10 FACTS: GT70

Ten things you didn’t know about Ford’s still­born rally car project.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS -

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.

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