It is perhaps ironic that Caterham face a similar challenge to their erstwhile neighbours up the road at Lotus, as they look towards the future shape of their model range.

Just like Lotus they have a loyal and fanatical customer base whom the company depends on for their current success, but the relationship has sometimes been a fragile one – some of the core enthusiasts have been around longer than the current management team and take it upon themselves to regularly remind them of their responsibilities to the marque.

It can’t be a terribly profitable relationship either – more than any other car maker Caterham’s costs and profit margins are out there for everybody to see. They still provide the option for customers to build their cars from kits (although they’re far from being kit cars) and most owners are pretty handy with a spanner and familiar with the costs of each component. There’s little room therefore to raise prices out of line with base raw material costs and it’s a credit to Caterham that they’ve managed to survive thus far under such constraints. Most companies are able to factor in various items of goodwill into their pricing policies.

But as we turn towards 2011, it’s time for Caterham to shape a New Era for their model range… Erm, hang on Lotus have already nabbed that terminology. But Caterham aren’t the sort of company that resorts to marketing spin, so we understand they are announcing a new car at January’s Autosport International Show under the internal project name ‘Project Familyman’.

But what is ‘Project Familyman’ I hear you ask? Well, it seems to be none other than a 4-seater sports car for the kind of Caterham owner who needs a little more space and practicality, I can’t even begin to imagine what that would look like when translated into Caterham’s design language so we’d best just wait a few weeks until we see it for ourselves on January 13th.

It’s the first completely new model since the ill-fated Caterham 21, which was essentially the same car as a Caterham 7, sharing most major parts and was launched at a time when the Lotus Elise had stolen everyone’s affections. It was too little, too late and insufficiently different from the iconic Caterham 7. Fewer than 50 cars were ever made and in the 15 years since, Caterham has shown little ambition to repeat the experience. But that was then and this is now.

If you’d like to be one of the first to hear the news when its revealed then pop on over to Caterham’s microsite – – and register your details. It’s bound to be worth the wait.