Launching a Legend

Taunus-RS-300x200 During the mid-1960’s, Ford of Germany were regularly being outsold in the Domestic new car market by their main competitors, Opel and Audi, and all were flagging behind the market leader, VW.

A new strategy was required to deal with this tough and competitive market. A strategy that would capture the public’s attention. Therefore, in the Autumn of 1967, the existing P6 model (which had been launched a year earlier) underwent a transformation.

With mechanical upgrades and styling enhancements, a new marketing strategy was planned and the Rallye Sport (RS) was born.


P6 15m RS

The RS was the top of the range model. A car the public would aspire to own, with its body stripes, a revised grill and front spot-lamps.

While the Taunus name has been present on every model since the Second World War, the name was now dropped and the P6 15m RS became a model in its own right.

Ford P6 15m RS.
In early 1968, revisions were made to the P6 15m RS. Trim levels were enhanced, extra instruments were added, and a floor mounted gearstick rounded off the upgrades.

The model was relaunched on the 11th March 1968, with the upgrades proving to be a great success. So much so that the P7a range, launched in September 1967 was also offered in RS trim. Hence, during the first part of 1968 Ford of Germany had two RS specification models on sale, the P6 15m RS and the P7a 15m RS.

This addition to the model range generated huge interest in the marque and Ford Sales increased dramatically. The Rallye Sport was now a winning formula and Ford of Germany had exclusive rights to the RS brand. But, as we will see later, this changed with the formation of Ford of Europe.


P7a & P7b 17m RS

Ford P7a RS.
Unfortunately, the P7a was not as well received by the buying public, although the P7a did receive a similar RS model.

Regularly criticized for its Anglo/American styling, with its aptly named cheese grater grille and horizontal, inset, rear lights the P7a was not considered to be aesthetically pleasing. In less than a year, the P7a range was discontinued. Being replaced by the P7b.

Ford P7b 17m RS.
The P7b still used the same platform as the P7a, but had a much more European look to the styling.

Launched in August 1968, the new P7b again received the RS badge and the extras associated with being the top model of the range. Within the space of a year, Ford of Germany had effectively built three different RS variants, albeit with one model discontinued.


Rally Proven Pedigree

Herbert Klient / Gunther Klapproth.
London to Sydney Rally - 1968.
It was 1967, and at a time of doom and gloom in the UK, mainly due to the devaluation of the pound sterling, by Harold Wilson the Prime Minister. He defended the decision assuring voters, that the measure would tackle the "root cause" of the nation's economic problems...

The then proprietor of the Daily Express, Sir Max Aitken along with 2 other senior editors, came up with a plan. They decided to create an event, that the newspaper could sponsor. THis event would hopefully raise the nation's spirits. The London to Sydney Marathon was born.

It was felt such an event would showcase "British Engineering", and hopefully boost export sales. The Daily Express, came up with a 1st Prize of £10,000, and teamed up with the Daily Telegraph in Australia who contributed £2,000 for the highest placed Australian Team to finish the rally.

So with the sponsorship elements set, an 8 man organizing committee was set up to form a challenging (but navigable) route from London to Sydney. As news spread of the inaugural event, a limit of 100 entrants was set and the public's imagination was captured...

London to Sydney Rally Route.
Image © Unknown.
Nothing like this had ever been seen or done before, on such an epic scale, of over 10,000 miles! The route was planned with Jack Sears at the helm, and the rally was devised to pass through 11 different countries, lasting 23 days! Many individuals and works teams entered the rally mainly from Europe with some from Australia too.

Although at the time, Ford of Germany did not have a recognised "Motorsport Division", it was decided to enter 3 Cars. These were to be the latest P7b's, in the form of 20mRS 2 Door Sedans.

The three car RS line up was crewed by

  • Dieter Glemser / Martin Braungart in No.14
  • Gilbert Staepelaere / Simo Lampinen in No. 57
  • Herbert Klient / Gunther Klapproth in No. 92
Gilbert Staepelaere / Simo Lampinen in Car #57.
Image © Unknown.
Herbert Klient / Gunther Klapproth in Car #92.
Image © le tabitien.

Setting off from London on the 24th November 1968, the 98 Cars and crews were about to take on the arduous rally covering 11 country's in as many days and over 7,000 miles!

