We've now done 10,000 miles in just over a year. Apparently that's unheard-of yearly mileage for a US Seven (though I'm sure some of the UK mob have done it). It has held up wonderfully to my rather eccentric intention to use it as a daily driver. Looking back over this blog, there's been a few hiccups along the way, but compared to some of the horror stories from other owners of exotica (I work with two ex-Ferrari owners), this is a paragon of reliability.\n\nFuel consumption over that period averages out to 27.16 miles per gallon, and I'm not exactly a fuel-efficient driver when I'm in the Seven - the temptation is too strong. Note that this does not include the drive from Denver to Seattle - that would have been cheating (we averaged 30.5 for that trip). The original Avon ZV3 tires are still going strong with barely any wear on them - lightweight means very little stress on the rubber.\n\nOverall, we're very happy owners of a surprisingly practical bit of motoring craziness.
The Seven's done 15000 miles now, and still as fresh and fast as day one. The same tires as well - one of the benefits of low weight.\n\nWe got a half hood from [[Soft Bits For Sevens|http://www.softbitsforsevens.co.uk/]]. Pretty easy fitting - the trickiest bit was removing the existing pop-studs on the boot cover and replacing them with "security" ones (supplied with the half hood). They're designed to only come off if you "peel" them in one direction (peel from the top), and that direction is the one the half hood doesn't pull in. Only tricky because I didn't know what I was doing, so it took some experimentation on the first one. The second one was easy.\n\nThe hood works very well. It can be put on in about 2 minutes by one person - snap on the standard poppers at the top of the windscreen, then click the four buckles (the sort you get on rucksack straps) and two pop-studs to the sides of the boot cover and you're done. The straps need tightening when you first fit it, but they have velcro to secure them, so you only need to do it that first time. It's extremely windproof, with just a slight breeze leaking in along the top of the doors at >50mph - nothing unpleasant. It's not really designed for heavy rain, as the boot cover is exposed and the sides are open, so you get a bit of water trickling down the back of the seats, but as long as you remember to air it out when you park it in the garage, it's fine. In light showers it's perfect, and you don't get hot and sweaty like you do with the full hood.\n\nThe one small downside is that the half hood goes between the top of the windscreen and the top of the rollbar. Whereas the normal full roof has an extra strut to push it higher in the middle. So in the mornings my head pushes the half hood up a few centimeters (in the evenings my spine has compressed, so I only just touch). It's not uncomfortable - the half hood isn't under a lot of tension, so it's not like it presses down on my neck. Just looks a bit silly, and probably hastens the onset of baldness or something.\n\nTallied up the miles per gallon - lifetime average still at 27.5. Gets over 30 on freeways, about 24 around town. Not that anybody living in the US has the right to moan about gas prices compared to Europe ($8 a gallon in the UK).\n\nI'm sure everyone's seen the Caterham Levante by [[RS Performance|http://www.rsperformance.co.uk/]] by now and fallen deeply madly truly in lust. 500hp in any car is something to talk about, but in a Seven it's astounding. And the look is great. While I like the "cute" look of the normal Seven, sometimes you want to express just how absurdly quick it is. The Levante does that with style. It's extra neat knowing that pretty much everything on the body does something - there's very few frilly bits that are there just because they looked cool. I wonder how you'd go about importing one to the US.
OK, it was meant to be a 3000 mile service, and also a 6000 mile service, but what with one thing and another, it actually happened at 4899 miles.\n\nThe chap I use - a fellow ex-pat called Graham Willie of Specialty Cars - was kind enough to let me use his garage space and do a lot of the grunt-work myself, so I'd get to know the car better. My mechanical knowledge is pathetic. Oh, I have fantastic scores on my Cambridge physics exam, but that's a totally different kettle of fish to knowing how much torque a wheel bearing should be set to. So that's Graham's job. So I basically spent last weekend in his garage tinkering with the car - tightening everything, checking everything, and watching him do the scary bits.\n\nHe fixed the coolant leak. Actually fairly easy - it wasn't a frost plug at all (which is good). One of the hose clamps was loose, but only loose enough to leak under pressure, not when idling. That's where it's handy to have a Real Mechanic who has a kit for pressurising coolant systems without having to run the engine at load for twenty minutes and deal with hot coolant spraying everywhere. He also found a leak that would have happened once we'd fixed the first one. Anyway, the lesson is - tighten all the clamps on the hoses of new cars. Especially when taking a car that was constructed during Denver in the summer and moving it to Seattle in the winter. Stuff moves.\n\nSo I went around and tightened every nut I could find, since that's about the limit of my competence. Most of them were fine, it was only the jubilee clips around rubber tubing that were looser than desired, and also the ones holding the seats to the floor. I pointed out that they weren't really structural as such, but Graham tutted and tightened them anyway. He also checked all the wheel bearings, lubricated the major suspensions components, applied some more grease to the tranny's nipples (ooer missus!) and cleaned out the goopy coolant where it had leaked into the driver's footwell (neat trick for cleaning carpets that are sewn into the car - a high-suction vacuum cleaner and an air hose - spray the air hose at the carpet, and the goop will buble up, where it can be sucked up by the vacuum).\n\nHe also removed a bunch of plastic cable ties and replaced them with metal ones, replaced a bunch of silver bolts on the exhaust with copper-coloured ones, and actually spray-painted a perfectly innocent silver nut black so it didn't stand out so much. He likes cars he works on to leave looking like somebody loved them. As he said while putting some black plastic tubing around the perfectly serviceable (but white!) tubing of the forward oxygen sensor - "there you go - now it looks like a bit of a car, not like it should have a lamp hanging off it." However, he did very much approve of the quality of the cabling and wrapping in the engine bay - neat and tidy, easy to service, etc. I got impression that if he owned a car, it would be one of these. Rather than the pimped-out (but non-functional) Diablo he was cursing at in the next bay over, which looked lovely in the passenger compartment and a rats-nest of cables in the engine bay.\n\nAs part of the scheduled maintenance, we did an oil change, though it was pretty clear and slippery when it came out - mainly because the engine isn't new and has done more than 5000 miles in its original Ford Focus. But it's good to replace it anyway. Graham also insisted on changing the completely virgin gearbox oil with what he grinningly calls his "snake oil". [[Swepco 210|http://www.swepcousa.com/lubesite/products/210.htm]]. He absolutely swears by this stuff - says it makes Testarossa's gearboxes actually driveable in the Seattle winters. OK, I was dubious, but it's only a small gearbox, so it didn't cost that much, and you know what - it actually did give a nicer feel to the gear changes. Not that they were tricky to begin with, but it did loosen them up a little. Did nothing to improve the downshifts though (see past posts). Graham thinks there's nothing wrong with the synchromesh as such, it might be just "one of those things" that that sort of gearbox does. He was happy to take the gearbox apart and have a detailed look if I wanted, but no thanks - I can live with the minor inconvenience, compared to having the whole thing apart for a couple of days. I'll ask on the Sevens list.\n\nWe also did a tire rotation. It was amazing how fresh the tires looked actually. I'm using Avon ZV3s (185/60R14), which are all-weather tires with a decent tread rather than super-stickies, but it was hard to tell the difference between the front and back tires by looking at them. The tread on the rears looked very marginally rounded, not quite as factory-sharp, so we rotated them anyway. Well, actually more like an X-swap than a rotate. But I guess that's the benefit of light cars - even if you drive them hard - and we've been sliding it around a fair bit - the tires don't care. Maximum traction is a function of tire properties and the weight on the tire. The less the car weighs, the less force the tire can generate without slipping (in physics talk - the coefficient of static friction is the same whatever the weght of the car) - but that's fine, since the car weighs less, and the smaller force will accellerate it just as well (again, in physics talk, F=uN=uMg, but also laterally F=Ma, so Ma=uMg, therefore a=ug, which is independent of the car's weight). However, it's the shear force on the tire that rips rubber off it, and that is smaller on a lighter car. So at the limit of traction, my daily-driver Seven weighing 1300 pounds gets about the same accelleration as a Chrysler 300C Hemi weighing 4000 pounds. But the Chrysler rips rubber off its huge wheels at a rate of knots, while the Seven retains its rubber just fine thanks.\n\nIn other news - holy crap it's gone cold! It's now <32 degrees Fahrenheit overnight, and that is what we in the UK used to call "freezing". We have the roof on all the time now, whatever the forecast, because even when it's not raining it's bloody cold. But it's amazing how effective that is - once you have the roof on, you only need a tiny bit of heater-valve to make it toasty warm. Too much and due to the placement of the vents under the dashboard, it's "chestnuts roasting on an an open fire." Not that the wife has that particular problem. The one downside to the roof is people can't see who I am in the car. No no no, I'm not ''that'' egotistical - it's just that as I was puling out of the carpark the other day, a bunch of teenagers laughed and said "hello grandad". I'm 33 and I've got a pony-tail! I'm not old. Besides, you young whippersnappers - try to point to another car in the carpark that's faster in a straight line or round a bend. Kids these days - no respect for obnoxious exhaust notes and eyeball-popping accelleration.\n\nThe boss has now given up driving his Atom because you basically get icicles forming on your extremities at anything above 30mph. I'm glad I went for the one-notch-less-than-crazy of the Seven. As ever, miles = smiles.
