Purrrfect entertainment from the 4 litre Westfield
I was looking forward to my trip to Westfield. After receiving the invitation to their factory near Dudley in the Midlands, I dreamt of donning my shades and taking to the hills in one of their fine creations. I would hoon through the twisties enjoying the fine balance of the car, soaking up some rays and delighting in the glorious sound of Britain's best musical export - the Rover V8.
Sadly two of Britain's worst attributes - the weather and roadworks - conspired against me arriving in petrolheaven. Rain following a dry spell would certainly spell trouble on the roads and frustratingly it did. Numpties crashing into each other on the M40 delayed me massively. More than an hour late, I finally arrived in Kingswinford, West Midlands to find the place gridlocked. One huge diversion and another half an hour later and I sheepishly presented myself to the nice people at Westfield.
And what a friendly bunch they were. Any company that still employs a tea lady gets my vote of approval!
After supping a quick brew we headed out to the car park where I was greeted with the exciting sight of a Westfield Seight. That's 200bhp of Rover V8 in a car that weighs little more than a damp teabag. I wouldn't describe a Westfield as beautiful, but they are certainly elegant and purposeful looking. The Rover V8 is an old friend and finding one in a car as lightweight as this was an exciting prospect.
Slipping into the narrow cockpit I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of my surroundings. It was my first time up close and personal with a Westie and calling it a kit-car would be a disservice. It is of course a narrow cockpit with the bare minimum of creature comforts, but the seats were beautifully trimmed and extremely comfortable. The seating position was ideal with the small wheel placed perfectly in front. A simple series of switches are laid out across the dash, with only the dash mounted indicators deviating from convention. Fine trim, quality carpet and a tight feel to the whole car almost made it feel luxurious - something I certainly wasn't expecting.
A quick turn of the key and the prop-forward of the engine world, the Rover 4.0 V8 fired into action. Gently revving the sweet sounding motor and I could feel the Westie (and me) rock from side to side. Slipping the chunky feeling gearbox into first and rolling the light steering around, I did a quick five point turn and was out into the gridlock. Trundling across the devastated road surface I could feel the whole chassis taut beneath me and the hard suspension and skinny tyres doing their thing across the undulations. It's a very firm ride but then you'd expect that in a car of this type. Not quite the ride and handling test I had in mind, but there you go.
Unable to escape the gridlock that was the West Midlands that day, I made do with some short sprints through the traffic. This version of the V8 may only have 200bhp but the lovely fat gobs of torque coupled with the light weight (until I got in) make it a devastatingly quick car in terms of acceleration (4.3 seconds to sixty). Cold brakes didn't inspire confidence and my attempts to warm them up with twenty laps of the Esso forecout didn't work out.
A detour around an empty industrial estate did give me the chance to enjoy some quick sprints. It's a glorious car to enjoy the most basic of adrenaline rushes. Massive acceleration, the wind in your hair and sandwiched tightly into the low chassis giving you sensory overload.
It is of course a hopelessly impractical car too. If you use the side screens then you'll constantly be peering under and over them to see around you and even the rear view mirror obscures the front view. After an hour in the car you'll certainly develope "Westie neck" a useful double jointed afliction of the upper spine that lets you peer forwards and under the mirror every time you pull out of a junction. Baggage space is minimal, so travel light and stay grubby if you plan a trip away.
It's a bit of a mad car to put a V8 in and the smaller capacity, higher revving engines are more suited for track work. For blowing the cobwebs away though, what could be better? Westfield Seight about to be added to my fantasy garage!