PH Interview: Westfield Sportscars Boss


Think of the name Westfield and you might think of the SEiGHT, the Lotus Seven-alike with a ruddy-great 3.9-litre Rover V8 shoehorned in. You might think of the Suzuki Hayabusa-engined Westfield Megabusa. The little Lotus XI replica that founder Chris Smith started the company with back in the early 1980s could even cross your mind.

What you would not necessarily associate the Westfield name with is a company that has 20 dealers worldwide, a brand portfolio covering three separate makes, and full EU-wide small-series type approval for its latest model. This is most emphatically not a company that lives in the shadow of Caterham, the formerly undisputed king of the Brit kit car manufacturers.


Westfield is certainly a company with ambition: since buying the company in late 2006, managing director Julian Turner has also bought GTM, a tiny maker of Brit sports cars and, more recently, acquired a controlling stake in Roadster Bil, a Swedish maker of replica Cobras. As if that's not been enough to be dealing with, Westfield has also been busy achieving European Small-Series type approval (EuSS) for its latest model, and is developing a fully electric race car.

With so much going on at Westfield's unassuming factory near Dudley in the West Midlands, PH thought it was high time we made the trip to Kingswinford for a quick snoop around and to probe the boss with a few questions.


PistonHeads: So, Mr Turner, how's Westfield dealing with these credit-crunched times?

Julian Turner: I won't pretend that the UK-market sales are going brilliantly for us, but things are ticking over. The international market has really taken off, though. It's really difficult to sell kit cars in most European countries, but since we got EU type approval for the new Sport Turbo - as a full factory-built car - we've had 18 orders from France, 14 from Germany, and about 50 overall. And bear in mind that some of our European dealers don't even have demonstrators yet. All in all we're looking at sales of about 300 this year.

PH: Does your success with the factory-built cars mean that Westfield is moving away from its kit-car roots?


JT: Not at all. It's true that we are moving towards more factory-built cars - the Sport Turbo will be available to UK customers as a fully built model from November - but we will continue to be a producer of kit cars as well. After all, you can still build a Westfield from a Mazda MX-5 or even an old Sierra - if you can find one. In the past about 80 per cent of our output was in kit form, now the mix is more like 60-40.

PH: What's happening with GTM?

JT: Well, sales are trickling along - one or two a month. That's fine by us for now, because we're not putting any effort into marketing the car. The product is just out there - in brochures and dealers - and it's paying its way. In the future, though, what we want to do is integrate more and more Westfield design elements and components into the GTM - rather like a kit car version of VW-group platform. Ultimately, we want to go down the same route as we have with the Sport Turbo and get EuSS type approval.


PH: And what of the newest addition to Westfield - Roadster Bil?

JT: That project is currently at a more embryonic stage. At the moment we're working on redesigning the Cobra rep's basic spaceframe chassis, strengthening and lightening it. Then we've got to decide what engines we're going to offer. Current favourites are a big V8 - probably GM-sourced - or the Vauxhall Corsa VXR's 1.6-litre turbo that we already use in the Sport Turbo.

PH: There's a lot of pressure at the moment on global car companies to be pursuing green technologies. Is that something Westfield is doing too?


JT: Absolutely. Our focus is on our new electric racer - which we're hoping to actually compete with next year. The car itself is pretty much ready; the range of the lithium-ion batteries is good enough for a sprint race and we've worked out how to keep the batteries and components cool enough to prevent power loss. The major problem is the infrastructure required to go electric racing - training for marshals, recharging equipment - isn't there yet. When it is we'll be ready. We hope to have the world's first all-electric one-make race series.

PH: Finally, a question that I'm sure you're fed up of being asked: How do you see Caterham? Rivals or colleagues?

JT: Definitely colleagues. I'm not sure Caterham sees us that way, though...

 

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  • BoRED S2upid 10 Sep 2009

    The worlds first one make Electric race series...

    Im sorry but who in their right mind is going to watch that?. When I go and see racing I want to hear the roar of the engine feel the power hurting my ears, see exhausts spitting flames and smell the burn of fuel mixed with burning rubber not the whine of an electric motor and the smell of burning capacitors.

    If theres a crash I want to see marshalls running to the scene with fire extinguishers for fear of a fire not marshalls running with a spare battery.

    Im all for Westfields, I used to own one and it was a great machine but I have no desire to own an electric one!.

  • darth_pies 10 Sep 2009

    article said:
    PH: Finally, a question that I'm sure you're fed up of being asked: How do you see Caterham? Rivals or colleagues?

    JT: Definitely colleagues. I'm not sure Caterham sees us that way, though...
    Perhaps Mr. Turner that's because Caterham didn't start a business based on ripping off someone else's product, lose a court case over it and then spend 25 years petulantly copying everything they could legally get away with, hoping that some people failed to notice they were buying a plastic facsimile of a real Seven....

    laugh

    Credit where its due though, this guy Turner seems intent on taking Westfield away from their 'let's copying everything Caterham do' roots and actually start developing some ideas of their own, especially with the purchase of GTM and the Swedish cobra thing. Good luck to 'em.

    [/runs for cover from inevitable 'Westfields are just as good as Caterhams' flaming]

  • Darth Paul 10 Sep 2009

    article said:
    With so much going on at Westfield's unassuming factory near Dudley in the West Midlands, PH thought it was high time we made the trip to Kingswinsford for a quick snoop around and to probe the boss with a few questions.
    It's Kingswinford, no S in the middle! Sorry to be pedantic but how often is my village going to be mentioned on PH! Also it's almost in Pensnett, which is no good thing, so I don't blame them for classing it as Kingswinford! smile

  • PascalBuyens 10 Sep 2009

    Cobra replicas with anything other than a +5 liter V8 are just wrong to me...

  • SaliMali 10 Sep 2009

    Corsa engine in a Cobra...snigger!

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