With huge car brands like Ferrari, Porsche, Volkswagen Mini all getting the LEGO treatment, few would have bet that legendary (but niche) British Sportscar manufacturer Caterham would be next in-line to be immortalized in injection molded plastic.
But, that’s exactly what’s happened with the launch of the stunning LEGO Caterham 620R.
When you think about it a little bit more, though, they’re a perfect fit. LEGO needs little introduction, being a staple of all of our childhoods, with some 2,200 different elements (or bricks) that let both children and adults alike spend hours creating their own miniature masterpieces.
Caterham Cars, on the other hand, is famous for it’s iconic two-seater sports car, the Caterham Seven. In production since 1973 when Graham Nearn secured the manufacturing rights from Lotus, the basic design and lightweight ethos remains the same, but the performance hasn’t.
The LEGO model replicates the outrageous 620R model that kicks out 310bhp from it’s 2-liter engine, propelling it to 60 mph in a blink-and-you-miss-it 2.79 seconds.
Half the charm, though, of buying a Caterham Seven is that, if you want, you can buy it as a kit and assemble it yourself in the comfort of your own garage … perfect for those that like making things, a little like LEGO.
It was back in 1957 when the original Lotus Seven was introduced by engineering mastermind Colin Chapham, that to make it more affordable, he would sell the Lotus Seven as a do-it-yourself kit. To avoid tax on the kit, no assembly instructions could be included – seriously.
But, Chapham shrewdly got around this rule with “disassembly” instructions, with customers having to follow the instructions in reverse.
Things are obviously much simpler now, with trained technicians fitting the core elements of the car, including the wiring loom, dashboard, gauges, scuttle panel, fuel tank, fuel lines, brake pipes, brake lines, pedal box and those all-important pedals.
The remainder of the desired components are then boxed up together with the kitted out chassis, engine, gearbox and assembly guide, before being delivered to your garage.
Be prepared to set aside between 80 to 100 hours, and you’ll end-up with your very own Caterham Seven.
Getting it into production
The LEGO Caterham 620R is the brainchild of LEGO enthusiast and car-nut Carl Geartrix. A Senior LEGO model designer for TT Games, Carl’s love of the Caterham Seven led him to create a series of five Caterham Seven models.
“When I got back into building LEGO car models,” Geartrix says, “I thought the shape of the vehicle would lend itself to being modeled well in LEGO bricks, as it is very angular and, if I could find a suitable scale, then I would be able to get all the details into it that I would love to see”.
These exquisitely detailed models soon caught the imagination of LEGO and Caterham aficionados alike via his popular Flickr page, with people clambering to get hold of their own model.
Despite their popularity, you don’t just give Lego a call and expect them to put it into production. Carl had to submit his design to the LEGO Ideas website, where it had to gain 10,000 votes from fellow fans.
With Carl starting a promotional campaign to build-up votes, his efforts soon caught the attention of Caterham Cars themselves, who helped raise awareness of the project to their legion of fans, helping achieve the required 10,000 votes.
The hard work didn’t stop there though as it then had to make it passed the LEGO Ideas Review Board. Made up for designers and marketing representatives, each project is assessed to see if it meets LEGO’s review criteria, before they decide on whether it should become a LEGO Ideas kit or not.
Having made it passed the LEGO Ideas Review Board, Carl’s creation is then handed over to LEGO’s professional designers to make it into a viable kit.
The Caterham Seven kit
Consisting of 771 pieces (the real thing is nearer 1,200), the 11-inch-long replica 620R looks stunning in its loud yellow color scheme.
The front steering mechanism had to be sacrificed to make the kit more rigid and to pass LEGO’s ‘play’ policy, with models tested on a host of lucky children. But, this has allowed LEGO to drop a cleverly designed and detailed replica engine and gearbox in the front – revealed when you remove the engine cover.
There’s also a removable nose cone, seats and opening boot that houses a set of functioning axle stands, allowing you to lift the car off the deck and remove the wheels.
Proportionally, it looks spot-on as well – especially with work around the complex sloping front, while the good news is that the 620R forgoes stickers in favor of printed elements (including the brake discs) for a truly premium look. On top of all that, the body is actually stud-less, so lumpy bits are dotted round the body.
Hitting the shelves October 1st, the LEGO Caterham Seven 620R is priced at £69 / $79.99, while those tempted by the real thing while need to shell out a further £49,926 (about $66,045, AU$87,222). Otherwise, the entry-level Seven 160 is yours for £15,995 (about $21,159, AU$27,949).
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