Caterham Cars has lasted over six decades by delivering a series of lightweight sports cars known for their unique look and giant fun factor. By sometime next year, buyers of the company's iconic Caterham Seven may have the option of an even lighter-weight model incorporating the butted tube technology used in bicycles.
The bicycle influence came about when Reynolds Technology, a company known for making quality bicycle frame tubes, approached Caterham with the idea of making an ultra-lightweight chassis using the butted tube process it had patented back in 1897. Once Caterham agreed, Simpact Engineering was enlisted for its design expertise.
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The trio then had six months to complete the research and design of the chassis based on the parameters set by the Niche Vehicle Network in the UK that supplied the funding.
The butted tube approach developed by Reynolds meant that each tube member of the chassis was thicker at the ends than in the middle, which kept the frame strong yet lightweight. Using low-cost steel rather than alloys also allowed for weight reductions of up to 50 percent on some parts while maintaining the chassis' torsional stiffness and strength.
The final result was a prototype vehicle incorporating a chassis that came in more than 10 percent lighter than the already slimmed-down model found in the current run of Caterham Seven models.
Caterham said the plan is to further refine the chassis with the goal of offering it as an option for models in the 2017 lineup, at an extra cost of between £1,000 and £2,000 (about US$1,438 and $2,876). The company will also continue to develop the prototype vehicle utilizing the butted chassis, with the intent of launching it as a new model at some point in the future.
The automaker additionally stated that the process and technology developed for this project will be available to license to companies that make trucks, cranes or any business in which weight savings would be beneficial. Caterham does, incidentally, make its own line of bikes – without butted frames.
Source: Caterham CarsView gallery - 7 images