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  Ford F3L

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1968 - 1969
Numbers built:Three coupes, one spyder
Designed by:Len Bailey for Alan Mann Racing
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:May 19, 2016
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhen Ford withdrew from sports car racing because of rule changes after the 1967 season, private teams were left to defend the Blue Oval's honours. Two of the best known of these privateers were John Wyer Automotive and Alan Mann Racing, who both took different paths to achieve the same objectives. Wyer continued development work on the 5 litre GT40 and was rewarded with two Le Mans victories, whereas Mann decided to construct a completely new car to suit the new 3-litre regulations and was rewarded with, well, nothing.

While Ford and Shelby were busy constructing their second Le Mans winner; the Mk IV GT40, Ford of Europe backed specialists Cosworth were in the process of constructing the single most successful F1 engine ever. The dramatic rule changes at the end of the 1967 seasons saw displacement limits for prototypes set to just 3 litres and a new GT class introduced for cars with a production of 50 or over. The GT40 was eligible for the GT class and the new F1 engine would be perfect to power a 3-litre prototype.

With some backing from Ford Europe and sponsors Castrol and Goodyear, Alan Mann Racing set out to design a 3 litre prototype around the Ford Cosworth DFV engine, which was officially dubbed 'P68', but is more commonly known as the 'F3L' (Ford 3 Litre). Renowned aerodynamics expert Len Bailey was responsible for the car's characteristic shape. A small window was made in the roof, helping it to pass as for a open-top car, which allowed for a much lower roofline.

With a drag co-efficient of just 0.27 the F3L was capable of top speeds of well over 350km/h. Although the Len Bailey designed body allowed for incredible top speeds, the F3L was also feared for high speed instability, so much so that John Surtees refused to drive one. Later research in wind tunnels showed that the body did in fact create downforce, but mostly on the front wheels, which caused the much feared instability at high speed. Over its career the nose received a small lip and a rear wing was tried to create more downforce.

The ultra-thin gauge body clothed an aluminium monocoque. As on the Lotus 49, the first Formula 1 car to use the Ford Cosworth DFV, the V8 was bolted directly to the aluminium and served as a fully-stressed member of the chassis. The fully independent suspension was also inspired by contemporary F1 designs. In an extremely short period of time Alan Mann Racing constructed the world's first 2-Seater Formula 1 car. In a striking red/gold livery, the F3L made its racing debut just four months into 1968, which was less than a year after the DFV was first raced.

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  Article Image gallery (48) 002 Specifications User Comments (5)