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Caterham SVR 200 thrills are made to order

Caterham is an English company that has been building the iconic Clubman 7 since it bought the rights to do so from Lotus in 1973. Caterham Cars Australia is headed by Chris van Wyk and has started taking local orders on the lightweight road rockets.

Although there have been Caterham kit cars in Australia for many years, this venture is the first time the brand has been represented officially as a manufacturer.

“It's lovely to finally represent the brand here, and in it's 50th year,” van Wyk says.

As a result of strict ADR criteria, the company is offering one model - the SVR 200. It is powered by a Cosworth-tuned 2.3 litre four-cylinder DOCH 16-valve Ford Duratec engine producing 147kW. That may not sound like much, but with the car weighing 575kg the company claims the SVR 200 will go from 0-100km/h in 3.9 seconds.

The car is equipped with a six-speed gearbox, limited slip diff, De Dion rear suspension and adjustable Eibach/Bilstein springs and shocks.

“It is the purest sports car money can buy,” van Wyk says. “In most cars you hop in and travel to where you need to go, with this you really strap it on to your body. All of a sudden you have an engine and four wheels. You become part of the car.”

The only thing not small or lightweight about the car is the price. The SVR 200 will start at $107,700 for the base model.

“As this thing has top-quality components in it, we need to charge this price for it,” van Wyk says. Traditional Clubman customers looking to spend $40,000 on a kit car aren't what he is after.

Instead, the SVR 200 is aimed at people who want a high-performance car they can use at track days and tarmac rallies such as Targa Tasmania or Duttons events. Van Wyk sees the car's rivals as European sports cars, not Clubmans and kit cars. He says one of the car's key strengths is its low running costs compared to European rivals.

“This thing you can go and play all day and the tyres are fine, the brakes are fine,” he says.”If you have an accident it isn't too expensive to fix.”

With expectations centred on the track, customers will be able to order their Sevens with racing parts direct from the factory.

Rollcages, fire suppressors, a racing dash and ignition cut-out switches are options. However, there is one comparison the Caterham won't escape: Elfin.

Although the Elfin began life based on the popular Seven platform, it has since evolved into a Holden V8-powered monster. With the Elfin Clubman starting at $84,990, van Wyk is eager to start taking orders on a cheaper Caterham later this year. He is finalising details to add the SVR 1600 to the Australia range with a price around $80,000.

In the meantime, van Wyk is keeping his expectations in check.

“We'll have a low sales volume, but how low I'm not sure,” he says.

People interested in driving a Caterham this year had better act quickly.

With each car made to order, van Wyk says that if a customer orders now it should be delivered just in time for Christmas.

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