Promising Capri and Fiesta developments
As a dream the setting was almost perfect. Brands Hatch, slumbering in unfamiliar emptiness through a sunny weekday lunch break. Lined up in front of the pits were four interesting cars to drive as I pleased in the next 1 1/2 hours. Dreams never come entirely true: a connoisseur would surely demand cars a little more exotic than these familiar Fords, but in each case some interesting development work set these cars aside from their brethren. All of them were also remarkably well suited to track use, pointing an interesting finger at the pace of development amongst ordinary saloon cars today, retaining at least the docility of standard production cars. Those who have competed at the Brands Hatch club circuit may be interested to know that even an 1,100-c.c. Fiesta of 65 b.h.p. lapped the 1.2-mile track in 66 seconds, while a 160-h.p. triple-carburetter Capri (both on road tyres remember) took only 62.7 sec. In fact the Fiesta 1.1S handled just as well as my production racing Escort had on slick tyres in 1972 and was the most impressive f.w.d. saloon I have driven on closed circuits. That juddery road ride is lost completely on a smooth circuit, and it becomes a very attractive proposition.
The morning and afternoon sessions at Brands Hatch were to vividly illustrate recent changes at what used to be Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations. Now operating as Ford Rallye Sport Parts from the same South Ockendon location in Essex, this Ford sub-operation has mined new enthusiast markets since production of the special FAVO Escorts ceased in January 1975.
Today's version of FAVO is the overall responsibility of Michael Kranefuss, Ford's director of motorsports in Cologne, West Germany, but the day-to-day management rests with Fritz Boettger. In Germany they have a staff of 12, including three engineers. On the British side the operation is much smaller in numbers but more lively than ever. There is a staff of nine covering sales (headed by Charles Mead) and Purchase (Colin Rogers and Peter Houghton) at Ockendon, while Bill Meade and his engineering assistant do the practical engineering from part of the Ford Competition works at Boreharn airfield.
Between the two countries Germany has responsibility for l.h.d. cars and has little interest in rallying, while in Britain they have the rest of the World, all r.h.d. cars and three splendid markets. These are the club rallying fraternity; International rallying Escorts (a new full-scale effort) and the Series X scheme, of which we wrote last year. In fact the test Capri illustrated that Group One racing in Britain is very much their concern as well, through the 80-strong RS Dealer network. There are a large number of these racing Capris about today and they depend upon uprated mechanical components from front to back, mostly available through Ford, as well as specialists.
We talked to Barry Reynolds about the changes at South Ockendon since the closure of production and were slightly sad to find he is leaving after years of working on the high-performance Ford parts side at Boreham and Ockendon. Since he is going to look after Ford's press fleet, the sorrow was temporary.
Barry Reynolds said: "After the closure the priority was to show that we could exist. There were three of us—myself, Charlie Mead and Peter Houghton—where a staff of 14 previously operated. We overhauled the internal systems and then set about the products, which were rather disjointed at that time. My dream was that—should a man walk in here with a suitcase full of money, we would be able to relieve him of the burden and supply a complete competitive car! I am glad to say we managed just that objective by the end of 1976 with the RS2000 Mk. 2. You can now buy a Group One-winning Escort (or smaller club event outright winner) from the RS catalogue.
"We started taking brave pills before ordering stock levels to go up by an average 50% over norm. This obviously improved availability and has led to better sales as people find we can give them good service."
Mr. Reynolds showed us round the stores building and it was literally bulging compared with previous years. For example, there were 100 sets of the 4-piston calipers that retard an International-specification Escort, these selling. at £150 each. There was sufficient stock to build 30 of the £1,200 Group Four Escort rear axles. The Capri kit we tried is duplicated 100 times on that store shelving, and there are the same number in Germany, plus a few more of the triple carburetter, inlet manifold and linkage layouts in Australia and South Africa.
Mass-produced competition engines
In one corner sat some real news. A factorybuilt RS2000 (nee Pinto, Cortina, Capri et al) s.o.h.c. unit with the Group One kit installed... on the line at Saarlouis in Germany. This exciting development shows Ford looking at an astonishing new venture for a mass-manufacturer, literally building competition engines "on the line". The idea is that the 2-litre engine is equipped with the twin-Weber carburetters, bigger valves and a brand new self-lubricated "race cam", but these parts are not just dropped on. The engine could be described as "greenprinted", having all but the finicky handwork of a blueprinted engine. For example, the combustion chamber volumes are equalised and all major tolerances tightened to the limits Ford have found best in competition. However, they do not match the inlet and exhaust manifolding ports to the head, nor is any extra balancing carried out, or the flywheel lightened.
