3-Litre V6 Miscellany
There is now a considerable variety of Ford 3-litre V6-engined cars on the market, most of them designed to appeal to the enthusiast. To our mind these V6 machines are most easily classified into three groups, the first of which obviously comprises Ford's own products in the Zephyr/Zodiac range and the Capri 3000 GT. Next comes a group of specialist car producers who make a small number of sporting vehicles each year, available in kit or ready for the road form. Thus in this group we find the Marcos (now with a metal chassis, but glassfibre body which is a feature that all in this second category share); then TVR, revived by the success of the 1600 GT, now have the Ford unit installed for the Tuscan model; Gilbern's recently revamped 3-litre (now called the Invader) also falls within this group, as does the Reliant Scimitar. The latter is not sold in kit form, but it is the most successful, together with the GTE, in sales terms. Reliant was also the first of the outside firms to realise the V6 Zodiac engine's potential and success with this and the 2½-litre V6 Scimitars has taken the company into what could more fairly be described as the top league of the independents, together with Lotus: all those three-wheeler sales must have also helped them into this enviable position. There are plans to revive the Elva marque with a Ford V6 powerplant, and should these come to fruition they will also fall within this second group.
The last category seems to be the conversions and tuning division. Here we find that there are upwards of a dozen firms which have transplanted the compact but heavy engine into the unsuspecting engine compartments of Escorts, Cortinas, Transit vans and, in the temporary absence of Ford, Capris. The writer has tried the following V6 conversions: Crayford Automobile Developments' Escort V6 Eliminator, Race Proved Ltd.'s Savage Cortina automatic Estate and the same company's Transit-based Sprite Motorhome. Last month we tried a 3-litre Capri from LuMo and as we have not yet been offered Ford's own Capri 3000 GT, our comments will be confined to just a brief outline of how the car behaves compared to other Ford models fitted with the same engine.
One firm whose products I haven't tried but which is reputed to do a very good job indeed is Superspeed. They do a V6 conversion for both Cortina and Escort, each of which is based on the production Twin-Cam versions. The Cortina V6 costs £1,415 (plus the recent Ford price increase) and the Escort £1,390. In the case of the latter, other modifications (apart from the engine) are the use of a new extractor exhaust system from cylinder heads to tailpipe, leather-rim steering wheel, harder Ferodo pads or the front discs, 175 section radial-ply tyres mounted on the standard T-C 5½-in. rims, and a paint job, which—happily for readers of this journal—is not mandatory. Performance claims for the car are 0-60 m.p.h. in under seven seconds and a top speed on the 3.7 final drive (fitted as standard) of 127 m.p.h. The nearest the author has come to experiencing the Ilford firm's wares was at Brands Hatch when the proprietor took us for a couple of laps in his Cortina V6. The car seemed fuss-free and stable, with enough power to satisfy one's tastes as a passenger when we arrived at Paddock Bend travelling at 90 m.p.h. or so. Super-speed propose to market their own 3-litre Capri with a GTS label which will signify a modified engine and gearbox ratios (the wide spacing of ratios on this box has been a problem that many specialists have endeavoured to solve, so far without success); unfortunately the gear-change action will not be improved.
Having dealt with the conversions which have not been personally experienced, we will go on to those that have. The 3-litre conversion which impressed us most of the conversion category was that of the Crayford Escort Eliminator, mainly because its light weight allows rocket-like acceleration (Crayford have now announced a Mustang V8-powered Capri, which should put even the Eliminator in the shade).
The bucket seating gave good support, however, and one soon feels confident enough to make full use of the Corsair 2000E gearbox and the 136 b.h.p. (nett) that the big Ford engine is said to give. The front bulkhead of the standard Escort GT (upon which Crayford base the conversion) had been dispensed with and a new one fitted to allow the engine to sit further back and thus improve weight distribution. This modification worked very well indeed and the handling was certainly man enough to cope with the extra weight, horsepower and torque. Rear axle location was surprisingly efficient as the provision of just one long torque arm enabled the Eliminator to wheelspin away from a standing start, rather than winding up the leaf springs. We recorded a top speed of 115 m.p.h. and a 0-60 time of 8.4 sec., which means that it is an extremely potent little saloon with acceleration that is effortlessly quicker than the Escort T-C's. In my opinion the brakes were not up to the performance abilities of the car; this remark is based on the clouds of smoke that emerged from the front wheels after a rigorous session along the lanes near to Crayford's Kent works. The feature may have just been a quirk of that particular demonstrator, but I would advise hard drivers to investigate the use of more heat-resistant materials for the front discs. The Eliminator conversion is priced at £580, plus the cost of an Escort GT.
The next two 3-litre conversions both came from Jeff Uren's Race Proved company based at Hanwell in West London, The first of these devices was unforgettable, being a Transit van converted into a mobile home with the proverbial kitchen sink included and powered by the ubiquitous 2,994-c.c. V6. To install the engine they had installed a re-shaped front member and cut back the cross-member, mounting modified engine bearers to take the extra weight and size compared to the V4 2-litre which is installed on Ford's production line. Other new ancillaries to suit included different brake slave and master cylinders, heavy duty battery and larger capacity shock-absorbers; the Zodiac exhaust manifolding is used, though obviously a certain amount of cut and thrust has taken place in order to mate it up to the normal van system.
