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Flight-Weight: RAF Caterham Seven 360 Unveiled

RAF Caterham Seven 360

Whether you call it recycling, upcycling, repurposing or remanufacturing, Caterham has just redefined the custom one-off car-building process with some help from the Royal Air Force. Tim Dunlop has all the details of this special project and its charitable mission.

I opened my inbox this morning to be greeted by a press release from Caterham, and the first line encompasses everything I associate with the fabulous Seven: “If we asked you to name a vehicle that has been in production for over fifty years, had a minimally altered design and was highly manoeuvrable - we know exactly what you’d be thinking”

However, the next line threw me a little. “No, it’s not Seven. It’s the Puma HC2 helicopter, and you won’t believe what we’ve been up to…” Cue me thinking they have been dangling examples of their iconic car from an RAF helicopter for some kind of publicity stunt, I was wrong. Very wrong. What they have been doing is much cooler than that. 

You see, Caterham and the Royal Air Force (RAF) have unveiled a very special one-off car, built using the skin, interior and other components from a Puma HC2 helicopter that has come to the end of its service life, paying tribute to this remarkable aircraft. Yes, that’s right, Caterham has built a kit car using an RAF Puma as a donor vehicle.

RAF Caterham Seven 360
RAF Caterham Seven 360

A Seven 360R is the base vehicle for the project. Externally, aluminium skin from the aircraft’s tail boom and doors has been used to panel the Seven’s exterior. The internal rear bulkhead, complete with the emergency door jettison handle remains in place. Inside, the aircraft’s quilted soundproofing now lines the side panels and tunnel top, along with providing padding for carbon fibre seats, retaining the helicopter’s evacuation instructions stitched into the lining.

A unique dashboard, authentically satin black to mirror the Puma’s, re-purposes the military grade switchgear from the aircraft to replace the regular dash switches and boasts a helicopter-style three-stage ignition sequence for added theatre to start-up. Meanwhile, the aircraft’s navigational clock forms the centrepiece of the dash. A final easter egg can be found under the bonnet, where the ammunition box now contains the car’s battery.

The external skin remains as it was when taken from the aircraft for authenticity, whilst the remaining panels have been painted matching NATO green. The chassis also replicates the aircraft beneath the surface, finished in Desert Sand. It's all very evocative - not just for RAF servicemen up and down the country, but for car enthusiasts too.

RAF Caterham Seven 360
RAF Caterham Seven 360

Bob Laishley, CEO of Caterham, said: “When the RAF approached us about this project, we jumped at the chance to be involved. Firstly, because it was an interesting build process for us as it’s the first time in our history that a Seven has been made from old helicopter parts. It was a true team effort as well, with engineers from the RAF supporting us throughout the build. But, more importantly, it’s great to know that any proceeds from the auction will go to incredibly important causes.”

Puma HC2 medium support helicopters are used for a variety of combat roles, including tactical movement of troops and weapons, as well as the extraction of casualties on the frontline. They are also employed for humanitarian and disaster relief operations. Entering service in 1972, a year before Caterham Cars was formed, Puma XW232 was deployed for operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Iraq during both Gulf conflicts, and many more roles.

Operated by Joint Aviation Command at RAF Benson, when XW232 came to the end of its 50-year service life, the teams at Benson and Caterham decided to create a tribute to the service men and women the Puma has protected, and the lives saved by this unsung hero of the military.

Corporal McCreadie said: “It has been an honour to be a part of the Caterham project. As an Aircraft Technician (mechanical), I volunteered my time to remove the decommissioned materials from the Puma for the Caterham RAF Seven 360. To see the transformation of the materials has been fascinating. Through the course of the project I had the opportunity to refine my skills and learn some new engineering techniques. I am proud to have been a part of the team that made this car and to promote Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics within the RAF”.

The Caterham Seven 360R has been built to raise money for injured service men and women and will be auctioned off through the internet classic car auction site, Collecting Cars. It’s hoped the joint project between the Royal Air Force, Caterham, Mission Motorsport and Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund will raise more than £100,000.

The car is scheduled to be displayed at several events throughout the Summer, with its first appearance at this weekend’s Formula 1 British Grand Prix. Bidding for the Caterham RAF 360 opens 15 August and ends 12 September via Collecting Cars.


Specification; Caterham RAF 360

Engine - 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder

Output - 180 bhp

Weight 578 KG

0-62 mph - 4.8 seconds

RAF Caterham Seven 360
RAF Caterham Seven 360


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