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Thread: Advice needed: Best Caterham model for road and occasional track days.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    13

    Question Advice needed: Best Caterham model for road and occasional track days.

    Hi All! I posted here in 2013 and said "I'll be back when I am finally ready to buy a 7" http://www.usa7s.net/vb/showthread.p...od-idea-for-me

    Well guess what, I'm back, and about to pull the trigger on a Caterham. I would love some advice on whether I am doing the right thing, options wise.

    So far, I am leaning towards a 420R SV with lowered floor, and the bucket seats substituted for the ones from the S model, and likely other options from the S model like heater, windshield etc.

    I am 6ft4, so the combination of A) the SV model, B) the lowered floor, and C) the non-bucket seats should add up to enough vertical height that I fit well, even with helmet on for track days.

    I am choosing the R model as a base, since I will use it for track days as well, and it seems easier to add road-comfort items to the R model than to add track features (LSD etc) to the road model. Does that sound right? Note that I am a pretty casual track user, only go 2 or 3 times a year tops, and my driving style is what often referred to as a "9/10ths driver".. looking for a fun progressive car, not trying to break any records.

    I picked the 420 since on the track I've noticed that it is easy to crave more power (and also, because both the SV model and myself will add above average weight), but I could also be convinced that I'd be happier in a 360 or even 270. In particular, the description of on the limit handling of the different models in https://www.evo.co.uk/caterham/7/155...nd-more-tested makes me feel like I may prefer the more progressive handling of the lower HP models? It would be fun to play with mini-drifts without having to be very skilled (which I am probably not). Then again, I drove a 420 recently, and that power is certainly addictive, even on the road. Hard to judge.

    Beyond occasional track I'll be using it for day trips in nice weather almost exclusively. May once a year or so do a longer/overnight trip in it. It will be a second car, so no daily driving duties. It will be stored at or near http://www.kampena.com/ who will also be building and maintaining it.

    Given the above use case, any advice on must-have options? Anything you'd recommend me to do differently?

  2. #2
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    I think you nailed it

  3. #3
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    As to the HP question, I find lower HP cars more fun. You can get all the fun motor sounds without approaching the speed of light and less chance of wetting yourself in the process. I'm sure the Stalker crowd are rolling their eyes....
    Life happens while you're making other plans
    1995 Caterham Crossflow RHD
    1990 Miata
    2013 Mini (Her's)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2018
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    Albany, NY
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    I think you're spot on as well. One of the few reasons not to buy a 420 and buy a lesser one is finances.

    Minor anecdote. Coming from the bike world where people always over think their decisions on which 600 super sport to buy, there is a saying that "GSXR 750 makes the best 600 supersport"

    It is weight and mechanically and weight identical but makes more power when/if you want it.


    In the same mindset it's easy to drive a 420 like 360 but it's much harder to drive a 360 like a 420.

    Sidenote: I believe bucket seats are actually lower.
    2001 Caterham Superlight R

  5. #5
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    More hp= faster on the straights. That's not a minor thing, tho easy to minimize.

    The problem with a low hp Caterham (and I have had both relatively high and low), is you are usually (way) faster everywhere but the straight. So my low hp experience was I'd have to endlessly harass more powerful cars to let me by on the short straights in the middle of squiggly parts, (With the resulting nick name:"The blue enema"). Then all that effort would be lost on the straight where they would again pass me, and then hold me up all around the track again.

    Very frustrating! With the added hp I cld stay ahead of them on the straight, or stay close enough to easily out brake them going into the next turn, and not have to give up my hard earned advantage.
    Kitcat:AKA, Sir Spinsalot
    '97 Caterham Super Sprint, 1700 Crossflow-sold
    '09 Birkin S3, Duratec-sold
    '03 Caterham Zetec track car
    '19 Honda Civic, Type-R

  6. #6
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    May 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by coffee break View Post
    As to the HP question, I find lower HP cars more fun. You can get all the fun motor sounds without approaching the speed of light and less chance of wetting yourself in the process. I'm sure the Stalker crowd are rolling their eyes....
    The best advice my aunt gave me when I started racing was to start off in a small underpowered car. That was youd actually learn how to drive instead of merely struggling to keep some overpowered beastie on the track.

    im used to driving a 91 hp Honda, so to me my tiny k-series is like a Corvette.

    thing is, Im still faster around MIR in the Honda, simply because I know how it handles and what the limits are.

  7. #7
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    The Caterham six speed transmission makes a big difference. You don't need a heater or the weather package unless you like to have a cruiser.

  8. #8
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    Having driven the full range of Caterhams over the years, the sweet road/track spot is the 420. It has enough power for the track without being boring and not too much power on the road to be stupid. Any more hp cannot be used on the road without blue flashing lights turning up behind you. Part of that assessment is the type of track you are likely to find yourself on in your part of CA. In the USA they are fairly open, long straights, designed for higher hp cars. So you need a fair amount of hp to deal with that track. If this question was being asked in the UK, you would likely get a different, lower HP (310/360) answer since the tracks are more twisty and less long straights.

    For options, a couple to consider:
    - Try all the seats out - leather S type, tillets, etc - and see which is most comfortable. If you need for your bum to be closest to floor since you sre tall then consider a professionally done resin bead seat. Leather S type is probably the next best for sitting as close to the floorpan. Lowered floors are a great option if you are 5'10 and above.

    - Ask for the captive nut option to be installed to allow easy switches from aero screen to windscreen and vice versa. The transition to having an aero screen on track is dramatic - well worth it. I used to drive my Caterham to the track and switch over to aero screen once there.

