The cars we loved.
The Leyland Force 7 was the coupe version of a line of cars developed by British Leyland for the Australian market. Before the early 70’s most cars in Australia were versions of mainstream cars sold by parent companies elsewhere. The Force 7 was part of an effort to build a car specifically for the Australian market from the ground up instead of a mere last minute adaptation.
Leyland secured a deal with the Australian government to build a factory in Sydney that would produce the code named P76 cars. The line would have included a sedan, station wagon and a coupe to compete directly with popular models from Ford, Chrysler and Holden. The coupe, although riding on the same chassis and using the mechanicals as the sedan, was designed to look altogether different from the sedan and wagon.
Styling was from the Italian firm Michelotti. Later alterations were done by Leyland to better suit the Australian customer. They thought the best way to do this was by enlarging the trunk, effectively ruining the original proportions of the Michelotti design. For some reason they decided that Australians needed to carry lots things as evidence by the popularity of “Ute” or El Camano like cars there. The tweaked car now had strange and conflicting design cues that mixed Italian, English and vaguely American themes in an attempt to cater to what Aussies wanted.
The Force 7 was an advanced car by 70’s Australian standards. While its direct competitors were making due with drum brakes all around, the Force 7 had front discs. It featured light all aluminum engines in V6 or 8 ohv configurations. The solid rear axle insured durability on the unpaved roads that were common in rural Australia. The light weight combined with 192 hp V8 meant that the Force 7 was something of a performance car. 0 to 60 could be had under 9 seconds on a paved road.
Power was channeled through a four-speed manual or three-speed automatic to the rear wheels. Leyland had intended the Force to be an aspirational model produced in limited numbers from the beginning. The enlarged hatchback design was touted as being able to carry a 44 gallon drum, matching and exceeding the versatility of its competitors. Color choices were many and had whimsical names to imply the fun nature of the car like “Plum Loco” and “Peal Me Grape”.
When released to the public, the car became a smash hit. The Australian automotive press gave it favorable reviews. Wheels magazine even named it Car of the Year. Unfortunately for Leyland Australia, they were unable to keep up with high number of initial orders. Long waiting lists encouraged customers to head over to Holden and Ford showrooms. Lost sales and problems with the parent company, import costs and supplier issues all conspired to end the production of the Force 7 and the rest of the Leyland line rather abruptly.
About 2000 or so Force 7’s just out of the factory were caught up in the ordeal and were ordered scrapped as the Australian subsidy was dissolved. A few cars made it out and today have serious collector value. Had the Force 7 continued on its intended path, it would have been the first Australian produced hatchback. Its legacy now is that of an aborted project with plenty of promise. The sprawling British Leyland Company would carry on for a few years until it too would go under by 1986.