Last week, CT Editor Alex took to the streets in a Caterham 7 Supersport. When we spoke of the experience, he said: “it possesses the type of performance you’d only find in a sports car costing three times as much and it offers more thrills per pound than anything I’ve ever driven!” He then had to go and change his trousers…
Anyway, that got me thinking; the Seven’s pared back bodywork, sparse interior and massive bhp per tonne figure make it a no frills race car for the road. So starting with the Caterham, what cars offer the same driving spirit?
1. Caterham 7 Supersport
The Supersport is a very British proposition. Historically related to the Lotus 7, this model is derived from the race car that competes in the Caterham Supersport series, with a few nips and tweaks for road use. It uses a tuned 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine that produces 140bhp. Not a lot, we’ll give you that, but the Supersport weighs just 520kgs.
What that means is that 0-60mph is dispatched in just 4.9-seconds, but more importantly you’re so exposed to the elements and close to the road that the sense of speed is intense. If you want to know more, subscribe to the Car Throttle YouTube channel to see our Caterham 7 Supersport video on Friday, 5pm.
The Caterham may have history on its side, but the Atom made stripped-out performance cool, though mainly thanks to a certain Mr. Clarkson. Ariel describe the Atom pretty succinctly: “No doors. No roof. No screen. No compromise.”
In the new 3.5 model you’ll find a supercharged 2-litre VTEC engine from Honda, which produces a dizzying 310bhp (though Ariel has been a little modest on power outputs in the past). That hike in power over the Caterham more than makes up for the fact it weighs a little more at 550kgs, as it takes an incredible 2.7 seconds to hit 60mph.
Featuring race-car engineering it uses top quality components that are fully adjustable, meaning drivers can set it up for road or track, optimising performance. There is adjustable brake bias, ride height, toe and camber. A serious bit of kit, then, for serious drivers.
The only single seater in our list, the BAC Mono is dedicated to the driving experience. The central driving position is intended to make the driver feel an integral part of the car – you even get personally fitted for your seat and pedals.
The Mono is powered by a 280bhp, 2.3-litre Cosworth engine and weighs 540kgs, with near-perfect 48/52 (front/rear) weight distribution. It’ll give the Atom a run for its money in the 0-60mph sprint, taking 2.8 seconds, before topping out at 170mph.
Its racing intent is evident in the safety cell – its steel construction is built to FIA standards. There’s also fully adjustable pushrod suspension, massive brakes and performance tyres specifically made by Kumho for the Mono. All of that is packaged in a high-strength, lightweight carbonfibre composite body to keep weight down.
Ridiculously enough, you can order GRID 2: MONO Edition – the world’s most expensive videogame. £125,000 buys you GRID 2 and a PlayStation 3, with a Mono chucked in. Seriously.
By far the best name here, the ‘Cross-Bow‘ is also the ugliest. But it’s ugly in one of those so bad it’s good kind of ways. It also marks motorcycle manufacturer KTM’s first foray into the four-wheeled market.
The R model is powered by a 2-litre TFSI engine from Audi, making 295bhp. It’ll hit 60mph in 3.9 seconds, hurt by the fact it is portly – by these standards – at 790kg.
The pushroad suspension system is developed by WP Suspension, and it looks super purposeful. The monocoque comprises of lightweight carbonfibre, and the driver is strapped inside a proper bare-bones interior. The steering wheel’s buttons help the Formula 1 for the road illusion.
The Caparo T1 is an uncompromising racer, developed by some of the engineers behind the iconic McLaren F1. With pedigree like that, you can see why the T1 is considered such a weapon. It looks more like a futuristic race car than a modern, road-legal sports car, but the T1 can cruise the streets in style without upsetting PC Plod – until you plant your right foot, of course.
Caparo’s engine gurus have coaxed 575bhp from the V8 engine, which gives it a frankly incredible power to weight ratio of 1000bhp/ton. Its aerodynamics are all fully influential on the car, helping it to achieve up to 3g in corners, thanks to its adjustable front and rear wing and ground effect diffuser. The cockpit cover also helps with aero, as well as protecting the driver and passenger from dawdling bees with a death wish.