The Motorhome seems enormous when looking from the outside and the thought of the vehicle's apparent skyscraper proportions certainly dampened this enthusiast's leaning towards hard cornering. Normal straight-line travel is easy, though, so long as one remembers that the "home" section of the caravan is a couple of inches wider than the front; judging from the dents along the sides other drivers need a reminder of this!
The bulky body with its external aluminium panelling really demands something more than the manufacturer's V4 to pull it along, for even with the V6 installed acceleration to 60 m.p.h. isn't that much faster than an 848-c.c. Mini. Top speed depends on how strong the cross-wind is and the bravery of the driver. As the reader can well imagine, the flat tall sides make the Sprite-Uren machine a suitable training ground for all-in wrestlers when trying to correct the steering on a windy motorway. Under such conditions we found the safe cruising speed to be about 65 m.p.h., while less exposed tarmac can be negotiated at over 85 m.p.h. A 4.6-to-1 final drive combined with the standard gearbox provided reasonable acceleration, as previously stated, but did not aid pleasant motorway cruising as the engine transmits "I am working hard" messages while turning at 4.000 r.p.m. approximately to give a speed of 60 m.p.h. To be fair, the ratio does aid the vehicle's very useful top-gear flexibility, so one can accelerate the fridge, cooker, kitchen sink, lavatory, shower, generous cupboards and the five-berth sleeping arrangements all contained with the Motorhome from as low as 8 m.p.h. in top gear; at 25 m.p.h. in the same ratio the acceleration is quite adequate to keep up with Sunday drivers.
The installation of the V6 engine into a Transit is subject to a delivery time of 12-14 days and the price is £385, including a new grille, front panels, valance, bumper and matt black bonnet. Certainly this Easipower conversion, as Race Proved call it is worth serious thought if you are faced with towing or carrying heavy toads over long distances.
The same firm's Savage Cortina 3-litre estate, complete with the Borg-Warner automatic transmission and rear-end modifications which made it competitive in a recent caravan rally, was so different that it would be easy to say that in comparison with the Motorhome it was perfect. The brakes and gear-change were uninspiring on the former, whereas the Savage had a slick automatic-change and very powerful servo-assisted stopping powers. Possibly the servo action is a bit too powerful, for a thoughtlessly hard application can stand the car and passengers on their noses. The outstanding feature of the Savage is how enjoyable, yet effortless, it is to drive. The steering is lighter than that of the Cortina Twin-Cam. All the other controls are light and the handling has been very well sorted out. The automatic normally changes ratios at 4,500 r.p.m., but there are two manual-hold positions plus the rather harsh kickdown to take the revs nearer the 5,500 limit imposed by Ford.
Acceleration of this Savage is probably around eight seconds or thereabouts from 0-60 m.p.h. Top speed was well down because the axle ratio installed was for pulling caravan's, so that the tachometer was at the limit with 90 m.p.h. showing on the speedometer. To add to the confusion we were later told the speedometer was reading slow, so that the Savage was in fact travelling at 98 m.p.h. The cost for this eminently practical Estate car with its electric windows (Uren has been selling these for just over a year now; window operation is noisy but powerful) and the automatic transmission would be close to £2,000. The manual-transmission Savage sells from £1,584 for a two-door model that should have a top speed of 120 or so, depending on the axle ratio installed. Incidentally, Uren plans to sell an overdrive unit for the Corsair and Cortina range; the device has managed a few thousand miles of testing without trouble, so this could possibly be a good idea for those who want to remove some of the fuss from travelling at illegal speeds in 3rd and 4th gears!
Which bring us to the Ford Capri. As we tested the LuMo car last month there is no point in describing it at great length, but from our experience we can say that there are a couple of advantages in owning the V6 Capri, rather than a similarly-powered Cortina or Escort. These boil down to the fact that the Capri was designed with the Zodiac engine in mind so that it feels very well balanced with a V6 engine installed. The other major advantage is one of silent progress at 100 m.p.h. and over; this can be attributed to the cleaner aerodynamic shape. I have no doubts, though, that if a door was fitted carelessly this advantage would soon be lost, and the writer has tried Capris that were well below standard.
Finally, if I were picking a V6-propelled machine, my choice would fall on the TVR Tuscan. It may not have the luggage space of the Ford-manufactured saloon/GT models but it does have just enough everything to satisfy those who want an individual sports machine and who have to make some concessions to a family. The Marcos is "out" for me because of the strictly twosome seating, while the Scimitar's looks are old-fashioned, but their GTE model could be just the job when the family rebel at being compressed into the TVR!
Of the converted cars both the Crayford Escort and Race Proved Savage were well engineered, but I preferred the sophistication of the Urea Cortina which also has the-advantage of 600 similar conversions behind it.—J. W.
Addresses of test cars' converters:
Race Proved, 177, Uxbridge Road, Hanwell, London, W7.
Crayford Automotive Developments, High St., Westerham, Kent.
LuMo Cars, 55, London Road. Dunstable, Beds.
Superspeed, 482, Ley Street, Newbury Park, Ilford, Essex.