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  • Need input

    Hello. I have been considering owning a seven the last 30 years but always have bought something more practical.

    Bought a Exige S last year and have already sold it. Why? Started taking up autocrossing last year after purchase of Lotus and really enjoyed the sport but car was perplexing. For autocross I am not used to mid engine handling. I was starting to learn but then was scared to crumple the one time use aluminum chassis. I know it is not one time use but when I make a bad mistake in the future I would like to know that I will not have to write the car off.

    You guys have probably been asked this a thousand times but: which car would you buy ? Sure the exchange rate sucks but I'm not getting any younger. SV400 Duratec or CSR260 or something else? SV400 Duratec with freestyle front susp? Ariel Atom 3 ?

    Thanks in advance for your input. Please don't flame me for mentioning the atom. The older I get the more I just want straight talk.

  • #2
    First of all: I have all the respect for the Atom. I haven't been in a live one, but had a chance for an extended study of one located in the booth next to ours at the last SEMA show. I'd put a small reservation in for the pendular momentum of the rear mounted engine. The return swing when you let go off the throttle in an oversteer situation may or may not be nasty. That being said, they are apparently *very* fast.

    As for the Caterham, go for a CSR260 if your wallet can take the hit. There is a huge difference in suspension refinement between the CSR and the SV. The rear stays firmly planted on uneven surfaces, which will give you a lot of leverage on the track. I don't know if Caterham has their CSR production line in order yet, but I think other members with better knowledge on the subject will reply to this thread.

    If you want to save some money, and your fat ratio isn't too high (and you are not too tall), you may want to consider a narrow body Superlight with a 250HP engine. $35K or so for the rolling chassis. $6K for the six speed gearbox and LSD. The final $13K to Cosworth in Torrence for a CSR260 specced engine gives you a very nice track weapon to play with for at least 10K less than the CSR.

    The narrow body chassis (with a wide track suspension) is a notch or two more nimble than the CSR or SV, especially in an AutoX environment, and the 50lbs in saved weight does make a difference. You are also more firmly wedged into your seat since the well is narrower. This chassis is a bit cramped for an extended road trip, though.

    Please note that the collapsed SBCNS 100 program in California will make it more or less impossible to get your car street legal before Jan 2 2009.

    My $.02.

    /Magnus F.

    Edit: If you wrap your Caterham around a tree (and live to tell), you either repair the frame, or simply buy a new one Caterham and transfer all the surviving bits from the wreck. The last price I heard for a new frame was $8500, but that may have gone up with the fall of the dollar.
    Last edited by magnusfeuer; January 24, 2008, 06:00 PM.


    • #3
      Thank you Magnus for your quick reply. I agree about the handling possiblities of the rearward weight bias. The racetrack videos available on the internet seems to bear this out. I did hear that with the new available shocks on the Atom 3 they seemed to have gotten this under control.

      I have driven it and there is a lack of feedback coming through to work from. (Atom 2) I did not feel comfortable pushing it on the test drive.

      I suspect and am hoping that a 7 would have more feedback and predictability? I am not fat but 6 feet and broad of shoulders. I have sat in a series 3 and there is no way: the lower half of me is part of the chassis at the dashboard and the upper half is hanging out of the car. SV dimensions should just do the trick. Yes I want to learn more about the differences between the SV and the CSR. I think the price difference is 10K

      What do you hear/know about the freestyle pushrod front conversion for making the Dedion car feel like a CSR as far as reduced bump steer?

      Thanks -Steve


      • #4
        A seven is as predictable as you set it up to be. People often start of with the factory settings and use the first season to tune the suspension (toe-in, camber, sometimes caster, wheels, tires, shock settings, springs and tire pressure) to their liking. Autocrossers usually prefer a more nervous car with a quicker turn in, while track people (me included) want something that they can lean on in long fast curves. I have had my car going from suicidal to an extremely well balanced instrument in three sessions during a very intense day on Button Willow.

        If you are six feet tall you will need a CSR or an SV to find a comfortable driving position. Brad (Roll A 7) may want to weigh in on this subject from his raised point of view.

        In my short CSR test drive, I didn't notice that much of a difference in the front suspension, possibly since I was so amazed over the improvement in the rear (of the car). It is well known that the inboard suspension lessens the unsprung weight and drag, but I would say that a good set of shocks and better springs are at least a good an upgrade as the Freestyle inboard kit.

