Leyland P76 Owners 2004
The Super Car
that got away
THIS IS NOT A PIECE OF FICTION
Author believed to be Steve Wesmacott and the article scanned from the South Australian National Magazine.
- In one of my old Wheels magazines there is an article about the Force 7V.
- The article was written at about the time that Leyland Australia went under and it tells of how the Factory intended to enter a Force 7V at Bathurst.
- No details are given apart from the single fact that Leyland was known to have bought a large shipment of limited 'slip differentials' of a much lower ratio than the standard VB's 2.92. In all my years of reading, research and digging into the P76, and hence the Force 7 too, I never once came across any other reference to Bathurst or to racecars.
- Until recently! I've never owned a standard car, well not for long anyway, and so it was no surprise that I eventually joined a street machine organization. (First the ASMF and now the breakaway State body, SMASA)
- Being the type that can't sit back and keep his nose out of anything, I quickly became a committee member for SMASA, filling the position of Engineering and Modification Representative. This was a sort of liaisonposition between the club and our members, and the State authorities,' specifically, the Vehicle Engineering Branch of the Road Transport Authority.
- Basically we tried to get clearance for members to modify their cars in a way that would normally be illegal, fitting V8's to early model Holden's for example.
- Well, to cut a long story short, the V.E.B. decided to release a document, about two inches thick, detailing what changes you could make to what cars without having to obtain an engineers report. I got a copy of this document intending to write it up in a way an every day street machiner would understand. I don't really need to say that my first instinct was to turn to the L's to see if the P76 got a mention.
- Imagine my shock when I saw that all model P76's, no matter whether 2.6 litre six, or 4.4 litre VB, could quite legally be fitted with the ADR'ed factory 5 litre motor. What 5-litre motor?
- That's when I started to dig, and that friends, is when I got the shock of my life. (If any of you inter-stater's knew this already and hadn't passed it on I'll kill you.)
- Leyland Australia did have plans to release a Factory performance vehicle, they did intend to race it, and Bathurst was included in this race schedule. Contrary to the rumours however,' the performance car was not going to be a coupe.
- Structural rigidity was seen as a concern here and that was why the factory stormer was going to be a four-door car.
- Apparently, the reason there was some confusion about the Force 7's being the Bathurst cars is because the real performance car was such a damned secret. The factory intention was to release the Force 7, 7V and the Tour D'Force, and then, in the deluge of good publicity that was expected for these cars, release the Factory stormer.
- Remember, what I tell you here is information about the initial performance model release. Later editions may have changed from the format I'm about to describe, but to start with this is what all the cars were going to be like.
- The cars were to be available only in Bold as Brass with Super type black paint outs. All interiors would be all Black. The cars were not to be designated Super's or Executive's, (although they would be closest to being modified Super's) as their name was intended to denote a completely new model run. The cars were to be called "SPRINTS" and apparently the factory wanted to get away from the P76 name. e.g Leyland Sprints, not P76 Sprints. Okay, okay, I know what you're thinking by now. The Dolomite Sprints were that yellow too and Leyland would never have had two models of the same name and a similar appearance on the market at the same time. Just think though, and get your time perspective right, when Leyland intended to release the P76 Sprint, there was no intention whatsoever, to ever release the Dolomite range in Australia. It was only after the axe fell that JRA brought those cars out to Oz. Back to the details of the Sprint. It was to have lay back bucket seats in Super type vinyl. It was to have a factory tacho instead of a clock. What we now call the Force 7 steering wheel was actually going to become an up market steering wheel across the model range, and this was going to be fitted to the Sprint. Power steering and air-conditioning would remain options. The Sprint would only be available as a four on the floor manual. (Initially only? Who knows.) The diff was to be a limited slip, 3.5 so obviously fuel economy was not to be a consideration. Importantly, the 2.92 diff as well as a 3.25 were to be no cost, factory options (on the Sprints only) and it's pretty obvious this was done so the factory could use the other diffs if needed, say the higher one at Bathurst. (With some beefing up no doubt) As yet I have not been able to ascertain the make of diffs to be used.
- Did Borg Warner have a tough and slippery 3.5?
