1972 Reliant Scimitar GTE Ferguson 4x4 Prototype
Unique four-wheel-drive prototype by FF
Developments; fascinating history; only 44,000 miles; ex-James Hull/JLR
Collection; fully recommissioned and ready to go; would grace any
At first glance this may look just like any other Scimitar
GTE with its GRP body, steel chassis and utterly conventional Ford V6 engine
driving the rear wheels. Look closer though and you will discover that it is
actually four-wheel-drive and utterly unique.
It came about due to an unlikely alliance between tractor
magnate Harry Ferguson, racing driver Tony Rolt and Rolt's race mechanic,
Freddie Dixon. Rolt, an ex-Etonian war hero, was best known for winning the 1953
Le Mans 24 Hours but also took part in the gruelling Mille Miglia and raced in
Formula 1 – including the first ever World Championship Grand Prix at
Silverstone in 1950. He quit racing to concentrate on engineering after
witnessing the 1955 Le Mans disaster when over 80 people were killed after
Pierre Levegh’s Mercedes flew into the crowd.
Together, Rolt and Dixon invented the viscous coupling
which soon caught the eye of tractor boss, Harry Ferguson. With his backing they
formed Ferguson Developments and went on to produce the Ferguson P99
four-wheel-drive F1 car driven by Stirling Moss at Oulton Park in 1961 (the
only four-wheel-drive race car ever to win an F1 race and fondly remembered by
Moss as his favourite GP car). They also built four-wheel-drive cars for the
Indy 500 series.
Ferguson Developments closed after the death
of Harry Ferguson, prompting Rolt to found FF Developments, financed by
selling his four-wheel-drive patents to GKN. His old Ferguson comrade Os Webb
was intrinsic in further developing the viscous coupling ideas into
production-ready versions using internally splined plates over a centre
epicyclic diff with slots and gaps in multi-plates running in viscous fluid. The
four-wheel-drive Jensen Interceptor FF is probably their most famous
application, but other projects included four-wheel-drive Ford Zephyr police
cars along with ambulances and vans.
This unique Ferguson Scimitar used similar technology, the
Scimitar chassis being adapted to allow transfer of drive past the Ford V6
engine and bell-housing to an off-set front-mounted GKN differential. Drive came
from the rear of a specially developed overdrive gearbox via Hi-Vo chain and the
prop shaft had two CV joints. The chassis and suspension were strengthened and
modified to permit the extra weight of the GKN transmission and to ensure
steering geometry was maintained after relocating the steering rack to clear the
The Ferguson Scimitar was designed with a front-to-rear
torque split of 40:60 and was rigorously tested as a development exercise by
former BRM chassis designer John Crosthwaite and his small team. Never intended
for production, the Scimitar was then laid up at the back of the Reliant factory
development department in Tamworth until Crosthwaite persuaded managing director
Ray Wiggin to sell the car to him.
Crosthwaite lovingly restored the Scimitar, got it road
registered as NRF 519L and enjoyed using it, covering around 40,000 miles before
the car was sold into the James Hull Collection in 1981 where it remained for
many years, later transferring to the JLR Collection (Jaguar Land Rover).
Our vendor acquired the car when Brightwells sold some of
the JLR Collection in 2018 and has since spent much time and effort to get it
into the condition you see today. Although there are no bills for the work
carried out, many new parts are plain to see and we are told that the
recommissioning included: all new brakes and suspension with Spax shock
absorbers; engine serviced and tuned; radiator reconditioned; carbs rebuilt; new
water pump, alternator and fuel pump; reconditioned steering rack; new exhaust;
new wiring as required; bumpers rechromed; new door mirrors; engine bay
detailed; all five wheels refurbished and shod with five new Dunlop SP Sport
tyres (not cheap at over £250 each).
Now in very good order throughout, the Scimitar has been
starting promptly and running nicely as we have moved it around on site with a
notably sweet-sounding engine and good 60psi oil pressure. Documentation
includes a V5C and an MOT until May 2022 with no advisories recorded.
This Ferguson Scimitar is a unique and historic vehicle
which would grace any collection and will no doubt open many doors to the
fortunate new owner on the show circuit. Given the Ferguson connection, even
tractor fans will love it!
For more information contact James on 07970 309907 or
Thanks to Dave Poole of Sporting Reliants for supplying
the rolling chassis photograph. For more details on the Scimitar FF and other
Reliant prototypes, visit his website: