subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now
The one-off Caterham Seven 360 R with the Puma HC2 medium support helicopter it honours. Picture: SUPPLIED
The one-off Caterham Seven 360 R with the Puma HC2 medium support helicopter it honours. Picture: SUPPLIED

British sports car firm Caterham and the Royal Air Force (RAF) of the UK have unveiled a special one-off car, built using the skin, interior and other components from a Puma HC2 helicopter that had come to the end of its service life.

The exclusive Caterham Seven 360 R is scheduled to be auctioned from August 15 to September 12 in a bid to raise more than £100,000 (R2.3m) for injured servicemen and women in the UK. 

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 front line. They are also used for humanitarian and disaster relief operations.

The donor craft first entered service in 1972, a year before Caterham Cars Ltd was formed. This particular Puma XW232 was deployed for operations in Northern Ireland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo and Iraq during both Gulf conflicts, and many more roles.

Established in 1957, the Caterham company started producing the Seven range after acquiring the rights to build and develop the lightweight sports car from Lotus founder Colin Chapman in 1973. The late pioneer wanted owners to be able to experience the joy and pride of building their own car weighing slightly more than 500kg, and then take it on track.

The satin black dashboard with the repurposed helicopter switchgear are part of the charms in this exclusive sports car. Picture: SUPPLIED
The satin black dashboard with the repurposed helicopter switchgear are part of the charms in this exclusive sports car. Picture: SUPPLIED

Caterham said it was still adhering to Chapman’s original philosophy, and the 360 R base vehicle for the project outputs 134kW from a 2.0l four-cylinder engine. Aluminium skin from the aircraft’s tail boom and doors has been used to panel the Seven’s exterior, and the internal rear bulkhead with the emergency door jettison handle remains in place. 

The aircraft’s quilted soundproofing now lines the side panels and tunnel top, and pads the carbon fibre seats, retaining the helicopter’s evacuation instructions stitched into the lining.

The satin black dashboard mirrors the Puma’s with the switch gear repurposed to replace the regular dash switches, and it boasts a helicopter-style three-stage ignition sequence. Furthermore, the aircraft’s navigational clock is the centrepiece of the dash while the ammunition box now houses the car’s battery. 

The external skin remains as it was when taken from the aircraft for authenticity. Picture: SUPPLIED
The external skin remains as it was when taken from the aircraft for authenticity. Picture: SUPPLIED

Caterham CEO Bob Laishley said: “When the RAF approached us about this project, we jumped at the chance to be involved. First, 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.”

“The car has been assembled by RAF personnel with the help of Caterham Cars and highlights the amazing skills of the engineering teams that both maintain the RAF Puma’s and that work in industry,” said Squadron Leader Morley.

The car is scheduled to be displayed at several events throughout the British summer, with its first appearance at this past weekend’s Formula 1 British Grand Prix.

subscribe Support our award-winning journalism. The Premium package (digital only) is R30 for the first month and thereafter you pay R129 p/m now ad-free for all subscribers.
Subscribe now

Would you like to comment on this article?
Sign up (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.