The Ford P68, also commonly known as the Ford 3L GT or F3L, is a sports-prototype racing car model introduced in March 1968. It was designed by Len Bailey from Ford Europe and were built by Alan Mann Racing at Weybridge, Surrey in the UK. The first competition appearance of the Ford 3L prototype was at the BOAC 500 race at Brands Hatch in Kent.
The story of the the Ford P 68 is not a sort of success, but a story of real beauty
Despite a competitive pace, the car was criticized for instability at high speeds and, due to mechanical and electrical failures, did not finish any of the races for which it was entered. The problems of instability at high speed was a bit similar to the problems the early Porsche 917 had. Porsche managed it to solve the problems, but neither Ford nor the very experienced Alan Mann Racing Team were able to fix the handling problems or the technical failures. So this sports-prototype became the most beautiful mistake in racing history.
The car was built to the new Group 6 regulations, with an open two-seat bodywork design. This was perhaps rather liberally interpreted, with only a small hatch in the otherwise enveloping roof being left open to the elements and giving a view to the central rear mirror mounted at the roof. One major advantage of the open prototype regulations was that they permitted a much lower roofline. Len Bailey used this to create an extremely low, long, curvaceous, aerodynamically efficient design. The aerodynamic shape pushed the car to over 350 km/h, faster than the contemporary Formula One race cars. In order to keep the P68 on the road, Bailey incorporated a patented, vortex-generating tail scoop, intended to create downforce without adding to drag. But the downforce at high speed wasn’t enough and let both John Surtees and Jack Brabham refusing drive the car at races. They didn’t feel comfortable with this Ford P68 at high speed. Over the following weeks and months the car got rear wings and chin spoilers to stabilize it.
Underneath the curvaceous bodywork, the chassis was a riveted aluminium monocoque, with bulkheads from steel. The Cosworth DFV engine was supported in an aluminium cradle behind the driver.
Coming back to the debut race of the P68, the BOAC 500 at Brands Hatch. The two cars were entered for Bruce McLaren / Denny Hulme and Jochen Rindt / Mike Spence. However, the two cars were relatively untested, and having troubles the whole weekend. Although initially slow during practice, gradual tuning meant that by the end of qualifying Bruce McLaren had managed to put in a lap fast enough to take second place on the grid, splitting the works 917’s of Porsche. The Rindt / Spence car suffered with engine problems and failed to qualify. Mike Spence joined the Mclaren / Hulme car, but couldn’t finish while leading the race. A small failure put the car out of the race. This happened at every race. They did not finish only one single race, the Ford P68 was a huge mistake and was followed by the P69 which was also not successful.
But nevertheless the Ford P68 of Alan Mann Racing is one of the most beautiful race cars ever, in my oppinion. The combination of the dark red with the golden stripe is very sophisticated and tasteful. The curvaceous bodywork is real nice. The car pictured here is probably the David Piper Replica which is a bit different in outside shape than the original. I had the pleasure to see the car twice, once at the Nürburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix and one time at Spa Classic.
When I was a child I had a Matchbox Scale Model of the P68 in dark green with the number 1. Childhood memories also. Hope to see the real car once again. It is one of my favorites. Find out more about our photographer Ralph Lüker.
Ford P68 – 002: TECHNICAL SPECIFICATION
MODEL P68 / 3L GT / F3L
TYPE Sport Prototype
YEAR OF PRODUCTION 1967
TOTAL NUMBER OF BUILD CARS 2
ENGINE Ford-Cosworth DFV 90 ˚ V8, mid mounted
BORE AND STROKE 85,67 mm x 64,9 mm
CUBIC CAPACITY CYL. / TOTAL 374,12 cc / 2993 cc
VALVE ACTUATION DOHC per bank, 4 Valve per cylinder
FUEL FEED direct injection
TRANSMISSION Hewland DG 300 5-speed manual
HORSEPOWER 400 – 530 hp
CHASSIS riveted aluminium monocoque
BRAKES Discs all around
SUSPENSION FRONT double wishbones
SUSPENSION REAR single top link with reversed lower wishbone and twin trailing arms
MAXIMUM SPEED 340 km/h
NOTABLE DRIVERS Bruce McLaren, Mike Spence, Jochen Rindt, Pedro Rodriguez, Denny Hulme
NOTABLE ENTRANTS Alan Mann Racing
TOTAL OF RACES 8
FASTEST LAPS 1
DEBUT 1968 BOAC 500 Brands Hatch
CONSTRUCTOR’S CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS 0
DRIVER’S CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS 0