the Caterham Seven in the 270 version, it weighs 1,188 pounds and develops 135 horsepower, numbers tiny enough that the 2,332-pound, 148-horsepower Mazda Miata looks like a dreadnought. But while preparing a centerpiece for the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium in the UK, Reynolds Technology asked Caterham if they wanted to try to make a Seven even lighter. Caterham said, “Very well, sir! Or something like that, and the two companies brought in computer-assisted consulting firm Simpact Engineering to make it happen. Then they used steel bicycle tubes to take ten percent of the weight – that’s a 1,070-pound car – while maintaining stiffness.
For those of you who don’t ride, even cyclists consider steel tubes to be archaic. The only people who ride steel bikes are the Luddits and Brooklynites, the mavens who can cite anecdotes about the Tour de France in the 1950s, and the octogenarians who competed in the Tour de France in the 1950s.
Reynolds Technology is no ordinary tube supplier, however, the English company pioneered butted bicycle tubes in 1897. Butting – more precisely in this case, double stop – is when a tube has two different thicknesses, with more metal at the ends than in the middle. Thicker ends can absorb more stress, thin walls distribute stress throughout the tube. The advantage is that you get stronger, lighter tubes because the right amount of metal is placed only where it’s needed.
Over the course of six months, the Simpact computer modeled the metal frame needed for a Seven chassis, Reynolds developed the tooling and processes to tailor their high tensile steel 453 for this purpose, Caterham built the car. Although the overall weight loss was ten percent, they found some components were 50 percent lighter yet just as strong.
After its reveal at the symposium last month, all three companies continue to work on the prototype, with Caterham saying they want to offer the lightweight option to customers. from next year. An option using traditional steel would add between £ 1,000 and £ 2,000 (around $ 1,450 to $ 2,900) to the cost, but more exotic alloys are available. The companies also say that the technology could be made redundant at any company which uses steel spatial structures.
This is not the first time that these two companies rub shoulders with each other. Caterham Bikes makes bikes, but carbon fiber, not steel. And Reynolds supplied his legendary 531 steel tubing – but straight-section, straight-gauge metal – for the front subframe. of the original Jaguar E-Type.