Keep It Simple

This is a story about saying yes, plain and simple. Because if you think you can’t, you won’t, and I honestly believe anything is possible until you decide otherwise. It’s why I decided to drive 2300 miles from the UK, through France and Germany down in to Southern Austria – and then back again. Mixing it up along the way with Porsches, Audi R8s and overtaking police cars at 130mph… And getting away with it.

With no roof, fabric for doors and the biggest smile I could squeeze on my face, this is a story of how we ended up on a deserted mountain pass, drank too much coffee, went to the world’s largest car festival, and got lost in Stuttgart. And how I fell in love with a green Caterham 485S.

Mark Riccioni Worthersee Caterham road trip-1

It would have also made for the most messed up two car road test you’ll ever see – something that came to us while we drove south, as both the Audi and the Caterham have a retail price of around £40K. The ‘us’ part being myself, Ben Chandler, Ryan Stewart, and Mark Riccioni whose amazing images are going to help me tell the story – as driving the Caterham took quite a lot of concentration and shooting tracking shots of yourself can be tricky when your out-of-body skills are weak.


The idea of road-tripping to Austria is certainly not a new one. Since the now-legendary Wörthersee festival has grown and hit the radar of car lovers across the globe, it’s become a pilgrimage for many people. In 2007 I’d been in the area but missed out, so after Paddy’s journey in 2013 I knew it was about time I checked it off the list for myself.

Mark Riccioni Worthersee Caterham road trip-2

But what to do the beautiful and varied 2300 mile round trip in? Maybe a Porsche? A supercharged Range Rover? An AMG-tuned Mercedes? Something comfortable, powerful, spacious and stylish. You’d need a few toys like a great stereo or some other in-car entertainment. You’d also probably choose something with a roof.

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Of course, I ignored any words of warning and just went with my heart. ‘Hello Caterham? How you doin’…

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But this isn’t just any Caterham. After driving the massively impressive 620R earlier in 2014, the guys at the small UK manufacturer thought I’d better have a windscreen, and purely by chance a left-hand drive 485S had just come back from doing a series of demos around Europe. Convenient thanks to the steering wheel being on the right (left that is) side for foreign driving, but also because it’s the most powerful model they can sell on mainland Europe. So that was the ‘power’ box on the road trip weapon wish list ticked off. One thing at least.

Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-11

So just like the Caterham itself, my plan was kept simple. Load up with some essentials, head down to the Channel Tunnel and meet the guys, then drive to Austria and see some cool stuff. What could possibly go wrong?

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Not much as it turned out, but just enough… For a start the dynamic trio decided it would be a really great idea to bring something practical along. An Audi A6 turbo-diesel should do the trick, right? Usually yes, except this one was brand new and freshly collected from the dealer roughly 19 hours before we were due to meet at the Channel Tunnel port. So they did well to get brand new ST suspension and 20-inch Rotiform wheels on it…


However, that meant they were ever-so-slightly (by a few hours) late getting to the Tunnel terminal. Which didn’t really matter, because as you saw back at the start of this chapter there was some interesting metal passing through – the NSX was on its way to Spa and then the Nürburgring. So after the smooth 35-minute train ride under the English Channel we were delivered to Northern France.

Mark Riccioni Worthersee Caterham road trip-4

The plan was to make it to Munich for the night – a shade under 600 miles and with clear roads something that could probably be achieved in around eight-and-a-half to nine hours including fuel stops. So our mid-afternoon landing in France would give us a midnight arrival if it all went to plan. But when you consider that Mark took this picture in the middle of Belgian motorway not long after we arrived in the country, that plan went straight out the window.

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As ever, you have to be flexible. We didn’t have a hotel booked so what did a few delays matter anyway? By midnight we were ‘somewhere’ in Germany. To be fair, after a straight-up blast of more than a few hours my brain was a little fuzzy, so forgive me for being vague. As we looked for shelter through different hotel apps on our phones, a decision to stop short of Munich in Stuttgart seemed like a good idea.

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As the lights of the city came in to view the Caterham and I were getting along famously. I’d been worried earlier in the day that the gearing wasn’t suited to motorway driving as cruising at 85-90mph equated to roughly 5000rpm. That seemed a lot at first, but once I found some open road and the peak power figure at 8,500rpm, I properly laughed. Had I really got that soft? So used to driving everywhere at 3,000rpm and worrying about fuel bills?

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At this stage I thought I’d better get some sleep and dream of redlining in every gear, burning fuel like it was firewood and manning up a bit. The next day was going to be another big one…

Distractions Everywhere
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As with any road trip, the destination sets the ultimate goal. But just like life itself, it’s not always about the hellos and goodbyes – it’s about what you do in between. So although Wörthersee was calling, it would have been stupid to not take full advantage of the culturally rich landscape we were passing through.