That camshaft is special though: everyone from the hard-driving sales rep, to top-line competitors knows that Ford have had problem with the camshaft lobes on the 2-litre unit. The solution, incorporated on this engine but also separately available under that racing camshaft designation, has a new profile and a shaft that carries a central oilway, feeding supplies for each individual lobe at intervals. The solution is expensive—at least £120—but since you are also gaining power a further 500 r.p.m. up the scale, to a limit of 7,000 r.p.m. instead of 6,500 r.p.m. the competitors probably will not hesitate. Indeed a chosen few rallyists had the camshaft in late February.
This complete factory-built engine was still being priced when I called, but it will definitely be under £1,000, and that is very competitive indeed. The specialists will still make money with further handwork on the very front-runners, but others will at least be able to buy a reputable alternative. Power output is not quoted: however, it is reckoned that you have at least 145 b.h.p. when installing the Ford Group One kit in a bolt-on manner, so I would think that a figure of 150-155 was not unfair. The hand-built unit I had in 1976, using the same equipment (bar the camshaft), gave slightly over 160 b.h.p., so I would expect the specialists now to be quite capable of producing a tractable 170 b.h.p. on the new camshaft profile.
Incidentally, Ford originally planned to sell 120 of those Group One RS2000 engine kits; the new stocking levels of these £350 kits brought sales to more than 200.
Turning to the Group Four venture, one may feel that the, RS Dealers always were able to supply factory duplicate parts to an International level. That was the theory, but now a new agreement between the RS parts people and Ford at Boreham has allowed a great deal more to be done from South Ockendon. Broadly speaking, a meeting 12 months ago decided that Competitions would restrict supplies to Ford-contracted drivers, leaving FAVO to do the rest and reap the full benefits of supplying on a larger scale. This has resulted in the RS parts people "productionising" many items that were almost impossible to get, other than by beg, steal, or borrow methods applied to competitions.
There is such a list of this new equipment that I cannot detail it here, but Ford— through the departing Mr. Reynolds working a seven-day week—have catalogued their efforts. These catalogues should be available from RS Dealers by the time you read this; if they are not, they are worth waiting to see. Covering rally Escorts for Group Four (International), Group Two (ditto) separately, there are also individual booklets to cover the Group One Escort RS2000 and Group One Capri 3-litre. These are readable and useful documents that deserve at least studying before proceeding any further with competition plans involving such specifications. They are not just lists of RS parts, but contain many of the little wrinkles that otherwise remain undiscovered and lead to rapid disillusionment. For example, Ford bolts are used on a high-ratio steering-rack installation but they are not the same bolts as standard, so the catalogue tells you the number.
It is worth noting at this point that the RS parts operation does not supply standard production bits, even for RS-labelled products today. If you want to buy a droop-snoot, that comes from the company parts depot at Daventry and the main Ford dealer network.
The booklets also contain useful addresses --e.g. the factory car engine builders, roll cage suppliers and those of bag fuel tanks, fire extinguishers and the 24-volt battery that is used just to whirr the starter motor on a works-specification RS 1800: the rest of the System is 12 volts, the starter motor included, but it receives 24 volts for this onerous task! Diagrams of brake systems (which includes the hydraulic handbrake and a note about the mecharucal linkage required by law), suspension struts and mechanical components abound. In short, these booklets are the work of a man who has dealt with such enquiries since the mid-sixties and represent a fitting goodbye.
The cars I tried are the responsibility of an even more experienced Ford man—Bill Meade. Bill was the rally engineer at Boreham for many years, before accompanying Stuart Turner to South Ockendon to work on the engineering side, along with many others. Now they have all disappeared from journalistic view, save Allan Wilkinson, the young former FAVO engineer who now acts as the Ford rally engineer at Boreham. Though the two fo,riner colleagues work in the same building, wIlkinson is strictly pursuing a competition course while Bill is trying to develop parts for sale, which involves a lot more compromise.
Fiesta first, and the most impressive was a 1.1S. This had the simplest bolt-on engine Parts, a re-jetted version of the standard 1300 Escort/Fiesta twin-choke Weber-Ford carburetter and a four-branch exhaust manifold. Total cost, a steep £175. This car also had 5 1/2-in. by 13-in, steel wheels replacing the standard 12-in, items, and a remarkable set of tyres. These are not sold in Britain but ought to be. They are Phoenix 185 section with 60% low profile and provided much of the stability we encountered.