A few days ago we got together with a few other petrol-heads and did a little tour of the environs. [[Dave Moore|http://onepartcode.com/]] has been getting busy making all his tech talk to each other. He has a GPS recorder, a data convertor, and Google map tech, and he likes driving his Suzuki VX-800 around roads that look twisty and interesting on Google Earth. So he and me and Louise and [[Andy Glaister|http://www.glaister.com/]] in his Elise and [[John Miles|http://www.thegleam.com/ke5fx/]] in his Miata all went for a blat. My boss Jeff was going to come along in his brand new 300hp supercharged Ariel Atom, but he had to bow out at the last minute, which is a shame. That would have been quite some eye-opening convoy.\n\nDave's report with all the cute maps is [[here|http://onepartcode.com/main/rides/ride_28_sept_2006.html]], and much more coherent than mine. So I'll just describe the driving.\n\nThe Seven was a joy as ever. The closest car to it there was Andy's Elise - he's got a bit more weight, but he's also got more power because he's got the sports exhaust and the fancy cams, so he's getting 200hp out of the Toyota Celica VVT engine. It has an amazing enhaust note. The Seven's speed is all about lightness rather than fancy tech, and it makes a good burbly grunty noise, but the Elise has a proper "supercar" exhaust note to it. Also, it revs to 8500rpm compared to the Seven's 7000rpm. Andy also has a lot more rubber on the road than the Seven - I'm on some fairly nice Avons, but they're multi-weather because I want to commute rain or shine. Andy's got some crazy semi-slicks on with teeny grooves - must be challenging in the wet (not that he ever drives it when it's raining), but it sure grips in the dry. We found a few places where we'd be first at a set of lights, usually in the order Dave (who knew where we were going), Andy, us in the Seven, then John in the Miata. Dave gets the early jump with the bike, but Andy is very very close above about 30mph, and the Seven can almost keep up if I scrupulously redline it and concentrate on the shifts. John ... follows :-) John used to do the silly-car thing (Ferraris mainly), but he's "retired" for a while and is having some cheap thrills in his perfectly decent Miata. Though I saw him eyeing the Elise :-)\n\nSo, why is the Seven slightly slower than the Elise? The Elise has a bit more weight because of all that air-bag and power window frippery, though Andy has gone through ripping out some non-essentials like insulation and spare wheel. Of course, then he put a big subwoofer in it, but that's to make his commute across the bridge bearable - I can dig that. But overall there's probably 300 pounds in it. On the other hand, the higher redline and fancier cams means he has more power. He also has those wide sticky tires and rear weight bias, so his launches stick. The Seven has narrower all-weather tires which meant launches couldn't be nailed quite as robustly, and maybe the suspension isn't quite as fancy, but the major thing was probably that it had an extra person in it.\n\nThe Elise has a fairly cramped footwell compared to the Seven, and driving it with my feet would be somewhat challenging. Probably be OK with some thin driving shoes, but it certainly doesn't have the room the SV body does. A curious oddity is that the Elise has some fancy seats with "shoulder flaps" that keep you from sliding about. The Seven doesn't - the way you stop yourself sliding around is that you use hips and elbows against the very high sills and the transmission tunnel. The Elise has some pretty big sills, but of course being mid-rear-engined, no significant tranny tunnel. So it needs the fancy seats.\n\nThe other odd thing is that the Elise's engine note has a tone to it that says "change up!" to my brain at about 4000 revs. Which is just where you start getting into the power. You'd get used to it though, and there's a light on the dashboard that goes on at 8000rpm, so just ignore instincts and wait for that to come on before changing up. It's a go-kart, just like the Seven - light instantly responsive, lovely driver's machine. Suspension is a bit firmer, and it rides on its dampers if you hit any sort of bumps, but that's because Andy got the hardest suspension possible, while my Seven is deliberately set up to be comfortable. The one major difference in driving style was that throttle response below 4000rpm is underwhelming. Above 4000, fantastic. It seems a little bit like driving the [[Scooby]] in that sense (but a lot faster) - if you're at low revs, it's rather tame, and only wakes up at high revs. For the Scooby, that's because you have to get the turbo wound up. On the Elise, you have to get it to use the fancier cam settings. But pretty much the same effect - you cruise at 3000-4000rpm most of the time, just below the good power. Whereas on the Seven I happily wander about at 2000-3000, because the torque really is fairly flat through the range, and changing down is absurdly quick. Not sure what it is about the Seven's gearbox or ratios that makes changing down so easy - on the Scooby I find it a real hassle to match revs properly, even after two years of ownership.\n\nSo the other interesting comparison was with Dave's bike. It's fairly sensible as far as bikes go, a comfortable and fun sport-tourer rather than a rice-rocket. Which of course still means it's got a better power to weight ratio than just about any car. Dave was pretty quick on the getaways, though he has to work hard to keep the front wheel nailed on the ground, but his speed profile around corners is completely different to a car. A bike is basically a bunch of gyroscopes and torques, all acting in different directions and on each other. So going around a corner fast is far more involved than in a car - you have to ask nicely and do a lot of preparation. In a car you just have to choose your entry speed and decide where the apex is. On a bike there's all sorts of wacky dynamics to set up well in advance of actually changing the direction of the bike. So Dave has to brake much earlier, much harder, go through the corner at a fairly steady speed, and then accellerate out of it. Totally different to a car.\n\nOf course on unknown public roads everybody takes it a little easy, and we'd frequently run into traffic, but there were enough clear spots with visible corners to have some fun. Andy's extra rubber really worked well though. I haven't quite worked out a consistent way of going into a corner properly balanced, so I still sometimes have to scrabble about with understeer. Most undignified. The extra weight on the back axle didn't help, but it is mainly lack of skills. I must take it to the track as soon as the coolant problem is sorted.
[[Event Log]]. All the boring details in a Seven's life, just because sometimes people really want to know that stuff. Services, minor repairs, etc. Most events too boring for the RSS feed, so it won't get flagged there. Major interesting events (big trips, track days, etc) will also get a proper entry of course. Right now there's a few things in there I need to write up properly (the exhaust problem) which I'll get around to eventually.
The Coders Compact Car Club reconvened today for another little blat around the environs. The route looked like [[this|http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=http://onepartcode.com/rides/2006_10_11/10_October_2006_gm.kml&ie=UTF8&z=11&t=h&om=1]]. Which fortunately managed to avoid looking too much like a [[penis|http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=http://onepartcode.com/rides/2006_10_1/1_Oct_2006.kml&ie=UTF8&z=12&ll=47.652438,-122.010384&spn=0.178541,0.254745&om=1&iwloc=A]] thanks to my hasty directions that caused a slight detour at one point. Same participants as last time, now joined by Jeff with his [[Ariel Atom|http://arielatom.com/]]. For the second half, I joined him to try to slow him down relative to Andy - with limited success. That car is awesomely fast. It weighs around 1300 pounds (like the Seven), but has a 2.4 litre Ecotec engine with a supercharger giving around 300hp. The power is pretty extreme, although it's not that useful - even with semi-slicks on, it's absurdly easy to spin the wheels, so Andy with his heavier car and "mere" 200hp wasn't that far behind. The most astonishing thing about the Atom is the wind - there's virtually no bodywork, so your face is right in it. I had some sunglasses on, but at 100mph the wind is fearsome. If you've seen that clip of Jeremy Clarkson driving it with the wind rippling his jowls - well, that's how it feels as well.\n\n[[Louise has some good pictures of the procession|http://eelpi.livejournal.com/24835.html#cutid1]]. It was pretty cool driving through Kirkland and Redmond on the way out - the Atom obviously steals the show, but the rest of us are good supporting material. One lady took a look at our stream of crazymobiles and screamed "Oh my god - look at all the cars!" and couldn't stop giggling.
