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Caterham A Lotus?


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For years this has been bugging me. Is a Caterham a Lotus? Yes, the car is based on a Lotus 7, but is it a Lotus? My local car club has been debating this for a few years if we should include them in Lotus only functions. I see a blurred line. What do you think? I mean, it doesn't carry the Lotus name, but was designed by Lotus. Sometimes I think yes it is a Lotus, sometimes I think if it isn't badged, it isn't a true Lotus.

actwon

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IMO it's not a Lotus.

It's based on Lotus Seven S2, with some modifications. Chapman sold the rights to it in the early 70's, after the unsuccessful and extremely ugly S4.

When I see them I don't think Lotus, I think Caterham. I guess if I was older and remember when they were on the roads in the 60's, I might think Lotus.

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Me neither...

I'm sure a lot of you are affiliated with official Lotus Clubs. Here in SA, the majority of the members have 7 replicas, and a few Elise's thrown into the mix. Two Esprit's represented country wide, mine and a mates.

While I can appreciate the enthusiasm of the club members, and without being superior about it, I own a real one buddy, not a knock down kit that I put together over a few weekends with a couple of mates and a case or two of beer... To my knowledge, there are three manufacturers in South Africa, and every single one has a Lotus badge on the bonnet.

Don't get me wrong, I did own a 7, and they are great fun, but a true Lotus? Nah.

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Sorry. Not anymore.

If they could ever, maybe the early ones that were true to the design.

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Me neither...

I'm sure a lot of you are affiliated with official Lotus Clubs. Here in SA, the majority of the members have 7 replicas, and a few Elise's thrown into the mix. Two Esprit's represented country wide, mine and a mates.

While I can appreciate the enthusiasm of the club members, and without being superior about it, I own a real one buddy, not a knock down kit that I put together over a few weekends with a couple of mates and a case or two of beer... To my knowledge, there are three manufacturers in South Africa, and every single one has a Lotus badge on the bonnet.

Don't get me wrong, I did own a 7, and they are great fun, but a true Lotus? Nah.

Interestig replies. I see and feel all of your responses. Personally, some cars that bear a Lotus badge I find hard at accepting (elise). For some reason, I just do not like that car (personal judgement). The Caterham, I feel is a kit car just like you mentioned. Personally, I think I would accept a Noble (not knocking it, just using it as an example as it is a kit car) as being a Lotus before I could accept a Caterham. However, there are a bunch of individuals who show up to Lotus functions and portray their vehicles as being "true" Loti.

I'm not preaching segregation, as everyone should have fun, but accept it for what it is and isn't. It is a kit car, it isn't a Lotus.

actwon

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Oooohhh...such superior attitudes to the torch bearers of Colin's legacy!

I had the much-maligned Series 4 in the 80's, and in some ways it WAS more a beach buggy than a sports car, but it taught me more than anything before or since about car control.

In many ways the modern Caterham is a direct (and organically improved) descendent of the original Series 2/3, and to dismiss it as a mere kit car is to do it a disservice. It's iconic, there are tens of thousands of them giving sterling (and cheap) service, and it has a purity of design few others can even approach.

The simple answer is 'if it was built at the Lotus factory, it's a Lotus', so a Caterham ISN'T, any more than the Isuzu (or whatever) version of the M100 Elan was.

I hope you guys aren't as sniffy about the (original) Europa or Elan etc...

Proud recipient of the LEF 'Car of the Month Award' February 2008

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: "Wow, what a ride!!"

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Islandbloke,

This isn't a thread about being sniffy. It's just that I've heard this debate going on for years in my local groups and I just wanted to see what you guys think about it. As I said in my previous post, I'm not preaching segregation, just looking for some different point of views.

actwon

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Not dissing them at all Stu, and I 'think' we agree :P ... I built and owned one as I mentioned, for the very reasons that you mentioned - Cheap to build and run for one, and an iconic car with a cult like status as another...

Unfortunately the words 'kit car' have very negative connotations as poorly designed, built and outright dangerous on the road. I've personally built GT40's, a Cobra, a Countach, busy with a Lola T70 and soon to start on a Diablo Roadster. I see my builds as replicas of the real thing, properly engineered and in the spirit of the originals... Just like the Caterhams - It just ain't a Lotus though.

BTW - Same mate of mine with the Esprit's has a genuine 7, and has to keep reminding people that it's the real item :P

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is a Caterham a Lotus? no its a Caterham!

was it built by Lotus, does it say Lotus on the box?

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

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Personally, some cars that bear a Lotus badge I find hard at accepting (elise). For some reason, I just do not like that car (personal judgement).

I dont understand - Elise is about as Lotus as you could ever hope to get !

As for Caterham - it's a Caterham, same as a Westfield is a Westy, Dax is a Dax, Tiger is a Tiger....

The original concept is one of the most successful cars ever made (Lotus 7 and super 7) but the above are all adaptions of it and apart from their shape they are different. IIRC Lotus sold the rights to Caterham so they could do what the heck they wanted with it.

