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 collection!
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 front diff.
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 email [email protected]
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:
Reg No: NRF519L
Chassis Number: 900008
Engine Number: 2C24
Engine Size: 2994
Docs: V5C; MOT May 2022 with no advisories
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