On the recent blat, I tried to keep up with the others (extra weight and all-weather tires are the main problem), and my gearshifting has become pretty quick now. Too quick as it turns out - the synchros were crunching slightly trying to adapt to the change in revs, which I've never had before on upshifts. I made sure I wasn't lifting the clutch too early (a habit you get when driving normal cars that have sloppier clutches), and I wasn't. I think the problem is simply that the gearbox doesn't have enough time to slow down for the higher gear. Sitting a tenth of a second longer in neutral, especially for the fast 3rd->4th shift, solves it. You really have to be going banzai with the shift to get this though - this may simply happen with all gearboxes and I just haven't been quick enough in the past.\n\nThe other problem is slightly stranger. Even when just tootling around town, shifts down from third to second can crunch the syncros very badly, and sometimes I've had them simply not go "in" at all - just makes a terrible noise. For example, cruising at 3000 revs in third, you want to get a hurry-on and change down to second - you should be doing somewhere between 4000 and 4500 (I forget exactly where) revs, which is perfectly reasonable. But the downshift won't work (yes, the clutch is fully in!). What I've discovered does work is [[double-declutching|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double-declutching]], i.e. you change to neutral, let the clutch up, rev the engine to the correct revs, and then clutch, change to second, release clutch. This works fine - but it's a bit cumbersome! A slightly faster method is not to use the clutch at all as you change from 3rd to neutral, then rev. Apparently if you're really ninja you can avoid the clutch altogether - 3rd to neutral, match revs, change to 2nd. Except if you get it wrong, you'll do some expensive damage to your gearbox. People do have to do this sometimes to get home when clutch cables or hoses break, but I'd rather not do it as a matter of course! It's curious I've never noticed this problem before - it's during fairly normal driving around town, and taking your time with the gearshift doesn't help it (if anything it hurts - the longer the gearshift, the more the gearbox spins down and the wider the difference in revs between gearbox and driveshaft - which is what the synchros are trying to compensate for). I've never had this with any other downshifts, though I tend to simply not do 2nd to 1st downshifts very much while moving at any speed - the car will pull away from a stop in 2nd just fine. I hope we've not done anything bad to our synchros - it seems to work just fine otherwise. Time to ask a proper mechanic.
We've got a slow coolant leak. It's been going on for a while. Nothing to do with the dodgy clip before - that joint is solid and totally dry. And it never leaks while sitting in the garage, just when you're driving it dribbles down the outside of the transmission casing and along the bottom of the car. Not very fast - we just top it up every week or so, and there's never been any problem with overheating. Still annoying. Graham Willie, the local Lotus specialist, thinks one of the frost plugs in the engine has come loose. Seems plausible - the web is full of people discovering that a frost plug in their Zetec has come lose and they've got orange goop dribbling everywhere (frequently misdiagnosed as a blown head gasket - but far less serious fortunately!). Annoyingly, there's a number of frost plugs, and this one is somewhere that's impossible to see from the top. It's also very slightly leaking into the driver's footwell, and making the carpet all sticky. As soon as Graham has a free slot I'm going to take it in - it also needs the 3000 mile service.\n\nFuel economy and performance are still fantastic. We rather nerdishly collect fuel-pump receipts and write the trip-meter numbers on them, and I did an Excel spreadsheet the other day. It's fairly easy to see when I've been commuting to work (as low as 22 mpg) and when Louise has been hiking and doing lots of cruising around the backwaters of volcanos (up to 33 mpg). Lifetime average for the receipts we have (we seem to have mislaid one or two) is 28mpg, which is pretty good. (UK gallons are almost exactly 20% bigger than US gallons, so that's 33.6mpg UK). We're practically saving the planet by driving this car! I think.
[[What's a Seven?]] [[15k and a toupee]] [[Water thermostat replaced]] [[Nasty bump]] [[Fan thermostat switch replaced]] [[Exhaust fixed properly]] [[Pacific Northwest Sevens Tour]] [[High brake light and some bug fixes]] [[10k miles]] [[Dyno run]] [[GL4 isn't just a UK post code]] [[Good and Bad]] [[5000 mile service]] [[Changing gears]] [[Blat mk 2]] [[Summer is over]] [[A local blat for local people]] [[Coolant leak]] [[Added the event log]] [[Two months]] [[Delivery]] [[Report from the test drive at RMSCI]]
[originally dated June 28th 2006]\n\nWe recently picked up our Seven in Denver and drove it back to Seattle. It took three days, and it was a pretty decent cruise. Apart from a bit of a mishap with the exhaust, everything about it was fabulous. Extremely fast and responsive in a straight line and on curves, and surprisingly comfortable to cruise in for hours.\n\nLouise did a great [[write-up of our trip|http://eelpi.livejournal.com/18937.html]], along with pictures.
Lots of stuff since the last update.\n\nRear frame fixed after the shunt from the Civic - good as new. We used [[Queen City Auto Rebuild|http://www.queencityautorebuild.com/]] who were excellent, and quite used to exotica - a pair of new Gallardos were being prepped for sale while we were there.\n\nAfter a chat with the [[RMSCI]] chaps, the gearbox lubricant was replaced with some Redline MTL (70W80 GL4). They usually use a 75W90 in Denver, but think the slightly thinner lubricant should work better in Seattle. The gearbox certainly seems smoother, especially on cold mornings, though 3rd to 2nd changedowns are still hesitant.\n\nLater on, a tiny fuel leak caused by a broken rubber fitting in the fuel tank gave us a bit of a scare - amazing how such a small puddle of fuel can stink out the whole house from the garage. The rubber fitting may have been damaged in the collision or just decayed on its own, but all fixed up in super-quick time by [[Woodinville Sports Cars|http://www.woodinvillesportscars.com/]]. They know their way around British vehicles, being specialists in Jaguars of all ages. They also fitted a skid plate for the sump, a low-oil-pressure warning light (the red LED on the speedo was free, so they hooked it up to that), tightened up a squeaky fan belt and //finally// got rid of all the coolant leaks (each time you look, you only ever find the first leak, then you have to run the car for half an hour to find the next one). I'm also going to get a high rear brake light fitted to the top of the roll bar - the standard brake lights are very low to the ground, and not very bright. Rather like most Civic drivers.\n\nThe other day, I took the Seven to [[Carburetor Connection|http://www.carbconn.com/]] for a dyno run. A colleague was dynoing his Miata/MX-5 that he'd just put a supercharger in. It was getting a 170hp at the wheels, which is very nice for a 1.8 litre engine, though he's pretty sure it should be getting at least 190 (and others have tuned them to over 200) - he suspects a blocked cat on his exhaust.\n\nAnyway, the results of my completely stock Seven were pretty neat - 153hp, 137ftlbs at the wheels. [[Here's the plot.|dyno_reading_small.jpg]] I also realised afterwards that my rev meter over-reads by about 500rpm, which is why the trace doesn't go all the way to 7000. The guess for the curious torque curve under 4000rpm is that the engine isn't used to the full exhaust headers - all I caught was something to do with "flow" - we're not really sure. The blip at 5000rpm is also odd, but it's very consistent - happened on all five runs. So, a pretty good torque curve between 3800 and 6000, which is extremely drivable - but of course my right foot already knew that. This is exactly as I got it from [[RMSCI]] - the only thing I've added is 7500 miles. You can get fancier cams and intakes and suchlike, but I'm absurdly happy with it already. Maybe in another year I'll get upgradeitis.\n\nA bit of browsing shows that crank/flywheel horsepower is usually between 15% and 20% higher than wheel horsepower - it depends a lot on transmission. That would give 176hp-184hp at the crank, which is right about where people familiar with the 2-litre Zetec were expecting it (Ford's official rating is 170hp, but that's in the Focus - the exhaust headers in the Seven are straighter and longer).\n\nAnd finally, it's now warm enough and dry enough in Seattle to have the roof off more often than not - yay!
