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What A Bloody Shame!

The most publicised and wanted car Leyland Australia ever built was also a car that never appeared on any new car price list. The Leyland Force 7V had been called both "fantastically ill conceived" and "the doomed car which would have left them all standing". WHEELS managed to get a Force 7V away from Leyland's clutches for 24 hours—just time enough to compress a full test into one long day  if we ran the car into the night and early in the morning—to establish the truth about the Force 7V.

Other journalists were limited to an around the block drive with a Leyland PR man as passenger.

Of the 56 Force 7Vs put down the assembly line—a number of prototypes were built, but they automatically went to the scrap heap —eight were sold at auction (one was also sent to England) and under the condition that they were never driven. All the others were stripped of their mechanical components and the body shells destroyed.

WHEELS readers should have been familiar with the Force 7V. We first mentioned the car in our August, 1971, issue, showed artist's accurate impressions of the car in November 1973, and carried a full photographic report in August, 1974, which really left only a road test to reveal all.

Okay, What was the Force 7V all about, could it have been a saviour, or would it have suffered from the same problems which hit the P76? First off it was easily the most versatile of all the Holden/Falcon/Valiant type two door coupes, but then it needed to be something very different because that was a fast-shrinking segment of the market.

Leyland deliberately set out to achieve sedan interior comfort levels within a stylish and sleek two-door body. The Force 7V's great advantage over the other two-doors was its huge rear hatchback door and fold down rear seat. It immediately added enormously to the general appeal of the Force 7V. Surfers saw it as a far more attractive set of wheels than a panel van but with the same obvious advantages; family men could justify it, even over a station wagon, and businessmen could combine the need for a utility vehicle with an ego boosting hardtop without suffering any compromises.

Styling was another matter however. While the Force 7V looked more attractive in the metal than in most photographs it was still not a well-styled car and looked positively strange from some angles. Spectacular, aggressive and visually exciting, it stood out from the crowd but was far from the professional styling job it should have been.

Although it was based on the mechanicals of the P76—wheelbase and tracks are identical—every external body panel was new and only the windscreen carried over from P76, so there was no obvious reason for the rather odd appearance. The nose drooped sadly right at the front of the car and the grille shape didn't blend into the nose as it should. The waist line was too high, or perhaps the side body panels were far too deep. Although visibility was excellent, except to the rear, the C-pillar and rear side window were both awkwardly shaped.

The tail was plain and far more attractive than the P76 but seemed rather high off the ground. Viewed from straight on, the relatively narrow track, in relation to the body width, was obvious, and even on six inch rims the wheels and tyres failed to fill the guards. The black, metal bumper bars looked remarkably like rubber, but the only rubber section was a small strip on the front bumper designed to protect the snout which protruded out almost beyond the black bumper.

During our time with the car it attracted enormous attention from everybody who saw it, and rather surprised us by being universally recognised as the Force 7V "mystery" car. Young girls, mothers with children in their arms, schoolboys businessmen and even parking police understood that it was something very rare and they all, in varying degrees, tried to get a close look at the car. And it was followed during our 450 km with the car by a couple of P76s, a Jaguar XJ6, three Falcons, a Torana XU-1 and a Morris 1500.

Comments ranged from "stunning" to "how could Leyland design something as good as this and something as ugly as the P76?" with not one critical remark from anybody.

At 4826 mm the Force 7V was only 50 mm shorter than the P76, so what had been chopped from the tail of the sedan had almost all been added to the nose. Width had grown by 15 mm to 1925 mm and the Force 7V was fractionally lower and weighed 30 kg more than the equivalent P76 sedan.

Clearly the Force 7V was a big car although it didn't have the bulky, cumbersome appearance of the P76. And it felt roomy inside. From behind the soft-rimmed, three-spoke steering wheel with its huge padded boss, the dashboard was identical except that a tachometer replaced the clock in manual Force 7Vs. Our test car lacked the turned metal finish which would have been fitted to the production cars, and which we captured in our scoop photos in August, 1974.

A massive console—from the P76 Executive—surrounded the gear lever, but the only other give-away that you were not in a P76 was the view across the bonnet with its raised centre section leading down to a dummy bonnet scoop.

Behind the driver the rear compartment was essentially the same as the P76, much to the pleasure of anybody who rode in the back. The only dimension which suffered was headroom and even our 1905 mm tall road-tester found there was enough headroom. Leg and knee room were close enough to that of the P76 for it not to matter. Force 7V really would have been a two-door which looked after rear seat passengers as well as its sister sedan.

Entry and exit to the rear weren't as good as they should have been, however. The doors were exceptionally wide at 1168 mm but only the seat back folded forward, and if the front seats were right back there was only a very narrow gap between the car body and the seat. If the seat cushion slid forward as the backrest was moved the problem would have been eased considerably. The seat belts, too, got in the way, although a small auxiliary belt, anchored just below the waist line, positioned the inertia reel belts so that the webbing ran across the driver's shoulders and not his neck, as in many other two-door cars.

