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Building a Westfield – part 1

by Peter Osborne

Back in 2000 I needed something different in my automotive life and decided that building a kit car was just the thing. Here is the story of that build, Part One of which was published in Westfield World, the magazine of the Westfield Sports Car Club

You may not recognise the red car to the right, but it is actually a Lotus Seven. The plastic bodied Series 4 Seven was produced between 1970 and 1973 in an attempt by Lotus to ‘update’ the Seven concept.

It was not a success and the project was later sold to Caterham Cars, who unsurprisingly dropped it in favour of the classic ‘Prisoner’ Seven.

What connects the old Lotus and the new Westfield (left) across thirty-odd years are the two guys sitting on the Westfield, my old friend Mike and I, because we assembled both vehicles – that young boy sitting in the Series 4 is actually me!

Back in the late 1960s/early ’70s Mike and I both worked for Cars & Car Conversions magazine (otherwise known as Triple C), where we built, prepared and ran a number of vehicles for the magazine, including an autocross Hillman Imp.

An ex-colleague from Triple C, Jeremy Walton, who was by then working at Motoring News, had done a deal with Lotus, whereby we would build the Seven – he would write a series of articles in MN about the build – and we would then get to drive the car for a few months.

It didn’t quite turn out that way if I remember, as I think Lotus asked for the car back pretty soon after we finished it. But it was fun while we had it, I even bought a crash helmet to wear when I drove it — a trifle OTT you might think, but it was very useful when, in an effort to show some girl how cool I was, I jumped out of the car, caught my foot on the side and fell flat on the pavement! I guess that’s what my Dad meant when he told me to “Always wear protection.”!

Anyway, jumping on thirty years, and I’m married with a family — and I’m driving a people carrier! Extremely practical, but not very involving.

It’s June 2000, I’ve just learned that I’m going to get a windfall payment from my building society which has decided it’s going to be better off if it de-mutualises, and I’ve see an ad for Westfield in a kit car magazine. Hmm, that looks interesting I think, so I phone the factory. “Come up to sunny Kingswinford,” they say. “We’ll give you a factory tour and you can have a test drive.”

Well, what’s the harm in that, I thought. It’ll be a fun day out, I’m not actually going to buy one am I? Anyway, how would I find the time to build one with a business to run?

Then, I’m on the factory tour. “This is where we make the chassis, and here is where we trim the seats, and here...” Yeah, whatever, SHOW ME THE CAR! “OK.. well, we’ll sort out a car for you.”

A few minutes later and I’m outside about to get in the passenger seat for a test run. “No, no,” says the salesman. “You drive.” And he hands me a laminated map. “Here’s our normal test route, there’s some good roads out there, we’ll see you in half an hour.”

About an hour and a half later I walk back into the factory. “You liked that, didn’t you!” he says. And he’s right — I’m high, the memories of driving that old Lotus have come back in a rush, except this is much better.

Much rawer, much more exciting, much, much more involving. This really is driving, it’s wrong but it feels so right, it’s dirty but I want it!! Oh yes...

"Where do I sign?” is all I can say. It was so easy, in just a few minutes I’d ordered a modular Ford Zetec engined 1800 Q kit, with Speedsport suspension option. Already I was hooked on Westfield.

Later that day... I’m driving back down the M40 when the phone rings. It’s the wife.

“Where are you?” she says.

“I’m on the M40.”

“Where have you been?”

“Er... to Dudley.”

“You’ve been to Westfield, haven’t you?”

“Er... might have.”

“You haven’t signed anything, have you?”

“Er................”

My name is Peter, and I’ve just become a Westfield addict.

A few days later and I’ve persuaded Mike that his future weekends are going to be best spent working with me building a car again after thirty years. Actually it was quite easy, but then I knew the bug had never really left him either. Mind you, neither of us realised that it was going to be four years before we’d actually see the car on the road!

First of all I have to sort out where we’re going to build it. The garage is full of household detritus collected over the years, so I buy a big shed to move it all into.

