Caterham among the pigeons
THE tiny British sports car company that will help bring Alpine back fromthe dead is finally accelerating into the 21st century. Caterham cars is now planning amodel range that will include SUVs and city runabouts alongside its 1950sinspired sports cars.
It is also well advanced with its work on a joint venture with Renault that will revive the Alpine name in 2016 on a sports car to be shared between the companies, in a deal similar to the one that spawned the Subaru BRZ and Toyota 86.
Caterham has just shown its newest model, the Aero Seven Concept, but it’s the model expansion that’s the real news. “In the very near future, the Caterham name will sit proudly on crossovers, city cars as well as a range of sports cars for everyone,” says Caterham Group co-chairman Tony Fernandes.
“Caterham will show itself to be a progressive, open and entrepreneurially powered car brand that will deliver and surprise in equal measure. It has been a British institution for the last 40 years, and an automotive secret in many ways. Wemay be a small voice now but we’re on ourway to engineering a decent set of lungs.”
Caterham is best known as the modern maker of the oldschool Seven thatwas originally designed and developed by Colin Chapman, the brilliant engineer whowas the force behind the Lotus team in Formula One and road cars.
The Aero Seven Concept picks up the original thinking from Chapman’s time and drives it in a car that still has a frontmounted engine and RWD, even if it’s the first Caterham with techno tweaks including traction and launch control.
Fernandes says the AeroSeven pulls technology from throughout the company, including the carbon fibre expertise of the Caterham F1 outfit, aGP tailender.
There is no production plan for the AeroSeven, and Caterham’s Australian boss Chris vanWyk says he has only just heard about the SUV and city car projects.
“It’s exciting news. It’s just nice to see there are development funds,” says van Wyk of the SUV and city car projects. “It used to be a case of survival, but suddenly there are doors opening everywhere. I don’t think people understand the breadth of the company yet. They are even making airline seats out of carbon fibre using Formula One technology.”
Fernandes is the driving force behind AirAsia, now claimed to be the most profitable airline in theworld, but is also devoting plenty of effort to Caterham.
“The joint venture with Renault ... demonstrates our clear intent on doing this right, doing it sensibly but above all, doing it the Caterham way,” Fernandes says.
“We’re a flat company, we’re a quicker company. Whenwe say we’re going to do things internally, we do them. We don’t procrastinate and lose momentum through legions of middle-management decision makers, we just do it.”