Su­per coupe

Australian Muscle Car - - Stillborn Muscle -

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.

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