Major events in the Seven's life.\n\n2006:\n\n26th-28th June: [[Delivery]]. Drove from Denver to Seattle in three days.\n\n27th June: Exhaust weld broke on the way from Denver. Very noisy.\n\n20th July: Exhaust replaced with new RMSCI-supplied one. Reinforcement bracket fitted to prevent the engine moving as much on its mounts.\n\n6th August: Radiator fluid leak spotted. Traced to a Jubilee clip with a slipped thread, allowing hose to come partly off. Pushed hose further onto pipe, replaced clip, topped up. All better.\n\n20th August: [[Two months]] ownership summary.\n\n1st September: Coolant level is still dropping very very slowly. The fixed leak is bone-dry though, and no drips on the garage floor (I've been checking regularly), so I'm confused.\n\n5th September: First inspection by Graham Willie of Specialty Cars LLC in Bellevue. Fascinating seeing it clearly from the underside for the first time. A few scrapes of yellow paint on the sump reveal where speed bumps have been taken a tad too fast! Found where all the radiator fluid was going - it's leaking over the transmission case, the underside of the passenger compartment, and also into the driver's side footwell (unfortunately the carpets hid it until we pulled them up while looking for the leak). It's a long way back from the original radiator hose leak though, and that is still bone-dry. Graham reckons it might be from a frost-plug that's leaking in a place we can't quite see at the back of the engine. Maybe the too-low level of fluid during the earlier leak caused the frost plug to come loose somehow? We'll find out during the proper 3000-mile service.\n\n28th September: countryside blat with Louise, Dave Moore, John Miles and Andy Glaister.\n\n21st October: [[5000 mile service]]. Coolant leak fixed (loose jubilee clamp), tires rotated, engine oil changed for Mobil 1 5W30 fully synthetic, gearbox fluid changed for Swepco 210, and all fasteners tightened/checked. Miles per gallon to date:
After we came back from the PacNW tour, I went looking around local exhaust shops trying to find a solution to the fundamental problem. The two obvious fixes where to either put a bit of flex-pipe in there somewhere, or to put a slip-joint in. Some of the others on the tour had slip-joints in their headers - I don't have a great picture, but you can kinda see it on the night-time shot of Ed's carbon-fibre-and-green VX7 - he's got some fancy white-ceramic-coated headers, and you can see where they meet the rest of the steel exhaust system - it's just a slightly narrower tube inside a slightly wider one, and a few loose springs to keep the two together.\n\nWell, opinions varied wildly. Some people don't like slip joints - apparently they leak, and also they clog up, seize and don't actually slip that much (how they can both leak and clog up at the same time I never quite worked out :-). People didn't think you could put four flex-pipe joints, one on each header pipe, and there's just no room for a single flex-pipe between the 4-to-1 and the cat. Also, the flex-pipe doesn't provide any support, and although there's a small support bracket there, it would be in front of the flex-pipe, which would leave the entire rear cat+muffler section held up by only the flex-pipe. So that wasn't going to work. What everyone DID agree on was that the man to see was Stan at Stan's Headers. http://www.stans-headers.com/\n\nWell, they were absolutely right. Stan has somewhat of a speciality in exhausts - a sort of ball-and-socket arrangement that allows some flexing, but also provides leak-free support - it's shown in the second picture down, the two examples on the left: http://www.stans-headers.com/featured.htm#feature02 He got it welded into the small space between the 4-to-1 and the cat in an impressive bit of custom exhaust work, and all while I waited. With the spring supports and flanges and whatnot, it's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it seems to work. The same can be said of the Seven as a whole, so it's somewhat appropriate. Zero problems so far (I'm writing this six months later). I highly recommend it for peace of mind.
The fan switch was jammed closed, so the fan was on constantly and draining the engine of heat. A simple fix by Woodinville Sports Cars - though he'd never seen a switch stuck closed before. Open, yes, but not closed.
Oh dear - finding people who know what they're talking about with lubricants is so hard. Seems to be total black magic. Here's some recent snippets of info I learned.\n\nTurns out that Swepco 210 is really good for gearboxes in exotic cars that have to cope with 400+hp, but far too viscous for the little Sierra T9 gearbox in the Seven that only copes with 200hp at most. Also, it's a GL5 lubricant. No idea what that means? Neither did I. Well, GL5 corrodes yellow metal (i.e. brass). The synchros in my 5-speed gearbox are brass, and also some LSDs use brass (no idea if mine does). So if you think you've got brass in your gearbox or diff - stick with GL4.\n\nBy the way, I found some piccies of a T9 [[on Cherik's page|http://my.voyager.net/~quadrant19/Gearbox-upgrade.html]]. Mine has had a similar treatment - lengthening first gear to be rather more useful. I have no idea if it's by the same people - I just thought the pictures were fascinating.
I've got used to referring to all the bits of a car by their US names, because if I use the UK terms, Yanks don't understand me. Whereas everyone knows the US terms. But here's a list, just in case I missed any:\n\nUK to US:\n* Saloon: sedan\n* Boot: trunk\n* Hood: roof, usually on a convertible. The thing that covers the engine is called the "bonnet"\n\nUS to UK:\n* Sedan: saloon\n* Trunk: boot\n* Tonneau cover: a cover that can be put over a convertible, usually level with the top of the doors (i.e. about shoulder height). This is usually easier than putting the entire roof on and keeps rain and sun off the interior. Many have a split up the middle (usually a zip) so that the passenger side can be left on while driving, giving some moderately water/wind/sun/thief-proof storage.
The bad thing was, the coolant leak wasn't just that loose connector. That slowed it down and stopped it oozing into the driver's footwell, but it didn't stop it - still dripping down the outside of the transmission tunnel.\n\nThe good thing is, I just found it - it was a decayed rubber hose that had crazed and cracked and under pressure squirted a tiny stream of coolant onto a hollow in the top of the transmission tunnel. I only found it because I could hear it hissing, and tracked it down by sound. But anyway, once found, it was easy to replace the hose.\n\nBut another bad thing was - I was driving along at night on a poorly-lit road and didn't see a nasty bump in the road until my headlights hit it, which was a bit late. I wasn't driving very fast, but I had so little warning, I probably hit it at about 15mph, the bottom of the sump (fortunately on the sloping bit) smacked into the bump, which threw the front of the car into the air about half a foot and scared the snot out of me. Then the engine died. Eeek! I pushed it off the road into a car-park and got out dreading to see oil everywhere as a result of a cracked sump, which would have been catastrophic. But fortunately there were no fluids of any kind to be seen on the road. So why didn't the engine work? All the electrics seemed to work, and it started again, it just wouldn't continue running for long. Then I remembered the cut-off switch under the bonnet - it's designed to cut the fuel if you manage to land the car upside down in an Armco so you don't explode into flames - strong jolts will trip it, and this was certainly a strong jolt. Sure enough, it went click when I pushed it, and the car started and ran fine. Good to know the switch works though!\n\nThe good thing is, I've had the car checked over on a lift and nothing seems to be dented or broken, and it runs fine. The car's always had a lot of rattles and bumps (no sound padding), but you learn them and what they are, and there's no extra new ones appeared. A few of the cooling fins on the sump now have a few millimeters shaved off the front, but I can live with that. This is one tough little car! I've ordered a sump guard from [[RMSCI]] anyway - not sure how much good it would have done, but it's an extra bit of peace of mind.\n\nThe bad thing is, later Louise stopped at a pedestrian crossing to let someone cross, and a teenage girl driving a Civic smacked into the back of her. It wasn't a sudden stop either - and there was quite a delay between Louise stopping and being hit, and it was broad daylight at the time, so it's obvious that the Civic driver was "busy" chatting on her mobile or looking for CDs or something. So the rear numberplate and wheel holder are is dented, and the rear frame that they're fixed to has been pushed in a few millimeters, and that's opened a hairline crack in the frame. So that's going to need replacing, which means getting parts, and then welding them in, and as the fuel tank is uncomfortably close, they'll have to take that out first.\n\nThe good thing is, the other person's insurance are paying, so it's going to be fixed right. Most body shops won't touch aluminium (you have to have a completely separate set of tools to work on aluminium rather than steel), but there's a shop that deals with both exotics and Audis that will, and they did good work on a friend's 308 (that's a Ferrari, not a Peugeot), so that's good. The car is still structurally sound, so it's driveable, but it's going to be a while before its back to its previous looks. I also hope we don't get a flat, coz I don't think you can actually get the spare wheel out of the bent holder right now.\n\nAside from the slings and arrows of those pesky humans abusing it all the time, the Seven's been sweet. Still driving it every day, though the top is staying on permanently because of the cold. The one time I left it at home was when it snowed here in Seattle. Not because I'm scared of driving a powerful rear-wheel-drive car in the snow - you can't own a Skyline in London without learning how to do that pretty quickly - but because our driveway is quite steep and it simply didn't have the grip to drive up it. Even the WRX's ninja 4-wheel drive system had a bit of a scramble doing so, so the Seven was never going to manage. Also, Seattlites have no idea how to drive in snow and ice, and I saw some astonishing displays of incompetent driving for those three days - just slow down and stop making sudden control inputs you idiots! The number of perfectly normal cars sitting abandoned at the side of the fairly modest hill up toward our house was astonishing - it's obvious the drivers were being far too aggressive, slid a bit, got scared, and parked them. There's plenty of grip if you just slow down - all the while, the bus service was running as normal.\n\nOnce we'd cleared the driveway and most of the ice had gone from the main roads, taking the pirouetting 4-ton SUVs with it, I was straight back in the Seven. It's got a surprising amount of grip even in terrible weather conditions.
