Kit car. Two words that spark as much derision and debate as they do inspiration and devotion. In the case of the Westfield SE and its many derivatives, it's stood as one of the best of breed for more than 30 years.
The original 7 SE was very close in looks and design to the Caterham Seven, which ended up with legal action forcing Westfield to redesign its car to become the SE. In many ways it helped Westfield to grow, as the SE has become a distinct and popular model in its own right rather than being a replica. It's also gained a big following in track day and motorsport circles, and has proven itself many times over in competition.
There's a wide variety of SE models to choose from, which are listed below. A broad range of engines have also found their way under the Westfield's bonnet, including four-pots, V8s, rotaries and bike motors. Which suits you best will depend on what you want to use the car for and your driving style. In most cases, a four-cylinder car engine works best and these are the most commonly available used models.
Some Westfields will be factory-built, but most are constructed at home, so look for signs of a careful builder such as the routing of pipes, wires and hoses, as well as panel fit and interior trim. Also, the exposed front suspension of a cared for car will be in good condition thanks to regular maintenance and upkeep.
There are plenty of Westfields to pick from and you can find early, scruffy cars from as little as £4,000 that will need work. Later models in good order start from £8,500 with Ford Zetec engines and offer plenty of excitement for two-thirds the price of a basic Caterham. We can't cover every permutation in this guide, so you need to go in with open eyes and mind.
SE - narrow body, live rear axle
SEi - narrow body, independent rear suspension
SEiW - wide body
SEiGHT - Rover V8 engine
SDV - single donor vehicle using MX-5 base
Sport 2000 - 190hp 2.0-litre Ford Duratec engine
Sport 250 - 255hp Ford Focus ST 2.0 turbo engine
Megabusa - Suzuki Hayabusa engine
Megablade - Honda Fireblade engine
Mega S2000 - Honda S2000 engine
FW400 - 1.8-litre Rover K-series
Classic - multiple engine options, usually Ford Zetec
Sport Turbo - Vauxhall 1.6-litre Turbo engine (pictured)
Bodywork and interior
Check you'll fit the cabin. Seats can have a big bearing on how comfortable you'll be and a narrowbody car with the right seats can be just as accommodating as a wide body SEi.
Inspect all of the glassfibre panels for cracks and star crazing, especially around edges and bolt holes. The nose cone is easily chipped by stones and careless parking, but is simple to repair or replace.
Cars with a wrap may be hiding damaged panels, so check the reverse side.
Basic cabin upholstery and trim can become scruffy over time, but is easy and cheap to replace.
Does the car have a hood and tonneau cover? Do they fit properly and have all their studs and fittings?
A removable steering wheel is a good option to make entry and exit easier.
What sort of belts are fitted? Inertia reel belts are best for road driving, while race belts are ideal for track days. Are race belts in good order and within date if you want to use the car for competition?
What roll bar is fitted? A simple hoop is fine for the road, but rear braces and a diagonal are needed - and a full cage is best - for track and competition work.
Engine and transmission
Almost any four-cylinder engine will fit in the Westfield SE and there have even been diesel-powered versions. The most popular are Ford Zetec motors in newer cars and the Ford Crossflow or CVH in older SE models.
Engine access is excellent, so check for oil and coolant leaks.
Check the condition of the radiator and its plumbing. Many cars use a Volkswagen Polo or Renault Clio radiator that's cheap to replace. Upgrading to aluminium rads is common and an electric fan with thermostat switch is useful.
Make sure the exhaust is in good nick and has a catalytic convertor if the car is registered as 1992 or newer.
Some early SE cars might still have a four-speed Ford gearbox, but the Ford Type 9 and MT75 are by far the most common transmissions in the Westfield. It works well and is reliable.
The SDV uses the MX-5 gearbox, while some race and track cars might come with a sequential 'box from Hewland.
BEC (bike engined cars) will use the transmission from the donor motorcycle for rapid shifts, but make sure you can live with the short, sudden clutch operation.
Suspension and steering
Live axle cars work well on smooth tracks, but independent suspension is more comfortable on the road.
Few cars will share the same suspension set-up by the time they reach the used market. Only a test drive will tell if it suits your needs, but replacing coils and shocks isn't too expensive to change a car to your tastes. This is also a chance to refurbish the suspension's wishbone arms and joints, which is easily done at home.
Adjustable suspension allows owner to tweak the car, but a professional set-up will pay dividends in handling, steering and stability.
Wheels, tyres and brakes
You'll find disc brakes up front, but older cars will have drums at the back. This can provide good stopping power, but rear discs are more efficient. Upgraded discs, pads and calipers are common on cars used for track work.
A common wheel choice is the Team Dynamics Pro Race wheel that's light and available in a variety of sizes. Check wheels for condition.
Tyre choice depends on how you'll use the car. Common options are the Toyo R888 and Proxes T1, Yokohama A048 and Avon ZZR. Be sure the tyres are road-legal unless the car will only be used on track.
SPECIFICATION - WESTFIELD SE 1.8 ZETEC
Engine: 1,796cc 4-cyl inline
Transmission: 5-speed man
Power (hp): 165@/5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 156@3,600rpm
MPG: 30 (est)
CO2: 180g/km (est)
Price new: £12,000 (home-build)
Price now: £8,500 upwards