Hello. I own a 1970 Seven S4 and a 1959 Elite. I've seen many a debate on this subject, usually along "philosophical" lines. I bought a Lotus Seven because I wanted to go production vintage racing and also still drive it on the street. The only Sevens I ever saw were at vintage races at Watkins Glen were, well, Lotus. Also, the great romance of the heritage of Lotus through the 60's & 70s (that should date me) factored in also.
As far as I see it, Lotus (Chapman) sold the rights to manufacture and equipment to Caterham (Nearne). There is a copy of a letter in the Coulter book on Lotus Sevens, but there are very few people that probably know the exact story on this now.
Anyway, many consider Lotus Sevens to be "better" then Caterham since they typically can fetch more money. That is of questionable debate. But the facts are Lotus produced Sevens from 1957-1973. Typically, the value is set by age, scarceness and condition as is most any car (Except for things like owner or other "provenance").
Here's my analogy, up to anyone else to agree with it:
- In 1957 was born the Lotus Seven. Fathered by Colin Chapman, It grew and flourished. For the remainder of this analogy, think if it as a girl
- In 1973, a the young age of 16, it married a guy named Caterham. Mr. Chapman gave away (ok sold) the bride.
- The happy couple grew and flourished as it does to this day. They have also had Caterham children.
- For 36 years the family has continued. There are various "cousins" (Birkin, Westfield, many others) that show up at family reunions. These are not "blood relatives" but are accepted by the family none the less.
Ok, maybe not the best analogy but I consider Caterham the logical successor to a business owned by Lotus. Caterhams cost more now, but what 2009 car doesn't compared to a 1973 car. Lotus is more sought after but so are 1960's GT40s, Shelby's and many others even though technically "better" cars is available today.
Bottom line, the Seven was a automotive invention that has stood the test of time of over 50 years.
I have been a Lotus racer and enthusiast for many years, well 50 anyway!
I have owned a and restored a number of S1 and S2 Elites and still have two of them, one I share with my son Nick, the other is being restored for pure historic race use.
I'm also lucky enough to have the ex Jo Siffert Lotus 22 Formula Junior which is nearing completion of a ground up restoration and will be back on the circuits later this year.
I also have owned and raced a S2 seven 1500 Cosworth and a twin cam 1981 S3 Caterham and now find myself the owner of a 1981 S3 Caterham crossflow road car.
To my way of thinking the Caterham is a Lotus Seven without the Lotus badge. Caterham are the proud owners of this heritage and the cars should be considered as equals. I liked Scott's analogy.
The Caterham Sevens are considered "genuine" Sevens by the Seven club in the UK as they ae here in Australia.
In Australia the value of, for example, a top condition pushrod S2 Seven is about A$40k The Caterham S3 twin cam was sold for A$40k The pushrod crossflow S3 Caterham would reach perhaps A$30K
I love them all!