Movac and Spies Hecker drive Caterham Cars into the 21st Century

(Photo l-r: CEO of Caterham Cars, Graham Macdonald and Andy Mansfield, Group Sales Director)

Since the 1970s, the Caterham 7 has gained a reputation as an iconic British hand-built car that is much loved by owners and enthusiasts alike. While Caterham Cars were best known for selling its cars predominantly in kit form, today it manufactures the majority of its cars at its premises in Dartford, Kent. And since 2018, Caterham Cars relies on Spies Hecker to give the new Caterham 7s the stunning look and finish they deserve.

Graham Macdonald, CEO of Caterham Cars, says, “for many years, Caterham Cars was seen as a small, traditional quaint English company, known for building specialist cars in a little factory in Surrey. While we are still a relatively small, bespoke manufacturer, producing no more than 600 cars a year, we wanted people to understand that our cars are actually technologically advanced. They may look like the same lightweight and fun cars to drive, but the use of modern technology has enabled us to increase the engine power and deliver much better performance.”

However, despite the technological enhancements, there was one issue that persisted - the quality of the paintwork. For years the hand-built cars were being sent to several local bodyshops to be painted, but there were inconsistences in the quality of the finish and even issues with colour and colour matching. As soon as they started to get complaints from customers, Macdonald knew they had to do something about it.

The perfect partnership

“We have been working closely with Spies Hecker for about a year since we made the decision to undertake the painting of the cars ourselves. Thanks to the excellent on-going on-site training our painters receive, the quality of the paint work and finish is exceptional, and we haven’t had a single customer complaint,” continues Macdonald.

The decision to go with Spies Hecker was made following a visit to the Axalta Refinish Academy in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, arranged by coatings distributor, Movac Group. A Caterham 7 was taken to the Axalta Refinish Academy and a team from Caterham Cars watched whole the refinish process using Spies Hecker products. Macdonald says, “we immediately saw how enthusiastic and helpful everyone was, so we just knew we could work well together.”

Andy Mansfield from Movac Group adds, “Spies Hecker was the obvious choice for Caterham Cars, as a high-performance vehicle requires a high-performance product.”

The paint shop

Caterham Cars installed a state-of-the-art mobile preparation booth and a spray booth outside its Dartford premises. Each car is built from start to finish by the same person. The aluminium chassis are hand prepped in the factory, then wheeled into the preparation booth on trolleys, where they are sanded and prepared using Spies Hecker Priomat® Wash Primer 4075, Permasolid® HS Performance Surfacer 5320 and Permasolid HS Vario Primer Surfacer 5340. When ready for painting, they are moved into the spray booth and finished with Permahyd® Hi-TEC Basecoat 480 and Permasolid HS Race Clear Coat 8700. They are then ready to go back to the factory for their final assembly.

Macdonald adds, “The paint system is easy to work with and the help and customised support we receive is excellent. Spies Hecker technicians stop by on a regular basis to check how we are doing and to keep us abreast of the latest products and developments.”

Caterham colours

Caterham 7 owners like their cars to stand out and to reflect their individual personalities. The colours they choose are a personal statement and can be unusual and very vivid. Spies Hecker has worked closely with Caterham Cars to develop a series of signature Caterham colours that are saved in the brand’s Phoenix digital colour database. This makes it easy for other bodyshops to identify the exact colour formulas for repairs.

“Around 50% of the cars we build go abroad, so it was hugely important to us that refinishers around the world would be able to colour match effortlessly, keeping the cars looking as good as new,” says Macdonald.

Jodie Henly, Marketing Specialist for Axalta in the UK & Ireland, says, “Spies Hecker has a long-standing relationship with motorsports and understands the complex needs of specialist car manufacturers, and with Caterham Cars we are combining both areas of our expertise. It has been very exciting to help Caterham Cars set up its paint shop and find the solutions for their specific work processes. And the results speak for themselves. The cars look fantastic and the quality of paint and finish is excellent. We look forward to accompanying Caterham Cars on this exciting journey into the future.”

About Spies Hecker

Spies Hecker, one of the global refinish coating brands from Axalta, develops optimum and practical paint system solutions that can make bodyshop work easier and more efficient. With over 135 years of success behind it, Spies Hecker’s high-quality product systems, customised service and targeted training demonstrate its partnership with the refinish industry. The Cologne paint brand is one of the world’s leading vehicle refinish brands, and is available in over 76 countries worldwide.