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RE: PH Interview: Westfield Sportscars Boss

RE: PH Interview: Westfield Sportscars Boss

Thursday 10th September 2009

PH Interview: Westfield Sportscars Boss

Westfield's top man, Julian Turner, talks to Matt Rigby about turbos, Cobra reps and electric racing cars



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...

 

Author
Discussion

BoRED S2upid

Original Poster:

14,097 posts

163 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
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

628 posts

140 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
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

791 posts

141 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
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

2,868 posts

205 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Cobra replicas with anything other than a +5 liter V8 are just wrong to me...

SaliMali

242 posts

143 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Corsa engine in a Cobra...snigger!
Advertisement

PascalBuyens

2,868 posts

205 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
darth_pies said:
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....
A real Seven... is a Lotus.

IIRC Caterham bought the license to rip off the design of Lotus after they stopped producing the 7.

Riggers

1,851 posts

101 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Darth Paul said:
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
Quite right to be a Pedant! I've duly moved Westfield into its proper home wink

daimo_45

30 posts

99 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
darth_pies said:
Perhaps Mr. Turner that's because Caterham didn't start a business based on ripping off someone else's product
It was never Caterhams product in the first place. Caterham bought the rights (ripped off) Colin Chapman's incredible Lotus 7.

Paperboy

117 posts

175 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
daimo_45 said:
darth_pies said:
Perhaps Mr. Turner that's because Caterham didn't start a business based on ripping off someone else's product
It was never Caterhams product in the first place. Caterham bought the rights (ripped off) Colin Chapman's incredible Lotus 7.
The fact that they BOUGHT the RIGHTS by it's very definition means they didn't rip off the Lotus 7. It's that kind of poorly thought response that causes so much confusion.

Why do you think some Westfields are referred to as pre-litigation? Who did the ripping off?

I own a Caterham, not a plastic version that's come out of a photocopier.

Golf Juliet Tang

79 posts

110 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
[quote]It was never Caterhams product in the first place. Caterham bought the rights (ripped off) Colin Chapman's incredible Lotus 7.
[/quote]
You have contradicted yourself within a single sentence (quite an achievement). Caterham bought the entire design and manufacturing rights (as well as all the partially completed cars, the parts and such like. They were already the sole and exclusive distributors and retail agents for the model. Absolutely not "ripped off" which is pretty insulting as well as wholely inaccurate. Despite being the owner of two Caterhams (a Seven and a 21) I respect Westfield in that they do what they do, their origins and the succesful Caterham lawsuit are a long way back. Since that time Westfield have gone their way and Caterham their way.
Westies, Dax and other Sevenesque cars are welcomed at the meeting I attend most often, because we are all keen car drivers/owners.

darth_pies

628 posts

140 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
PascalBuyens said:
darth_pies said:
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....
A real Seven... is a Lotus.

IIRC Caterham bought the license to rip off the design of Lotus after they stopped producing the 7.
Hmmmm......because you seem to need it:

a dictionary said:
Rip-off
n. Slang.

1. A product or service that is overpriced or of poor quality.
2. Something, such as a film or story, that is clearly imitative of or based on something else.
3. A theft.
4. An act of exploitation.
And here's Graham Nearn of Caterham Cars (official distributor of the Lotus Seven) in 1973 'ripping off' Colin Chapman after purchasing the rights from him/Lotus. rolleyes


reg_slr

688 posts

104 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
For those that didn't already understand Colin Chapman didn't want the Lotus 7 anymore as the new product line in his mind was taking Lotus into a new place. Ultimately this place leaked lots of oil and water and the lights didn't work that well wink Think yourselves luck that Caterham took the business forward so that there could be others, copies, clones, rip-offs and whatevers.

