Sue is member of Kent 7s
I have loved cars since being a teenager having had the good fortune to be part of a family who drove interesting cars including a Lamborghini Espada and a Pontiac LeMans, and who took me to the British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. So it came as no surprise, when I was taken out in a Caterham for the first time, that I would be smitten! It was a Cosworth BDA and the driver (Andy Noble if I remember rightly) did not hesitate in putting it through its paces, and so my love affair with Caterhams started in 1999. A friend owned one and we joined the Kent (East) group who welcomed women at every meeting. I also became part of the team that provided refreshments at the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, which on one notable occasion earned us all a hug from Nigel Mansell!
By 2009 I was in a position to buy one of my own. With the help of club members I located what I wanted – a 1995 red 1.4 K series with clam shell wings - in Northamptonshire. The Club Area Rep at the time drove me, and there she was in a barn – with straw, sticky sweet wrappers and the odd coin lining her interior. But she was mine!
I drove the 150 or so miles home with some trepidation and being small it appeared to me that she flew, but in reality it wasn’t that fast as she is only 104 bhp. Arriving back in Kent I immediately went on a short Fish and Chip run with the club and during the inevitable ‘kicking tyres’ received a huge amount of helpful advice.
I was also considering changing the number plate to a more personalised one but then I discovered that my little red seven appears in Chris Rees’ book – “Caterham Sevens. The Official Story of a Unique British Sports Car” (1996) with the foreword by Chris Rea, and decided to keep the original registration.
A month later I realised that the clutch release bearing needed attention and drove to Richard Young’s garage some 50 miles away for him to replace it and to change the seat belts from lap and diagonal to five point harness. Having left it with him and walked into town, I got a call and Richard said …’you aren’t going anywhere in this car tonight lady!'
He had found that the engine mount had fractured, and the weight of the engine block and exhaust was resting on the bodywork. It had obviously been like that for some while as the exit for the exhaust was not round but oval where it had worn away over time. Somewhat stunned that I’d driven so far in the car in such a perilous state already, I was also stranded. Richard and his wife Meryl offered me a bed for the night – what service and so typical of Caterham owners.
At about this time I met John (now my husband) and it was a question of ‘love me love my Caterham’, which thankfully he did. We enjoyed many local trips out and then in 2010 Kent Sevens organised their first trip to Classic Le Mans (CLM). What a journey – I had never driven the car in Europe and let alone in a convoy of sevens which were all considerably faster than mine. We had a great time and I learnt so much about touring etiquette. We stayed in a shabby chic Chateau not far from the circuit. John and I stayed on afterwards and one evening found a superb restaurant for dinner, but on the way there we realised that the exhaust mount had broken. The restaurant owner was a car enthusiast and offered to fashion a new bracket for us in his workshop. What a result! All was going well the next day until the owner’s wife returned unaware that our car was there and reversed into it! She was mortified, fortunately there was only a small dent and the bracket was donated in recompense. On our journey home, the weather changed from heatwave to torrential rain – the leather seats, which were filled with sponge, soaked up the rain and in turn soaked into our trousers and we returned home in what can only be described as a bath! Suffice to say we have refurbished the seats and, courtesy of Soft Bits for Sevens, have full wet weather gear and can now get the half hood up in seconds. The Classic Le Mans trips continued and we joined each one until Covid struck.
Apart from CLM – in 2015 Kent Sevens organised the G I T – Grand Italian Tour – a huge amount of organisation by those concerned resulted in an extremely memorable trip. We travelled through Europe to our destination on Lake Garda. There was a certain irony to being on our summer holiday, when in snow on top of the Stelvio pass we encountered a herd of cows. John was driving -photo attached – with the caption – it was the cow by a short head!
Since then we have been with the Kent Sevens to Schloss Dyck and the Swiss International as well as holidays in France and Belgium with ‘7’ friends - so the little red car is now well travelled and we have touring and packing down to a fine art.
The car itself has had a few upgrades to the interior – new carpets, new leather, and bespoke touring bags.We have thought so often about upgrading the engine or buying a faster car, but in the end having owned her for just under 12 years, we have decided that we enjoy her and her reliability just the way she is.