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None of us had been to the Mercedes-Benz Museum before, so it seemed an obvious first call for the day given that both Ben and Ryan own 190s and Mark and I, well, we just like cars. You can read more about what’s there in this story that Sean put together when he stopped by in mid-2012. But as we wandered the very impressive multi-layered and faceted museum, we were all aware of the road outside that headed south to Austria. So it didn’t take long for us to get back behind the wheel.

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What you see here is a very rare sight, because I didn’t think the guys put any diesel into the Audi at all. On the flip-side I was tearing through 20 litres of Super Unleaded every couple of hours, which to be honest was fine by me. I can’t even be bothered to work out what the Caterham did to the gallon. It could have needed filling twice an hour and I would have willingly obliged, such was my need to drive it harder, faster and longer.

Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-9

This 485S is powered by a 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine, which is naturally aspirated and produces just under 240hp. No superchargers, no turbos, just four cylinders of rev-happy engineering. The big thing here is that the whole car weighs just 525kg. With me, some fuel, cameras and a spare pair of pants, it was still under 650kg all up, which is amazing! Not in a ‘how do they do it’ kind of way, no, the pure connection you get with something that is so light, lithe and able.

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You can see the carbon dash and front wings here too. Obviously this lightweight material helps keep the figures low, but it’s the simplicity that really does the job. There’s nothing here you don’t need, and trust me in 2300 miles you get a good chance to think about that. The mountain pass? More of that later…

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The big thing about Germany is the destricted Autobahn – it’s what everybody talks about. The liberation of driving as fast as you can is incredible, and it makes you respect every other road user as they either flash past you, or you them. At one point we convoyed past some Polizei at 130mph-plus and I broke a wide smile as they disappeared behind us. How many people can say they’ve done that and not been arrested? Probably a few million Germans to be fair…

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In the past I’ve grown tired of people talking about cars like the Caterham like they’re a toy, or only to be used in limited measures. They’re the kind of driver who goes out for a half-hour of ‘spirited driving’ and stops at the pub on the way home for a glass of lemonade while sucking air threw their teeth, recounting stories of ‘pressing on’ and daring overtaking manouveres.

Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-14

I may have conveniently written the last paragraph to back up my point, but we all know somebody like that and it gets pretty tired quickly. Some people genuinely derided me when I told them what I was planning to do on this trip, but to deny the possibility of feeling so connected (there’s that word again) to everything going on around me would be downright wrong. So what if it started raining?

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Which it did as we started to close in on the Austrian border… Yes, the Caterham does come with a roof, but I figured if we kept the speed up then I wouldn’t get too wet. Plus all of my bags are waterproof because I have a habit of doing things like this. Caterham make sure that everything inside is able to be wiped down anyway, so toot-toot chaps, let’s press on!

Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-8

Here you can see the Avon CR500 tyre tread – perfect for dry and slightly damp roads, but when it’s approaching freezing and you’re up in the snow line… not so great. There’s wasn’t a lot of grip as we climbed over the Austrian Alps, but you know what? It was all downhill in to Wörthersee from there, so who cared – we had almost reached our destination!

Making Friends
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By the time we arrived in Wörthersee darkness had fallen again – for me something that just intensifies the whole experience of driving a car with no roof. The night sky laid out above you makes everything feel so fresh. The chilled air isn’t cold, just invigorating. And yes, about five minutes after this picture was taken I was drinking a cold beer.


I parked the Caterham in the hotel underground car park and did that whole look back over your shoulder thing. I thought it was fitting leaving it next to a Jaguar F-Type too… Not that I would have swapped the cycle-winged wonder for the growling cat. We’d grown close in the last 1000 miles and now it was time for some rest.

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But not much mind you, because things don’t stop in Wörthersee and chances are if you do, you’ll miss out. You can read more about what I got up to here, but at some point I thought I should point out I did look after the 485S and check the fluids – not they changed from spot on in the whole 2300 miles. Truth be told, I just felt the need to hold the bonnet to my head. If I listened carefully I could hear the Autobahn.

Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-1

Over the course of the three days we were in the area the Caterham got some great reactions, with a surprising number of people knowing exactly what it was. It made an excellent tracking car for the Vossen guys who I hung out with, and it went to show that Wörthersee is really all about cars, regardless of make and model. The best reaction came from one guy who straight-up called me stupid when he found out I’d driven from the UK in it. He genuinely looked dumbfounded and walked away! I thought I was quite sensible…

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I think the thing that really helps the Caterham is its simple non-aggressive design. It’s like riding in to a village on a push bike – you’re open and exposed and here people can literally talk down to you. Forget the fact it can launch you from 0-62mph in 3.4 seconds… Because it can – trust me. No, this is a car that doesn’t need big wheels, a bodykit, or even a massive engine. It’s like somebody worked out the quickest way to have fun without overly complicating the process and gave it four wheels.