Another mild suspension tweak lowered the front with an anti-dive kit; this also provides resistance to body squat under hard acceleration, pulling the front anti-roll bar mounting down an inch or so. More additional equipment coloured our impressions. The first was the neat black bucket seat (complete with side holes for full harness) which costs £53.44 and was accompanied by an appropriate recliner. The fact that an 1100 Fiesta has a 4.056-to-1 final drive, while the 1300 has a step up to 3.842 to I made a marked difference at Brands Hatch. A mere 54% difference, but the numerically higher final drive allows a lot more sparkle for circuit work, a feature emphasised by those low profile Phoenix tyres on this hilly circuit. This car also had an experimental short-shift gear-change linkage, of which more anon.
The 1.3S Fiesta looked more the part, carrying a full roll-cage and resting on 6 in. by 13 in. Ford alloy wheels. A new tyre was fitted on these as well, a fresh version of Goodyear's faithful Rally Special, this time of 195 section; so this Fiesta carried plenty of deep blocked rubber. The engine has two Weber 40 IDF 30-mm. choke carburetters and the four-branch manifold, again hitched up to the standard silencer system.
This layout of double carburetters is not yet available, but the bigger diameter solid disc brakes are. Costing approximately £50 these larger discs only fit behind the 13-in. diameter alloy wheels and utilise the standard caliper, which is merely moved outward for the new installation. Again the anti-dive suspension was fitted.
I was supplied with power curves for both 1100 and 1300 taken by Ford at the Laindon test centre. These showed the smaller unit giving 65 b.h.p. between 6,100 and 6,200 r.p.m., 11 b.h.p. more than the standard 1.1L. This really gives an idea of what these simple aids can release in the Fiesta unit, for those interested in speed would be more likely to plump for the 1300 in the first place. In this case peak power was over a much broader 5,500 to 6,000 r.p.m. band and was 77 b.h.p. with all silencers in place. Removing the forward resonator silencer released another couple of horsepower but made the car "unsocially noisy", in Meade's estimation.
Interestingly, the company also tried just the effect of a four-branch manifold (presumably with the right single carburetter jetting) and found the unit gave 70 b.h.p., minus the resonator box; 68 b.h.p. with. By comparison the standard 1300 unit produced 64 b.h.p. at 5,500 r.p.m. Looking at the curve for the fully-equipped twin-carburetter engine tested I see that the power advantage over standard is really noticeable from 2,000 r.p.m. onward. At 4,000 r.p.m. the production engine realised 51.5 b.h.p. where the twin-carburetter unit allowed exactly 5 b.h.p. more.
We also had on hand an Escort RS2000 in the bolt-on Group One 145-b.h.p. trim, looking rather strange as it was carrying the polyproplene flexible wheel-arches intended to replace the glass-fibre wheel-arch extensions normally used in club rallying. Strange, because they do not match the RS2000 style but would be quite at home without the droop-snoot look.
The attraction for me was a Capri 3000S. Looking very standard indeed, this Ford actually featured few changes aside from the painstaking triple-carburetter installation. Opening the hood one wondered what all the fuss was about, the big glass-fibre air-cleaner looking very standard and shrouding the row of Weber 44 DCNFs that sat on a new sand cast alloy manifold. The bulk of the carburetter linkage is by rod with rubber block joints, finally connecting to an accelerator cable. It was designed as a bolt-on item at £400, and had been carefully designed with low overall height in mind. So it is quite possibly of interest for people such as TVR and Scimitar owners.
Bill says development traces back to "just before the fuel crisis. We had been playing with two-and three-carburetter layouts on the V6, finding that an increase of 20 b.h.p. was available either way, but with the triple set-up the better fuel distribution also gives a better torque curve. For obvious fuel reasons we did not go ahead at the time, but we knew that was the market: a bolt-on 20 b.h.p.
"Sure, you can get another 20 b.h.p. by changing the camshaft, but by the time you have finished telling the customer that the *tons will need relieving and that the engine will have to come out, he's disappeared!
"We actually started work on the layout you've tried today in December '77. Although we have not put this particular engine on the bed, I know from that previous work that there should be a minimum of around 160 b.h.p. and that the torque curve is improved over standard from 1,500 r.p.m. onward. It is Ford policy that the engine should go through emission tests (it's not strictly necessary on this after-market addition) and we do not anticipate any problem with meeting the ECE 15 standard. After all, these are the same carburetters that Aston Martin resorted to when their fuel injection layout was having a hard time meeting such standards!"
