Surprise new sporting Ford

The Ford Motor Company caused quite a stir at the Brussels Show last month when they unveiled a new mid-engined two-seater sports prototype which must have sent a shiver down the spines of a lot of the specialist manufacturers. The attractively-styled car, called the GT70, is, say Ford, the next logical step in the company's wide and successful international competition programme. At present there are no plans to market the car to the public and the machine is just for the use of Ford's competition people, but it does seem on the cards that in the future the GT70 will be generally available.

The car has been specifically engineered to employ many of the components currently in use with the Escort, the Capri, the Taunus, the Cortina, the Ford 17M/20M and even the Zephyr/Zodiac range. Thus the GT70 is intended to complement the continuous design, development and test of components for volume-production Ford cars of both today and the future.

The basic planning of the car was that of Stuart Turner, Director of Motoring Sport, Ford of Europe and Jochen Neerpasch, the Competitions Manager for Ford Germany. They were worried that, despite making the Escorts as competitive as possible, such a front-engined rear-wheel-drive car would never be a match for the advanced rear-engined Porsche 911s. So make no mistake the intention of the GT70 is to be a Porsche and Alpine beater on rallies, and if all goes well a similar threat to Porsche 911s, Lotus Europas and the like on the open market.

Vehicle design has been in the hands of Len Bailey, who was chief executive engineer on the Ford GT project run with Alan Mann Racing, and the body design was developed within the Ford Research and Engineering Centre under the direction of Joe Oros. Ford's team of race and rally drivers were brought into the design studio to prove out the special seats and the position of instruments and controls. The co-ordination of the entire project was the responsibility of the Advanced Vehicle Operations at Aveley, and one could guess that if the GT70 is put into production it would be at the AVO plant, described in last month's issue.

The chassis of the GT70 is of the perimeter rail type fabricated from 18 s.w.g. steel sheet with a completely flat-floor pan constructed from 22 s.w.g. steel welded and bonded to its underside. Two separate safety hoops are bonded directly to the body and bolted to the perimeter rails behind and in front of the driver and passenger to provide protection in the event of the vehicle being rolled. The rear hoop incorporates the steel bulkhead between the passenger and engine compartment as well as the rear window and striker plates of the anti-bust door locks. The front safety hoop locates the padded facia and door hinges.

The slightly Opel GT-like body is made from glass-fibre and is mounted at ten separate points to the chassis and safety hoops. It incorporates a rear-located luggage compartment which affords 10 cu. ft. of space in addition to housing the spare wheel. At the front the radiator is carried and the front flap also lifts to reveal the hydraulic master cylinders, windscreen washer bottle and the warm air exhaust vents. When not in use the headlamps are housed behind protective flaps in the front wings and "pop up" rather like those on the Opel GT.

The suspension of the car is fully independent. At the front the suspension is designed on the same principle and uses major components from the German Taunus Cortina range. It utilises unequal length upper and lower wishbones and coil spring damper units. A front anti-roll bar can be fitted. At the rear the suspension is also fully independent consisting of a single upper link and trailing arm and a quadrilateral lower arm, coil springs and shock-absorbers. Close scrutiny of the illustrated cut-away drawing shows these points. The rear hub bearing and swinging caliper disc brakes are all adapted from the Mk. IV Zodiac, while the rack-and-pinion steering on the front disc brakes come from the Cortina range. Alloy road wheels of 13-in. diameter are used and are, at present, 7 in. wide, although for competition use 8 in., 9 in. or even 10 in. may be used.

The mid-ships-mounted engine is at present a 2.6-litre V6, which powers the Capri 2600GT and Ford 26M, which are both made in Germany. But the Ford 3-litre V6, the BDA or the less powerful 1600GT can all be installed in this new model. The engine drives through a single dry-plate 8 1/2 diameter diaphragm spring clutch. It is interesting to note that as this is Ford's first mid-engined car they do not have an available gearbox so have utilised the German ZF 5 DS25 all-synchromesh five-speed transmission which incorporates a limited slip differential or the ZF 4 DS four-speed all-synchromesh box.

The interior of the GT70 apparently sets new standards of comfort with separate bucket-type seats which each have 3 1/2 in. of fore and aft adjustment. The instruments are based on those already in use on the Capri. The gear-lever and hand-brake are centrally mounted and the fuel tank holds 12 gallons. The interior is in black.

The dimensions of the GT70, which weighs 1,680 lb., are as follows: Length 153 in., width 68 in., height 44 in., wheelbase 91 1/2 in., track front 56 in., track rear 55 in., ground clearance 6 in.

Stuart Turner is quoted as saying: "The GT70 has now satisfactorily finished its prototype development. We know that we have a fine car. However, we believe that a car of this kind, which is going to be involved in motor sport, needs an additional period of development before we come to a conclusion about making the car in volume for sale to the public, but we hope we can say something about this in a few months' time. Moreover, by showing the car at Brussels, which is the first important Show of the year, we shall be able to get the public's reaction, which is always important to us, because listening to our customers is obviously a vital part of our job. I think I should, however, make it clear that this is not a dream car, nor something just built for a motor show."

We understand that the first prototype built in great secrecy at Ford's Boreham plant has already undergone some hard testing, while the second car was completed just in time for the Show. A further four cars will be built and our Rally Correspondent reckons the GT70 may make its debut on the Circuit of Ireland. We look forward very much to driving this car of the 1970s and will watch its progress with interest.—A. R. M.