Fun for the weekend: hire a Caterham

Buying a car for your loved one’s birthday is a little expensive for most of us, so why not hire one instead?

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Two years ago, my father turned 60 and, until a few weeks ago, I was still mulling over the ideal birthday present for him (no point in rushing these things). In an epiphany, however, it hit me: a Caterham Seven.

My Dad loves cars, and Caterhams present a minor challenge but are fairly easy to drive in comparison with anything else in the go-kart league. If, like me, you haven’t got the requisite £13,650 for the cheapest Seven, or £10,000 for a second-hand model (residuals are strong), there’s option C – Caterham’s scheme, Hire-A-7.

The hire season runs from March to October and you can lease a car for up to four days. Prices start at £175, and from my father’s experience, it’s worth every penny.

The last time Dad was in a Seven was in 1967, when he drove down to Kent after a party in his mate’s car, with his mate’s girlfriend on his lap, as you do.

Things are a little different these days – girlfriends are thin on the ground, police generally don’t take kindly to three adults in a two-seater, and joints are stiffer – so for ease of access, I took the wider SV version of the Roadsport 175 (“wider” being a relative term). Once Dad had got the hang of the distant pedals, and stretched-out driving position, however, he was away. Was the experience worth the small amount of hassle involved in organising this sort of present?

As Dad says: “It’s not easy to understand why, on today’s roads, you should find yourself driving a Caterham Seven (presents from daughters aside). And yet there’s something magical about it. For those of the baby-boomer cohort (like me), there are the non-practical reasons: the nostalgia about a ‘real’ car that does what it says, with an engine, a seat and a wheel at each corner.

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