Lightweight new chassis unveiled

The first ever chassis using butted tubing technology has been developed in the UK.

Bicycle tube makers Reynolds Technology, sports car manufacturer Caterham Cars and quality Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) consultancy Simpact have all collaborated to produce a chassis that is 10% lighter than the already lightweight chassis of the Caterham Seven.

Butted tubes are thicker at the ends than in the middle, and by using low-cost mild steel rather than more exotic alloys the project was able to deliver mass reductions of up to 50% on some parts without losing any torsional stiffness or strength.

Reynolds provided the tubing technology for the initiative and had to develop new tooling and processes, while Simpact Engineering conducted the virtual analysis and testing to derive the specification and positioning of butted tubing and Caterham built the first prototype car.

The prototype chassis was unveiled at the Niche Vehicle Network Symposium on Wednesday, March 16, and would cost between £1,000 and £2,000.

Simon Lambert, CTO of Caterham Cars, said, ‘Caterham has made its name as a purveyor of lightweight sports cars but we believe more can always be done to reduce weight and, therefore, emissions.

‘Caterham and Reynolds are two proudly British brands and there is a real synergy between customers of Caterham and cycling enthusiasts, so it’s even better that the technology that has made this possible has come from the two-wheeled world.’

Tim Williams, director of Simpact Engineering, added, ‘The CAE models built and developed by Simpact provided a rapid and accurate assessment of design investigations and proved to be the only practical way to deliver the lightweight design in such a short period of time.’

Keith Noronha, Reynolds MD, said, ‘We have had to expand our capabilities to meet the technical challenges seen during the course of this collaborative project, and are delighted to see specifically-engineered butted tube now in use on the iconic Caterham Seven.’

Supported by the Niche Vehicle Network, which offers innovation support to the UK’s vibrant niche and specialist vehicle manufacturing sector, Caterham will continue to develop the existing prototype vehicle with a view to launching a production version in the future.