In the 50s Ferrari and other established motorsport royalty started to lose races to a new breed to British racer: plucky little companies with modest resources but bags of ingenuity. Ferrari sniffily dismissed these as ‘Garagisti’. When I collected a car for a forthcoming feature recently I was lucky enough to be given a quick tour of some modest buildings in Dartford by a company that are perhaps the ultimate Garagisti: Caterham.

Under corrugated roofs sits a very busy production line. Duratec and Suzuki engines on pallets, stacked panels and men with spanners. Caterham are busy, very busy; over 90% of their cars are now factory built and there’s a sizeable waiting list. One building houses the final assembly, another parts, then there’s CTI where the Engineers work on applying new technology to a design silhouette that has graced our roads for decades. Underneath the familiar seven shape is genuine innovation. One building holds the awesome SP300/R cars, 300 BHP from a supercharged Duratec, a racecar we’d love to try some day. Yet I leave Caterham in their most modest product, the new 165 which is the export version of the 160. This little cracker is painted in Caterham’s new sage green livery and powered by an 80 BHP 3 cylinder Suzuki engine, with a live axle and retro touches like stainless headlamp backs reflecting my grin.

It’s raining, I’m in stop-start traffic in a LHD car and I’m snicking through gaps an Italian would baulk at. Don’t bet against the Garagisti.

About The Author

Rich Duisberg

Rich's drivel regularly appears in Practical Performance Car and GT Porsche magazines. He has also written for Classic & Sportscar, MogMag, Classic Performance and Retro, Banzai, Evo, and Modern Mini. He also did a book no-one bought. His hungover fizzog also often appears on CBS’s Carfection channel enthusing about historic motoring. Le Mans winner Derek Bell once refused to get in Rich's Morgan Three Wheeler with him at the wheel. Currently amongst the detritus in his garage is a 1972 Fiat 500 Abarth, a fat BMW and a Lotus Elise. Previous machinery includes a Porsche 968, an Alfa GTV V6 and a dreadful Sinclair C5. He also owns a vintage Royal Enfield pushbike.

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