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The F3L was an expensive project that never finished a race, but it’s one of the most radical-looking competition Fords of all time.

Alan Mann was already one of Ford’s favourite sons when, in 1967, he got together with Ford’s Walter Hayes, and persuaded him that a super-slippery DFV-powered racing sports car could be a great success. This was originally coded P68, but would later become known as the F3L.

Goodyear and Castrol provided most of the capital needed to build the car, and Ford chipped in with the loan of a DFV engine. With Len Bailey as his chief designer at Byfleet, and with the Alan Mann Racing workforce putting in insane hours, Alan Mann saw two sleek red-and-gold F3L coupes manufactured, the first being completed, and launched, in March 1968. A third car, still not completed by the end of the 1968 season, was never used.

‘If it looks right, it should be right’ is a cliche which did not apply to the F3L. Although it looked astonishingly beautiful, it rarely worked properly and, the fact is, that it never finished a race in 1968. One problem was the lack of aerodynamic stability at high speed, another being the unsuitability of the DFV engine as an endurance power unit.

A series of unexpected failures, including a horrifying accident at the Nürburgring which badly injured the driver, Chris Irwin, was extremely disheartening, especially as that completely wrote off one of the only two cars: it was never recreated. The fact that the F3L, when fresh and running properly, was undoubtedly competitive against the fastest Porsches and Ferraris of the day, did not help. For 1969 AMR not only worked on the aerodynamics of the F3L coupe, with massive spoilers, but also built up a rather less pretty open P69 version of the car. This, though much lighter than the coupe, was also not a success, and did not finish a race either.

Later in 1969, AMR returned the surviving two P68s and the single P69 to Ford Motorsport at Boreham. Within a year, the P69 had been cut up, and the two P68s were sold off to Tom Wheatcroft’s Donington Museum. Many years later, both those cars survive, in private hands. 

Story Graham Robson

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