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Zetec vs. Duratec for Caterham

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  • Zetec vs. Duratec for Caterham

    I've been reading on Blatchat how good the Duratec engine is compared to the Zetec so I asked Caterham USA some questions a few days ago. Here is how it went and I thought you might find it interesting:

    I have been seeing some threads on the Blatchat forum about Duratec engines being possibly better than the Zetec engine with a number of posters changing over to the Duratec. The latest thread, with some comparisons, is here:

    I recently drove the Zetec SVT engined Caterham that was at Golden Gate Sevens and it was a remarkable car and engine. But, if the Duratec might be a better, lighter engine with more potential, would that not be a better choice to go to?

    Can you comment on that or on what engine(s) might be in the near future for Caterhams?
    I am hoping to get a Superlight R.

    Steve Stephens
    Hello Steve,
    Interestingly enough I am the one who built that blue SVT powered car you
    drove. The duratec is an interesting possibility. It is an aluminum block
    motor and in some ways is the future. However, right now the only motors
    that Caterham has approved for sale in the US market is the Crossflow and
    the Zetec. The Duratec presents a lot of problems for a LHD car, and
    frankly the Zetec is bulletproof and far more development has been done on the Zetec as of right now. What I can tell you is we are the middle of
    working out a deal with Ford in which they will supply brand new SVT Zetecs to us. The SVT Zetec is where the US engine program is going. The SVT Zetec is a phenomenal motor, the head that Cosworth designed is great -very easy to get more power. Right now we feel the potential is with this motor.
    Hope I answered your questions,
    Hi Cody,
    Thank you for your quick reply. I do understand what you say about the Zetec and I know you and others are much more knowledgeable than I on the subject of the two engines.

    I do like that the SVT engine is built as a high performance engine from the start and to be able to get a NEW one is a plus. Hopefully the SVT engine will cost less (or no more than) the modified used Z3 engines currently in use as the mods for the SVT are built in at the factory.

    I am new to Caterhams having accidentally encountered Golden Gate Sevens last year when I was at Sears Pt. for a race. I already had an interest in that type of car after seeing the Birkin at Laguna during last year's vintage races. But the Caterham is the original and seems to be better made and finished so it will be the one for me. I will definitely go the SVT route and will wait for that engine to become available. Thanks for your continued developement of the US Caterham making an already great car better.

    Steve Stephens
    Hi Steve,
    At least for the foreseeable future, the SVT is the way to go in terms of
    power and reliability for the $. Comparable Duratec installations (similar
    power) are going for at least double the money, plus all the exhaust and
    wiring for the SVT install comes with a Caterham kit. When the specs,
    pricing, and dyno sheets go public on the SVT install kit for the Seven,
    everyone will want one, I'd guess. Let us know if we can answer any other
    Finally, here is a site that gives some information on the SVT Zetec engine:


  • #2
    The Duratec presents a lot of problems for a LHD car
    I'm interested to know what that means. I know the exhaust exits the other side but what else?


    • #3
      These guys at Caterham USA seem willing to answer questions so I'd email or phone them. Let us know what you might find out as I am curious, too, but it looks like the Zetec will be the engine of choice for the forseeable future and that's not a bad choice. I was just wondering why some people in England are looking towards the Duratec to replace a Zetec.


      • #4

        I agree with Cody on the Duratec.

        It is definetly the future powerplant for Caterham, but it is still in its early stages. I know of a few cars out there with Duratecs, but I haven't heard any reviews or seen a installation.

        I am cannot claim to know the engine, but after listening to the gossip at meets, this is what I gather:

        Pros are:
        Larger displacement (2.3 liter)
        Larger valves in stock configuration, allows for better breathing.

        Cons are:
        Right hand exhaust means a new hole in the skin.
        New and untested.
        Expensive conversion parts for the Caterham (sump, mounts etc).

        I think the conclusion is that if you feel like an early adopter who don't mind a few hassles to get the latest and greatest, go for it.

        /Magnus F.


        • #5
          The SVT engiine should do fine for me. Just the right amount of HP and proven and tough. One post I read on Blatchat said that 190 HP was about perfect for the Seven. More HP might be nice for racing or beating the occasional hot car on the road but, for all practical purposes, I think around 200 HP is plenty and usually more than enough. I'll have to rely on technique to go faster than the more powerful cars.

          For me to get a Duratec I would want the car to come from Caterham all set up for it to drop right in. Maybe years down the road?

          Ford Focus will include a 2.3 liter engine this year. I wonder if the SVT engine will stay at 2 liters. Probably so if these specs for the different engines are right:

          110-hp 2.0-liter sohc 8v inline-4; 130-hp 2.0-liter dohc 16v inline-4; 145-hp 2.3-liter dohc 16v inline-4; 170-hp 2.0-liter dohc 16v inline-42.0-liter dohc 16v inline-4

          I'll take that 42.0 liter engine listed last.