BTW I am in no way an Esprit supremacist :P

The fact it's a kit car is neither here or there really - most Porsche owners would say the same about most Lotus's

Reanult transmission, GM electronics, Rover/Toyota engine etc - again this is what Lotus is all about, esp the early Chapman cars.

The original 7 was also designed as a kit car anyways to get around sales taxes.

It's roots are certainly Lotus without a doubt but for now it's a Caterham which are a different company and product / badge etc.

The link is there and for me if they want to be included in a Lotus scene / club they're welcome, with a company like Lotus I think it's very hard to decide where the line should be drawn (if indeed it needs to be drawn at all !)

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Personally, some cars that bear a Lotus badge I find hard at accepting (elise). For some reason, I just do not like that car (personal judgement). <snip>

I get you - I've owned an elise for 8 years now (and an esprit for 10), and it has 14,000 miles on the clock. That tells you how I feel about it. I am ambivalent about it. I appreciate the engineering behind it more than I appreciate the whole - the electric elise at the lotus 50th party was the only one I have dropped a jaw over.

Look at it from the caterham owner's pov - they bought a CATERHAM - they are possibly as brand conscious as we <cough> are. Maybe they hate the idea of it being called a Lotus ? :P

Basically, I think no badge, no Lotus.

Rich

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Nathan, although the Caterham isnt badged Lotus, I believe your club should let them into events to be displayed with Lotuses. :yes

Caterham boss Graham Nearn was a Lotus dealer for years and did buy the design and manufacturing rights of the 7 from the Governor himself, which legally gives the company the right to sell this design of car (unlike the Westfield/Dax/Tiger etc.) He probably knows more about the 7 than Lotus by now. :P

So although its not a Lotus in the truest sense , it still embodies the essence of Lotus IMO. :yes

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...always been close enough to me :P

there are a few undisputed non-Lotuses that are fairly Lotus to me though :P

"It's called a fire hydrant. Firemen like to stick their hose in it, and eventually squirt water from it."

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There can be no doubt that the original 7 embodies the true Chapman spirit and design philosophy up to the S3 Twin Cam. The S4 was a complete redesign by Mike Warner aimed at substantially reducing the production costs. By this time Chapman had lost interest in the 7 to focus on racing and more upmarket cars.

Graham Nearn of Caterham Cars bought the rights to produce the 7 plus a load of unfinished cars and components in 1973, however he obviously didn't have the right to use the Lotus name. Hence the early Caterhams were Lotuses in all but name.

However Nearn much preferred the S3 design and reinstated this as the basis for the Caterham from 1974 on, with continual chassis, suspension and engine improvements.

So my vote is that the early Sevens are Lotus, but from 74 onwards they are Caterhams.

Similar questions could be asked around:-

Is the Kia Elan built under license by the Koreans based on the M100 in 96/97 a Lotus? - No, although it is based on a Lotus design, its not exactly the same and not built by them.

Is the Lotus Carlton a Lotus or a Vauxhall/Opel? - about 80% GM parts but developed, tuned and badged by Lotus, so I'd say mostly Lotus.

Or more controversially, is the VX220 a Lotus? - Yes - built to a Lotus design at Hethel by Lotus staff!

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TBH VX220's always come to some of the Lotus events I've been to - they share same forums etc.

There's always friendly banter etc but I've never known it to be anything else at all.

I once heard an Esprit owner cus Elans because they're front engine and front wheel drive...

Almost told them they're not a Lotus enthusiast then....giot

Thats what I enjoy overall about the majority of the Lotus lot, it's not about badge snobbery it's just out to enjoying the cars that share the same roots.

In the same light you also see plenty of Caterhams and Caterhams done up to look like old 7's - again no one ever mentions it...same with the Carltons, same with the Sunbeams etc.

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David's point about the VX220 is a great one - built BY Lotus, at Hethel, to a Lotus design!! How much more automotive DNA does it take??

The badge.

A Lotus Carlton is more a Lotus to me than a VX or a Kia M100 BUT any car club I'd want to be a part of would welcome all members of the extended Lotus family. Have to be blood relations though...so Westfield owners would only be allowed in by invitation!!

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"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: "Wow, what a ride!!"

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TBH VX220's always come to some of the Lotus events I've been to - they share same forums etc.

There's always friendly banter etc but I've never known it to be anything else at all.

I once heard an Esprit owner cus Elans because they're front engine and front wheel drive...

Almost told them they're not a Lotus enthusiast then....giot

Thats what I enjoy overall about the majority of the Lotus lot, it's not about badge snobbery it's just out to enjoying the cars that share the same roots.

In the same light you also see plenty of Caterhams and Caterhams done up to look like old 7's - again no one ever mentions it...same with the Carltons, same with the Sunbeams etc.

Johnathan,

I see your point. In all honesty, I don't have the intentions of not inviting or allowing Caterham owners to participate in club events. I welcome them. Heck, we have members who own Sunbeams. It's always fun to see them.

actwon

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Guest Troy Halliday

Well we will have a bright yellow Seven replica joining us at some of our meets. It is my friends built by him and myself before I started the Esprit restoration. Let me tell you that this little car is quick. It has a 2L vauxhal XE engine, tapered throttle bodied injection, lightened and blanaced lower end. It weighs 540kg and has 190bhp and 175ftib torque. 0-60 sub 4sec. I will say this though, if he is not welcome then I will be leaving right along wih him.

