The AMG engineers were adamant that the Model B 2-door sports hardtop had to have styling that was visually completely different from the sedan and of pillarless construction. They even envisaged a rear lift-up hatchback with folddown rear seats from the planned wagon version. Bold stuff for a small, struggling company.
For marketing purposes, styling was credited to Giovanni Michelotti. But Leyland’s own inhouse stylist, Romand Rodbergh, drew the real starting point for the coupe’s design. He created the concept and built a number of 1:10 scale models that were later tidied up by Michelotti, particularly at the front.
The smoothly flowing and contoured body lines (and the sweep up past the windows to a raised rear) were there in Rodbergh’s early sketches, as was the slightly awkward shape of the window cutouts. Added later was an ugly slatted window as a styling feature to fill the area behind the side windows on the C-pillar.
In place of Rodbergh’s gently curved US-inspired nose with two bonnet scoops (one each side), Michelotti substituted a bolder, pointier so-called ‘Arab’s beak’ design that somewhat echoed the sedan in concept and style.
At the back, plain two-colour (red and orange) rectangular-shaped lighting units curved around the body sides with an indented panel for the licence plate between them.
The major point of interest, of course, was the inclusion of a rear lift-up hatchback panel supported by two large gas-filled struts with folddown backseat, features that were unique to the Leyland and a first for an Australian manufacturer. Neither the Monaro from GM, Falcon hardtop nor Chrysler Charger had any of these practical convenience features.
When compared with the P76 sedan, with which it shared floorpan and front bulkhead, the Force 7’s masses were pushed further forward. Its rear overhang was noticeably shorter – by about six inches – while at the front the overhang was increased by a similar amount, the extended nose cone increasing the effect visually.
As with its P76 sibling, great efforts were made by chief body engineer Graham Hardy to minimise the number of panels. For example, where an Austin 1800’s body comprised a remarkable 345(!) panels – a Kingswood had 218 and a Falcon 246 – Hardy planned to use no more than 166 for the Model B sedan. This was a 52 per cent reduction (from the 1800) and meant far lower body-in-white production costs for the company.
After crash tests with hand-built prototypes at MIRA in England the panel count was raised to around 200 because of the need for strengthening of the front section of the body. It was still a major achievement from the Australians, the significance of which was completely lost on their British colleagues.
As Hardy commented, “By using fewer but larger panels throughout the structure of the car, we achieved significant cost savings.
“Not only that, but we were able to greatly increase the structural strength of the body. Fewer panels meant fewer welds and potential points of weakness.
“Interestingly I had problems initially getting the concept accepted because within Leyland a car body had traditionally been made up of hundreds of much smaller panels to keep tooling costs down. We broke the mould with the P76 and with Force 7.”
Apart from sharing the expensive-to-tool floorpan and bulkhead, plus front windscreen, all other panels were unique to the Force 7 coupe.
Not so for the mechanical components which were all shared with P76.