As part of our preparation for joining the Pacific Northwest Sevens Tour, we took the car to Woodinville Sports Cars and had it thoroughly checked over. We also had a high brake light fitted, after seeing one on John Christensen's Westfield. It looked like just the thing to try to stop dozy teenage Civic drivers from smacking into us when we're stopped at pedestrian crossings. The other problem is that at night, the difference in brightness between the running lights and the brake lights isn't very obvious. Since the high brake light only comes on during braking, it makes it far clearer.\n\nWe used the same one as John - an LTB-10 from [[Wolo Lighting|http://www.wolo-mfg.com/light.htm]]. John put his on the top bar of the rollbar, but being a daily driver in Sunny Seattle we use the roof a lot, and that would block it from view, so we put it in on the crossing point of the rollbar's X so it would show out the back window. It's easily as bright as the two existing brake lights, and it's much higher up.\n\nThe checkup was fine, the car's in good condition, had a fluid change, and two niggling problems were fixed.\n\nOne was a very obvious squeak in the left rear suspension. The Seven isn't exactly the quietest car ever, but this had become much worse. It turned out to be a suspension joint that had run out of lubrication and had frozen. These joints are fancy racing teflon joints and don't have grease nipples, because most Sevens get taken to bits and tweaked after every track session, or only do a few thousand miles between yearly services. Very simple to fix once it was found - take it apart, lubricate it, and put it back together. In theory we could get the joints replaced with standard non-fancy ones with a larger grease reserve, but now we know we just have to do this once a year or so.\n\nThe other problem was a brake-light fuse that kept blowing. At first it was once every few months (impossible to diagnose!), but recently it was happening after maybe ten minutes of driving - extremely irritating, and you had to be careful about avoiding situations where you had to brake hard. Also, cops (fortunately no tickets). After much careful examination of the wiring loom and sticking in resistance testers and burn-in tests and all sorts of other efforts, they came up with nothing - wiring loom seemed perfect with no wear or crimping, the bulbs were fine, the current through the circuit was well within the fuse tolerances. Very frustrating.\n\nIt was while fitting the high brake light that somebody finally spotted the cause. The clutch line is held on the clutch pedal with a bar and a cotter pin. The whole arrangement is a little loose and wobbles a bit, but it's obviously designed to be - I'd looked at it myself before and it's all fine and mechanically sound. What I hadn't spotted is that in certain circumstances (the right pressure on the pedal, plus the right cornering force) the end of the pin can just reach far enough to lightly brush against the light switch on the brake-pedal assembly, and short it to ground. So that was a relief - a two-month annoyance fixed in five seconds with a pair of pliers and some tape.
[[Vital statistics]]\n\n[[Front page of this blog|http://www.eelpi.gotdns.org/caterham/seven.wiki.html]]\n[[Front page of my site|http://www.eelpi.gotdns.org/]]\n[[Event Log]]\n[[Louise's blog|http://eelpi.livejournal.com/]]\n\n[[RSS feed|http://www.eelpi.gotdns.org/caterham/seven.wiki.xml]]
While the car was parked in the garage at work, somebody in a minivan managed to hit it while coming //out// of their parking slot. Quite impressive really - they were parked next to me, and while pulling out they simply turned too hard too early and smacked their front-right nose into the side of my left-rear fender. Stunningly poor navigation skills displayed there. Fortunately, they were nice enough to leave a note, so all the repairs have been on their insurance.\n\nNo fundamental damage - all the structural bits were fine. The insurance pointed me at Belkirk Body Shop (http://www.belkirkbodyshop.com/) and they know how to do fiberglass and aluminium repairs, so that seemed reasonable. The fender had a foot-long crack in it and was bent out of shape, but RMSCI said that fiberglass repairs well (and they didn't have any replacements in stock at the time). The body shop have had lots of experience fixing fiberglass from the older Corvettes, and it's been repaired really well - you can't tell it was ever broken. A few rivets in the aluminium bodywork had also been pulled out by the fender, so that needed fixing. The biggest hassle is that they had to take half the bits off the car to fix the sheeting, and then repaint it, so it took a while, but it's as good as new and hey - a new coat of paint gets rid of stone chips (not that aluminium rusts of course).\n\nI managed to get my parking space moved to a slightly more secluded place, next to the motorcycle parking bay. They might have slightly better control over their vehicles.
I forgot to update this blog for ages! So now a flurry of quick ones.\n\nThe PacNW Seven Tour was lots of fun. Met a bunch of good people and some neat Seven variants. We always thought our SV was a pretty small spartan car, but we were the luxury widebody road-barge compared to some of the others. We have a few extra inches of room, leather seats, carpets, a heater that works - sheer opulence! Though I hadn't realised that some people consider a windscreen, a roof and even a dashboard to be unnecessary luxuries. Still, we had the second-to-best power delivery (after the astonishing 260hp of the VX7), so we kept up pretty well despite the extra weight. The wife has a comprehensive write-up and a ton of pictures on her blog starting on September 2nd and going onwards for a few days as she downloaded the gigs of photos: http://eelpi.livejournal.com/2007/#9 For those of you just here for the small-car-pr0n and not the gorgeous scenery, they're all documented here: http://eelpi.livejournal.com/41485.html\n\nAs far as the car is concerned, the major item was that the exhaust broke again. That exact same weld just after the 4-to-1. The problem is the whole exhaust is just too stiff - the 4 header pipes are rock-solid, then the 4-to-1, then the cat and muffler, and then the tailpipe. It's secured to the engine at the headers, lightly supported in the middle, and then on a rubber mount right at the back, and there's no flexibility anywhere in it, so in effect the entire exhaust is acting as a sort of anti-roll-bar for the chassis. But the chassis is designed to flex and give a little, while the exhaust obviously isn't, and so something gives, and it's that 4-to-1 joint. I actually spotted the hairline fracture one morning before it happened. It was half-way around the joint at that time, and at about 4pm the same day it went entirely. We wired it together with help from the support trailer to stop the open end dragging on the ground, and fortunately we were only a few miles away from a town with lots and lots of vehicle repair shops. We found someone who could weld stainless steel who put it back together (though he was utterly bemused why we were driving such a tiny little thing out in the middle of Washington state), and it was fine for the rest of the trip. But I knew then that it needed a proper solution.\n\nThe only other casualty was the cover of the rear fog lamp, which randomly fell off one day while driving - I saw a red thing bounce in the road in the mirror and only later discovered what it was. Not the light - that's fine, just the plastic lens cover. Very odd. A fog lamp isn't legally required in the US, so it's no great hardship. Easily replaced.
[[Rocky Mountain Sports Cars|http://www.rmsci.com/]]. Where I bought my Seven.
