Why the return of Caterham's Drift Experience is a good thing

Caterham drift day
Caterham drift day

You’ll have fun in a Seven, whichever way you’re going

After a four-year absence, Caterham has revived its Drift Experience. The clue is in the name to what happens: it’s a day spent learning to drift, in a Caterham.

While it’s rear-wheel drive, a Seven isn’t the most natural car in the world in which to drift. These are light cars with short wheelbases and unassisted steering: great at scribing lines on a race circuit but not easily held sideways like an overpowered long saloon car that has oodles of steering lock and a heavily assisted rack.

So Caterham does its Sevens a favour. It takes the 360Rs it uses for other track experiences, jacks up the rear suspension, puts hard back tyres on its biggest-diameter wheels and over-inflates them. Voila: a car that can easily be sent sideways and, with a bit of practice, will stay there.


It happens in big empty spaces at relatively low speeds, at either Brands Hatch or Donington Park, but on wide open steering pads with cone courses laid out to steer around, rather than on the circuits. It’s all high-rev but low-speed stuff, so it’s suitable for those with no track experience, or loads of it.

The cars are wider SV models so have more footwell and leg space than narrow-bodied cars. And bigger radiators because so much throttle use is involved.

Back in the day, Autocar used to co-promote these days. We would send staffers along to meet our readers and have a very good time squealing around (or into) cones in a big empty car park.

It has been years since I did one and I was initially out of practice, particularly since a couple of the test tracks we previously used for photos and video are unavailable to us. But it comes back, and for me it’s a useful skill. I’ve vowed to find a way to keep up my practice.

Now, I could tell you that the day is very useful for learning car control, and that this is very valuable in emergency situations on the road, where the Highway Code will tell you to steer into the skid, but that means nothing unless you’ve experienced it earlier.

But unless you drive a Seven or equivalent, you’ve probably got stability control anyway, so consider it more about hooning and having a riot behind the wheel in safe conditions.

At £359 they’re not cheap days, but I came away tired from the amount of driving, you’re encouraged to use and abuse the cars, and the hospitality is good. Caterham is organising 11 days this year and all but three are sold out.

With a new electric model on the way, a new factory the company is moving into as you read, and its experience and race programmes, lots is happening at Caterham.

The encouragingly youthful car restoration scene

The lovely looking Series 3 Lotus Seven pictured below, on display at April’s Bicester Heritage Sunday Scramble, has just been restored by its encouragingly youthful owner, who is involved with the Bicester-based charity StarterMotor, which gets young people into looking after and restoring historic vehicles.

There’s a growing network of organisations like this, and the also-Bicester-based Association of Heritage Engineers, finding partnerships and providing education and apprenticeships to maintain and build skills that the old car business was once worried might be lost.

Recently I popped over to nearby Hightone Restorations, near Steeple Aston (which along with being a great restorer also runs a free ‘classics at the crossroads’ car meet on the first Thursday of each month), where managing director Gregg Alvarez told me that while there are the old mechanics and artisans who have been doing this stuff for decades, there was a shortage of slightly younger people (those in their thirties and forties) coming through.

But thanks to organisations like the AoHE and StarterMotor and restorers like Hightone taking on apprentices, the trend has been reversed, and the future for looking after old cars is now much brighter. If anyone tells you young people aren’t into cars, don’t buy it.