CATERHAM 275 S
Meeting Point, Thursday, 7:45am, Almada.

I arranged with two friends of mine to accompany me and help in this very special car review, so we met in Almada and went together to the number 108 of Av. Miguel Bombarda. Fortunately, there was no car jam and we arrived way earlier than expected. So early we decided to "burn" some time, first we drooled at the window of the stand, watching the 275S I would take, then we had a coffee ... And We visited the Aston Martin stand that was just around the corner, a perfectly normal thing for those who like cars, right? Although, at the time of that visit, what really caught my attention was a Peugeot 106 GTI that was parked near us, in stock condition! I admit, I'm incorrigible, I love these little basterds with wheels and I become a seriously annoying kid when I see them! Well, it was almost time, so we went back to Caterham's stand, and my friends went to the meeting point at the Estoril Circuit.
And there arrived the "mentor" of this stand and one of the main motivators for the presence of Morgan and Caterham in Portugal, Jorge Monteiro. It's been almost a year since we last met and it ended on a very remarkable morning driving a Morgan 3 Wheeler, one of the most unforgettable experiences I've ever had... Along with the Caterham 275S that I picked for this review. We got into some conversation and did a little briefing about this Caterham. The moment to enter the car and leave, arrived... I'm not an acrobat, but believe me, I felt like one! Right leg inside, sitting in the center console, grabbing the rollbar, left leg inside, just letting the body slip in and... What a perfect driving position! Ok, almost perfect, just a little adjustment on the seat... Perfect! And strangely, the Momo steering wheel, which comes in this S pack, is actually quite small, "We'll see how it behaves while on the road", I thought. I was well accommodated, the armrests were at the right height and all the instrumentation was visible... Too bad I can’t say the same about ventilation, which I only discovered when I noticed the dedicated button for it and looked down into the central dash. The dashboard is funny, there are no levers but many switches. One for the window cleaner, another for the blinkers (which had a rather annoying sound when we turned them on, but it is understandable given the system used and the exhaust sound), another for the defogger, another for the lights, the horn was a black button on the left side and a red START button on the right side. I pressed it right away and this Caterham came to life! I left the Stand, very carefully so that the 275S did not shave underneath, and I went to Estoril.

First impressions.

As soon as I left the stand, I came across a very similar environment to when I went out with the 3 Wheeler. The neck breaker effect. Perfectly normal, isn’t it? After all, the cocktail made of Caterham, green paint with a vivid yellow list and a nothing social friendly engine noise goes perfectly unnoticed on the public road, clearly! But let's disconnect from the outside world and talk about the first few minutes of driving. The clutch has an ideal stroke and weight, the throttle is very direct and well tuned, the steering, although not assisted, has the ideal weight, being direct and precise, and in a moment I forgot about the size of the steering wheel that I criticized at the beginning of this text! Braking, due to the lack of a servo brake, proved to be quite hard, but it was just a matter of habit. When I realized, I was reaching the Praça de Espanha and already perfectly used to this Caterham! I mean... More or less, even today it causes me confusion to look outside and see ... The door handle of the car that stopped next to me. What a very low driving position, seing the long bonnet of this SV chassis. LOVE IT.

I had decided to take the highway and go straight to Estoril Circuit, for the meeting point of the photo shoot, but... Oops! I turned "WRONGLY" to Monsanto... Well, what a sacrifice, I took the opportunity to understand how the brakes, the engine and gearbox, and the chassis would behave at... More alive driving, shall we say. A real martyrdom, I was deeply annoyed for having a mistake in my travel to Estoril… Engine’s response, either in low or medium RPM, is superb, causing this Caterham to jump off the curve as well as to achieve a fairly speedy progression on “S” turns. The braking seems to only work at 100% when I adopt an aggressive rhythm, because I wouldn’t notice the weight of the pedal, which I had already mentioned, and also noticed a (very) good balance, without any decompensation, even provoking this devilish car. The gearbox is delicious, placed in the right place, at a short distance from the steering wheel, has a very nice mechanical feel and its course is quite short, being also quite precise and well tuned for this engine, improving it in response and acceleration, rather than in top speed. And I like it, a lot. The chassis, coupled with the precise and direct steering, allows a very sharp corner entry, maintaining a neutral behavior as we go through the apex, allowing to easily control any oversteer that occurs, provoked or not, keeping this 275S always inside in what I think is the ideal line to describe the turn. To this I ally the delightful sound of this Ford's 1.6L SIGMA and I began to understand Mr. Colin Chapman's actual formula, “Simplify, then add Lightness.” Let's not forget, it's only 140hp ... For about 540kg! Above all, this whole description leads to a single word: "fun." That's what we get with the simplest things life offers us, and it happens here, with a "simple" car. There are no electronic aids for traction or stability, there is no ABS, there are no airbags, everything is manual, pure and hard! This moment at Monsanto showed what would be expecting me for the rest of the day…

I entered the highway (no mistakes now) and headed towards Estoril, since I still wanted to take the time to take a ride through Lagoa Azul, Guincho and have lunch in the Restaurant of a great friend of mine, with a privileged view for this Caterham. In addition, my friends were already waiting for me to start the session! Travelling in the highway was strangely comfortable, I believe that the S-pack's doors helped to prevent air intrusion, and the low weight and (very) well tuned gearbox turned it to be easy to control and regain speed. But let's make one thing clear, this is not Caterham's habitat, this car needs normal roads and the more winding... The better! The sign indicating the exit for Estoril Circuit appeared ...