[originally dated October 2005]\n\nJust popped down to Denver for a test drive at [[Rocky Mountain Sportscars|http://www.rmsci.com/]] to try out a Caterham Seven SV Roadsport. It was nearly as good as sex.\n\nI was expecting it to be many things:\n* Cramped (I'm 6-foot-1, with big feet)\n* Noisy (the exhaust is right below your left ear)\n* Bumpy (stiff suspension + light body = lots of noise)\n* Windy (it's got no roof!)\n* Demanding (heavy clutch and having to match revs perfectly)\n* Very very fast (0-60 in <4.5 seconds?)\n\nIn short, I was expecting it to be slightly annoying, but that the sheer crazy speed of it would make up for it. Much as I expected of the [[Skyline]] when I first test-drove it. Very happy to report that just like the Skyline, it completely failed to deliver on all but one point - the "extremely bloody fast" bit.\n\nI am really impressed by the car. We were driving the SV demo car around the area of Denver where [[RMSCI]] is, which is a pretty bland light-industrial area, though our host Nathan had picked out a moderately fun route to drive. But the roads are pretty bad and bumpy, as you'd expect. Well, the Seven didn't object at all, and the ride was totally comfortable at all times. Although you could see the front wheels bouncing up and down on the potholes, it wasn't transmitted to the cabin. I guess if you don't have that much mass to move around, you don't need crazily-hard springs to get good performance. I actually think both the [[Skyline]] and the [[Scooby]] would have been a slightly rougher ride over that surface!\n\nWe both tried the original Caterham body at the Birmingham Motor Show a while back, and although we did actually fit in the car (with a bit of wriggling), with my big feet I couldn't press just one pedal at a time. Which is a bit of a problem. Fortunately, Caterham have come up with the "SV" wider body style in the meantime. It's also known as the "Fat Bastard" - though as you can see from the pictures, it's not exactly Hummer-sized. Turns out Nathan was one of the designers, and he made it to fit a 6-foot-7 friend of his who rowed for Oxford. Only added 2 inches of width to each passenger compartment, but that makes all the difference. You still don't have much room, but nothing is tight or rubbing, and I had no problems with hitting multiple pedals, even though I was deliberately wearing my pointlessly wide Reebok running shoes, and I actually had to move the seat several notches fowards to reach the pedals. So plenty of space for big people. And of course, there's no problem with headroom!\n\nBoth Louise and I independently commented that the noise was far less than we expected. This is not a track-day flatulence machine - it has an exhaust that stretches the whole length of the car, including a full catalytic convertor, and the engine note is subdued at low revs and informative at high revs, but never annoying or painful. Remember, this is a stock Ford Focus SVT engine - same timing, cams, computers, and fuel injection. The only things that have been changed are the obvious things, because it's in a very different car (the Focus mounts it transversely with front-wheel drive, the Seven mounts it longitudinally and rear-wheel-drive) - the intake, exhaust manifold and gearbox housing. Which is nice, because for routine maintenance, you can take it to a Ford person, and they close their eyes, plug their computer in, and they're right at home.\n\nAnd the car was FAST. Seriously fast. Nathan drove it first, and he races these things and was probably driving it at 80%, but he was going into some of the corners scarily fast. I knew he would, because I've pulled exactly the same stunt with others in both the Skyline and the Scooby, but even accounting for that it got the lizard-brain rather worried. Being so low to the ground, I was pretty disoriented as to exactly how fast we were going, which didn't help. While we were going round the corners, the lateral Gs were stunning for worn road tyres on crappy bumpy Denver road surface. Since your arse is about six inches from the rear axle, you can initmately feel the back end sliding slightly even when you're not driving, but I noticed Nathan wasn't having to jerk the wheel around to control it, he was simply riding the slight drift.\n\nOn the way back, I got to drive. Slightly bizarre experience, since I couldn't see the pedals or my feet, the steering wheel is literally less than a foot in diameter, and the car ends two feet behind your back. And the indicators are controlled by a three-position switch on the dash that looks like it was bought for $1 in Radio Shack. Somewhat minimalist. But it was a wonderful car.\n\nNormally, when you drive a new car, you have trouble landing some of the gears, you don't match revs quite right when changing, you mis-judge where the clutch biting point is, and trying to drive it fast is a bit of a jerky ride. Neither Louise nor I had that at all - every gear-change just felt silky - even downshifts, which for some reason I have trouble getting smooth in the Scooby even after a year of ownership. The teeny teeny steering wheel seemed bizarre, but the car is so light that you need no effort at all to change direction, and whether powering through gradual curves or taking 90-degree corners at traffic lights (only quarter of a turn!), it was no problem. It was odder considering it in retrospect than it was while actually doing it.\n\nI love the engine. I was having fun with it, blarping it, braking, blarping, changing, braking, etc. But I wasn't paying attention to the rev counter, and I wasn't used to the engine note, so I disn't know how much of the range I was using. Tunrs out - not much. So I asked Nathan where he usually changed up, and the answer was about 6500 revs (redline is around 7200). "So where's that?" I ask. "Go find it" he answers. So I did. But I was only up to about 4000 (about the most I'd had it while just playing) when a moderate left-hander appeared, so I backed off. "Oh come on", Nathan chided. Um... OK. And sure enough, the car just kept going through the bend, building and building and building - seemed like a totally flat torque/accelleration curve all the way through. A very different experience to the Scooby, which totally relies on the turbo for fun-factor, and only works well within a small range of revs. Finally I changed 3rd->4th at 6500 (glorious engine note!), and it's straight back in there on the power. That's when I noticed my speed, and decided it was time to test the "avoiding speed ticket" equipment. The brakes work just as well. Going through that long left-hander under full throttle, the steering was light, but very talkative. As Nathan had demonstrated earlier, at the limit the car tends to oversteer gracefully and gradually, and although I was nowhere near it, it felt like the car would have responded nicely to corrections.\n\nI also tried cruising at 40mph in 5th - it's doing just under 2000 revs, and perfectly happy. We could talk easily, the throttle wasn't sensitive at those revs, it cruised perfectly well. That means at 70mph, it should be doing about 3200 revs, which is pretty comfortable cruising (same as the Scooby). But Nathan says he's done 0-60 in 5th gear in 10 seconds, so there's still plenty of juice if you really want it. Not that changing down is any sort of hardship if you do need to get a move on. If you haven't tried a Seven gearbox, you don't know the meaning of a "short throw" - it's barely a wrist movement at all, just flick the fingers and it's done. I've read reviews where they call it "notchy" - not entirely sure what they mean, but I never once missed a change - up or down - it felt positive and fast to me.\n\nIn summary, this is probably the most instantly-driveable car I've ever tried, though the Skyline is a very close second. It also happens to be easily the fastest, both in a straight line, and round corners. I've not seen an "official" 0-60 time for the Zetec engine. The UK-spec one does it in 4.6 seconds, but that's the 170bhp engine. The Zetec is also conservatively specced by Ford at 170bhp, though at Denver's altitude of around 6,000ft, it's only getting 150bhp - still felt pretty quick to me! Actual sea-level figures are estimated to be around 185bhp, so guesses are that it should be easily good for sub-4.5 seconds 0-60. Not that straight-line speed is what Sevens have ever been about - it's all about the cornering - but they're nice to have.\n\nSo I've ordered one. Should be delivered around spring - just in time for optimal Seattle cruising weather. The one I ordered is technically almost identical to the demo we drove, except that it is in traditional Lotus colours of British Racing Green and a yellow nose cone and bonnet stripe, and it has chrome wheels and trim rather than the black and carbon-fiber shown in the pictures below. This is is commonly known as the "Prisoner" colour scheme, though mechanically this is a rather different car to [[Patrick McGoohan's KAR120C|http://126.96.36.199/~kgb/Caterham7/pics/kar.jpg]] - and actually the original did not have the yellow bonnet stripe. Here's the [[vital statistics|Vital statistics]].