- The wheels intended for these cars are another shock. Again remember the year, 1974 with a planned late 1975 release. A South Oz company, (bear that fact in mind for later) Globe wheels, had produced a wheel specifically for the ill-fated Phase Four, with lightness and brake cooling being their major consideration. Leyland took up the option of using these wheels on a production model and for their racecar too. The incredible part is that these wheels were going to be of 15" diameter (7" width) and the Sprint was going to be the first locally produced model released in Oz with Plus One wheels. The wheels were called the Globe "Bathurst" mag and were eventually seen on the XD Falcon ESP'S. The tyres were to be low profile Uniroyal's, as were later fitted to the Plus One Commodore SLE's and Falcons. The car was to come with a factory suspension package that lowered it about half an inch. (Hardly seems worth it does it) There was to be a stiffer but same thickness anti sway bar on the front, as well as one on the rear. The thickness of the rear bar is unknown. The shock absorbers and coils were also intended to be performance oriented but again, the specific details of these are lost. Probably the thing that will upset the purists among you the most, is the fact that a bonnet scoop was also planned for the car. As no photographs of a completed car have been found as yet, (my source is still searching) exactly what was intended is unknown. We can rule out anything as radical as previously seen on the opposition, Shakers etc., but it could have taken the form of the subtle type of thing seen on the early Monaro's maybe.
- This is yet another of the accurate and detailed pieces of information I would dearly love to know that might be lost for good. A basic air dam was also intended for the front of the car and I guess this would have been similar in appearance to that seen on the Dolomite Sprint.
- There was definitely not going to be any type of rear scoop or spoiler, nor any holes or slits in the bodywork for brake cooling. So there you have it.
- A Factory performance P76, bright yellow with Super type black paint outs, black interior and lay back seats. A four-speed manual with a lower ratio, limited slip diff. A sports steering wheel and tacho. A slightly lowered, performance suspension package and a few body mods. As well as a mighty trick wheel/tyre combo for its day. "The Sprint." What? Have I forgotten something No, I just left the best to last.
- The engine! Please,' if you are the emotional type, don't read any further because if you do, and if you are a true P76 enthusiast, you'll weep tears of blood. The motor was to be a full five-litre job, the increase being achieved solely through a new crankshaft. (This was known as early as June '73 and was part of a Leyland feature in the Australian!) The engine was to be topped with a twin plenum, four-barrel inlet manifold and a 500-cmf four-barrel carbie.
- Extractors were also to be standard and were to flow into a standard twin exhaust system. The material I found also listed other areas of the car that were to receive attention and these included the fuel pump, the oil pump and the sump.
- Yet again, no specific information is given as to exactly what was intended for these parts. No mention at all is made of the valve train and this is another area where the information may simply be lost.
- Although I seriously doubt there would have been any modifications to the heads or valves, (this is far and away too costly an exercise for any factory to get involved in at a mass production level) who knows what would have been possible on the factory race cars. The power output of the production motor was said to be 285hp, or about 212kws.
- Frightening isn't it. No, I don't mean frightening in a sense that the car was some sort of outright killer muscle car but frightening from the point of view of what might have been!
- I'm a pretty emotional person and I love the P76. I get mightily pissed off when the lobotomised unwashed profess to know so much when they bucket body waste on the P.
- That is why this discovery upsets me much more than it should. Imagine the ordinary Sprint (not the tricked factory cars they intended to race - God knows the power they'd have got outta those babies) had made it onto the roads.
- Its power was not that much down on the opposition while its overall weight was significantly less. What a package it would have been. Low 14 second quarters would have been easy (maybe even high 13's) and instead of that stupid argument about which was quicker, the GTHO or the E whatever Charger, they'd have been arguing about the P.
- The real tragedy of what I uncovered is that there are no specific details given about anything. The four barrel manifolds were alleged to have been made right here in Adelaide,' at CastAlloy, (more South Oz input!) but no one seems to know a thing about them.
- The diffs, carbies, mags, tyres, suspension bits etc." would have been easily and cheaply sourced, so it is only the inlet manifolds themselves that raise significant interest.
- Plus the information about exactly what was intended for the fuel and oil pumps and the sump of course.
- Still, who knows, one day someone may buy one of those soon to be released Harcourt twin plenum four barrel inlet manifolds, stick on the appropriate carbie (sorry, I can't find out the brand they intended, Rochester maybe?) and extractors, beef up the fuel and oil pumps, lower the whole thing a half inch, trick the suspension, whack on the Bathurst mags, a "Force 7" wheel and tacho, hit the exterior with some Bold As Brass and the interior with some black vinyl, and presto, a P76 Sprint, just like the factory intended.
- Oh, don't forget those extra 600cc's for the block though, and unfortunately you'll have to take pot luck on what those body mods would have looked like too.
Comments from James Mentiplay
- Tue, 22 Jul 2003
- I have spoken to many ex-Leyland people and no Sprint existed, and no sporty 4 door was planned as that would have encroached on the market anticipated for the Force 7.
- I personally think the article is best ignored and forgotten.