        I have a freestyle suspension kit which I am happy with. I did, however, have to return the springs for replacement since they were too short.

        There has been a discussion on whether the valves in the Spax dampeners provided with the kit are sensitive enough to respond to the very short suspension travel of a Seven. Some people have also complained about different click ratios for each of their dampener. That being said, I am satisfied with my Spax dampeners.

        Dragwise there are a ton of things to do to make a catastrophic aerodynamic situation acceptable for the old chassis (both SV and narrow), but the easiest path is to buy a CSR since it has been tested in a wind tunnel and is (supposedly) more stable at high speed (100+mph). The lack of downforce and a high drag coefficient is one of the Caterham's few weaknesses.

        /Magnus F.


        • #5
          The only feeback for a Seven vs. Atom is from some NASA trackdays and one test Grassroots Motorsports did of an Atom vs. a Locost.

          The Atom could not get past the Locost on the track, even when they switched drivers. I've no idea how well either car was setup and how the Locost really compares with a Caterham. It may not be a meaningful comparison.

          There has been an ATOM in HPDE1&2 the last couple of events, a Caterham driver reported it as 'slow'. This could simply be the owner's learning curve.

          Depending on your budget, a used California SV might be a good buy.



          • #6
            I have no idea how much you want to shell out or if you care....

            Buy a decent to good used one somewhere between $20k and $35k (with proper registration, especially if you are in CA). Besides the immediate satisfaction of driving this will get you a "feel" for Sevens, contact with other owners, drive their cars and have an idea what you really like or dislike about various configurations.

            After a year or whenever you have several options, e.g. to
            - find that the car is just perfect (unlikely)
            - get a severe bout of upgradeitis
            - find a Porsche so much more attractive
            - buy your perfect new CSR260 with an exact idea which options you need
            - buy the Exige back

            But in any case, when you sell the used Seven you have lost probably little money (if any) and had a year of fun.

            The risk of buying a brand new high spec Seven is a severe write-off if you find it not to your liking.


            P.S.: Stan may chime in here that a narrow-body Seven is no problem for a 6'-plus tall guy.
            Last edited by slomove; January 24, 2008, 09:25 PM.


            • #7
              First and foremost, fast or not, the Atom is Ugly. Why anyone would buy such an Ugly Thing beggars any reasonable explanation.

              As you only mention cone-ering (AutoX) as the use for the car, all you'll need is the S3 w/ any torquey (the lighter the better) engine and a 2 speed transmission. Hell, that's all you need in southern Cal anyway, traffic, cops etc. being as they are. Or maybe a bike engined car w/ a 3 speed.

              According to the Caterham US website, you can get the CSR w/ the IRS or an SV w/ a DeDion RS. If you must go fat, go big fat and get the CSR. It's a better car, or so they say.

              Gee, pity there's not any active dealers around SoCal w/ cars for test drives. Worked wonders for me when I was considering a Caterham.
              A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted


              • #8
                I agree with Gert on buying a used car.

                The one big upside of buying new is that special bond between man and car which can only be developed by one bleeding on the other while the latter resists all attempts to be assembled.

                If you build your own car you will come out of the process completely unafraid of:
                A) Minor crashes. You were going to upgrade those broken bits anyway.

                B) Sudden mechanical failures. Surely that duct tape cannot have given up already.

                C) Ripping the car apart for fun. A car in pieces is a car that wants to be improved with expensive things from England.

                /Magnus F.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the input. Keep it coming. I like you guys already.

                  Slomove/Gert I see you are testing me... Let me say Porsche makes fine machines that I can admire from an engineering standpoint. I however do not see myself as ever wanting to own one. I don't want a car because it has cachet/status. I am looking for the most fun driving experience whether it is mountain roads, auto-x or buttonwillow or whatever.

                  Thank you Magnus for the info on the rear susp feel of the CSR. I have sent e-mails to Rocky Mountain Sportscars and Caterham Cars and they never gave that important pearl of wisdom and cut to the chase like you did. Most appreciated.

                  I do not want to buy a used one after the stories related to me from some San Diego owners.

                  I live in San Diego I really enjoyed chasing crotch rockets up the mountains on weekends with the Exige. I did not like the looks of distain that I often would receive from people who were intimidated by a "status" car. I only bought it looking for fun to drive. It was beautiful but disappointing in the counterintuitive handling for me.



