Laurie Vaughn samples a very extreme road car
A what? A bike-engined car. Whats that? A car with a bike engine in it. Sounds daft. Well its got 180bhp and weighs around 500kg; still sound daft?
So might a typical conversation go with a pub-punter, when he inquires into what you're currently driving. Its hardly surprising really. Bike engined cars have been around for a couple of years but they've hardly reached the mainstream public.
After fears of longevity of engines and usability on the road were proved wrong, people started to take notice. Sure there was the practically stillborn Strathcarron, but apart from this misadventure things have been remarkably quiet. It was only when the more mainstream of the 'kit-car' companies such as Caterham and Westfield started offering 'official' bike engined cars that things have started to take off. And take off they almost do.
Thanks to Pistonheads reader Dan Carter, I was granted a thrilling blast with him around the roads of sleepy Somerset in his recently built and registered Westfield Megabusa. Thats a Westfield SEi chassis with a Suzuki Hayabusa (175bhp in a bike) dropped into it.
To look at there's not much to give the game away. Sure its got no doors, but thats usual for a Lotus 7 style car. OK it also lacks a windscreen, which is partly for aerodynamics but mainly weight saving (because it also means you also don't need wipers and washers). On closer inspection it also doesn't have a heater, which points either to someone who doesn't feel the cold, or wants to save the weight of the heater matrix and associated plumbing. Other weight saving options that have been fitted but are not visible include a freelander diff casing (made of aluminium) with internals provided by Quaife.
Its not until you get a look under the bonnet that you realise that this is not your normal pinto engined kit-car. Where the engine bay should usually be reasonably full of engine and gearbox, in this case its pretty empty, with the engine offset to the passenger side and taking up about a third of the available space. Theres also a large reservoir for oil, which is necessary for the dry sump thats been fitted (without it the sump would sit a couple of inches lower and be at considerable risk from sleeping policemen and bumps). And that is about it.
The engine barks into life and if you previously hadn't guessed at the origins of this car it is now obvious that this is no normal Westfield. With an SVA noise limit of 101db, this car squeaked through and is now allegedly around 107db. Remarkably its not too bad in the car, which is surprising given that the exhaust exits to the left ear of the passenger.
So then its time to pull away and see what happens when you stamp on the loud pedal. Well pulling away starts a cacophony of noises and vibrations and its quite clear that this car would not be happy crawling in traffic, let alone gentle town driving. Once moving with some speed the engine is a lot happier, and although buzzy, it can offer relatively relaxed cruising.
Drop it down to second with some clunking from the sequential box, the revs rise, press the pedal to the floor and the world blurs. In the blink of an eye you're bouncing off the rev limiter (10,000 rpm), snatch third, and you're off again. Then fourth, then fifth and finally sixth gear and you're still pulling like a train. Its somewhere around third or fourth gear that your vision starts to blur. Your ears start to hurt from the pressure in fifth and sixth gears; now I know why people wear helmets with these machines.
The quoted figures from Westfield offer 3.2 seconds to 60, and Dan reckons somewhere around 10 seconds for the 1/4 mile, which puts it quicker to 90 than an Evo VI; but its not until you're actually in one that you realise what this means. You don't really notice the lack of doors or a windscreen. You're so absorbed in the brutal acceleration and noise, let alone concentrating on the road that these things pass you by. This thing is supercar quick and could comfortably overtake pretty much anything on the road, including bikes. No small amount of irony there.
Road manners are surprisingly good, although this particular car is to benefit from a full geometry check from Westfield in the near future just to be sure everything is as it should be. Remarkably it also offered no wheel spin on violent acceleration, although it would be a different matter in the wet with the road legal track tyres fitted. Also on the cards are some minor electronic tweaks to up the bhp to add another 50bhp/tonne, plus a shield around the intake to ensure only cold air is fed to the engine. Not that it really needs anymore power...
This car took Dan about 250 hours to complete, and having previously restored a VW beetle, he took the option of sourcing all the parts required direct from Westfield, which meant that if something was missing he just rang them up and they sent it to him. From a basic kit cost of £9,995, Dan added a limited slip diff, wheel set and a dry sump kit for a total of £11,995. He then bought a bike for £5,000 transplanted the engine, and is planning to sell the remains for about £3k, giving him an all-in cost of around £15,000. Not bad considering the supercar chasing performance he now has.
Any regrets? Well if he did it again then he'd probably go for the Westfield XTR2 for the full-on race feel, but that might be a bit too extreme for the road...