10 FACTS: GT70
Ten things you didn’t know about Ford’s stillborn rally car project.
1 Legend has it that the GT70 was conceived on an aeroplane journey, from Nice to London, after the 1970 Monte Carlo. Roger Clark had driven his heart out in an Escort Twin Cam on the Monte Carlo rally, but could not keep up with the engine-over-driving-wheels AlpineRenault A110s and Porsche 911s. It was on the journey home, by BEA Trident jet, that Clark and team boss Stuart Turner sketched up their ideas of what a Ford-powered Alpine-beater should be.
2 With only limited funds available, Ford contracted their engineering consultant, Len Bailey, to design a new project rally car. With four-wheeldrive still specifically banned from rallies, the most promising ‘why-don’t-we’ layout was of a mid/rear-engined car, which (engines apart) would have virtually no connection with existing or previous Ford competition machinery. For compelling reasons (though it was developed in secret) the new project was coded GT70.
3 Bailey’s choice of engines was strongly influenced by Fordof-Europe politics, and was still not totally settled when the project was cancelled in 1973. The most promising British engine was the 1600cc Cosworth BDA, which was being fitted to the new Escort RS1600, but was not due to be homologated until October 1970. The alternative, from Germany, was the 125 bhp 2.5-litre Cologne V6, which was being fitted to the Capri RS2600, and was also being developed for saloon car racing.
4 Len Bailey designed the entire car, working from his own offices at Fairoaks Airfield (close to Alan Mann) in Surrey. Approval came from Walter Hayes soon after Turner returned from Monte Carlo, when the building of six prototypes was immediately authorised. Project work began in February 1970, and the first car was completed at Boreham in October 1970. Public launch came at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1971.
5 Working to cost-saving instructions, Bailey chose a simple steel platform chassis, topped off by a two-seater coupe body shell in glass-fibre. The original chassis tub was built in Maurice Gomm’s workshops. The engine fitted to the very first car was a Ford-Germany V6 unit, which was mated to the same type of five-speed ZF 5DS25 gearbox which had been used on the GT40. To save time and money, many other components were from Ford’s parts bin, such as Mk3 Cortina front suspension and parts of the Mk4 Zodiac rear disc brake installation, a Mk4 Zodiac radiator, and an Anglia 105E heater. The styling was by Len Bailey himself, with a little assistance from Ford design at Dunton.
6 Ford’s hopes were that the GT70 would be assembled at the newly-constructed AVO assembly plant at South Ockendon in Essex, with a potentially wide choice of engines, but principally BDA or Ford-Cologne V6
“LEGEND HAS IT THAT THE GT70 WAS CONCEIVED ON THE PLANE JOURNEY HOME AFTER THE 1970 MONTE CARLO RALLY BY ROGER CLARK AND STUART TURNER”
types. A minimum of 500 cars had to be built (and counted) to achieve Group 3 homologation, but AVO hoped that it would carry on
7 The original clay model for the body was completed in a Maurice Gomm factory in Hastings, on the third floor of a Victorian tenement building. Extracting this clay, to get it on to a truck, was a difficult and ticklish operation. Even before the prototype car was shown to the public, incidentally, Ford’s design subsidiary, Ghia, asked that they be allowed to do their own style for a production car. One such mock up, but not a complete car, was eventually built in Turin.
8 Prototypes with BDA and V6 engines were built, but Roger Clark gave a V6-engined car its debut in the Ronde Cevenole rally of September 1971 (the engine failed), but the car which looked most likely to succeed on an event where homologation was not required was BDA powered (latterly with Lucas fuel injection fitted). In spite of valiant efforts to achieve reliability, no real success was ever gained.
9 Initial testing showed that too much needed to be improved, costs were always against it, and the poor rallying performance was the last straw. Most of the six cars were sent to South Africa, and there was limited rally success, before all returned in the 1990s. Two or three survive to this day (at least one with V6 power), one (Ford’s latter-day press car) being restored in 2002. That BDA-engined car, complete with Hewland gearbox and more modern Minilite wheels, got BP colours and has been demonstrated at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.
10 Apart from all its development problems, the final killer was the cost estimate. In 1972, it was thought that a GT70 might sell for £5000 – this at a time when an Escort RS1600 was selling for £1585!
This is one of the few surviving GT70s, and is now part of Ford’s heritage fleet.