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Promising Capri and Fiesta Developments
As a dream the setting was almost perfect. Brands Hatch, slumbering in unfamiliar emptiness through a sunny weekday lunch break. Lined up in front of the pits were four interesting cars to drive as I pleased in the next 1J hours. Dreams never come entirely true: a connoisseur would surely demand cars a little more exotic than these familiar Fords, but in each case some interesting development work set these cars aside from their brethren. All of them were also remarkably well suited to track use, pointing an interesting finger at the pace of development amongst ordinary saloon cars today, retaining at least the docility of standard production cars. Those who have competed at the Brands Hatch club circuit may be interested to know that even an 1,100-c.c. Fiesta of 65 b.h.p. lapped the 1.2-mile track in 66 seconds, while a 160-h.p. triple-carburetter Capri (both on road tyres remember) took only 62.7 sec. In fact the Fiesta 1.1S handled just as well as my production racing Escort had on slick tyres in 1972 and was the most impressive f.w.d. saloon I have driven on closed circuits. That juddery road ride is lost completely on a smooth circuit, and it becomes a very attractive proposition.
The morning and afternoon sessions at Brands Hatch were to vividly illustrate recent changes at what used to be Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations. Now operating as Ford Rallye Sport Parts from the same South Ockendon location in Essex, this Ford sub-operation has mined new enthusiast markets since production of the special FAVO Escorts ceased in January 1975.
Today's version of FAVO is the overall responsibility of Michael Kranefuss, Ford's director of motorsports in Cologne, West Germany, but the day-to-day management rests with Fritz Boettger. In Germany they have a staff of 12, including three engineers. On the British side the operation is much smaller in numbers but more lively than ever. There is a staff of nine covering sales (headed by Charles Mead) and Purchase (Colin Rogers and Peter Houghton) at Ockendon, while Bill Meade and his engineering assistant do the practical engineering from part of the Ford Competition works at Boreham airfield.
Eetween the two countries Germany has responsibility for l.h.d. cars and has little interest in rallying, while in Britain they have the rest of the World, all r.h.d. cars and three splendid markets. These are the club rallying fraternity; International rallying Escorts (a new full-scale effort) and the Series X scheme, of which we wrote last year. In fact the test Capri illustrated that Group One racing in Britain is very much their concern as well, through the 80-strong RS Dealer network. There are a large number of these racing Capris about today and they depend upon uprated mechanical components from front to back, mostly available through Ford, as well as specialists.
We talked to Barry Reynolds about the changes at South Ockendon since the closure of production and were slightly sad to find he is leaving after years of working on the high-performance Ford parts side at Boreham and Ockendon. Since he is going to look after Ford's press fleet, the sorrow was temporary.
Barry Reynolds said: "After the closure the priority was to show that we could exist. There were three of us-myself, Charlie Mead and Peter Houghton-where a staff of 14 previously operated. We overhauled the internal systems and then set about the products, which were rather disjointed at that time. My dream was that-should a man walk in here with a suitcase full of money, we would be able to relieve him of the burden and supply a complete competitive car! I am glad to say we managed just that objective by the end of 1976 with the RS2000 Mk.2. You can now buy a Group One-winning Escort (or smaller club event outright winner) from the RS catalogue.
"We started taking brave pills before ordering stock levels to go up by an average 50% over norm. This obviously improved availability and has led to better sales as people find we can give them good service."
Mr. Reynolds showed us round the stores building and it was literally bulging compared with previous years. For example, there were 100 sets of the 4-piston calipers that retard an International-specification Escort, these selling^ at £150 each. There was sufficient stock to* build 30 of the £1,200 Group Four Escort rear axles. The Capri kit we tried is duplicated 100 times on that store shelving, and there are the same number in Germany, plus a few more of the triple carburetter, inlet manifold and linkage layouts in Australia and South Africa.
Mass-produced competition engines
In one corner sat some real news. A factory-built RS2000 (nee Pinto, Cortina, Capri et al) s.o.h.c. unit with the Group One kit installed ... on the line at Saarlouis in Germany. This exciting development shows Ford looking at an astonishing new venture for a mass-manufacturer, literally building competition engines "on the line".
The idea is that the 2-litre engine is equipped with the twin-Weber carburetters, bigger valves and a brand new self-lubricated "race cam", but these parts are not just dropped on. The engine could be described as "greenprinted", having all but the finicky handwork of a blueprinted engine. For example, the combustion chamber volumes are equalised and all major tolerances tightened to the limits Ford have found best in competition. However, they do not match the inlet and exhaust manifolding ports to the head, nor is any extra balancing carried out, or the flywheel lightened.
That camshaft is special though: everyone from the hard-driving sales rep. to top-line competitors knows that Ford have had a problem with the camshaft lobes on the 2-litre unit. The solution, incorporated on this engine but also separately available under that racing camshaft designation, has a new profile and a shaft that carries a central oil-way, feeding supplies for each individual lobe at intervals. The solution is expensive-at least £120-but since you are also gaining power a further 500 r.p.m. up the scale, to a limit of 7,000 r.p.m. instead of 6,500 r.p.m. the competitors probably will not hesitate. Indeed a chosen few rallyists had the camshaft in late February.
This complete factory-built engine was still being priced when I called, but it will definitely be under £1,000, and that is very competitive indeed. The specialists will still make money with further handwork on the very front-runners, but others will at least be able to buy a reputable alternative. Power output is not quoted: however, it is reckoned that you have at least 145 b.h.p. when installing the Ford Group One kit in a bolt-on manner, so I would think that a figure of 150-155 was not unfair. The hand-built unit I had in 1976, using the same equipment (bar the camshaft), gave slightly over 160 b.h.p., so I would expect the specialists now to be quite capable of producing a tractable 170 b.h.p. on the new camshaft profile.
Incidentally, Ford originally planned to sell 120 of those Group One RS2000 engine kits; the new stocking levels of these £350 kits brought sales to more than 200.
Turning to the Group Four venture, one may feel that the RS Dealers always were able to supply factory duplicate parts to an International level. That was the theory, but now a new agreement between the RS parts.....
Top-Right - FAVO have turned their attention to the Fiesta. This 1300S carried twin Webers and various suspension and brake modifications.