In 1970 Ford released its GT70, a limited production sports car designed by the Italian automobile designer, Ercole Spada. Being powered by a Capri-based V6 engine with a 5-speed ZF transmission, the GT70 was Ford’s answer to the competitive Lancia Stratos. Made by Italian car manufacturer, Lancia, the Stratos was an extremely successful rally car, winning the World Rally Championship in 1974, 1975 and 1976.
The GT70 was conceived by the competition director, Stuart Turner and Ford rally driver, Roger Clark. Now a motivational speaker and motor sport expert, Stuart Turner has had a lifelong interest in the sport and has competed on most international rallies. The story goes that the two rally drivers dreamt up the Ford GT70 on their way back from an unsuccessful rally in Monte Carole. Turner and Clark were more than aware that the Ford Escort rally car in its then current format, would be unlikely to be a serious rival for the likes of the new Lancia Stratos, with its Ferrari engine and the Renault Alpine.
The racing experts, together with the Ford Public Affairs vice-president Walter Hayes, agreed that Ford’s answer to the Lancia Stratos and for rally success would need to have a light and simple design. It also needed to be able to accommodate a variety of engines.
Len Bailey, who designed the high performance American-British racing car the GT40, was commissioned to design the GT70’s body and six chassis were produced. The Ford supercar made its debut at the Ronde Cevenole rally in France in 1971. Unfortunately brake and suspension problems prevented Roger Clark from racing to victory on that occasion.
Why did the GT70 have such a short existence?
Not long after the Ford supercar was released onto the world’s most prestigious racetracks, the World Rally Championship (WRC) changed its rules. As a consequence, development of the GT70 that was in the pipeline ceased to occur, and the car’s full potential was never fulfilled. Speaking of his disappointment that the GT70 failed to be sufficiently developed, Roger Clark said:
“What are car this might have been, if only we’d had time to develop it.”
In 2002 the GT70 did make an all but fleeting comeback. After remaining undisturbed for more than 25 years, restoration began on the iconic Ford supercar. Only the original engine and gearbox were absent from the restored GT70 as it participated in the 2002 Goodwood Festival of Speed. This was the car’s first competitive action for almost 30 years.
Is the GT70 really the last Ford supercar?
Ford has enjoyed many successes in motorsport but one of its rarest creations was generated through failure. Due to a combination of changes of rules of WRC and the versatility of the up-and-coming Ford Escort, the GT70 concept was curtailed and it became a fleeting feature in the world of supercars and rally racing. Part of the reason the GT70 managed to reach legendary heights is owed to the fact it never really got off the starting blocks and became an iconic fragment of rally racing history.
Because of its almost romantic connotations, it is safe to say that nothing will surpass the GT70 and this iconic creation of the early 1970s really is the last Ford supercar.