Spotlight On Chassis # 414645
Catterham vs MSM
Michael Brake of Port Credit, Ontario was quoted as saying "I sold a Caterham Super Seven (see pic above) to buy the MSM.... It was a VERY tough decision and I still kick myself sometimes but I think my struggle to make the decision actually says a lot about why the MSM is such a great car." I asked him to tell his story so here it is.
My story: "MIATA" is always the answer.
I'm in my late 40s. My sports car journey has taken me from MGB to mid '80s Porsche 911 and then to what at the time I still believe was the pinnacle of automotive nirvana; the Caterham (Lotus) Super Seven. This is the story of why I sold the Super Seven to buy an 05' MSM.
The Super Seven is by almost every count, the greatest driving experience known to man. It truly is a go kart for the road and is gets you more attention than any other car on the planet. However, I'm slightly ashamed to admit, the compromises eventually forced my hand. Top of the list was the fact that the car was slowly but surely making me deaf. I faced a very real decision; continue to enjoy the car and in 5-10 years I would be stone deaf with Tinnitus.
To understand the compromises, here is a the ritual you need to follow in order to go for a Sunday morning drive in a Super Seven.
Roll the car out of the garage, because starting it in the garage filled it with a fog of unburned hydrocarbons
Insert noise cancelling ear buds
Jam your hand thru the hood card cut out and give the carbs a few good pumps, cause it will not start cold
Get on your knees and reach inside the cabin while still holding the carb throttle lever down under the hood and turn the ignition key with your left hand while tickling the throttle lever with your right hand (yes, the car is that small) to try to get the car to catch. Once it catches, play with the carb lever for a minute until it holds an idle. Hopefully you will then be able to jump into the seat and the car will not stall.
Now that it is running, drop into the seat and buckle up the 4 part harness
If you are going for a long high-speed drive, put on construction style ear defenders over top the noise cancelling head phones because the wind buffeting against your head is what kills your ears. The sound cancelling head phones is just to deal with the intake and exhaust racket
Now pull away. Of course you still have about 5 minutes of rough running until the engine warms up.
Now get on the highway to drive 30 minutes to the nearest twisty back road. Of course the gearing is such that at 65 MPH, you are running at 4,000 RPM which in this car sounds like standing next to jumbo jet. Be careful not to get squashed like a bug by that tractor trailer or SUV, because you are too small to see and if you do get hit, they will just bury you in the car as you will be one small ball of flesh and aluminum. As there is no real fire-wall in the car, your feet are starting to cook from the engine heat while your head freezes from the wind blast.
Phew, you made it to the back roads. Now it all makes sense, the road flows beneath you inches from your elbow, the car is pure handling magic. You are in automotive heaven. All your Jimmy Clark fantasies are fulfilled. Two hours later you are back home. You stumble out of the car, frazzled from the trip. You stink of oil and gas, your ears are still ringing and your words only come out as mumbles.
So I had a decision to make....I can only have one sports car due to garage space and limited free time. The Super Seven is the ultimate, the pinnacle, a thing of beauty and has enormous pride of ownership....but in so many ways a pain in the butt. So I asked myself.....what is the best handling, best looking, reliable, open top roadster?
I started to look again at British stuff:TR6, MGB, TR4, etc., but they all failed in terms of handling and "get in and go" reliability. I've always admired the MX-5 ever since seeing the first model at the Toronto Auto Show. Many of the Lotus Seven guys also owned turbo charged Miatas. I started looking at NB Miatas with the thought of doing a turbo conversion. Then up popped a local super clean 05' MSM that had never been driven in rain or snow.
I continue to regret selling the Super Seven in many ways. However, I know I made the right decision when I hop into my MSM, turn on the Bose stereo, drop the top and peel off to the sound of boost.