Caterham 7 (nee Lotus 7)

A design with the most extreme proportions of any current production car

The Caterham 7 — originally the Lotus Super 7 of 1957, but produced and sold by Caterham since 1973 — is less of a car design than any other current production car. It has less mass or volume — its 3.1m length,1.6m width, and 1.1m height make a 5.5m3 box which is half the volume of a box that a Volkswagen Golf would fit into, and it has much less than half the mass. There are way less elements to the design also, and those that remain are super simple: flat aluminium sheet for the fuselage with a two-dimensional curve for the hood, minimal ‘cycle-wings’ in composite, circular section steel roll-bar, and, optionally, a flat windscreen and soft fabric doors and roof. 

It also has the most extreme set of proportions of any car design possible to buy new: the driver sits firmly against the rear bulkhead, behind even the leading edge of the wheel-arch, which with a rear overhang less than a handspan (both front and rear overhangs are a quarter the length of a new Porsche 911) make it simply not possible to drive sitting any closer to the back of a car. So in side view, with the windscreen base closer to the rear axel than the front axel, the whole ‘cabin’ of the car takes up less length than the hood, despite its incredibly diminutive overall size. The 7 is a sportscar with design proportions that fundamentally tell of its prioritisation of engine over passenger. 

The 7 is rather a fine design in many ways (caravan rear lights and roof pop-fittings excepted…), but likely never again will there be such a reduced car design, nor likely such a cab-rearward one.