Picture your ideal road trip car. It probably has doors. And a roof, unless you live somewhere warm.
But that didn’t matter, because when the time came to divvy up the keys amongst the MOTOR journos for the drive to Bang For Your Bucks at Winton, I drew (or rather was handed) the short car. Really, it’s tiny.
The morning after I had found out what I’d be piloting up the Hume, I headed into Caterham Cars in Richmond to pick it up.
Here’s a bit of advice – If you like attention, a good way to get some is to drive a bright red Caterham along busy Swan Street just as everybody else is walking to work.
It’s jarring to get out of a modern car with power-assisted pretty-much-everything, and get into something which will only assist your workout routine.
The amount of effort it takes to steer and brake in the Caterham Seven isn’t huge, but it’s staggeringly raw by modern standards.
It does mean you’ve got to be paying attention to everything around you at all times – which could help a few people drop the bad habit of texting and driving.
Is this how it was in the early days of motoring? Did people really have to actually pay attention to their cars and the road ahead of them, without looking down at their phones every 2.6 seconds?
The answer is yes, but the fact that they didn’t have phones helps.
Soon I was out of the city, letting the Caterham stretch its legs. This revealed the acceleration potential of an aspirated 1.6-litre Ford Sigma engine in a 675kg car.
It’s not supercar fast, but 0-100km/h in a claimed 5.5 seconds sure feels quick when your head is about a metre from the road.
Doing highway speeds in something that has no doors and is small enough that you can actually lean out and touch the ground is exhilarating, there’s no other way to put it.
There’s really not much to insulate you from the road, either. There aren’t many perfectly smooth sections of the Hume, even though it’s a breeze for most cars.
Every bump or slight dip felt like it was about to fling me out of this motorised go-kart.
On top of that, it turns out other motorists are quite interested in an oddity like a Caterham, and will crowd around you to get a closer look. Not great at 110km/h, really.
Once in Winton, and after everyone had a good laugh at the spectacle of the new kid showing up in a go-kart, we headed to our hotel in nearby Benalla to catch some zeds before the big event.
Needless to say, driving back to Winton the next morning was interesting, as it was about eight degrees Celsius. Mercifully the thing has a heater, but my hands were still numb when we arrived at the track.
While it was there, the Caterham… actually, I can’t tell you yet. Wait for our BFYB 2017 feature, coming soon to MOTOR.
Which brings me to the drive home.
It was much like the drive there, except it was darker. And colder. I employed gloves for this drive. And a scarf. On my face.
The below picture somewhat illustrates how the highway looks when you’re in a Caterham Seven, despite the fact it was taken from the passenger seat, by my housemate, on a smaller and slower road. Imagine this photo but twice as intense.
Since I had the car for one night at home before it had to be returned, I made the most of it.
I picked up my girlfriend from work in the CBD that night, which she quite enjoyed… I think. Driving through the city at night is another good way to draw far too much attention, by the way.
We also did what any 20-something-year-old would do – took it through the Maccas drive-thru. Standing up to pay for your nuggets is decidedly inelegant.
In all seriousness, I had a blast in the Seven. Getting back to the very basics of driving is something everyone should do if given the chance. It will, at the very least, make you realise we’ve probably become a bit lazy.
I do however advise warm weather and sunlight for a drive in one because, as I type this, I think I’m coming down with a cold.