used market, at the time nothing was jumping out at me.
So then I started playing around with the Caterham new spec and pricing sheet and at that point realisation dawned that not only could I guarantee the perfect specification, I could also have a crack at building it.
Then I started reading the Assembly guide and some other self-builder blog sites. Then I chickened out and went back to drawing board. I mean how many people achieve a smooth build, with no problems or no missing parts? A big fat zero.
Then I had a reality check. Its not going to be perfect, I know what Caterham is like. I know that its a bunch of awesome people trying their best in a low margin, low volume challenging environment. I don’t really care about that kind of thing. I spent four and a half years just pleased that my car started and got from A to B most times, and the unknown is all part of the fun. Damn it, I’m no perfectionist and have no delusions of grandeur. I don’t get upset with creaky, rattles and noisy diffs (ear plugs are great!), and when things drop off, there’s always a tie-wrap close to hand.
So I went for it. Placed my deposit, ticked the boxes, picked a colour.
The whole of the above process took about a year. My target is to complete the build in a quarter of that!