BRENTWOOD, 20 March, 2002 -- A rare Ford GT70 rally car that has not turned a wheel in anger since the early Seventies is currently being fully restored and should be ready to compete on the Goodwood hillclimb at the Festival of Speed in...
BRENTWOOD, 20 March, 2002 -- A rare Ford GT70 rally car that has not turned a wheel in anger since the early Seventies is currently being fully restored and should be ready to compete on the Goodwood hillclimb at the Festival of Speed in July.
The Ford GT70 was conceived in 1970 by Ford competitions director Stuart Turner and Ford rally driver Roger Clark on their way back from an unsuccessful Monte Carlo Rally. Aware that the Ford Escort rally car in its current format was unlikely to be a match for cars such as the new Lancia Stratos with its Ferrari engine or the Renault Alpine, Turner and Clark, together with the endorsement of Ford Public Affairs vice-president Walter Hayes, decided a new course of action was needed.
It was agreed the best option for rally success was a light and simple two-seater designed to take a variety of engines. Hayes also saw that if the car proved sufficiently successful in competition to merit volume production, the use of components from existing Ford models would significantly reduce costs.
GT40 designer Len Bailey was commissioned to design the body, and six chassis were produced. Roger Clark, Hannu Mikkola, Timo Makinen, and other contributed ideas for the interior layout. One chassis was fitted with a special body by Ghia S.p.A., the Ford-owned carrozzeria in Turin, and exhibited at the Turin Auto Show. Three of the remaining five were fitted with V6 engines and standard glassfibre bodies, two of these being taken by Roger Clark to the GT70's rally debut at the Ronde Cevenole rally in France in 1971. Teething troubles kept Roger out of the points on that occasion.
Following test sessions at Goodwood, another GT70 was driven by Francois Mazet - partnered by one Jean Todt, now with an Italian company! - on the Tour de France in the same year. Unfortunately, their Tour ended against a wall in the Alps.
Sadly, World Rally Championship rule changes and other influences curtailed the intensive development of the GT70 that had been planned, and its full potential was never realised. "What a car this might have been, if only we'd had time to develop it, " said Roger Clark. Ford France fitted one of the surviving cars with the new BDA engine and Guy Chasseuil drove it in BP livery in the French tarmac championships of 1972 and 1973, with mixed results. However, the focus of Ford's international rallying endeavours swung firmly back to the all-conquering Ford Escort with the BDA engine, a partnership which dominated world rallying throughout the Seventies.
The car currently under restoration by Ford Motor Company Limited had been dismantled and stored by Ford since the mid Seventies, apart from a brief period when it was used to demonstrate the potential of the new CVH engine. Fortunately, only the original engine and gearbox were absent - most of the competition components including the ventilated disc brakes with four-pot calipers, driving lights, instruments, Minilite wheels and so on were all present, if a little dusty.
The restoration will represent the GT70 at its final stage of development when the programme was brought to an end. The car will be fitted with a BDA engine from long-term Ford engine supplier Terry Hoyle and a Hewland gearbox, which replaced the original ZF box for the 1973 season.
The restoration is being carried out by Sporting and Historic Car Engineers of Poundon, Oxfordshire. The Goodwood Festival of Speed 2002 will be its first competitive event for thirty years.