    - What rear end ratio and gearbox choice will be important. The 6 speed has a 1:1 final drive but really does show the car's performance off beautifully at the cost of running too high rpm when on the interstate or high speed runs. It also makes a huge difference on track as the 6 speed makes the car accelerate faster. However, if your purpose is road mostly then the 5 speed (I think it is a Mazda box?) is a good choice for backroads with an overdue for the high speed runs along an interstate home. Whatever your choice you should consider it in tandem with the differential final drive. Look at something like gear calc on line where you can plot roadspeed against rpm in all gears to assess the outcomes. I have a 5 speed in my UK track 420R - depending on the track it will work or it will not. At Spa its overdrive was needed to get higher top speeds. At Donington/Croft/Anglesey/Brands/etc, I never use 5th so the 6 speed box option would be better there. If I ever got my act together it would be a switch to the 6 speed but the changeover cost is not cheap. However, if I was spending more time on the road then I would keep the 5 speed as it is nicer to live with on the road. Paul picked it - This will be your most critical choice after HP.

    - Weather package - do you drive in the rain? Likely no. So no roof needed. Then look at an emergency roof like a SBFS top or Oxted Trimming version and supplement it with a mesh screen across the roll bar. Quick and easy to put on and keeps you dry to get home

    - Weather doors - yes these are good. Cold crisp sunny day, doors are on and you are comfy inside out of the wind but the sun still reaches you. Nice arm rest for comfort. No buffeting. I did a lot of back road cruising like this.

    - Heater - in the North East I would say yes. In CA - likely no. Personal choice.

    - Wheels - If you can make the ground clearance work for the road then 13 inch wheels are better on track. Less rotational mass allows much quicker getting out of corners. In a 420R the 7 wide fronts and 9 wide backs are best option even though they are staggered sizing. If you were going less hp then I would recommend a square wheel size choice front and rear. However, this then brings up the question of a spare. I would delete spare and carry some of that tire gunk that gets you home with a puncture. A good break down service like AAA Gold with 200 mile range to get you carted home is worth it as the back up plan.

    - With 13 inch wheels then comes need for a sump guard.

    - If you are tall then consider a removable steering wheel to get in and out easier.
    Last edited by Croc; 06-14-2019 at 10:49 PM.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration - engine and dry sump install time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (restoration - engine rebuild)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (will repaint to original color in 2020)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (fettling after long period of storage)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic

  9. #9
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    Can't go wrong with any of these options. Several notes/observations:

    + An S pack is still an excellent trackday car. Not as hard edged as an R pack, but for occasional trackdays it is still highly-suited to the task.

    + When in doubt with what power you want to start with, you can always start with less power and upgrade later. Especially with a Duratec. Part of the fun of 7 ownership for many is upgrading along the way.

    + The 6-speed box has been discontinued as of January 2019. It's all MX5 5-speed across the range now, except for the 6-speed Sadev sequential in the 620 R. So your gearbox decision is a lot easier now! The MX5 ratios are better, by the way, than the Sierra/T9 5-speed of yore, so you get the best of both worlds (tall 1st, proper 2-3-4 spacing, and an overdrive 0.8xx 5th).

    + Another candidate besides 360/420 to consider is the CSR, IMHO the best touring/track compromise of all. It is still possible to special-order one for certain export markets (USA being). SV-size chassis, super comfy for touring, and it's hooked up on the track. Get one with 180hp (360 spec) or say 200hp +/- and if you get bored of that amount of power it will be a heck of a platform on which to build a 911 GT3 slayer (if one were so inclined) and take to 220+ hp levels and be the king of Thunderhill.

  10. #10
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    The CSR is a fantastic track package - I love mine and would not swap it for a 620R. On the road nothing is quicker point point since the IRS makes it feel like a bigger car. The difference to the regular S3/SV chassis with its de dion is extraordinary. However, unless Josh has one in stock or a reserved factory slot then the production line wait is approaching 1.5 - 2 years based on my understanding. I bet Josh has one hiding in his back pocket......such a flirt!

    220hp and above can make for some amazing lap times on track. Keep in mind that in the Evo article has the 420R on Avon ZZR. That is a dry road/track day rubber. You will not be using that but rather the Avon ZZS for better on road all weather performance. The ZZR should not be used in the wet. That will allow a more progressive breakaway on the limit similar to how they describe it for the 270/360. I always run the Avon ZZS on my 420R even though it is solely for track days as it needs to be able to handle rain on track from time to time during a day (who would have thought the UK rains?). I tested both ZZR and ZZS tires back to back on my 420R at Donington. Same 13 inch Caterham wheels. In the dry, the ZZR were 2 seconds a lap quicker than the ZZS (GP circuit). In the rain the ZZR would have me into a fence. So the article needs some context. You would want Avon ZZS for your road driving and odd track day. Don't think you lose out on track by having ZZS tires - they are really quite good. I got my 420R down to 2.48 lap times at Spa this year on ZZS tires with plenty of promise of more time to come as I get better on the circuit.
    Mike
    2010 Caterham CSR with Cosworth 2.3 Duratec
    2018 Caterham 420R with 2L Duratec 210hp at Donington UK
    1975 BMW CSL Group 4 (restoration - engine and dry sump install time)
    1977 Holden Torana "A9X" (awaiting restoration)
    1985 Holden Commodore Group A (restoration - engine rebuild)
    1982 Ferrari 400i (will repaint to original color in 2020)
    1965 Ford Mustang Fastback "Holman Moody"
    1992 Ford Escort RS Cosworth WRC (fettling after long period of storage)
    1990 Range Rover 2 door Classic

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