Caterham Cars: Connections and Coincidence – Installment 1
Caterham cars will be indelibly associated with the Lotus and subsequently the highly developed Caterham Seven.
However this article is not about the machines, as this has been dealt with by others in greater detail. [Please see references and extensive websites devoted to the marque.]
What it sets out and illustrates with some photographs is the brief history of the premises and the significant help that was extended to the author when he built his Ford Special to a specification approximating to a Lotus Mk.VI.
Coincidence and overlap occur at many levels and Arch Motors bridges a Lotus and Caterham connection. We will feature then in a following edition.
Caterham Cars: Premises
Caterham Cars was founded by Graham Nearn and Ian .H.Smith [Lotus First Ten Years*] in 1959 at Town End, Caterham –on-the-Hill, Surrey. It is believed that the premises had previously been occupied by Anthony Crook when he had been a distributor for Bristol Cars.
Graham Nearn has been quoted as saying;
“There was an old garage at the back and petrol pumps at the front. Subsequently I sold the petrol station to Esso………..in 1987 moved to Dartford” [See authors photographs it’s just possible to make a connection of how the site looked in the late 50 and 60’s the Victorian houses in a terrace remaining the same]
By the 1960’s Caterham Cars was a major force regarding the Lotus Seven due to their enthusiasm, determination and involvement in motor sport. During this period it is believed that they were known as the lotus Centre and may also have been briefly agents for TVR and Marcos.
Graham Nearn acquired the manufacturing rights to the Seven from Lotus. C 1987 they moved to Dartford; the Town End Site was redeveloped. For a short time an administration base was retained here and cars were often displayed outside and in four adjacent lock ups. More recently Caterham operates from two sites. Assembly mainly concentrated at Dartford and the show room at Caterham Valley next to the main line BR station [see authors photographs]
The Author’s Experience
The author moved to Caterham in 1982; a Lotus enthusiast but unaware of Caterham Cars existence.
This was soon discovered and the photographs with UPE 9 show the buildings prior to the redevelopment into residential and workshop units. The author’s interest was the Mk.VI and several have been owned or passed through Caterham Cars. At one stage the Caterham Cars showroom also doubled as a museum with several MkVI, Seven MkI, II, III and Eleven on display.
Graham Nearn and his staff have been extremely kind, courteous and tolerant of the research and inspection we have conducted on the Mk.VI. Possibly hundreds of photographs were taken, recording the construction details of several MkVi but primarily UPE 9. Possibly the only aspect of the car the author was unable to do was check the cam profile, gearbox ratios and weight of the overall car. Support and advice has also been available and the company have also generously provided sales material and on one occasion lent a car to be displayed at a local car show. Caterham Cars are a major local employer and contribute significantly to the local economy. Their current showroom is a Mecca and their cars a customary site on the Caterham bypass.
Though Caterham Cars the author learnt of Redline and Oxted Trimming. Both companies have supplied the author with help, technical advice, parts service and materials. It’s difficult to find words to describe the generosity of spirit in assisting a non engineer with his construction of a Ford Special.
The author has enormous respect for them, their product, its ongoing development and the retention of possibly one of the greatest motoring icons.
It is believed that Caterham use approximately 150 major suppliers which includes engines.
Caterham Cars Ltd.
Caterham Cars [Factory]
2 Kennet Rd
Red Line Components Ltd .
19 Timber Lane
Arch Motors and Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
PE 29 7HD
Oxted Trimming Co Ltd
14 Beatrice Rd
Caterham Cars: www.caterham.co.uk
Lotus and Caterham Seven
John Tipler 2005
The Magnificent Seven
Chris Rees 2007
Lotus Seven –Super Profile
Article by John Scott-Davies