Leyland Force 7
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The Force 7 was one of the first hatchbacks to be released in Australia. There were to be three models of increasing price and luxury, from the base model equipped with a six cylinder engine and 3-speed column shift gearbox, followed by the awesome Force 7V fitted with a powerful 4.4 litre V8 'four-on-the-floor'. At the top of the tree was the "Tour de Force", featuring leather interior.
Despite promising reviews, the Force 7 range was ultimately doomed - it was simply too costly to manufacture! Other carmakers were borrowing heavily from their existing parts bin to create their hero cars; however the Force 7 range had only a handful of production elements in common with the P76 sedan
- and so only around 60 Force 7's were manufactured with the majority being scrapped.
In fact, only ten survived: one was sent to Leyland
in the UK for testing and was subsequently bought by a British private collector; another is in the Birdwood Mill Museum in South Australia. The remaining eight were auctioned to the public when the line was discontinued in 1975 and they remain in private hands.
Force 7V and Tour de Force
Leyland's brilliant Force 7V ran the P76 V8 mechanicals - and was due for release in June, 1974
(according to the owner's handbook which was printed before the car was killed). Force 7V was to be followed by a luxury version - to be known as the Tour de Force - and a base six-cylinder version to be called simply Force 7. There was even going to be a high-performance version of the Force 7V, which would have slotted into production as a limited volume model, probably to make the car eligible for Bathurst.
Repco was keen to assist and put pressure on Leyland
to offer just such a car - partly because of the excellent rub-off in terms of publicity and also to use the experience Repco had built up over the years with the engine. Jack Brabham used a three-litre version of essentially the same engine to win two world manufacturers championships in 1966
, and in the early 1970s John McCormack was using a five-litre version in Formula 5000 racing.
and Repco planned to develop an engine half way between the 143 kW (192 bhp) 4.4 litre version of the standard engine and the 343 kW (460 bhp) of the F5000 engine, as a factory option. Leyland hoped for around 185 kW (250 bhp) after head modifications (dynamometer work had been conducted on head flow design) the fitting of twin exhausts and other mods including a larger four-barrel carburettor. By taking full advantage of the Bathurst regulations the racing version would have had close to 260 kW (350 bhp), enough to make it competitive with the L34 Torana
The Force 7V was straight P76
V8 so - although there is a slight weight disadvantage compared with the sedan - the performance figures were remarkably similar. Few ever got the chance to test the thing - one of the publications of the time that did was the Australian Sports Car World. During their road test, on a wet surface, they were able to clock a best standing 400 m (quarter-mile) in 16.9 seconds and predicted that, under less damp conditions, this would have been reduced to around 16.5 or less. The Force 7V ran the P76's 2.92 final drive ratio - but without a limited slip differential to help control wheelspin. Given the few 7V's were only prototypes, giving precise specifications is a little speculative. In fact, some parts were likely to have been changed on the vehicles themselves.
As it was, the Leyland
marketiing department did claim that there was to be a choice of gearing - 2.92 or 3.23 - and a LSD option. We do not believe, however, that any of these options were actually fitted to the 56 Force 7Vs built before the entire program was cancelled, and all but eight of the cars destroyed. With the lower gearing, limited slip diff and high performance kit the Force 7V would have been a contender for low to mid 15s for the quarter - and that would have made it faster (stock version compared to stock version) with any of the other locally built performance cars. And it woulld have kept going too, with a top speed likely to have been appreciably better than the standard car's 172 km/h (107 mph). Sports Car World guessed it likely to have checked in at least 190 km/h (120 mph). And that would have made it a worthy rival for the Falcon GT
Leyland Force 7 outside Leyland Australia HQ.
The Versatility Of A Wagon, The Sportiness Of A Coupe
If you check out images of the interior, it was obvious the Holden/Ford/Chrysler competition would have been left in their collective tracks by the Force 7, which offered roominess and practicality beyond anything locally produced, and arguably anything produced anywhere. The huge third door and fold-down back seat created an incredibly versatile hatchback - and that was exactly what Leyland had tried to achieve with the design - to combine the versatility of a station wagon with the sportiness of a coupe.
We think the Force 7 looks great, even by todays standards. Individual, purposeful and with individuality. Abd even if the styling wasn't your bag, you could not argue that Leyland had successfully created a layout that provided sedan comfort levels in a coupe, with the single exception that entry and exit to the rear compartment could have been easier. We have attended a few Leyland P76 car shows, and owners will tell you how much they like the styling of the fabled 7V, but perhaps these guys are already converted.
Under the Skin
Under the long snout and sharply cut-off tail the Force 7 had the P76's wheelbase and track, so the running gear was identical to the sedan. The only real change that made any difference to the way both cars drove was the steering
wheel. The sharply rimmed wheel of the P76
, with its boomerang-shaped boss, was often criticised and on the Force 7, was replaced by a much better looking three-spoke wheel with a softi round rim. Motoring journalists claimed that the improvement this single change made to the ease of driving was incredible. According to Sports Car World, it seemed to sharpen up the steering and emphasises the P76's good roadholding and handling
They went on to say "...understeer was still the dominant characteristic but the relatively low-geared steering - 4.9 turns lock to lock - contributed to this impression on slow corners. Boot it hard in a tight corner, through, and the inside rear wheel begins to spin and the tail slides out in an artificial over steer and highlights the need for a slippery diff. Sweepers are quite different, the Force 7V rushing through them with mild understeer under power or takes takes up an almost neutral stance on a trailing throttle. The dead feel in the steering
that comes across to the driver of a P76
is not a normal trait of rack and pinion systems".
Behind the Wheel
The few road testers that did get behind the wheel felt the steering was a little more precise but than the P76
, but perhaps the important thing here was the addition of a damper, which reduced to a minimum the vibrations and rattles that sometimes passed back through the rack to the driver, a-la stock P76. Leyland recommended relatively low tyre pressures - 152 kPa (22 psi) - for the Force 7 (and P76), even though they ran wide radial ply tyres
. In an era before power-steering had filtered down from luxury cars, that setup meant the steering would have been heavy at parking speeds and tyre scrub would have been evident on slow corners. An obvious solution would have been to bump up the tyre pressures, however this may have upset the ride and increased front end harshness.
The Force 7 was very stable on the road. Road testers noted that bumps could throw the tail off line but only by centimeters, and once it had jumped sideways the tyres
then seemed to find traction and hold on. Braking was pure P76 although the CAC alloy road wheels assisted in cooling the discs and delaying the eventual onset of fade. The brake pedal was progressive and allowed the driver to stop the car just short of locking up wheels. Additional driver aids included a tachometer
(redlined at 5500 rpm) but the controls were still on the dashboard and were as stiff and difficult to use as on P76
. Leyland claimed that production Force 7Vs would have had a turned metal dashboard finish.
The interior was light and airy, probably because the large glass areas highlighted the roominess of the cabin. There was seating for 5 adults, but if you needed to carry large items, the rear seat could be folded down to reveal an enormous luggage area measuring 1981 mm (78 in.) long, 1130 mm (44.5 in.) between the wheel arches and 711 mm (28 in.) from floor to ceiling. Total cubic capacity was 35.69 cubic feet compared to the P76's 19.7. The versatility of the design is what makes the Force 7V so attractive. Unfortunately it was never put to the test. We suspect it would have found plenty of buyers, and to have witnessed another contender at Mount Panorama
would have been gold.