          • #6
            For me the analysis went kind of like this.... the Duratec is much lighter for the same displacement. I weigh about 200 lbs. and at 6'3 that's not likely to change too much. So, the 40 odd lbs. I'm saving up front I give back to a 160 lb. person driving a Zetec. Now we're even.

            If you poke around blatchat much you'll quickly find that weight is a Big Deal w/ the 7ers who want that trackday thrill.

            The 2.3 mentioned here is likely a Duratec. A good, if somewhat dated description of what the future holds can be found here:

            The other thing to remember is the old drag racing adage that 'there's no replacement for displacement'. The 2.3 can be made to make gobs of power, but more importantly it makes gobs of torque, and down low too. Very driveable iow. All at much less weight than a 2.0 L Zetec.

            Alas, I opted for a 2.0 L instead, maybe for SCCA purposes, maybe not, I don't know, so I'll be comprable to a Zetec but lighter. And, at the veeeery cheap price that a 2.3 long block (it's the rest of the stuff that drives the price up) can be sourced, a great stonking 280 hp motor w/ a 5 speed Quaife sequential is likely in my future, sometime.

            As for install issues, well, looking around at mine reveals very little, other than the hole in the body for the exhaust that has to be made, or the unused hole left on the other side that has to be covered, or some of the electrical bits. The steering fits very nicely under the trumpets too, w/ out having to resort to U-joints or other supposed issues quoted to me by proprietors w/ a product to sell. I know there'll be some de-bugging to do but as Magnus so rightly points out, for some that's part o the fun. Certainly is for me. Hell, building my car was the most fun I had last year, bloody knuckles and all. I really reccommend it, whatever engine you decide on. They're all the same, really -any one can be made to make lots of reliable power, so it's just down to how it'll all fit together for you. Remember the old commercial?:

            "A beer is a beer is a beer is a beer, until you've tasted Hamm's!" Well, Hamm's wasn't really better than any other beer out there (many said worse and that's why you don't see Hamm's anymore), but it was a catchy tune!


            • #7
              Is your car RHD or LHD? I'm not too sure what "issues" there are in fitting the Duratec to a LHD car or if any difficult ones might exist.


              • #8
                Sorry Steve, I forgot to login before written blatting.

                Anyway, the car is left hand drive. I just don't see how they do it, shifting w/ their left hand like that....

                In the middle of my process there were some, uh, questions I had regarding all of the issues vis a vis il motore. The answers I received generally tended to follow the preference of whatever particular product a particular individual was selling. So I heard at least several things that turned out not to be entirely accurate r.e. the Duratec. I put some of this down to the newness of the Duratec. Simply stated, nobody was really sure just how the hell it all was going to go together. Other elements smelled decidedly political to me and as an agnostic (I neither confirm nor deny the existance of politics) I prefered to ignore any such skita and focus on what I thought might be the best Long Term solution, at least for now.(!?)

                Now that I've gotten a little further down the track so to speak, and the development of the latest powerplant option is somewhat further along and I have a car w/ an engine in the garage and it all seems to be working as far as I've been able to go just now, I think I can say that there's no real right answer for the 'which motor is best' question. There will probably be issues w/ the selection I've made, and for those issues there will be solutions. Iow, w/ the cottage aftermarket shops in the U.K working feverishly to produce bits n pieces the Duratec will certainly very soon be a well sorted and viable option to the other mills that will be available. And unlike the Rover, the Duratec represents a truly world solution for CC Ltd.

                Remember, the 7 is a kit car. Always has been, always will be. For me a great part of the attraction is just that (also it's timelessness, design wise). It'll always be a work in progress for me, particularly as I've really lost all interest in all of these hyper super duper mid engined status symbol polishmobiles that are too fast for the public roads here in Herr aSShkroft's Amerika but too slow and compromised for the track.

                I reckon the SVT kit would be a hoot too. That was the configuration, more or less, of the car that I drove that finally sent me (and my wife!) off to the the deep end of the pool, and it was Great!
                A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted


                • #9
                  The duratec is quite a bit more work than a "standard" Caterham mill.

                  The motor has loads of potential though. The head particularly shows lots lof promise.

                  ...And as someone else remarked, "There is no substitute for cubic inches".

                  I have a Caterham with a Duratec (probably one of the first in the US). Pics at:

                  For more duratec info check out
                  Tom "ELV15" Jones


                  • #10
                    More fuel for the fire so to speak.... check out this ultra-clean Duratec powered car:

                    Whatta Beaut!
                    A day you don't go a hundred is a day wasted