Who Should Caterham Build a Sports Car With?

The company is now seeking a partner to develop an all-new, fully-enclosed sports car. Which automaker should answer that call?

byMax Prince|
Who Should Caterham Build a Sports Car With?

At present, the market share for Caterham is pretty limited. The U.K.-based firm has one car in its lineup: the hardcore, track-focused Seven, offered as kit or turn-key proposition. Sure, it can be had numerous trims, from the 80-hp Seven 160 all the way up to the supercharged Seven 620R, which offers a power-to-weight ratio superior to the McLaren F1 and Bugatti Veyron. None of those trims have power steering. Or a roof. Or doors.

Change may be coming. The automaker wants to branch out, building on scrapped plans to develop a fully-enclosed, rear-drive coupe in 2012. That project, a joint venture with Renault, aimed to reach market at a $40,000 price point, presenting a boutique alternative to the likes of Nissan’s 370Z. The resulting concept, codename C120, died when Caterham and Renault decided to just be friends two years ago. But that hasn’t stunted Caterham’s aspirations. The company is now actively seeking a partner to build a sports car, according to a new report.

The story, published by Autocar, claims Caterham CEO Graham MacDonald “indicated that there was a great sense of regret that [the C120] never came to fruition” and that he “would have no hesitation in picking up the plans again in the right circumstances.”

McDonald cited lack of recognition in emerging markets as a major issue for the brand. Makes sense, considering the Seven is a half-century old kit car, the design of which has been licensed and sold by numerous firms since Caterham took over the exclusive production rights.

Caterham via Newspress

Still, this hypothetical sports car is an addition to the lineup, not a replacement for the Seven. The new car would be front-engined, unlike the C120, which was a mid-engined “compromise” to appease Renault. It would also use a naturally-aspirated engine, McDonald suggested, because “while the 620 is supercharged, we like naturally aspirated engines.”

McDonald, presumably, then dashed into a phone booth to change into his tights.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest hurdle is funding. The C120 required each party to invest some $80M. (Caterham was able to secure $20M of its half before abandoning the project.) McDonald says Renault is still open to supplying parts, but that renewing the joint venture is “not on the plans.” He also claimed Caterham is “currently in talks with interested parties” but didn’t specify who those interested parties are.

Maybe that’s true. It’s probably B.S., like how real estate agents have another couple that’s “totally submitting an offer tomorrow.” But let’s get lost in fantasy land.

Who should partner with Caterham to build the front-engine, rear-drive, naturally-aspirated sports car we deserve?