The session and the details.

Arriving at the Circuit, I went to the back of the benches next to the main straight, to take advantage of the architecture as a background, the tunnel of the garages and still do some pannings that I left for my good friend João Dimas, to whom I have much to thank the aid he gave, but I'll leave it to the end! It was not difficult to fit this 275S in this environment, given the neutral tones of the background and the chromatic scheme remembering the livery of the Lotus 25, winner of 14 World Championship Grand Prix, at the hands of the legendary Jim Clark. It was at this point that we began to pay attention to the details of this Caterham.

The key, worked in aluminum, recreating the number 7, allusive to the Lotus Seven, was the detail that I liked most and it comes with the pack S! Undoubtedly an unexpected detail that gives a certain enjoyment to see. Inside I began to notice the name Caterham engraved on the headrests, at the points of fixation of the doors with pressure brackets, built-in armrests on the doors, the aluminum gear knob, with a nice handle, on the demisting filaments of the front visor, among others. Moving to the exterior, I noticed the Aero fuel cap, which comes in the S pack, stands out in the middle of the British Racing Green, as well as the spare wheel mounted in the rear, I also noticed the beautiful 14” Classic wheels that fit perfectly, the exhaust on the passenger side (that gave a trauma to Dimas, right mate?), at the points of fixation of the bonnet, which I began to immediately dismantle ... The bonnet is very, very light, after all, it’s made of a very thin sheet of aluminum (remember that the motto is weight reduction), I took it with the help of another friend and we put it aside very carefully, after all, we didn’t want to damage it. The engine bay is interesting, having plenty of space to do a deeper maintenance. Noticed the Banner battery, silicone tubing, an interesting exhaust manifold, and paying more attention, I could see the dual horns and the Caterham Motorsport logo on a reinforcing bar. At the front we can see the suspension triangles, shock absorbers and springs, and this separation becomes very funny to see when we are driving! It's a small car, no doubt, but in this case it's not the size that matters, but the content, and it's precisely at this point that Caterham earns huge points.

After knowing this 275S in detail, time had already flown and we decided to go for lunch.

A fly by through Lagoa Azul, Guincho, Cascais and the stop at Montecarlo.

* Piii * Low Fuel warning, what a bummer! Luckily there is a BP in Sintra so I headed there, with my friend Dimas at my side and Joel in his car. It was funny to see the attention people gave to the Caterham, standing at the pump while I was in line to pay some 98 Ultimate liters (it may take 95, but it is advisable to put 98), after all, this "boy" needs to be well fed, right? It's good to see that after sixty years the Seven continues to catch the attention of car lovers! Once I closed the Aero cap, we continued our trip to the Montecarlo Restaurant, whose owner is a close friend of mine. Lagoa Azul is approaching...

The entrance on the Lagoa Azul’s road was calm, but as soon as the first corners appeared ... I couldn’t help it, I had to explore the Caterham! As I had noticed at Monsanto, driving this 275S is a real pleasure for the senses, entering the turn, provoking the rear, feeling the weight of steering and braking, feeling all the unevenness of the road... That simple, driving pleasure! Even Dimas, just going in the passenger side, was very amused with the way we crossed the Lagoa Azul towards Guincho, so much that, going right next to exhaust line, he only exclaimed: "Wooooo ... Popcorn!!! Looks like a pidgeon, Ah, ah, ah!"! Agreed, ah, ah, ah! I've never done this road with so much fun behind the wheel like this day, no doubt at all!

It was very good, but we arrived at Guincho and we needed to calm down the spirit, after all, I didn’t want to spend all the liters just by going to the restaurant... And there was also more traffic. Security above all else! Incredible as this car allows you to have both sides of the coin, both amuses us when raising adrenaline levels, as in this case, gives us pleasure in just simply driving it quietly. I felt good, there, well fitted in the seat, with that perfect driving position, listening to the hoarseness of the SIGMA engine in low RPM and enjoying its pleasant availability response to the throttle. That was exactly what we were going to discuss, me and Dimas, that and the constant stares people gave to the green and yellow. Again the mirone syndrome. Nothing against, it's part of the fun! Just... Weird, I'm not used to it! But I did something that I did not care about doing, whenever I saw a kid pointing to the Caterham and calling his parents attention, a quick change from 5th to 2nd happened and a certain accelerator felt more weight... Happiness stamped on their faces... and mine! We arrived at Marina de Cascais and the mirone syndrome intensified, so much that even Dimas commented: "Rodrigo, people don’t stop looking ...", I didn’t even care, I was already used to it, and, stopped at the crosswalk waiting that the pedestrians would pass, I began to think that I was happy even by driving there with so much traffic in that lunch hour. Dimas drew my attention back to a young man who was going on the crosswalk gesturing to rev it hard. Well what a sacrifice... Good actions were distributed throughout this trip to the restaurant Montecarlo! And some of the baddies, I confess, as a scare that I gave to a biker who crossed in front of the 275S and gave two revs, when I was stopped at the traffic light after the Estoril Casino... I just answered him with two more revs and frightened the poor guy... But before you criticize me, a typical gesture came out from the hand of the biker: "Cool!"!

