Some weeks ago, we detailed the implosion of the Caterham F1 team, via their hastily-abandoned headquarters. To recap: arising from the bones of Team Lotus, with the help of Malaysian businessmen, then seeing its Lotus name duplicated alongside another team (lashed up with Renault), then renamed, then raced for two years, failing to win a single one of its 56 entered races, then imploding spectacularly before the end of the 2014 season, which saw all of its employees escorted out of the Leafield headquarters by security, proving that the best way to start a racing team is to have no shame and no guile and no end to the checkbook.
But we never knew what happened to the cars.
One of them ended up in the hands of a British man named Kevin Thomas. In 2004, he gained a certain amount of notoriety for from the 2001 season, all in a shed behind his home, the kind from which all good British ideas emerge. "I don't know why," , "but on that Sunday afternoon, I just thought, 'I want one. I want an F1 car.'"
The project was as difficult an undertaking as you'd expect. Thomas, neither trained as an engineer or automotive repair, scavenged the Internet for parts. He learned to set carbon fiber himself. He enlisted the help of ex-Red Bull employees. "It was like a jigsaw puzzle without a picture on the front, with the jigsaw pieces spread all over the world… and none were for sale," he said.
Eventually he got to the level of completion where all he needed was an engine and gearbox…and that's where the story drops off. "Mr Thomas hopes to have the car complete soon," reported the Daily Mail, "but admits he has already started thinking about the next project."
Enter the Caterham, then. CT05 #1 entered in 11 races, each time driven by Marcus Ericsson through the 2014 season. Beset by reliability problems, the occasional crash, and general slowness, his best finish—at Monaco—was 11th. By the time the US Grand Prix rolled around to Texas, Caterham was bust.
Thomas watched Kamui Kobayashi testing this car in May of 2014, and had no idea that he would eventually own it. At an auction of Caterham's assets in April of 2015, he scored what was nothing more than a slender green tub, devoid of nose cone, suspension, powertrain, and nearly everything else. "I was told by an ex-employee that my tub was destined for the skip twice," . He also purchased , including carbon fiber molds.
"This has been twenty times harder but far more rewarding," Thomas said of his latest project. With the help of ex-Red Bull fabricator Tom Sweet, he was able to create by hand the carbon fiber suspension arms and engine frame. He is documenting . It may take a while—the Honda took four years—but at least now, as of a month ago, it looks like a car.
"I'm not rich, don't have a Ferrari and work in a normal job for a normal company," he says. "I have built this car back up as I owe it the dignity a Grand Prix car deserves."
All race cars, no matter how successful, no matter how destitute their teams become, deserve such respect.