Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Superformance Caterham 620 R 1

Driving a Caterham 620R

Text by Steve Temple

Photos by ted7.com

Crikey—we’re chuffed to bits about Caterham’s 620R. Calling it jolly good just doesn’t do it justice. We’re gobsmacked! We could go on and on with even more British slang, but something might get lost in translation. As writer George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.” So we’ll just get down to brass tacks, to use a Texas expression, and focus on the stats.

What we’ve got here is a car that weighs only slightly more than an order of fish and chips, yet it’s full of beans. (Okay, we promised no more expressions from across The Pond, but that’s not gonna happen.) To be specific, the full-up weight is a mere 1210 pounds. And the engine is a 2.0-liter Ford Duratec, with a supercharged output of 311 horses. We’re somewhat mystified by how Caterham crammed a blower into the constricted engine bay, but no matter, the supercharger works superbly.

The result is a road-going version of Caterham’s R600 racer: exhilarating, enthralling and elemental. Climbing into the carbon fiber cockpit feels akin to pulling on a pair of Speedos, but we jumped right in. The steering rim is smallish and mounted on the wrong, er, right side. But we got used to it—real quick.

Besides the highly skewed power-to-weight ratio, the car has a six-speed sequential gearbox with straight-cut gears, so comparisons with superbike performance are entirely apt. The shifts are hard but immediate, loud yet decisive. There’s no slush in this gearbox. It clunks like a dump truck, and hauls trash like there’s no tomorrow. 

First gear is good for over 60 mph, so this maddest of all Caterhams can hit 60 mph in less than three ticks. Even more fun is shifting without lifting the throttle or depressing the clutch, so you bang through the gears like firing off a machine gun. Blimey. (We had to take that method on faith, though, as this was a customer demo, and we didn’t want to cock it up just to get a few more thrills.)

We expected such a light, low car to get a bit wonky at speed, but it tracks like Santa Fe Superchief, and sticks to the apexes like a limpet. It’s a cheeky little scamp that can handily embarrass all sorts of exotics roaming the freeways of Socal. But it’s really in its element on winding country roads lined by hedgerows, thanks to wide-track wishbones up front and a DeDion rearend with a limited-slip diff.

Either way, if Patrick McGoohan’s errant spy character in the British TV show The Prisoner had been driving a 620R (instead of the similar, but far less powerful, Lotus Super Seven), that weird balloon chasing him around wouldn’t have gotten anywhere even close. It’s the sort of car that makes you want to hop out of bed each day to relish your drive to work (assuming you don’t take some tempting detours and entirely skip going into the office).

Superformance is the exclusive U.S. distributor for Caterham, which is a good fit, considering all the other thoroughbred performance machines to be found in its stable (Cobras, GT40s, and Corvette Grand Sports). What the Caterham does is take the design philosophy behind these iconic cars to an outlandish degree, pairing down poundage even further, while enhancing the power output to heady levels. It’s a potent, intoxicating concoction, one that shan’t be missed by car guys—whatever side of The Pond they’re on.



comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like

Filed Under

Caterham Superformance