Then I paint the garage walls white, with some expensive concrete paint on the floor, buy a workbench and one of those professional-looking toolboxes on wheels – blimey, this really looks the business!

Some weeks later an invoice for the first two modules arrives from Westfield. It’s also about this time that I discover the amount I’m actually going to receive when my building society de-mutualises is a lot less than I originally calculated, and won’t actually cover the cost of the kit. Oh bugger!

Looks like we’ll have to delay the purchase of the third module. This is the first of many obstacles that will delay the build.

However, soon we’re at the factory with a big van to pick up the first modules, and there seems a lot more parts than I’d anticipated. Where are we going to put it all? Looks like another shed purchase is on the cards.

I’m not going to bore you with all the trials and tribulations over the next four years. Suffice it to say that financial considerations, and work pressures for both of us, meant that there were long periods of inaction punctuated by frantic activity on the arrival of each module.

In late 2003 we finally had it finished. Everything was in and connected, the electrics were working (well, the lights came on at least!).

We looked at each other and said, “Suppose we ought to try starting it, then.” And after a few turns, the engine bursts into life and runs sweet as a nut — fancy that!

Now this is where the story really starts getting interesting, or frustrating, depending on your point of view.

I book the car in for it’s SVA at Leighton Buzzard in September 2003. You can legally drive it there, but working on the theory that it’s bound to be peeing with rain on the day of the test, I decide to trailer it.

We have to be at the test station by 8.00am, so I pick up the trailer the previous evening, and start to drive the car up the ramps – Bang!

Because I haven’t raised the front of the trailer enough, I’ve hit the front of the sump on the trailer frame. That’s when I see a growing puddle of green water under the car. The thermostat housing has been broken when the engine moved backwards.

Panic! Where can you get a Zetec thermostat housing in Oxford at 7.00pm? The answer is nowhere! We decide to go for the test anyway and see if we can get a housing on the way, and maybe fit it at the test centre.

Of course, the part we need turns out to be as common as rocking horse shit. We finally find one, but by the time we get to the test centre it’s too late and we have to re-book for a later date.

October 2003 and we’re back at Leighton Buzzard. This time I get a winch handle with the trailer and winch the car on slowly, so we make it in plenty of time.

Just a little while later and we know it’s failed because the letter from Westfield confirming the date of the engine does not have the same engine number as that stamped on the block.

There’s a number of other things the inspector doesn’t like – such as the edges on instruments and switches not having the required radius (the inspector suggests fitting rubber O-rings around the instruments).

Headlamp mounting brackets do not have the required radiused edge. Westfield supply a fiberglass shroud for this, but it frankly looks nasty. I eventually found some trim edging at a kit car show, which when superglued on did the job.

Top and bottom plates on front shocks also not radiused, and the inspector suggested cutting the bottom off a plastic coke bottle to cover. I didn’t think that a very elegant solution, so took the shocks off and radiused the edges with a file.

The radius on the harness clasps was also not to the tester’s liking, so again I filed these off, while the turret to which the lap and diagonal belt would fit was covered with adhesive foam tape, topped with a repair washer and bolt with SVA cover.

The other major failure was the noise level, at 103dB it was 2dB over the limit. Burton Power sell an exhaust noise restrictor for a few pounds so I thought it worth fitting that; however we weren’t sure what difference it made. I managed to borrow a meter from WSCC member Clive Allom, which indicated about 101dB, and on the re-test the car was recorded at 100.8dB.

We finally passed the SVA in April 2004, after further delays, including a holed heater matrix; only to endure the frustration of having to deal with the DVLA to get the car registered, “Yes we can come and inspect your vehicle, but we can’t tell you when, other than it will be within the next four weeks.” – !

So it’s trailer the car to Bicester in order for a man to check the engine number and chassis number, which had already been checked at the SVA test by another man from the same Government department — Doh!

Was it worth the wait? Oh yes, even if the bolts on a driveshaft coupling did come undone on my second drive leaving me stranded at the side of the road. Who didn’t torque them up then? — Oh, that’ll be me Sir!

There will be consequences from this later, which I'll reveal in the second part of this story - HERE.