Should you wish to feel like a celebrity and get your photo taken multiple times while zooming down the road, build a Westfield XI. If you prefer being inconspicuous, this sports car is not for you.
The Westfield XI is a faithful reproduction of the Lotus Eleven, a lightweight, low-slung racecar of the late 1950s from Lotus Engineering Company, of London, England. Lotus founder Colin Chapman, along with automotive aerodynamic stylist Frank Costin, developed the Lotus Eleven, which was a direct descendent of the Lotus Mk IX racecar.
Produced from 1956 through 1958, Lotus manufactured 271 Elevens. They came in three versions: the LeMans for international racing, the Club for amateur racing, and the Sports, for road use. The racing Elevens utilized Coventry-Climax four-cylinder engines of various displacements ranging from 750 cc to 1,500 cc. Though the LeMans version had a small-displacement engine with up to 110 hp, the car weighed around 1,100 pounds and had a low silhouette that readily slipped through the airstream. The Sports road-going version had a Ford 1,172cc powerplant that made 36 hp. At Monza, Italy, in 1956 a Lotus Eleven set a closed-course world speed record of 143 mph in the 1,100cc class. Also in 1956, an Eleven was first in class at the Le Mans 24 Hour endurance race, achieving seventh overall.
Just like the original Lotus...
Just like the original Lotus XI, the Westfield XI sports a 90-inch wheelbase. The British Racing Green color is actually the molded color in the Gelcoat.
Over 50 years later, the Lotus Eleven remains the most successful small-displacement, front-engine racecar of all time. The car's scarcity, its glorious racing history, and its Batmobile/Speed Racer/Mach 5/spaceship looks all combine to send the original Lotus Elevens into the six-figure range for a freshly restored example (and climbing with race provenance). The very same ingredients that make original Elevens so sought after are what compelled Grand Prix competitor and engineer Chris Smith to recreate one of his favorite racecars for himself. With exacting detail, he did so in his home garage in Westfield, Armitage, England, in the spring of 1982 and was deluged with requests to build more examples of the iconic, history-making racecar. By Easter of 1983, Westfield Sportscars opened its doors to a public hungry to buy the Eleven. Later, Westfield introduced the equally impressive Westfield 7SE, a re-creation of the Lotus Super 7.
To focus more closely on the 7SE and other projects in the works, Westfield ceased production of the XI in 1986. Since that time demand has been constant. Chris and his business partner and wife, Eileen, bowed to the pressure and reintroduced the Westfield XI in October 2004. They've enjoyed a backlog of orders ever since.
With a 0.060-inch overbore,...
With a 0.060-inch overbore, the British Motor Company A Series engine displaces 1,330 cc and produces about 75 hp, which is more than enough to dart around in traffic or conquer the curves of any country road.
Manik LLC, in Richardson, Texas, distributes the Westfield array of handcrafted kit cars for Canada, North America, and South America. I met Manik's knowledgeable owner, Tom McLintock, at the 2007 AHA Knott's Berry Farm Show. He approached me while I was snapping some photos of an especially appealing British Racing Green Westfield XI at the show. Several months later, Tom phoned and asked whether I'd be interested in driving a Westfield XI for several days and reporting my opinion of the race- and road-going sports car in an upcoming issue of KIT CAR. I said yes, of course. So, Tom hooked me up with Mr. Jan Morgan. Jan assists Manik LLC regarding all facets of the Westfield cadre of automobiles for the West Coast. Jan is a freelance automotive journalist, racecar driver, ASE certified mechanic, automotive enthusiast, and a Westfield XI owner as well. In other words, he's the perfect person to be the man on point for Manik's West Coast Westfield operations.
Mr. Morgan offered to deliver the Westfield XI press car to the KIT CAR office in Southern California, but it sounded like he had some very cool automotive projects going on at his home shop. So, I decided to drive up to his San Fernando Valley home from my abode in Oceanside on a recent misty Monday morning with my dad.
Non-adjustable, vinyl-covered bench seat or adjustable racing bucket seats? It's your choice when ordering from Manik LLC. The one we drove had the fixed bench seat. Reaching the pedals for KC's 5-foot, 8-inch editor was not a problem. As the pedals are well positioned and close together, heel/toe enthusiast shifting is easily achievable.
We left my Miata at Jan's house and drove the XI home. Thankfully, the pillow I brought to prop myself close enough to the pedals for the non-adjustable bench seat wasn't necessary. After pulling out the manual choke a tad, the XI fired right up! I put the choke back in after several seconds, and we followed Jan in his Westfield XI to the nearest filling station. After filling the aluminum-alloy tank (it holds just 4.84 gallons), we were on our way.
We went from being "Anonymous Joes" in an electric-blue Miata on the way up to the Valley, to being two "Joe Cools" heading back to Oceanside. Motorists we shared the freeways with waved, took photos of us with their cell phones, smiled, and gave us thumbs up. Seeing the Westfield XI makes people happy. It's so low, sounds so rumbly sweet, and looks so aerodynamic. Being so light and nimble, it's fast and maneuverable. On the road, even Toyota hybrids and other economy cars towered over us. Motorcycle riders gave us sideways peace signs as they went by. And why not? The Westfield XI is a four-wheel motorcycle. I mashed the throttle and instantly accelerated. Making lane changes to the right with a passenger is a bit more challenging. As my dad blocked the view from the mirror, I'd simply ask him when it was safe if we needed to move right. These XI's use Austin Healey Sprite/MG Midget drivetrains, brakes, and suspension systems. With discs in the front, drums in the back, and a lightweight car, stopping power is adequate. But, it would be much better with discs all around.
This particular Westfield does have a Ford five-speed manual gearbox with overdrive fitted, which delivered smooth shifts the entire week and made it easy to pass many gas stations despite having a tiny fuel tank. All told, I drove the XI five out of the six days I had it, registering 549.6 miles on the odometer. I had not one bit of trouble with the XI, and can only think of it with wistful fondness. It's a magical car that's able to bring a smile to even the biggest grump's face. Those Lotus Eleven enthusiasts fortunate enough to build and own one have the distinction of being able to brighten up anyone's day (including their own) simply by firing her up and taking her for a spin. Mind you, I wouldn't want to make my daily 120-mile commute on crowded SoCal freeways in a Westfield XI. Every other day would suffice! Without a doubt, I can assert that I've never had my picture taken so much as the week that I drove that BRG Westfield XI. If anyone's cell phone camera broke, don't blame the car. Blame the bloke with the crazy smile and heavy right foot!
Smiths instruments from an...
Smiths instruments from an MG Midget donor fill the dash. A 14-inch aluminum alloy steering wheel is included in the Westfield XI kit.
Shod with Kumho 165/80/13...
Shod with Kumho 165/80/13 radials, the front and rear wheels are Dunlop wires with knock-off hubs and are 13x5 inches.