Force 7 Down Under
Home Up Feedback Search Contents

Force 7 Scoop The Hat-trick Why It Sank Who Still Loves It Force 7 Down Under Muscle Cars

whnov82008.jpg (107865 bytes)

David Morton, Nottingham and Force 7V "When driving on narrow lanes I'm very cautious—I give way to lorries"

Force 7 from Down Under

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,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 enthusiast—and the country's biggest stockist of P76 parts—has 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, Morton—who admits to being more of a car enthusiast than a driving enthusiast—says 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 Seven—an automatic—is 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 Florio—from 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 3000($5100)

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 didn’t 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 it’s 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 baton—just 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 back—just as though I’d 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 car—far ahead of the Holdens, 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 P76—was 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 backyard,

 

Back Home Up Next

Website by AG Photography & Design     Copyright 2003 AG Photography & Design -  Last modified: 17 September, 2005