Our current practical, economical, reliable, 4-door family saloon - a 2002 Subaru WRX. Seriously - we did buy it because we need something we could carry shopping around in, take people places in comfort, use on gravel or icy hiking trails, and all without worrying about reliability or running costs. But it was that or a VW Jetta, and the WRX was only 50% more, for a hell of a lot more car.\n\nWhy "Scooby"? It's a British thing - [[cockney rhyming slang|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockney_rhyming_slang]]. "Scooby" gets expanded to "Scooby Doo", which rhymes with "Subaru" you see? Traditionally only applied to the faster Subarus such as the WRX and STi. I've heard non-Brits refer to a "Subie" as a shortening of Subaru, but I think it's a mishearing/misunderstanding of the CRS etymology.\n\nActually, since we got the [[Seven|Vital statistics]], driving the Scooby is odd. It feels like a bus. The steering wheel seems huge, and the driving position very high, and you're a lot further forward. However, the wheelbases of the Seven and the Scooby are only an inch or so different. The Scooby has a lot more car hanging out past each end, but on the other hand it has a significantly smaller turning circle (and power steering!). Somewhat bizarrely, you have to concentrate a lot harder on changing gears. First, the Scooby has relatively little power at low revs when the turbo isn't spinning, so putting your foot down at 2000 revs does pretty much nothing - you need to change down. Whereas the Seven is almost flat throughout the range, and so light you can pull away from the lights in third. Second, the engine is far quieter than the Seven, so I now find it far too easy to accidentally meander along near redline. On the other hand, the Scooby is unbeatable in the wet, and although it feels slightly less involving than the Seven, it is still very quick when you drive it hard.\n\nIf you're not in the market for a Seven, I can't recommend a WRX highly enough - especially the newer ones that have a 2.5 litre engine instead of the 2.0 litre of mine - gives it just that bit of extra low-end grunt that makes for easier driving around town.
Tom & Louise's Caterham Seven SV
Our lovely lovely 1994 Skyline R33 GTS 25T. We owned and loved this car for many years in the UK, but had to sell it when we moved to the US. A fearsome beast, and an elegant bit of engineering. http://www.eelpi.gotdns.org/skyline/skyline.html
Driving on the freeway today made me realise that even with the heater on, it's getting a little chilly to just wear a T-shirt and sweater with the top down, even when the sun's shining. You can turn up the heating, but while on average you're warn enough, in practice your nips freeze while your nads roast. Time to either put the roof on or wear some more clothes. I think some more clothes for now - the legs are fine, but the torso is chilly, so it's easily fixed. In a few months we'll have proper Seattle rain fairly consistently, and then it'll be time to put the roof on. In the meantime, like certain Vermont teenagers, the car is staying topless.
Coming up to two months now with the Seven, and it's been fantastic. As hoped I've driven it nearly every day after the exhaust was fixed, mainly just commuting to work, and occasional blats around some of the local scenic routes. There was one day I drove the [[Scooby]] because I discovered a very slow leak in a radiator hose join, but that was easy to fix. It looked like the thread on the jubilee clip had failed, so just replace it and top up the system with orange stuff and it's good to go. So reliability - well, it doesn't //feel// unreliable, because I can fix pretty much anything that goes wrong. But I guess time will tell.\n\nIt's stupidly fast, and stupidly easy to drive fast. There's no "car" to get in the way - you feel every tiny nuance of its performance. I know exactly where I'm stepping over the limit of grip - I can feel what each separate foot of road is like, and I can correct and feather as necessary. I know the official performance figures are about the same as a rag-top 'Vette (and the price is fairly similar, too), but the real-world performance is well past - that extra directness allows you to drive right at 10/10ths with confidence.\n\nAs long as you don't try to go faster than about 110mph. At that point, the 0.7 drag coefficient starts to be the dominating factor, and fundamentally it's only got 180hp. But I met a Ferrari 360 Spyder the other day. He had the top down, a blonde in the passenger seat, and no particular place to go. We did a little posing and fencing down the 405. He does have the fruitier exhaust note, and he can go over 110, but when I left for the 520 freeway he followed, and during that merging section I //kicked his arse//. Because I can use all of my car, while he's several computer systems divorced from his. He eventually roared past me doing 150mph, but his blonde will never, ever say "what a cute Ferrari"\n\nChicks love the cute. Actually, everyone loves the cute. Kids love it because it's "their size". Women love it because it's got a smiley face. Young men love it because it's utterly silly - until it spanks their Mustang. Old men love it because they recognise it - or think they do - I've been asked if it's an Allard, an Elise, a Morgan, and the closest guess so far has been a Lotus Elan. Though a surprising number of people do recognise it, mostly as a Lotus but some as a Caterham. I find it's really hard to be pretentious in the Seven. People can see that it's made out of bits of tin and plastic rather than unobtanium. //You// know it's the fastest thing on the road, but nobody else believes it - they're just amazed you haven't been steamrollered by a Hummer yet. So at just sit back, wave at the google-eyed stares, and enjoy the motoring.\n\n\nThe negatives:\n* Can't leave anything in the car. There's no lockable trunk or glovebox (though I have seen people who have installed one). On the other hand, nobody would ever dream of looking, because only an idiot would leave valuables in a car that daft. In practice I leave tons of stuff in it - a map, spare fuses, jack, flashlight, maintenance manual, wooly hats, tonneau, roof, sunglasses. Nothing I couldn't replace if somebody really wanted to steal it for some bizarre reason. Worst thing I've had happen is a water-balloon thrown at it - this was in the University district, where they do regular drive-by water-balloonings of pretty much everything. Whichever jock did it needs to be kicked off the football team - terrible aim - completely missed the cockpit. Not that it would have mattered - everything is water-resistant.\n* Gets a bit damp when it rains. You can always stop and put the roof up, which is pretty quick, but when I'm only going a short distance, I usually just drive through it. Does look a little silly driving along with no roof, windscreen wipers going and sunglasses on (otherwise the rain stings your eyes). But I'm not convinced it's a significant increase on the fundamental base-level silliness of the car.\n* Windy and noisy above 80mph. Comfortable cruising speed is around 70mph. If you're going on long trips, buy some earplugs (against the wind, not the engine) or put the roof on. Same as any rag-top really. It's also a little faster and more fuel-efficient with the roof on.\n* The top of the windscreen is dead-level with my eyes, so I either have to sit up and look over it, or hunch slightly and look under it. I don't think many people will have this trouble though. 6-foot-1 isn't uncommon, but I have very short legs (I blame my mother), so I'm the equivalent of about 6-foot-6 when I sit down. For the same reason, I always need to wear sun/cycling-glasses or I have streaming red eyes after ten minutes in the wind. Also, my hair is a knotted mess if I don't tuck it down the back of my shirt. I was considering getting a nifty panoramic mirror from [[Mirrors For Sevens|http://www.mirrorsforsevens.com/]] to replace the standard mirror, which does block a significant part of the view. But actually I'm not sure now - it would be right on my eyeline. It's not much thicker than the windscreen frame, but it is still thicker - might irritate me even more. On the other hand, Louise might like it more as she sits slightly lower.\n* Obese people just won't fit. No more pies for you, fatty. Not that I actually know anybody that big, but it might be a problem if you live in Houston. "Big boned" people who do fit still have a bit of trouble gettng in and out - it requires a little bit of triceps strength to do gracefully.\n* Can't stop anywhere for just a minute. Everyone always wants to chat about the car, so even filling up at the gas station takes an extra ten minutes each time. To be fair, I love chatting about the car, so it's not that much of a negative.\n* People in SUVs can't see you - you're too low for the side mirrors to cover. That's assuming they even look in the first place of course. You do have easily enough performance to avoid people's blind spots - you just need to be a little bit more aware of what others can and can't see. Bikers will be able to relate to this perfectly - exactly the same skills.\n* Fairly low ground clearance - 3.75 inches. The ends are fine - there's a perfectly decent "take-off" angle there - it's the middle of the car that is a slight worry over really big humps. Then again, the only place I've found that actually scrapes anything (fortunately nothing important) is the edge of my own driveway. Oh, the irony. As long as you take it slowly over railway crossings and speed humps and don't let the suspension compress too much, it's fine.\n* Not much steering lock. Somewhat surprised about this. It's got almost exactly the same wheelbase as the Scooby (though it sticks out a lot less at each end), but the front wheels don't turn as much so it's not quite as manouverable in carparks. I guess I need some pointers from [[this guy|http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHgjFPhhzY8]].