Either of them are more fun than the hum drum dross that is turned out by the major manufactures these days.


peter pan

1,253 posts

147 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Colin Chapman wanted to come away from Sevens, as his aim was to take Lotus 'up market', and the Seven with its kit car image did not sit well with aim.
I would be relly interested what CC would make of the sevens enduring success, over 50 years after he carried out the design for the car (not least becuase Lotus itself `almost' disappeared, whereas the Seven soldiered on. In fact it was the money from people buying sevens which kept Lotus afloat, whilst they developed their `up market' models Elite, Elan etc.
Graham Nearne was able to see the long term appeal for the traditional Seven (not really the series 4) in its S3 form, and so this is what he went into producing.
Since then it could be said that Caterhams input into the design, far outweighs the work done when it was still Lotus.
A car first designed over 50 years ago, which can STILL beat all but a few £200.000 plus supercars, around the TG power lap, in its modern form, and the only sportscar to be entered in a Grand Prix (and didnt even come last) has got to be something pretty special.

BarnatosGhost

12,478 posts

176 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
so are we going to drag every kit car maker into this "not a Caterham, so not the real thing" nonsense.

Caterham have the prestige of being the original copier. They have the best product and highest price.

The others have a different (albeit inferior) product and a lower price.

Given that Caterham have an inalienable advantage that is not available to anyone else, they could presumably see off all their competitors by addressing them on price parity, with a product to match.

Since they choose not to do that, they don't occupy the market spaces that their competition does, so aren't facing direct competition. No harm , no foul.

Anything else is badge snobbery.

peter pan

1,253 posts

147 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Caterham did not copy the Seven, they just continued its production, using the the jigs equipment and production rights that they bought fro Colin Chapman / Lotus Cars, after which they developed it into its current form/s.
It mightb even be that if Lotus tried to start making Sevens again they would be the ones in legal do do, because they sold the production rights to Caterham.

twiglove

1,177 posts

117 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
So how about Birkin Cars? Anyone have any news/input on them when they traded in the UK?

How do you think they compared with caterham and the likes?

Uncle John

1,562 posts

114 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
BarnatosGhost said:
so are we going to drag every kit car maker into this "not a Caterham, so not the real thing" nonsense.

Caterham have the prestige of being the original copier. They have the best product and highest price.

The others have a different (albeit inferior) product and a lower price.

Given that Caterham have an inalienable advantage that is not available to anyone else, they could presumably see off all their competitors by addressing them on price parity, with a product to match.

Since they choose not to do that, they don't occupy the market spaces that their competition does, so aren't facing direct competition. No harm , no foul.

Anything else is badge snobbery.
Well said and exactly the reason why I ended up with a high spec Westfield compared to a low spec Caterham, although haven driven both I do not believe it is an inferior product.

This has been done to death time and time again, let's move on and celebrate the success of companies like Westfield.

Uncle John

1,562 posts

114 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
BarnatosGhost said:
so are we going to drag every kit car maker into this "not a Caterham, so not the real thing" nonsense.

Caterham have the prestige of being the original copier. They have the best product and highest price.

The others have a different (albeit inferior) product and a lower price.

Given that Caterham have an inalienable advantage that is not available to anyone else, they could presumably see off all their competitors by addressing them on price parity, with a product to match.

Since they choose not to do that, they don't occupy the market spaces that their competition does, so aren't facing direct competition. No harm , no foul.

Anything else is badge snobbery.
Well said and exactly the reason why I ended up with a high spec Westfield compared to a low spec Caterham, although haven driven both I do not believe it is an inferior product.

This has been done to death time and time again, let's move on and celebrate the success of companies like Westfield.

Snoggledog

6,257 posts

140 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
An article about Westfield and everyone's talking about Caterham..

peter pan

1,253 posts

147 months

Thursday 10th September 2009
quotequote all
Westfields are exellent cars, with some exellent manufacturing features, and for anyone who cannot run to the price of a Caterham, they would be a good buy.
Even with Caterhams the price of the Top End models can be a bit eye watering, and I am not sure that a £40.000 version would be £30.000 worth more fun than a £10.000 version.
All Sevens are great, and for anyone who has not been in one, give them a go, but be warned you may get addicted!