The off -white interior (above) was roomy.

A central, fold-down armrest in the middle of the rear seat naturally divided the bench into two comfortable seats, but there were no side armrests because they would prevent the rear seat squab from folding down.

We wondered if flush folding armrests couldn't have been fitted or even if the inner trim panel couldn't have been recessed, as on many small cars, to provide a small armrest.

The massive C-pillar certainly cut into the driver's visibility to the rear, although the rear window itself was huge and allowed reasonable vision directly behind the car. A race-style Lukey exterior mirror provided an excellent view of traffic on the right hand side of the car.

Even with the rear seat in an upright position the luggage space was impressive. Leyland quoted the boot space at 13.17 cubic feet with the seat up, compared to the vast boot of the P76, which was rated at 19.7 cubic feet. With the seat down the Force 7V had a huge 35.69 cubic feet capacity, almost twice the space of the P76.

 No column stalk controls then (top). But we did like the soft-rimmed steering wheel.

Apart from a high sill, over which luggage had to be lifted, the rear compartment of the Force 7V was completely practical. With the seat up it measured 1143 mm from the back of the seat to the rear sill, 1486 mm wide and 1130 mm between the wheel arches. However, with the seat down in was a staggering 1981 mm long. Minimum height of the compartment —from floor to ceiling—was 711 mm.

The rear seat was folded down from either side, through the *ont doors, by releasing a small tab at the back of the rear squab and folding it down onto the cushion. If the front seats were in their rearmost slot they had to be moved forward a little before the seat would fold flat. A supplementary floor panel, which normally rested against the rear seat back, then slotted into the area left open by folding down the seats and actually held the seat in place once it had been folded down to become part of the floor. Care needed to be taken not to tangle the rear seat belts, but the whole job could be carried out easily by one person in under a minute.

This extreme versatility highlighted the convenience of this design and confirmed our opinion that it was something we were going to see much more of in future cars.

Mechanically the Force 7V was unchanged when compared with the P76 Super V8 with the same tall gearing, engine tune, internal gear ratios and lack of a standard limited slip differential. With a slight weight disadvantage we expected the performance to be virtually identical to the P76 and that was verified at the Castlereagh Drag Strip.

However, our figures were run (. slippery surface during heavy rain and we felt certain they could be improved dramatically. One other problem, which we didn't become aware of until we sat down to calculate the gearing and maximum speeds in gears back in the office, was that the tachometer was reading at least 1000 rpm too high, so although we ran the engine out to 6000 rpm— the redline was 5500 rpm—during our acceleration runs, this was still too low for optimum performance.

Taking both those factors into account our 16.9 seconds for the standing 400 m was outstanding and we had no hesitation in saying the car would have been good for around 16.5 seconds in ideal circumstances. And this, of course, was with the standard tune V8 engine. Leyland had plans to offer a sports kit for the car which would have upped the power output from 143 kW to around 186 kW and turned the Force 7V into a real stormer. Top speed at 172 km/h (107 mph) was a little higher than the best we ever saw from a P76, probably because the shape was more aerodynamically efficient.

Driving the Force 7V was obviously going to be the same as the P76, or so we thought. But the steering wheel with its comfortable soft rim made such a difference, it only emphasised how dreadfully uncomfortable the rim of the P76 wheel really was and how much it tried to make driving the P76 unpleasant.

In the Force 7V the steering seemed lighter, higher geared and more precise although it was essentially the same, apart from a dampener which was designed to reduce to a minimum the vibrations and rattles sometimes passed back to the driver through the rack of the P76's steering gear.

The new wheel also served to highlight the genuinely fine roadholding and handling of the P76/Force 7V running gear and suspension. The ride/handling compromise was excellent.

Understeer was the dominant handling trait, but on tight corners the inside rear wheel could be spun and the tail drifted into artificial oversteer, suggesting the LSD would have been a desirable option. The initial deadness experienced when turning the P76 into a corner had gone and the steering felt more responsive, although on the relatively low recommended tyre pressures— 152 kpa (22 psi)—there was some tyre scrub. Increasing the pressures significantly had a detrimental effect on the amount of front end harshness and the general quality of the ride.

Braking was pure P76 with progressive pedal feel but ultimate fade if the brakes were punished, although with the CAC alloy road wheels the point at which fade set in required harder driving because of the improved cooling qualities of the wheels.

General driving comfort was considered outstanding, with a fine driving position spoiled only by the poor placement of the controls— there were no plans for steering column stalks for the wipers or lights —and the dipper switch on the floor.

The car was quiet and the exhaust system had a slightly different note suggesting some change in the muffler set-up. Biggest problem, and one which Leyland claimed would have been cured with the final production cars, was wind noise. The car we drove had hand-made rubber surrounds (it also lacked final finishing touches in some other areas such as the door sills and around the inside of the rear door) which weren't effective in sealing the frameless windows against the body.