All said with cheerful good nature and the characteristic understatement that is expected of a company engineer. In fact the threecarburetter layout showed every sign of being quite exceptionally well engineered and developed. There were no holes of any kind in power delivery, and the throttle action itself was rather better than production standard: light and dependable, though I feel I detected a slight increase in throttle travel.
The white Capri rolled on 205 section Dunlop SP Sports, mounted on 7-in. Ford alloy wheels. A ZF limited-slip differential was installed, and the struts were actually of the type used on road-going RS3100s. Ventilated disc brakes (as for Group One racing) were installed, complete with competition pads that very definitely did require warming up, even on a warm spring day. Inside there was a mechanical water gauge, which didn't register over 90 degrees when running, though Meade does say that a bigger radiator Could be a good idea, and there was also a four-spoke sports steering wheel installed for evaluation. One final comment from Meade regards fuel consumption of this hard-driven machine, "I normally get 17.5 to 19.5 m.p.g., and that's quite good for this kind of performance, especially as you find a let of the time is spent chasing along hard in third gear."
Road and track impressions
I had two or three sessions with each car, but I do not intend to say very much about the Group One Escort RS2000. I have already praised the modified car in previous issues. My regard for the agility of the chassis, promptness of the brakes and amazing torque from the engine remains high. I did have some nasty moments with the car on the track, not quite spinning after prolonged bouts of understeer, and this reinforces what I felt in 1976: the handling is prone to under-steer if the big 205 Dunlops are allowed to heat up in continutius track use. Where hard racing circumstances exist it is better to use Dunlop's steel-braced SP4. The other point about this RS2000 was that it was also set up for rally use, so it does tend to pick up wheels rather readily!
I did work logically through the power avialable, beginning with the 1.1S Fiesta. First impressions were good, the bucket seat clasping me firmly but comfortably, and not suffering from the low-mounting that can restrict vision of us 5 ft. 8 in., and under, conductors. The gear-change was not quite as good as standard, the short-shift clacking away mildly and occasionally baulking at going across the gate from 2nd to 3rd.
The Fiesta was down to its absolutely consistent 66 seconds time within a lap or two, so can fairly be described as easy to drive quickly. The little engine seemed happiest from 4,000 to 6,000 in track use, but gently accelerating from 2,000 r.p.m. is a more satisfactory exercise in top than for a standard car, owing something to the small tyres hiding within those ferocious wing extensions. Third gear seemed to hum from 50 m.p.h. at Clearways to an indicated 75 m.p.h. before the pits. With the engine sounding about the same as a standard unit you could then slot into top and encompass 84 indicated m.p.h. before Paddock. Here the standard brakes coped beautifully, just as they did at Druids: I came to feel they were probably superfluous, save at Druids, anyway!
The car honestly felt as though it was on racing rubber, hardly moving at all under either harsh braking or cornering. As I said before, these tyres are not available here (who are Phoenix anyway ?), so the option offered British customers will be the 195 Goodyear assessed on the 1300S.
Overall the little silver 1.1 Fiesta S brought a complete feeling of safe yet surprisingly rapid motoring. It's not like a Ford, Mini-Cooper really, being a rather more refined concept, but compared to a Renault Five or a VW equivalent, yes, then it is a Mini-Cooper of the age, having the handling of a roofed-in skateboard, and certainly emphasising the joys of spirited motoring with youthful vigour.
Those remarks applied especially to the 1.1S. By comparison I was disappointed with the 1300. That engine certainly had extra power, but in a straightline race (which we organised the wrong way around the GP circuit, thanks to BH's management) the smaller car would hold on until both were stretching out of 2nd for 3rd gear: then the 1300 took over.
Again the brakes were outstanding, but I would be lying if I said I really noticed any difference between them and the 1.1S production units. In fact the modified 1300 had more tail-end weave, and this made Clearways a hit or miss exercise on occasion, as one fought to turn inward while the rear end favoured straight on!
The Goodyear tyres had been scrubbed-in by Barry Lee, the champion hot-rod driver, and they naturally allowed the car tremendous reserves in cornering. However, they were a slightly larger diameter than the mysterious Phoenix and, together with the numerically lower final drive, this made the acceleration a little more leisurely. The engine did compensate by allowing 2-3 m.p.h. extra in top gear toward Paddock, and a noticeable 3rd-gear acceleration bonus, but I think the rather specialised rubber of the smaller-engined Fiesta gave it a far more secure feeling in mid-corner.
In both machines there was a surprising amount of lift-off oversteer, and I wondered if this could be the product of the anti-dive kit, for that quality is noticeable by its absence on the road.
