Ramar Engineering is a young (established mid-1985) and unfamiliar name, but ift the Panther Solo 2 is a commercial success it will owe a largely unacknowledged debt to Ramar’s all-wheel-drive prowess.
For it was Ramar at Kelvedon Hatch near Brentwood in Essex which executed the significant mating of Sierra Cosworth’s 204 bhp, a Borg Warner T5 manual gearbox (also used in Sierra Cosworths) and the essential components of a Ford Sierra 4×4’s unequal power-split 4WD system. Significant because Ford is believed to be working on a similar alliance, but within a Sierra body, for 1989 Group A World Championship rallying.
However, Ramar could not simply transfer 4×4 expertise to Panther. For the rear-mounted Ford Cosworth demanded a reverse direction set of helical gears in the transfer box, which is bolted to the gearbox.
The transfer box splits power via the usual Ferguson principles of epicyclic gearing to the front (gear train and propshaft, and to the back by a multiple row chain, principles again found in many Ferguson patent installations.
There were a number of other casting and lubrication problems to overcome before the Sierra 4×4 system, including centre and rear viscous couplings, could be developed for production in their new Panther home.
Anyone familiar with the motor industry might wonder how Ramar came to know so much about high performance 4WD. A chat to Ramar director Malcolm Powell and a look at the company shareholdings answers such queries.
Malcolm Powell was one of the original members of the Ford SVE engineering team that produced the Sierra XR4x4 and saw it through to the production stage. He took voluntary redundancy in Autumn 1985 and established Ramar.
Registered shareholders at more than 30% include R Mansfield and R Diggins, better known as Rod Mansfield, SVE’s long-serving manager, and Ray Diggins, a key figure inside SVE with particular responsibility for 4WD systems.
Malcolm Powell says frankly, “the Panther Solo 2 started re-design life with an east-west engine installation, but to save Panther money in respect of unique components I repackaged the engine north-south. It lent itself better to a wishbone rear suspension and did not increase wheelbase.
“Furthermore all the design work relating to the rolling chassis was completed by Ramar and submitted to Panther for manufacture. We worked with them up until the end of 1986 and completion of the first running prototype.
“Naturally there were significant changes after we submitted our work, but one I did not understand was the removal of all apparent boot space when the side-mounted radiators turned into one single rad at the back,” concluded Malcolm Powell of a project he still holds in considerable affection.
Ramar’s expertise was further highlighted at the Force 87 Police Show in October, where the Ford stand featured a remarkable turbocharged Transit with 4WD. You’ve guessed it, the 100 mph-plus Transit with its 2-litre Turbo Technics motor had been packaged around the first unequal-powersplit 4WD system for the Transit by . . . Ramar.
This time the 4WD layout has been re-engineered without the expensive viscous couplings and features a lockable central differential via dog clutches. If your next encounter with the men of blue hue sees them in a 4WD Turbo Transit, rather than the familiar Range Rover, you will know just who to blame! JW
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