Force 7R for rac­ing

Australian Muscle Car - - Stillborn Muscle -

One of the most in­trigu­ing as­pects of the Force 7 was that prior to its demise Ley­land had laid the foun­da­tion for a high per­for­mance ver­sion to tackle Ford and Holden head-on at Bathurst.

As out­lined back in 2003 in AMC #8, the Force 7R tour­ing car racer could well have gone head to head with Holden’s To­rana L34 and Ford’s XB Fal­con GT in the Hardie-Ferodo 1000 had Bri­tish Ley­land sur­vived long enough.

If a 7R sounds laugh­able to­day, con­sider that the company, as BMC, had al­ready won the Bathurst clas­sic out­right with the mighty Mor­ris Cooper S in 1966, just eight years prior to the Force 7’s aborted launch.

Ev­i­dence of Ley­land Aus­tralia’s pro­posed rac­ing push was dis­cov­ered when Peter Robin­son – who, as an aside, re­tired from an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer as a mo­tor­ing jour­nal­ist in 2014 – was re­search­ing a de­tailed story on the Force 7V in the 1970s. In a ret­ro­spec­tive ar­ti­cle pub­lished in Sports Car World in Fe­bru­ary 1975, he wrote: “We dis­cov­ered that a com­pe­ti­tion pro­gram was planned for the Force 7 almost from the be­gin­ning.”

Ley­land Aus­tralia was al­ready deeply in­volved in com­pe­ti­tion de­vel­op­ment of its al­loy V8 en­gine be­fore the Force 7 Coupe even be­came a re­al­ity.

Gold Star cham­pion John McCor­mack turned to Ley­land Aus­tralia’s chief en­gi­neer re­spon­si­ble for en­gine de­vel­op­ment, Kjel Erik­sen, when plan­ning his new Elfin MR6 For­mula 5000 rac­ing car. McCor­mack wanted to power it with the Ley­land V8 en­gine, due to its light weight com­pared to the Repco-Holden 5.0-litre cast iron V8 which pow­ered the MR5.

Go ahead for col­lab­o­ra­tion on the F5000 en­gine was granted and a 4.9-litre ver­sion of the company’s al­loy V8 was in the works when the rug was pulled on Ley­land Aus­tralia. For­mer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Peter North told AMC for is­sue #8 that “no decision as to its in­tended use had been made.”

Just how ad­vanced the en­gine pro­gram was is un­clear, with Erik­sen pass­ing away many years ago. It is known that small in­creases to bore size and crank­shaft stroke re­sulted in the in­crease to 4.9-litres.

Long-time Toy­ota Aus­tralia pub­lic­ity man­ager Mike Breen started his ca­reer at Ley­land and re­calls that one Force 7 within the company was fit­ted the com­pe­ti­tion-de­vel­oped en­gine.

“I re­mem­ber Kjel Erik­sen, the chief en­gi­neer for the pro­gram, had an orange one fit­ted with a five-litre V8 en­gine they were de­vel­op­ing for ho­molo­ga­tion so they could race at Bathurst,” he says to­day. “It was part of the pro­gram they worked on with John McCor­mack.”

McCor­mack so be­lieved in the con­cept that he got his own en­gine pro­gram up and run­ning in con­junc­tion with Repco En­gines, build­ing upon the foun­da­tions that had been put down with Ley­land.

It took the Tas­ma­nian sev­eral years to re­solve the Repco-Ley­land ver­sion’s F5000- re­lated is­sues, but his faith in the Ley­land V8 pro­gram ul­ti­mately de­liv­ered him the 1977 Aus­tralian Driv­ers Cham­pi­onship.

In 2003 AMC com­mis­sioned il­lus­tra­tor Jeff Hag­garty to come up with his im­pres­sion of what Ley­land’s pro­posed Force 7R tour­ing car could have looked like.

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