It became clear that many crews, 26 in all, had retired along the route to India - where the liner, SS Chusan, would transport the remaining 72 crews and cars from Bombay to Fremantle on the West coast of Australia.

London to Sydney Rally Route.
Image © le tabitien.
Any repairs attempted on any of the cars during the 8 day voyage would result in elimination from the event. The voyage began on the 5th December from Bombay, landing at Fremantle on the 13th December, where an overnight stop was taken at Perth.

The route now was west to east across Australia and some 2,900 miles to Sydney. With 2 of the 3 20mRS cars finishing the rally, the new Rallye Sport had made its mark on an enduring and epic rally. The first of its type.

With just over half of the crews and cars finishing, 58 in total, the P7b RS proved to be a very competitive car. This was a pivotal moment in RS marque, and history was made.

Klient / Klapproth finished 7th and Staepelaere / Lampinen finished 16th. Unfortunately Glemser / Braungart did not finish.

Just weeks later, one of the 2 finishing RS cars went on to Win the East African Safari 1969 and the 1st ever victory in RS history!

Gilbert Staepelaere / Simo Lampinen.
London to Sydney Rally - 1968.


P7b 17m & 20m RS

P7b 17m RS & P7b 20m RS.
The P7b RS was available in two guises. The P7b 17m RS and the P7b 20m RS.

The 17m having a 2.0L v6 producing 111 bhp and the 20m having a 2.3L v6 with 125bhp.

Both engines were derived from the German Cologne units.


The South African Connection

With the African Safari win, Ford licensed two South African built RS models. Again, these were the P7b 17m RS and the P7b 20m RS. Interestingly the specific badging was never addressed, with both South African RS variants sharing the same designations as the German built vehicles.

The two South African RS models shared the same 2-door pillarless coupe bodyshell, unlike their German counterparts who had a more varied choice of bodyshell. Even a 4-door P7b RS was available in Europe. The other difference with the South African models was the choice of engine, utilising the UK Essex engine. The 17m RS used a 2.0L v4 Essex engine, with the 20m RS coming with the 3.0L v6.

It is widely considered that the South African 20m RS should have been designated the 30m due to the engine size, but this would then usurp the top of the range 26m RS model of the German parent company. Even in the 1960’s internal company politics triumphed.

The Ford plant at Port Elizabeth was designated as the manufacturing site for the South African models, which were all 2-door hardtop coupes, in Right Hand Drive. Production started in 1969 and continued to late 1971, with some of the later built cars being registered in early 1972.

The silhouette of the European and South African cars remained the same, apart from the distinctive bonnet scoop added to the 3.0L RS version.

German P7b 20m RS.
However, side-on differences were notable. Specifically European body stripes were triple layered, "thin-thick-thin" and uniform, whereas the South African counterpart RS cars were much more flamboyant and striking in looks. And a future signature RS look was added. Rallye Stripes! The South African 20m RS was the first to use this stripe format, and it was copied on European RS cars for years to come.

South African P7b 20m RS.
There were other subtle differences to the German RS cars. There were just two options available for the South African RS buyer, a radio and a vinyl roof.

Visually the differences between the South African 17m and 20m were the 17m had thinner, less distinctive side stripes, while on the 20m the stripes were much broader.

Additionally, the central bonnet area was painted satin black along with the additional bonnet scoop. Both models were easily identifiable from the “lower” models, however.

The P7b is considered to be the last true designed Taunus built, with production both in Germany and South Africa ending in December 1971.

The South African P7b production figures are thought to include both the 17m RS and 20m RS models, and during it’s 2.5 year run the figures are:

Year No. of Units
1969 647
1970 371
1971 142
1972 41

In total, the Port Elizabeth plant produced 1,201 RS models, approximately 40 a month over the production run. The production figures are so low that few survive today. But those that do have a cult following and are considered to be mega rare by Ford fans worldwide.


End of an Icon

Meanwhile in the run-up to 1970, discussions and collaboration had been going on between Ford of Germany and Ford of England, with a view to joining the companies into one giant manufacturing concern, Ford of Europe.

It is no coincidence, that on the same day that Ford of Europe was formed, the German rights to the RS badge were also revoked and given to the newly formed Ford of Europe.

On that same day, the 1st January 1970, the 4th generation of the RS was announced.