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Sure, there’s modern stuff going on, but the fabric and material choices are right on the money without making it feel like you’re putting a miniskirt on your grandmother.

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It’s a simple design that has stayed true to its roots. No big-winged bucket seats here or an overly-complex cage, although it’s illegal in the UK to run around with the ‘doors’ off because they have the rear view mirrors mounted on them. Not that it stopped me from removing them whenever I could. That central tunnel being the perfect place to rest your elbow, whilst the harnesses do their best to make you feel part of the structure.

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The time in Southern Austria flashed by, with some awesome cars captured and memories made. I would recommend it to anybody, whether you drive there or not. But instead of simply heading back the way we came, a plan formed for something a little bit more ‘involved’.

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Which means I get to tell you about the best afternoon I’ve had in ages. You’ll probably need to get some supplies first though. So don’t go too far and keep your eyes peeled for part two… I just couldn’t say no to what was possible.

Bryn Musselwhite
Instagram: Speedhunterbryn

I can only thank Caterham Cars for the incredibly generous loan of this amazing car. Find out more about it and them here.

Cutting Room Floor
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Caterham 485S Austrian Road Trip Worthersee-25
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Simple question, Bryn:

Would you have a Caterham (or any other Lotus Seven-like, maybe with some basic conforts like a hardtop and A/C) as a daily driver?


I want to do this when I'm older and I have an fq340 evo 8, would bring me so close to the car


If there was ever one person who could convince me that driving across Europe in a Caterham is a good idea, it would be you. I miss our adventures.


Paddy McGrath Yeah but the other stuff I'd convince you to do would quite honestly be reckless, worthless, illegal or possibly all three at the same time.

I miss our adventures too.


ToyotaSupraMan Simple answer, yes. 

Long answer - They offer far more protection than a motorbike, reasonable luggage space, economy and mechanical simplicity. Exhilaration, a sense of freedom and... Do I need to carry on? :)


Loved this post! Really inspiring :) Thanks Bryn.


That duratec package looks like it could very well fit in an MGB. :F


Damn there must have been some cold noses driving in the rain! Looks like heaps of fun and that backup audi looks simple but neat!


Cool story, by the way! Sorry 'bout the slightly off-topic comment above, my mind drifted! =)


Please tell me you went to the Ring and turned in some laps on your way back.


Great story!
Look it has a roof ...haha!


Soo....is the interior of the Catherham waterproof or something (like the seats). And did you have to wipe the water away or did you just let the water soak in as you whizz by at 90 mph?


An amazing trip, great photos and brilliant writing to boot. Kudos Bryn!


A fast, functional car at Wörthersee? No wonder people were confused! They were probably trying to figure out how they could roll the fenders or something.


Nice article, hits my ecu right in :)
Do you need the big engine, to have fun, or do you recomend the smaaler engine for beginners?


Next time you do some sort of epic roadtrip.. I'M IN!


Great article and looks like a brilliant road trip. The Seven is such a timeless design and, as you say, I think Caterham have done just enough to keep it current without losing its identity. 
As big a fan as I am of Caterham cars though, I remain unconvinced that you can sensibly justify one - or any car of its ilk - as a daily driver. Would still love one in my garage though!


Ealoken - 125 or 150bhp is plenty for a first Caterham. Remember... 525kg (ish) so still 0-60mph/100kmh in around 5 seconds, and really they're all about the handling and fun, rather than outright top speed. More fun at 60mph than a 'normal' car is at 100mph. :)


@zz There's not much interior - and anything over 50mph and most of the water goes straight over the top anyway. :)


I've been to Austria


Just as I was typing the address in to the bar, I thought is it worth it as in all honesty, the site has been lacking lately.  This story has made up for the quite strange and random articles by far.  My only wish is more articles like these and Dino's.


I would love to do this.
# very jealous


turbom Good luck with that! One day eh?


tbtstt Obviously there is a lot of choice, but if you had to... You could.


@ITB Haha, one trip to Worthersee will make you realise it's not all stance and ground scraping.


koko san Ahh... Yes it does, happy place :)


Lachys114 It wasn't that cold, I mean I had plenty of clothes and a heater too. It was amazing fun though, the Audi is a good example of a few well chosen mods doing the job.


Knutah No, no, that's the idea. Inspiration! Duratec in a B would be a good choice :)


senbilcock Thanks man!


Speedhunters_Bryn turbom 
As your the king of road trips i will ask you for advice before i do.
Read two of your road trips in CF.
One day maybe...


A heater yet no roof? Lots of clothes I imagine!


This is real #joyofmachine. Awesome adventure! I'll go read part 2 now...