                  • #10
                    Originally posted by shoco View Post
                    I have sat in a series 3 and there is no way: the lower half of me is part of the chassis at the dashboard and the upper half is hanging out of the car. SV dimensions should just do the trick.
                    Be sure to try sitting in a series 3-sized car with the lowered-floor option before deciding that the smaller car won't work.


                    • #11
                      Steve, I live in SD and am willing to help as much as I can, starting with my Caterham this weekend, barring more precipitation. Email your phone # through this site and I'll give you a call.

                      There aren't many dealers in the USA and they have a tendency to "come and go" in the business sense. The result is that we owners are the default help/service network. So, there is a tendency for all of us to get to know each other over time. I have never met a better bunch of gearheads related to any car that I have owned. The most fun is the track weekends when we get 8-15 variants together for some driving and lieing about our driving.

                      Anyone contemplating buying a 7 should check in with this website and for all the advice you can get, BEFORE EVER WRITING A CHECK for a 7. I know of two instances in SD county where guys bought 7s without asking for our freely given help/advice. Both guys are out more than $10,000 as a result. Most of us are not trying to sell prospective owners anything. We do want to increase the number of 7 owners in the usa.

                      A couple years ago @ Willow Springs a gent considering buying a 7 showed up to see what it was all about. After hanging out with us in the pits, between track sessions, he expessed his amazement at how much we were willing to share information with each other and work on each other's cars. Previously he had owned a certain prestigious german sports car and had found that the owners jealously guarded their "secrets" and were often rude about doing so. Helping each other was out of the question. He sold that car because he didn't enjoy the owners. You will enjoy the 7 owners camaraderie, or you are not 7 material.


                      • #12
                        Did someone say - collapsed SB 100, SPCNS, program? Explain.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by shoco View Post
                          I do not want to buy a used one after the stories related to me from some San Diego owners.
                          If you're interested in an SV, this car is worth the trip to Infineon Raceway to inspect. Its low miles, professionally built, and SB100 licensed. Even if its not what you want, I'd guess that you'd learn an enormous amount from chatting with Caterham dealer Rich Kamp about Caterhams in general. He's also building a new CSR 260 at the moment, which you could inspect up close.


                          • #14

                            You should not hesitate to look at a good used Seven. Just take someone with you that knows the cars.

                            Often people buy these and don't like them. Selling it after two years and a couple of thousand miles.

                            I know of at least two Seven owners that sold their car to buy an Elite or an Exige. Both have either come back to Seven ownership or are trying to.

                            I suspect Magnus is refering to the collapsed SB100 program in the sense that there is only a 3 to 4 hour window every year that the numbers are available. I have also heard they are cracking down on the custom car builders that get a bunch of numbers on spec with nothing yet built. I don't recall the source of this rumor.



                            • #15
                              If you are only concerned with autocross and track work and your aim is to be the fastest out there, then it comes down to what each car is capable of doing when driven properly. If, however, the subjective aspects of handling are more important to you, then you need to drive all the cars and decide which suits your personal preferences. Now I happen to like the dynamics of a rear engine Porsche (and yes, cachet/status are important to me – as evidenced by my decision to purchase a Westfield over a Caterham ;) ) and after owning an M coupe, I feel it falls short as a driver’s car. However, I know people who have the opposite view (911? Overhyped, evil handling POS owned by people who are compensating for something unmentionable! M coupe? Ooh, dreamy…) It doesn’t mean one of us is wrong, just that we value various aspects of the driving experience differently.

                              A se7en has a very unique feel. Because your butt is so far behind the centerline of the car, the movements of the rear end are amplified. Some people like this effect, others don’t. Looking at the Caterham options you mentioned, I’ve heard some SV owners complain that the S3 is too narrow to drive comfortably, and much larger S3 drivers complain that the SV is too big and dilutes the experience. I’ve also heard some people knock the CSR because the handling is a little too refined, yet others prefer the CSR precisely because of that aspect. If you are considering spending CSR260 money, then you should make every effort – including flying to CO – to try out the various candidates and determine which car really does it for you.

                              I’ll second (or is that third or fourth?) the recommendation to not completely discount a used car. It’s a great way to get your feet wet and with input from people here and, you can minimize the risk.

                              Westfield SEiW
                              2.0L Duratec
                              Throttle Steer