There is nothing new in this. Ever since I first saw a Lotus 7 burble past me in the street when I was a child, these are the cars that have best expressed in steel, aluminium, oil and rubber what I want a car to be. I owned a Caterham long before I was a motoring journalist, a live axle, four speed 1700 Super Sprint whose premature death against the bank at the exit of the Goodwood chicane regulars may recall me writing about in this spot.
I did my first ever race in a Caterham, a 12 lapper at Brands Hatch on a full grid of identical cars. I qualified 12th, got up to fourth, fell off and finished, er, 12th. And then in the late 1990s I specced my own car from scratch, a thing called a Superlight R with a 195bhp 1.8-litre motor. The 750 Motor Club refused to let me race it because despite complying with its rules, it had a new engine specification that would have blown away everything else in the same capacity class (which was rather the point), so I just did track days in it. I cannot imagine why I sold it.
But it’s a Caterham I didn’t own, race or crash I remember most fondly, because this one I actually built. It was an out of hours project in 1992 when I was the Road Test Editor of Autocar. There was a studio around the back of the office we usually used for photographing cars, but this time and over the course of a single weekend, a handful of us – including a rather fresh-faced James May – actually built one. (You can see the full cover here.)