Summing up, I thought the 1300 twincarburetter engine and the Goodyear tyres were both better ideas for road use. I think the Goodyear will prove itself in everyday use, especially under wet conditions where its deep tread pattern may well enhance Goodyear's reputation considerably. The 1300 engine with double carburetters should provide a satisfying element of Q-car surprise in the small-car league, the 1300 S Fiesta already boasting good performance for the class: the twin-carburetter model should be good for nearly 105 m.p.h. and, I would guess, remove at least. 1 1/2 seconds from its 0-60 m.p.h. times.
After the RS2000's heavy but accurate steering, and phenomenal grip, the powersteered Capri was bound to be a contrast. In fact they both returned times very close together in my hands (62.7 sec. and 62.8 sec.) wearing the same 205 Dunlops, but they could not have been more different. The Capri was still very much a road car. It did not roll overmuch, but the soft axle location and light steering betrayed the car's real character going into and out of the 2nd gear Druids semi-circular curve.
The engine proved absolutely responsive throughout, picking up from 3,500 r.p.m. in 3rd gear when the car was switched violently from left to right; showing no sign of a hiccup thereafter till the self-imposed 6,000r.p.m. limit. You could change from 3rd to 4th at 4,000 r.p.m. or so, instead of the full 95-indicated m.p.h. and 6,000 r.p.m., yet the Capri would still be nudging 105 m.p.h. by the time Paddock was reached—very little slower than if you wound it up to the limit in the gears.
While the sound of the fully-extended V6 is reminiscent of the larger and sportier American V8s, it can also be counted on to almost duplicate its American cousins' flexibility. You can literally take the car down to nigh-on the 21 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m. equation in 4th gear. Then stand on the throttle and the engine doesn't falter, gradually creeping toward 30 m.p.h. As soon as the speedometer needle is past 35 mp.h. and the tachometer is set toward 2,000 revs., the Capri picks up speed. The engine takes on the gruff, hairy-chested beat around 2,500 r.p.m. and by the time you get to 70 m.p.h, and nearly 3,500 r.p.m. it is really in its stride.
At first I was a little disappointed that performance seemed to drop off so rapidly above 5,500 r.p.m., but bearing in mind the low-down flexibility and the condition of the roads in the south-east, few customers are likely to worry overmuch about this. Certainly, it would make a glorious combination to install this triple-carburetter layout on an engine featuring the Group One racing camshaft, bigger valves and so on, but then you have to go to the cost of many other items as well, particularly the transmission which can be unreliable if the engine is uprated much over 160 b.h.p.
The limited-slip differential did the best it could with demands for full traction leaving Druids, allowing the driver to select any oversteer angle at will. You could enter the Corner in a straight line on the outside, braking and then lifting your right foot from brake pedal to throttle, applying full power as you turned in. The Capri would then skip through at virtually right angles, cutting off the full bend and leaving you on the inside, ready lined up for the following downhill lefthander. That the power steering would allow accurate corrections to be made under such circumstances, or on faster bits of the track, is quite remarkable, though I would not pretend that this Ford system is up to the mark of the full ZF progressive systems offered on more expensive cars, or indeed that found on the Cortina as an option.
I did not reach the limits of the ventilated disc brakes from a fade point of view, but did find that using them heavily encouraged heavy axle tramp of the kind I remember so vividly from the celebrity races of a few years back. It was not quite so bad as before, and I did find that the Mk. 2 was more forgiving under these conditions, including a reluctance to spin that would have been unbelievable 1972.
Performance? In rough terms you can certainly expect it to pull maximum r.p.m in top gear, and that would represent marginally over 130 m.p.h. on the standard section Goodyears The standard car takes 9 sec. or less to reach 60 m.p.h. from rest, and you could expect this version to record seven point something seconds without difficulty'.
Somebody commented that you couldn't want for much else in a road-going Capri, and I would agree with that. The individual might ask for the X-series wheel-arches and a special paint scheme, plus a higher lift camshaft to extend the r.p.m. range. However the car I tried represented practical everyday transport with an enjoyable performance boost to rouse Mr. Ford's sleepy V6 from emission-induced slumbers.
Looking at the comparatively unsuccessful sales figures for Fiesta one cannot imagine that Ford will leave the modification of the vehicles at the interesting though modeI levels described. Indeed five such cars in under low-key development now. A pair in different kinds of racing, one for rallycross another for rallying evaluation, and the first one to participate in hot-rod racing.
This year Ford are adopting a "low profile" of their own while they assess the unfamiliar world of f.w.d. in competition... a task they are likely to face with Escort within two years. We await further developments with interest. - J.W.