This Is What It’s Like To Drive The Caterham 270R
Photograpby by Ted Gushue
We all grew up with the Lotus 7, at least visually. It’s a bonafide icon. A simple coffin with a couple wheels strapped to the front, two more bolted on the back, and a stupid wide grin slapped on the face of the driver. (I even had a photo of one for the desktop of my first laptop, it was a crappy Sony Vaio that my Dad handed down to me when it couldn’t keep up with him.)
The mere fact that a brand like Caterham exists to keep that legend alive warms my heart in so many ways. It’s the embodiment of a plucky English company doing the right thing by its community. Sure, it has skunkworks carbon fibre divisions that make waves in big boy racing, but truly what lies at its heart are weekend enthusiasts who are pinching pennies to buy extra rubber, hiding receipts from their wives, and just driving like mad on Saturday and Sunday.
I pulled up to Derek Bell’s house for dinner while I had the 270R, and immediately he and his son Justin ran out to fiddle with it. “I had one of these! It nearly killed me, most fun I’ve ever had in a car!” Exclaimed Justin, who had at one point quite literally been compensated for racing by being handed the keys to a Caterham.
I put about 200 miles on this 270R, all around Sussex and into Goodwood. I slid sideways. I screamed down back roads. I banged through gears with great gusto. I felt at once invincible and entirely on the brink of death. I was truly driving in a way that I hadn’t in so long, in a way I don’t imagine you feel when you are behind the wheel of a space age Ariel Atom, or a BAC Mono from the future.
Are those cars incredible? Yes, absolutely—I’d give a pinky toe just to own one. But there’s just something so timeless about throttling a Caterham around a corner at speed that I don’t think they will ever be able to capture.
I’m more than half tempted to build my own, but I don’t think I could look my mother in the eye if I was to be found out to be driving a car I’d hand-assembled. But at £21,000 or so, and with this whole Brexit nightmare devaluing the pound, I’m unusually motivated to source one of these Stateside.
I encourage any living human being to drive a Caterham of any model, they will not be disappointed.
Thanks to Caterham Cars for lending me the car to enjoy a few days of Driving Tastefully.