Whether by accident or intent the Force 7V was superb to drive with the side windows down. There was no rush of air or body boom to make things uncomfortable, at least for those in the front, just a pleasant open air feel that served to ventilate the cockpit. The interior—finished in off-white on the test car—was light and airy, with the large glass areas emphasising the roominess of the car.

But would it have succeeded? Leyland intended to sell the Force 7V in relatively small volume although it would have achieved at least double —or around 15 percent—the percentage volume reached by the Monaro two-door and Falcon Hardtop when compared to the sedans. As we revealed earlier, ex-managing director

Peter North's piece of string was only 14,000 P76s long and the Force 7V would have been additional to that.

The marketing plan for the Force 7V called for the sporty model—the Force 7V—to be introduced first, and then to follow it, a couple of months later, with a luxury version— the Tour de Force—and finally to release a base-line six cylinder version to be known as Force 7.

In June, 1974, the price for a manual Force 7V was going to be $5270 and $5390 for the automatic. When rated against Ford Falcon GT, Holden Monaro GTS and Chrysler's Chargers it would have been highly competitive.

As a car Force 7V was certainly impressive in many ways and if Leyland had achieved the expected sales volume for the P76 it would have been introduced in June, 1974, the month quoted in the now, much sought after Force 7V owner's handbook, as the time of the release.

But we couldn't help thinking Leyland was being over ambitious in conceiving a coupe with a completely new skin. Even the short wheelbase Charger used a number of Valiant panels and the tooling costs must have added enormously to the overall cost of the P76/Force 7V project and hastened the ultimate end of Leyland Australia as a manufacturer.

The ifs are many in the story of the Force 7V. It is/was/would have been a good car . . . but the problems confronting Leyland had us wondering if it ever would have achieved the sales volume necessary to cover all the tooling amortisation costs and ultimately to make a profit for the parent company.

If, if and more ifs . . .



Weather   Cool

Surface    Castlereagh Drag Strip

Load         Two persons


Indicated km/h

50    70    90    110    130

Actual km/h

48    68    87    107    126


Average      5.6km/l (15.8 mpg)


Fastest Run                         172km/h

Average all runs                    170km/h

Engine rpm at max speed    4300


1st                               78km/h   (5500 rpm)

2nd                           119km/h   (5500 rpm)

3rd                            151km/h   (5000 rpm)

4th                            172km/h   (4300 rpm)


Through the gears

0-50 km/h                              4.0sec

0-70 km/h                              6.2sec

0-90 km/h                              8.1sec

0-110 km/h                              12.3sec

0-130 km/h                              17.0sec

In the gears

                                     Second    Third    Fourth

30-60 km/h                  2.8sec   3.6sec   5.5sec

40-70 km/h                  2.7sec   3.9sec   5.3sec

50-80 km/h                  2.8sec   3.9sec   5.1sec

60-90 km/h                  3.4sec   4.5sec   5.5sec

70-100 km/h                -             4.8sec   6.1sec

80-110 km/h                -             4.8sec   6.3sec

90-120 km/h                -             5.3sec   6.3sec

100-130 km/h              -             6.5sec   7.4sec


Fastest Run                                          16.9sec

Average all runs                                   16.9sec


MAKE                     Leyland

MODEL                   Force 7V

BODY TYPE           Three-door coupe

PRICE                     $5270


Cylinders                                                       V8

Bore and Stroke                      88.9 x 88.9 mm

                                                    (3.50 x 3.50 in)

Cubic Capacity     4.414 litres (269.7 cu. in.)

Compression Ratio        9.0 to 1

Valves    overhead

Carburettor      Two-barrel Stromberg WW             downdraft

Power                143 kW (192bhp) at 4250 rpm

Torque                386.1 Nm (285 lb/ft) at 2500 rpm


Type    Four-speed, all synchromesh

Clutch                                   SDP

Gear Lever Location           Floor



                                      Direct    Overall  1000rpm

1st                                 2.82           8.23        14.2

2nd                                1.84           5.37        21.7

3rd                                 1.32           3.85        30.3

4th                                 1.00           2.92        40.0

Final Drive 2.92


Construction                                                Unitary

Suspension, front                               Independent,

           MacPherson strut, coil springs, anti-roll bar

Suspension, rear           Four link with coil springs

Shock absorbers                                  Telescopic

Steering Type                                Rack and pinion

Turns L to L                                                         4.9

Turning circle                                                  11.25

Brakes                                                     Disc/drum


Wheelbase                                              2825 mm

Track, front                                               1511 mm

Track, rear                                               1516 mm

Length                                                      4826 mm

Width                                                       1925 mm

Height                                                      1370 mm

Kerb mass (weight)                                 1263 kg

Fuel tank capacity                                   83 litres

Ground Clearance                                  171 mm



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