I really do not understand peoples issues with kit cars. Is it better to have a car that is falling to bits that is built by a manufacturer or a well built car by an enthusiast. Since the Seven was built we have spoken to 3 guys who used to build them for Lotus (the car is in Cheshunt, not sure if Delamare Road sounds familiar to any of you) who were very impressed at the general build quality. If Lotus still built this car people would buy them from Lotus in a heart beat. Especialy Westfield/Caterham owners who in general have a massive chip on the sholders about any other 7 inspired kit car.

Is it a Lotus ..................... NO. Should it be allowed to join ........... why not!

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yeah, IIRC most sevens weren't built in the factory anyway but garages, am I right? ;)

Edited by slade

"It's called a fire hydrant. Firemen like to stick their hose in it, and eventually squirt water from it."

Owner of 86 TE HCI, and 55 Chevy. Stare at broken down TR7

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dont see exclusion of any enthusiast is an issue, the orignal question was "is a Caterham a Lotus?" answer is simple, no its a Caterham, thats what is says on the bonnet or whatever

if the question was "does the Caterham contain Lotus DNA?" then we open up a whole differerent ball game...

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.

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Personally when I work for Caterham I don't feel I work for Lotus, I work for Caterham driving Caterhams. However, as a life-long Lotus nut I love the fact that lurking somewhere in the cars I drive is Chapman's genius. Someone said to me the only part of the original remaining is the Jaguar bumper mounts used as engine mounts, and I think they're gone now, but the S3 Caterham chassis isn't that much changed over the basic design Graham Nearn bought from Lotus in 1973. The S3 chassis, even those now made by Caged, is still very much faithful to the original dimensions. It is nice that the chassis designation continues too, i.e. S3 and S5 for the SV.

The only time I refer to it as a "Lotus" is to counter the blank look I get when an average person asks what it is and I say "Caterham". I think that's why some owners like to think it's a Lotus, most people have never heard of a Caterham. People can relate to Lotus in a way that they can't with Caterham and I don't feel too cheeky referring to it as such. If you swapped the nose badge it would be hard to tell a S3 Lotus from an S3 Caterham because they are, in dimensions and design, the same thing. That's what distinguishes a 7-a-like from the real thing, even a VX220 is obviously different to look at than an Elise.

It was certainly nice to see the 7 Club fielding so many cars at Brands and without Caterham, Chapman's design wouldn't have made 50. It's not something that can be looked at as a formula, what was made where, when and by whom. I don't think my M100 isn't a Lotus just because it's got an Isuzu engine, nor do I think my Esprit's not a Lotus because it uses GM parts and was built under GM ownership. Anything that can trace some of it's genes to the guys working at Hethel counts for me. That includes the VX220, Carlton, Cortina, Caterham and Kia Elan, but maybe not, say, a Proton Satria GTi and definitely not an Astra :lol: . All I can say is that I don't think anyone at Caterham sees the 7 as a Lotus, but I for one am very proud and conscious of its heritage.

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  • 2 years later...

IMHO, a Caterham is close enough to being a Lotus that you could allow them to take part in your meetings. After all, they're the evolution of the Lotus Seven and have the historic connection. Wouldn't say the same for Westfield (which IMO seem to be on par with Caterham quality-wise) and the rest of them though.

The worst thing that could happen to a car club is getting a reputation of being a bunch of protectionistic a**hats. Why is it that with some clubs you're not welcome as a member unless you own a vehicle of a specific make?

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I'd say the Caterham is the naturally development to the Lotus that Lotus didn't have the desire and/or funds to do (they needed the money for the "new" car, the Europa), it could so easily have still had a Lotus badge on it for a while, but I guess even if they'd not sold the design on Lotus would have stopped making it several years ago.

Is it a Lotus, I'd say it's a close relative, a sister or something, but no longer a Lotus, and that's not a bad thing.

I'm glad somebody else mentioned the M100 Elan and it's post sale equivalent. I'd say they didn't move (on?) far post sale, so they were still fundamentally a Lotus, again a sister.

The VX220, not a Lotus, it was never badged Lotus, nor a Lotus Marque. It did share a lot of design, but it was controlled by GM.

Sunbeam, can't remember, was that a Lotus?

Carlton, it was a badging exercise in so many ways, it was a Vauxhall/ Opel Lous carlton, It had a GM company down on the registration docs, it used fundamentally a GM vehicle which is tuned by Lotus, but where was it sold? lotus dealers? NO. It was in GM dealers. I can't see it a true Lotus. Yes, I'd happily have one (very happily, I love them), but it's not exactly in the Ethos of Lotus models is it? Big, heavy, handles well, and goes fast, but that's due to the tuning not the fundamental design.

Oh well, that's my view it differs to most on some aspects, and agrees with some on some aspects, but who cares? Nobody. That's the beauty of TLF, we can disagree over the web or a pint in a pub and not be upset by it.

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