The original test was done at Southampton (Botley) test centre on the 30th of March. I arrived at 8am, for an 8.30 test and was directed to park at the head of lane 3, which I did and waited with the car where it was very cold!!

The examiners (2) arrived at 9.20, apologising that they hadnt been told I was here, and the first thing they did was to check the distance of the front indicators from the edges of the car. SVA people seem to have changed their minds over the interpretation of a rule which says that the indicators must be 400mm max inboard from the outside edges of the car. On the benchmark Westfield they measured this from the cyclewings, but now they've started measuring it from the width of the rear wheel arches which are wider. As I already knew, my car was ok because it has the narrower fixed rear arches.

They had a bit of a general sniff over the car and then I was directed over the pit and told to sit in the car. We spent about five minutes doing full right lock, full left lock, handbrake on, off etc, and after that I was over the pit for about another 30 minutes. I knew he was still under there because I could hear his voice, and I eventually deduced that the pit for my lane was linked to the offices and the other lanes by tunnels as there appeared to be other people coming and going below me. I thought I'd only be ten minutes on the pit, so I was paranoid by this time that they were pretty unhappy with what they'd seen.

When the examiner appeared again finally, I asked how things were going, and he explained that their policy is to not tell you until right at the very end and they've already written out the pass/fail certificate. I guess this is to avoid confrontation/arguments.

The car was moved forward, with the examiner taking great car it didnt ground on the way off the pit and the headlamps were checked. I said that they should be ok because I'd had them done at an MOT station, but the examiner found this very amusing and said they were miles off. He suggested/agreed that we corrected them because even if I took the car away and got them set elsewhere they were still likely to be wrong.

I inquired where the toilet was, at which point the examiner suggested a 15min break. I was back from the toilet after 3 minutes, but they didnt return for about 45minutes. At which point a lorry driver came over and proclaimed them to be a bunch of arseholes! No comment!

Then we moved forward again and various plumblines etc were produced and the position of all the lights was checked, whereby there was a mention of the indicators being 1cm too low at the front. I didnt get the impression they thought this was serious and thought I'd been let off.

Then it was loaded onto some scales, and weighed in at 599kgs which was pretty much perfect side to side and 143kgs at each wheel at the rear, and 157kgs at each front wheel.

Emissions next, I'd put 1984 as the age of the engine, and I was asked if I could prove this, which I couldnt as it was reconditioned. So it was tested to the 1986 standard which it still met.

Off outside and parked on the line for the noise test. I was told it only just passed at 99dBs, they checked the mirrors and did a few laps of the test centre in it. I wasnt sure why they were doing this, (for fun??) but they said afterwards they were bedding the brakes in.

Brake tests seemed to take a long time, I was in the cabin looking over the inspectors shoulder and didnt like the way it kept saying FAIL on the screen but afterwards was told it always says this. Quite puzzling watching them doing the test with the pressure gauge on their foot.

Speed test next, I saw him doing about 5000rpm in 5th gear which must be shifting a bit. It was all ok.

Then out came the projection/radiusing equipment and they really got stuck in...

Photographs were taken of the rear lamp clusters, the sidescreen pillars, and the seatbelt mounts, which was a bit suspicious. They said that they're to go on their noticeboard!

The main inspector was on the phone to a bloke called Nigel at several points during the test, I now understand him to be the national SVA chief bloke.

Finally, about 2pm they declared they'd finished with the car and would go inside to discuss it. After about an hour they came out with the failure certificate which at first glance I was quite pleased with because it passed all the major tests and was ok on the things I'd thought it might fail on.... And off I went at about 3.30, taking the scenic route home...


The Failure Points

Here's what it failed on... with my comments....

1. Seat belts. Outer upper anchorage is of inadequate strength and likely to fail. (I used a Westfield supplied spacer to achieve the required height, but this was judged too thin...)

2. Interior projections. Windscreen pillar bolts under scuttle, wiper motor edges, steering column bracket (behind the pedals!) side panel inner edge. (I was surprised about these as I thought things behind the dash werent tested).Sidescreen attachement (It says in the SVA manual that windscreen pillars are exempt, but the examiner said he didnt count the sidescreen mount as part of the pillar, even though it's one piece... fine)

3. Lighting. Front indicators less that 350mm from ground to bottom of illuminated area. (350mm took to about the middle of the lenses)

4. Exterior projections. Rear lamp clusters (standard westfield items), Rear fog and reverse ("), Front exhaust clamp ("), Hood mountbrackets (I'd put garden hose over these, but was told it had to be heater hose!!!), front suspension (I'd taped it up with foam tape, but was told if pushed down the radius still showed through!)

5. Front brake hoses fouling on suspension under full lock (aeroquip hoses, with plastic protection also, just touched the top wishbone)

6. Wiring not protected with conduit, speedo sensor, fuel pump, indicator wires in the nose cone.

And that was it. Nothing major, but some very annoying things on the projections/radiusing of standard Westfield stuff, which the same examiner had passed another Westfield on a month or so before hand!!


The Retest

Understandably I got the impression Westfield were a little annoyed at my failure on points such as the light clusters, when over a thousand cars have previously passed with these, and they were going to discuss the points with the SVA chairman. However this was going to take some time, and after much thought I decided to have a shot at a retest with my own solutions. It was worth a try, and 22quid for a 70mile drive isnt a total waste of money!

The following mods were made...

Front suspension raised 2 inches (for indicators), central heating foam pipe put over front suspension, hood mounts. New thicker harness spacers. a slight tension put in the front brake hoses. new rear lamp clusters and foam tape. conduit on the wiring. lots of tape on the sidescreen mounts (I was told tape wouldnt be acceptable but had not alternative), lots of carpet velcro'd over bits behind the dash.

I got pulled over by an unmarked police car on the way, for having no regi plates!

...but the retest was done by a different examiner who seemed much more reasonable, and after about 30mins I was handed my MAC, with a great sigh of relief!! Amazingly they accepted the new rear lights, although I was allowed to put some foam tape on them as even these more rounded ones were not deemed totally acceptable!

4*4 style rideheight, and foam tubes:

Wiper motor cover, carpet, and foam tube:

More carpet and foam tube:

Ugly lights!


The Aftermath!

The failure on the light clusters seems to have stuck, and I've heard that several other cars have now failed on the same point. What a nuisance for Westfield as it looks likely they will have to recall 300 or so sets of lights that are currently on cars in the build process or awaiting SVA. It seems amazing that it's taken SVA so long to discover this problem, especially when the same lights are fitted on Caterhams and Daxes as well.

The lights have passed EU type approval, but SVA seem to be saying that is not good enough. The fog and reverse lamps are also fitted on production Land Rovers!

Last heard is that Britax are changing the tooling for the clusters so that they are radiused correctly. Must be costing a lot, and does it really make the car safer??