Washington, DC – At Washington’s Embassy Row it was, on Saturday, May 12th, a weekend of open houses. The French and Germans were celebrating their European Union at the French Embassy, while Brits were celebrating being British – and (we’ll guess) an upcoming wedding – at the British Embassy. In doing a quick walk-thru of the British get-together we were again reminded – via displays by Aston Martin, Bentley and Lotus – of Britain’s many contributions to motoring and motorsport. And much of that history has been augmented by the marriage of a British chassis with an American powertrain; an Anglo-American alliance, if you will, long before Harry and Meghan began to forge their photogenic link.
While much of that early Anglo-American automotive history has gone undocumented, it seems early, post-WWII initiatives took the form of V8-60 Fords going into the chassis of pre-war and postwar MGs. Given the relatively compact dimensions of the Ford, it was apparently a reasonably straightforward swap. And as you’d expect, the power would quickly overwhelm that small MG chassis if corresponding mods weren’t made to its suspension and brakes.
On a more substantial scale, the cars of Sidney Allard would benefit from all manner of swaps, with donor powerplants – according to Wikipedia – coming from Ford, Cadillac, Chrysler, Buick and Oldsmobile. With lightweight bodies and potent V8s, Allard’s very special ‘specials’ made a mark on American road racing just as road racing was established on this side of the Atlantic.
Most famously, American Carroll Shelby took the Allard process when combining an AC sports car and Ford’s all-new (at the time) lightweight V8, creating the Shelby Cobra. While total production of the Shelby Cobra between ’62 and ’67 was relatively small, the menu lives on in the countless replicas offered by the kit car industry, as well as Shelby’s own continuation Cobras built by Shelby American.
At the same time as Shelby was building and racing Cobras, Ford Motor Company entered the international arena with its Ford GT. Early GTs were based largely on the work of British designer Eric Broadley and his mid-engined Lola GT. With mods made by Broadley while under contract to Ford, the result – built in England and dubbed GT40 – enjoyed huge successes in endurance racing throughout the decade.
While Ford swaps would dominate endurance competitions, it was Chevrolet’s turn in Can-Am. There, both McLaren and Lola would use Chevy powerplants with great success, leaving Ford and its engineers to wonder what-the-h*ll happened. Later, with its acquisition of Jaguar, Ford would share platforms between its Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type, as well as Ford’s Mondeo and Jaguar’s X-Type. Regrettably, that marriage was relatively short-lived, but Ford-derived powerplants have been used – until very recently – in both Jaguar and Land Rover/Range Rover products.
So, while the union of Harry and Meghan is news among the Royals, the combination of British and American in America’s garages is anything but new. And anything but boring.
[more photos here]