\n* The nose is quite long, and you're very low down, so pulling out of junctions with limited visibility (bloody pot plants!) can take a little bravery and a right foot with both commitment and control. This is where the tall 1st gear and LSD come in handy.\n\nThe positives:\n* Tradition. I like a bit of tradition now and then. The design is almost 50 years old (7/7/57 is the semi-official birth date), and it's by Colin Chapman - the man who reinvented racing cars several times over. A few updates here and there, mainly the de Dion suspension on the rear axle, but it's changed remarkably little. If it ain't broke...\n* Exotic. Like nothing else on the road. Literaly every day, somebody leans out of a window and says something cool, or I get honks or flashed lights from other traffic. Bikers on Harley hogs wave at it. Pedestrians stop and stare at it. People in roadside cafes point it out to their friends. Stopped at the lights, people compliment me on it - it's far more approachable than a "real" supercar.\n* Not exotic. All the moving parts are easily available because they come from 20-year-old British cars (the designs that is - obviously the actual parts themselves are new). Except the engine which in the US is from a perfectly normal Ford Focus SVT or Ford Contour. So you can just take it down to Jiffy Lube and while the car as a whole will confuse them, they'll recognise all the individual bits.\n* Roomy. Oi - stop laughing - it is! OK, getting in and out is a little tricky for the novice, but once you get the hang of it, it's easy. And once in, there's leather seats, leather steering wheel, fantastic lateral support and tons and tons of legroom - I have the seat a good six inches from the back wall (which also creates some handy storage). Even with the top on it's roomy - I was amazed to find that my head doesn't even rub against the roof.\n* Doors that open vertically, just like on a Lambo or a chavved-up Peugeot 205.\n* Reversing out of parking spaces is trivial. You're almost sitting on the back axle - you can literally reach your hand further back than the end of the car.\n* 5mph bumpers, crumple zones, side-impact airbags, ABS, seatbelt pre-tensioners, electronic stability control, traction control, cruise control, parking assist radar, power steering, power brakes, flappy-paddle-gearbox, cylinder deactivation, surround stereo, iDrive, satnav, room for three sets of golf clubs, seventeen cup holders and a DVD screen for the kids in the back. This list may be a little inaccurate.\n* 26mpg observed over the last 1000 miles of commuting, and I tend to drive it hard. Over the 1500 miles of freeway driving before that we got 29mpg. Once it starts to rain and you can't be as free with the power, fuel economy will probably improve. Louise drove it to a hike the other day, stuck at a steady 50mph for most of the way, and got 32mpg.\n\nIf you're thinking of a fun sports car, it's easily the best bang for your buck. Porsches are OK, but I loathe their styling, and they're almost as common as [[Scoobies|Scooby]]. Ferraris are a lot more expensive to buy and own, and notoriously unreliable (my boss owned a 360 Spyder for a while - stupid thing was always broken). Lamborginis are even more so. The latest C6 Corvettes are actually pretty decent, and reasonably priced, but I have a semi-religious distaste for the brute-force approach of a gigantic pushrod engine - motoring should have a certain degree of elegance to it, rather than just hurling fossilised dinosaurs out the back as fast as you can. I was thinking about getting a Honda/Acura NSX, but they stopped making them and they're not significantly cheaper second-hand. I can't get any Skyline in the US for less than idiot money. The Elise is very close to the Seven in spirit, and I considered that as well, but they're a lot more cramped inside and I had the same problem as on the non-SV Seven - I couldn't hit the accellerator without hitting the brakes. Plus the new US-spec styling is a bit too Baroque Flash Gordon Rocketship for me - too many fins and intakes and scoops - the [[original Series 1|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Elise]] styling was a little less gonzo.\n\nAnd all of these cars are //slower// than the Seven. Some get similar 0-60 times, but none can match the cornering ability, and none can be driven as close to their limits so easily. Unless the track has a truly gigantic straight a Seven will destroy them.\n\nThe only things that can beat it for under $100k are the truly bizarre things such as the [[Ariel Atom|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ariel_Atom]]. I did consider one, and my boss has one on order for himself, and it will be substantially quicker. However, the practicality is awful. You really need a helmet with a faceshield, or you get pelted with insects and road debris. If it's cold or wet, there's no body work, so the full effect of the rain and the wind-chill goes right through you, so you pretty much have to wear motorcycle leathers. The engine is just behind your ear and the exhaust system is very short, so it's noisy and hot. Jason Plato said much the same thing about the [[Brooke Double R|http://www.brookecars.co.uk/profile.html]] on Fifth Gear a few weeks ago, and I think he's right. But the thing that really annoyed me was that he said the Caterham had all the same problems, which is not right. Made me quite angry really. Maybe he meant something like a Superlight - but then you'd be mad to drive that anywhere but a track.\n\nAnyway, if I really wanted to go faster, I can upgrade a lot of the kit - people get their engines up to 220bhp with intakes, exhausts and different cam settings, they trim a few hundred pounds off, fit aeroscreens instead of a windscreen, put stickier tires on, etc. But then it would be a lot less practical and I wouldn't drive it as much and wouldn't enjoy it as much. Miles = smiles.
Here are the salient facts of my particular Seven:\n* Caterham de Dion SV chassis.\n* Roadsport package. The luxuries - windscreen, doors, etc.\n* British Racing Green with yellow nose and stripe. Traditional Lotus/[[Prisoner|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Prisoner]] colours.\n* Chrome fittings - windscreen, lights, etc. Goes better with the colour scheme than black.\n* Leather seats. More weather-proof than the cloth ones.\n* FIA rollover bar. Most tracks require one, and although I drive it mainly on the road, it would be a shame not to give it a go on a circuit now and then.\n* Spare wheel & carrier.\n* Roof bag. Otherwise you use up half the trunk/boot storing your roof.\n* Tonneau cover. Covers the cockpit when you're not driving it, so it doesn't fill up with water or bake in the sun. Less hassle than putting the roof up, and handy for rainy Seattle.\n* Ford Zetec engine - 2 litre 4 cylinder DOHC, ~180bhp. [[Dyno run]] got 153hp at the wheels.\n* Full emissions-legal catalytic converter and muffler.\n* 5-speed gearbox with high-ratio 1st gear (otherwise 1st is nearly useless, because it's over so quickly).\n* Lightweight flyweel. This is "lightweight" compared to the standard flywheel from the Focus, which is far too heavy for a Seven.\n* Limited slip differential. Probably the most expensive option, but far cheaper to add during the build than to retrofit later.\n* 1500 lbs estimated weight.\n* Roughly 4.5 seconds to 60mph.\n* Pulls more than 1G lateral on street tires if you're brave enough.\n\nAs you can see, I've not added any mad performance features. You can polish the cams, sweeten the timings, fit different intakes, open exhaust, sticker tires, bigger anti-roll bars, stiffer suspension and so on if you want to go faster, but the aim of this car is a comfortable and predictable daily driver. More miles = more smiles. Having said that, even this near-base-spec version is absurdly fast.\n\nFun fact: "Caterham" is pronounced Kay-Trum.
Bizarrely, two months after the fan switch jammed shut, the water thermostat also broke. It's meant to stop water circulating through the radiator until the engine has reached a certain temperature, but it was being temperamental and jamming on sometimes. This meant when sitting at lights the engine would warm up to the standard temperature, but as soon as you started to move, the chilly winter air flowing through the radiator dropped the temperature very quickly. Aside from a loss of fuel economy (dropped to 18mpg instead of the usual 24mpg around town), no great problems, though the heater doesn't work as well, since it operates off radiator water! The thermostat is a standard Ford part, so easily replaced.\n\nAlso had an oil change while it was in the shop (14k miles on the odo) - it was about due, and it was getting slightly dark and sludgy and a little low - probably not helped by the low temperatures.
[[Caterham Seven|http://www.caterham.co.uk/]] - derived from the original [[Lotus Seven|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lotus_Seven]] designed in 1957 by [[Colin Chapman|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colin_Chapman]]. Lotus discontinued the car in 1973 and sold the manufacturing rights to [[Caterham|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caterham_Cars]] in 1973.\n\nThere are [[other manufacturers|http://www.adelgigs.com/links.shtml]] of what have become known as LSIS, or "Lotus Seven Inspired Sportscars" such as Westfield and Birkin and Stalker, and also the wide varieties of DIY mongrels generally known as Locosts. But we're an inclusive bunch. When the lawyers aren't watching, we just call them all sevens.\n\nThe distinguishing feature of my particular car - the Caterham Seven Roadsport SV - is that it is a few inches wider and longer than the regular Roadsport model, especially in the pedal box, which means people like me (6-foot-1, size 13 feet) can not only fit in it, but also drive it. Every Seven is different, but here's the [[vital statistics|Vital statistics]] of mine.\n\nBelow you can find my blog of the experience of owning and driving the car.