What an epic and fun trip, but it ended, we arrived at the Montecarlo Restaurant, where we met another friend (whose car I will photograph in the near future, so be tuned for it!) that brought fun on our return to Estoril, but I’ll tell about it later. Our table on the terrace allowed us to taste a very good pork chop with garlic while enjoying the timeless lines of the Caterham, which was right next to us. Impressive, as a 60 year old design has undergone few changes and still keeps us dreaming today. Impressive how we feel like authentic kids in the presence of... An authentic toy! That's right, a toy for men, that feel like kids! I think I just summed up this Caterham 275 correctly, don’t you agree?

THE END

It was a nice lunch, gaving us the strength to return to Estoril and there we took off, this time I rode with my friend Joel at my side and Vivas followed in his MX-5 with Dimas. Arriving at Guincho, we had a very cool petrolhead moment, with a caravan of 3 very famous roadsters, in front of me there was an MG B and behind following me there was Vivas’ MX-5, each with its characteristic sound, Guincho was never this epic, for me! The MG B said farewell at the end of Guincho's coastal road and the rest of the trip was relatively quiet, with Vivas being very enthusiastic behind the wheel as we passed Lagoa Azul ... I said relatively! We arrived at Estoril for another rolling shots and another dose of contemplation of this devilish car. What a day, but it was time to deliver the Caterham. I said goodbye to Vivas and I turned again on the highway, this time with Dimas by my side, since Joel had to go get his car. I took the chance that the traffic was still flowing and I realized that I wanted to end the day with one more action. A noisy car and Tunel do Marquês, why not? With some accelerations in the middle... Deafening traffic... Nothing too much, perfectly natural!

Number 108 of Av. Miguel Bombarda in sight, so this day came to an end, it was one of the most epic days of my life, and one of the most vivid driving experiences I've ever had. I wanted to say a lot more, but I would risk worsening what has already happened, getting a too long text... I think you understand, after all, it isn’t every day that we have experiences like this! I hope you have enjoyed both the photos and the text, and do not forget to leave your comments below and share this article!

Finally, I leave a thank you very much to Caterham Cars Portugal, thank you very much for the invitation you gave me in the last Motorclássico Salon that allowed me to get this lifetime’s experience! Now, finally, I can say that I know what a Caterham is and, who knows, if in the future I won’t be the happy owner of one!

I also want to thank Joel for his company, to Vivas for bringing his great mood to this "party", to the Montecarlo Restaurant for not having disappointed us, once again and, finally, to Dimas, for the help he gave me and has given in developing this article!



SPECS

ENGINE
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Ford SIGMA

Type
4 Cylinder in-line
16V DOHC
Wet Sump
Longitudinal

Capacity
1596cc

Fueling
Fuel injected, Unleaded 95 RON

Power
137PS at 6800rpm

Torque
165Nm at 4100rpm

Maximum RPM
6800rpm

Combined Fuel Consumption
6,2L/100km (5 speed gearbox)
6.3L/100km (6 speed gearbox)

Emissions
144g/km (5 speed gearbox)
147g/km (6 speed gearbox)


BRAKES
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Front
Discs (Vented as optional, with 4 piston callipers)
Rear
Discs


SUSPENSION
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Front
Double wishbones, anti-roll bar
Coil springs over Caterham Bilstein dampers
Rear
Dedion semi-independent suspension with trailing arms and A-frame linkage


DIMENSIONS
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Length
3100mm (chassis S3)
3300mm (chassis SV)
Width
1575mm (chassis S3)
1685mm (chassis SV)
Height
990mm (chassis S3)
1015mm (chassis SV)
Internal width
930mm (chassis S3)
1110mm (chassis SV)
Luggage capacity
120L (chassis S3)
130L (chassis SV)
Fuel Tank
32L (chassis S3)
36L (chassis SV)
Wheels
185/60R14 (Avon ZTS)


PERFORMANCE
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0-100km/h 
5,0s
Top Speed
196km/h


PRICE
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Caterham 275 available from 43.000€
About 48.000€ (Driven version equiped with Pack S)
About 52.000€ (Pack R)




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