The Caterham 21 began development by Caterham Cars in the early 1990's, with the original specification to develop a car similar to the Lotus 11 with an Aluminium body.
This area will be being updated over the next few months with a potted history of the car and its development over the years, including how it evolved into the GRP bodied car that it is now and the lesson learned by Caterham in the intervening period, carried forward into cars including Top Gear's 2008 car of the year, the R500.
Having joined Caterham in 1983, by the early 1990's Jez Coates was Technical Director and was set a mission to create Caterham's first completely new model (the 7 being an evolution of an inherited design). With Reg Price, they set to with pen and paper.
The original concept was for a mid engined car with a composite monocoque (a concept that was mirrored by Lotus' eventual development of the Elise), but the practicality of creating a 2nd model using the existing infrastructure of the business was that they wanted to design a "new suit" for the current successful model.
Iain Roberts worked for Autocar as a designer and was asked by the development team to pen the design for the new car - creating sketches and artists' impressions. Jez and Reg then (along with their team) put together some balsa prototypes for the car, increasing the width of the front over the 7 but maintaining a structurally common rear end.
3 days before Christmas in 1993, the team presented 4 proposals to a panel of Mssrs Noble, Wakefield and Nearn. It was the first of the proposals, using Iain Roberts design that was chosen.
The very first stage of the car was for Jez to drive around the M25 with the crew, looking at car rear lights that would help define the rear of the car. The Ford Mondeo had the perfect shape and it was from these items that the rest of the car was spawned.
There was insufficient space at Caterham's factory at Dartford at the time, so the work on the car began in a barn hidden deep in the countryside. There was a supplier of large blocks of foam nearby to Dartford and the team set to with a chassis, a large block of foam and a chainsaw....
More to follow....