How do the Poms react to David Morton's Force 7? "They
think it's an Aston Martin or prototype Jag," he tells Gavin Green
David Morton, Nottingham and Force 7V
"When driving on narrow lanes I'm very cautiousI give way to lorries"
Force 7 from Down Under
DAVID MORTON,41, a motor spares dealer from
Nottingham, went to a Sotheby's auction at Donington Park three years ago to buy King
George Vl's 1936 Lanchester. He was also keen rather on a 1954 MG TF. And, had he been so
inclined, he could have bid for the ex
Lawrence of Arabia 1933 Broughgh Superior motorcycle, a 1929 Austin Seven Chummy, a
1936 Packard Super Eight, a 1906 Rover 8 hp, a 1923 Rolls-Royce or a . 1934 Bentley
4~-litre supercharged tourer. Plus 90 other historic machines.
But instead, Morton forsook the Lanchester (which went for $3000) and the MG (sold for
$4800) and spent a bit more to buy lot number 86 instead. The Sotheby's program listed lot
number 86 as a "1974 Leyland Australia Type PP10 Force Seven prototype". Morton
paid £3200 ($5500) for the car. Since then, the man who claims the unlikely distinction
of being Britain's number one Leyland P76 enthusiastand the country's biggest
stockist of P76 partshas added a Targa Florio sedan to his collection.
Says Morton: "When I first saw the Force Seven at the auction and sat in it I
thought it was a monster. And like nearly everyone else at the auction I'd never heard of
a Leyland Force Seven before. But I thought the car looked interesting and novel and I
made an instant decision to try to buy it. The starting price was £1000.1 dropped out at
£3000 ($5100). Someone else offered £3100. And then my wife, who was even keener on the
car than 1, offered £3200. We got it."
And even though George Vl and Lawrence of Arabia may not have approved of his choice,
Mortonwho admits to being more of a car enthusiast than a driving
enthusiastsays he's delighted. "Quite a few people came up to me afterwards and
said I got the bargain of the sale. Already I've been offered £7000 ($12,000) from a
Rover enthusiast. But I turned him down. I reckon it will be worth more in the future. The
car has also been going very well, even though I don't use it very often. I've done only
8000km in three years. For everyday use I tend to use the Targa Florio, which I bought in
June last year."
Morton also owns an MGB roadster and a Leyland Sherpa van. "In the past I've had a
1933 K-type MG, a 1939 SS 3~-litre Jaguar and a Cooper Climax Formula One car. But they've
all been sold. The two P76s are the only non-British cars I've ever owned."
The Force Sevenan automaticis the only one of the ill-fated P76 coupes, a
car that never made it into production, in Europe. It was sent to Britain in 1974 by
Leyland Australia for the parent company's evaluation. It ended up spending most of its
time at the Rover division and, according to Morton, played some part in the development
of the Rover SD1. (The Rover Sports Registrar catalogues the car as an SD1 prototype.) It
was then used by BL's chairman of the time, the controversial Lord Stokes, before it was
sold to a private buyer who worked for Lockheed brakes. He put it up for sale, through
Sotheby's, at Donington.
Says Morton: "The car creates enormous interest. Wherever you go people look at
it. I went to a function at the plush Savoy Hotel in Nottingham recently. I parked the car
alongside a host of Rollers and Jaguars. When I came out there was a crowd of very
well-dressed people around the Force Seven. They were all ignoring the Rollers. Some of
the Rolls owners weren't very impressed. Quite obviously, people have absolutely no idea
what the car is. The Leyland badge seems to confuse things further. Some people just put
it down to Leyland's normal madness. Others think it may be a special Leyland model just
for export. Quite a few people think it's an Aston Martin or a prototype Jaguar. Others
think it's a Jensen. Everyone perceives it as being fast and powerful."
The spare parts dealer, who has never been to Australia, bought his second P76
the Targa Floriofrom a British Naval Officer who had lived Down Under. The
officer brought his P76 back with him to England in 1978, but found it a trifle large for the narrow lanes of Sussex. Morton
bought it for £1500($2500) and has done 14,000km in the bestriped automatic sedan. Now he reckons its worth
The car creates enormous interest and is perceived
as being fast and powerful
"1 was looking to buy a P76 for spare parts for the Force Seven. I knew there were about
half-a-dozen P76s in England. So I put an ad in a motor magazine under the 'wanted' section. This
naval officer rang me. Initially I was going to pull the car apart and just keep the
relevant parts. But when I saw the car I knew I couldn't rip ~ apart. It really did look
smart. Anyway, it came with a host of spares.
"I have spare corners, doors, a complete back axle assembly, MacPherson struts,
gaskets, lights and a front grille. There's even things like two spare sets of carpets, a
dashboard with full instrumentation and pedal rubbers. Personally, of the two I actually
prefer driving the Targa Florio. Many of my friends reckon driving inside the Targa Florio
is just like being inside a Rolls."
Both of these Australian-born migrants do between 6.2 to 7.3 km/l. Morton says he doesn't drive ether car quickly. "I don't
find the size too inconvenient, either. If I have to drive into town I usually leave the
P76 behind - after al~ parking
can be difficult in such big cars. And the rear three-quarters vision of the Force Seven
is poor. When driving on narrow lanes I'm very cautious. I make a habit of giving way to
other big cars or lorries."
I'd never driven a Force Seven before although as a past owner of a rather beaten up
P76 V8 sedan bought for $600 I didnt expect the experience to be
totally foreign. I eased myself inside the ungainly-looking, two-door machine, whose sole
claim to styling beauty would be that at least its more attractive than the sedan. I
got reacquainted with the horrid P76 oval-shaped steering wheel (longer vertically than
horizontally) and the cheap-looking instruments, (once on the move the speedo needle
bounced around like a conductor's batonjust like rny old girl used to).
When turning the Ignition key there was the familiar horrid grate as the starter motor
pinion first meshed with the flywheel teeth. Indeed, after 10 seconds in the P76-derived
machine memories of home flooded backjust as though Id sat down to a plate of
my mother s delicious lemon meringue pie or spiked my feet with bindi-eyes after walking
barefoot across the backyard in Sydney. Unfortunately, the finish inside the Force Seven
was also tatty. The black cloth material stuck or the dashboard was peeling off and there
were numerous rough edges. The Targa was worse.
On the road, however. the P76 was always a good big carfar ahead of the
Fords and Valiants of the era. And so it was with the Force Seven. The 4.4-litre alloy V8
engine the best feature of the P76was as strong and willing in the Force Seven as I
had remembered. The steering was direct and responsive if heavy. On the road the giant
hatchback coupe felt up to 82 standards.
A friend who accompanied me on the drive, Peter Frater, the motoring editor of the Nottingham
Evening Post, summed it up well. "Quite honestly, I thought it would be
diabolical, After all. it looks so bad. But I'm amazed, It's actually very good.'' Soon
after Peter s kind words, though, the Force Seven started to misbehave Having stopped on
the roadside for a few minutes. With the engine idling lumpily, we noticed water running
from an overflow pipe.
David Morton, somewhat embarrassed at his charge s misdemeanour carefully took off the
radiator cap, accompanied by a gush of hiss! steam and dirty water. The poor old girl had
overcooked herself on an English summer's day, How familiar that sight was. Fondly I
thought back to my old P76. And my mother's lemon meringue pie and the bindi-eyes in, the