Me & My Car
Hello, my name is Ian Crocker. After competing for 5 years in sprints and hillclimbs using saloon cars I fancied a change. There is a special class for kit cars and I had always wanted a V8 Westfield so this was what I went for. I don't have any particular interest in kit cars per se but the Westfield had always appealed, combining terrific performance with my favourite engine at a bargain basement price. I didn't have much money to spend so mine was a very low spec model. When I bought it the engine was a standard unit and it had no limited slip diff. Here are a few pictures of it when I first bought it, complete with 1970s style Wolfrace Slots!
The first thing I did was to get the suspension set up properly by Terry Nightingale Autocraft. This transformed the handling of the car, partly because it had never been set up properly, and partly because I had it set up for competition with a lot of negative camber and toe out on the front. I used the car like this for the 1995 and 1996 seasons with some pretty mediocre results. I always thought the engine would be putting out about 180HP, but when it was dynoed at the end of 1996 it was only producing a measly 163HP. Even in this spec it made a fun road car. The torque was so strong that, coupled with a 3.9 diff, mid range acceleration was very good. Overtaking at 40 to 60mph could usually be accomplished in 5th gear with no problems.
In 1997, after 2 years with the car, I decided it was time for a change. First on the agenda was a Quaife torque biassing differential. Before this was fitted the car handled unpredictably when accelerating out of corners, sometimes oversteering, sometimes understeering and sometimes just spinning the inside rear wheel. The Quaife has resulted in understeer at first followed by progressive oversteer as more power is fed in. While oversteering, the car is a lot more controllable than with the open diff. The Quaife doesn't buy you anything off the line because the car is so good at putting the power down anyway with independant rear suspension. Next job was the engine. The old unit was stripped, overbored 20 thou and fitted with new pistons, bearings, ported cylinder heads, uprated camshaft, Rhoades lifters, a carburettor spacer and a velocity stack. This little lot was supposed to add up to 250HP, but when the car was finally put on the rollers it was only making 212HP with 175 of that reaching the back wheels. It still had a very flat torque curve though, with over 190lbft available from 2000rpm to nearly 6000rpm. Peak torque was 220lbft. The extra 45HP (at the wheels) knocked nearly 1 second off the standing 1/4 mile time and raised the top speed to the rev limiter in 5th - 125mph.
The next modification I made (1998) was to add front and rear anti-roll bars, bought from Terry Nightingale. These are both adjustable. I don't think they improve cornering power a lot but you can make the car handle exactly the way you want. The reduced roll angle is clearly visible in photographs of the car and the outside front tyre has a better angle with respect to the road. The downside is that the rear bar definitely reduces traction a bit on poor surfaces.
Having tried to build my own engine and come up a bit short in the horsepower stakes I decided to leave it to the pros. In 1999 John Eales was comissioned to build a new engine utilising my old heads but given carte blanche for everything else (subject to my modest budget). The combination of parts that he chose surprised me, but they work together very well. The new engine is a cross-bolted 4.2 litre still equipped with a Holley carb. The increase in power/torque over the old engine is sufficient that the car now accelerates slightly harder in 3rd gear than it used to in 2nd! I can honestly say that this was what I should have done before. The labour charge to build and dyno the engine is less than you might think and you recoup a fair bit of it by not having to run the engine in and pay for a rolling road session.
So what is it like to live with ? The SEiGHT is very different to most other road cars, even so-called 'sports' cars. The controls are all very responsive and well weighted although the feel through the brake pedal leaves something to be desired. One of the great strengths of this car for road use is the acceleration available. For instance, 50-70mph can be dispatched in about 1.5 seconds which makes passing slower traffic a breeze. 100mph can be reached from rest in less than 10 seconds. The car is not too bad in the wet - I have driven many other cars that were much worse when it rained e.g. Ford Capri 2.8i and Triumph TR8. The worst problem with road driving is that the car is fairly uncomfortable at speed, due mainly to wind buffeting. Motorway journeys are a pain, and when you arrive the hearing is usually messed up in your right ear! Fuel economy is not the car's strong suit either, about 15mpg around town and 22-23 on a run being the norm. Finally, I don't like driving with the hood up as it is very claustrophobic. Instead I just removed the carpets and now it doesn't matter if it rains. But when you open up the throttle and rocket up to (and beyond) the legal limit in a flash these little gripes are soon forgotten.
I have also driven a X-Flow powered Westfield SE and it feels a bit more responsive, but not as much as some magazine tests would have you believe. Incidentally, when my car was corner-weighted the weight distribution (with driver) was 50.5% front, 49.5% rear. Nothing like the nose-heavy car that most people expect.
© Ian Crocker
Last updated on October 7th 1999