Anglo-America cooperation has never worked better than when shoehorning a big US motor into a European-styled car.
For many companies, it was a cost-effective way to big power so they could compete with more established performance rivals. The formula was proven beyond doubt when the Ford GT40 (pictured) smashed Ferrari’s dominance at Le Mans in the 1960s and the mix continues to this day with the all-new TVR Griffith.
Allard J2 (1950)
The Londoner Sydney Allard was among the first to realise the potential of mass-produced, powerful and reliable V8s from the USA as the motive force for its distinctive sports cars. While the styling was an acquired taste for the cars that rolled out of the Clapham, south London factory, their pace was never in doubt. Most models used the Ford Pilot’s 3.6-litre V8, but the most famous car is the J2 range (pictured) that was also fitted with 4.4-litre Mercury with 120bhp and 221lb ft of torque.
However, some customers went further still with larger capacity Cadillac V8s to give frightening levels of pace for use on road and track.
Facel Vega HK500 (1959)
Facel Vega only lasted in business for 10 years between 1954 and 1964, but in that time this former French coachbuilder created the winsomely pretty FVS and HK500 (pictured) models. Both were home to Chrysler V8 engines with power ranging from 330- to 360bhp. Even so, performance was leisurely as the cars were intended as grand routiers rather than sporting machines. As with many small car makers throughout history, warranty claims forced the company into liquidation, but survival rates are high for these French fancies, helped by the simplicity of their engines and transmissions.
AC Cobra (1962)
The Cobra is the archetypal Anglo-American hybrid, right down to the way it was conceived and built. Texan Carroll Shelby spotted his opportunity when engine supply dried up for AC’s oh-so pretty Ace sports car. He brought Ford along with its V8 motors, married them into a reworked chassis and the Cobra legend was born.
It started off with a modest 4.2-litre unit, but size, power and performance escalated all the way to the 427 with its fearsome 7.0-litre powerplant. For a long time, this was the world’s fastest accelerating road car and remains brutally quick today.
Iso Grifo (1963)
Building scooters and fridges for post-war Italy provided Iso with the money to create its own glamorous rival to Ferrari’s road cars. It started with the Rivolta, but the Grifo is the firm’s defining model. Sleek coupe styling from Bertone was allied to a 5.4-litre Chevrolet Corvette engine that offered a 145mph top speed, which was plenty in 1963. The later Grifo 7-litre came with 390bhp and hit 171mph to get very close to the Ferrari Daytona’s top whack.
Gordon-Keeble GK1 (1964)
The Gordon-Keeble GK1 had it all: styling by Giugiaro, glassfibre body, advanced chassis and a Corvette V8 with four-speed manual. It should have been a runaway success in the 1960s, but this pretty four-seat coupe had one flaw – it cost almost one and half times the price of a Jaguar E-type. For the 99 who did buy a GK1, they were treated to effortless performance from the 5.4-litre motor and excellent handling assisted by Selectaride adaptable dampers. It may have flopped in the 1960s, but almost all still survive and are highly sought-after classics now, with examples selling for around £90,000 (US$120,000).
Ford GT40 (1964)
Of all the trans-Atlantic projects, the Ford GT40 stands head and shoulders above the others for its success on track, even if it sits only 40-inches tall. Conceived by Ford after its attempt to buy Ferrari was snubbed, this car’s sole aim was to beat the Italians at Le Mans. The first go wasn’t a success but from 1966 to 1969, the GT40 won four times in succession at La Sarthe. All were built in Slough, England with 4.7- or 7.0-litre V8s depending on which generation you bought, and there was a Mk3 road car.
A GT40 with its roof chopped off was used as a camera car on Steve McQueen’s 1971 film Le Mans to keep up with the racing action sequences.
Sunbeam Tiger 260 (1964)
The Sunbeam Tiger 260 came so close to greatness in its own time that its enduring appeal as a rare classic is guaranteed. When Sunbeam’s parent company Rootes wanted a performance car on the cheap, they force-fed its Alpine roadster with a 4.2-litre Ford V8 to produce the Tiger. It was quick, did well in races and rallying, and found favour in the USA. However, when the company was bought by Chrysler, Detroit politics dictated the Ford V8 was a no-no and the Tiger became extinct.
Bizzarrini GT 5300 (1966)
The name may sound like a cracking Scrabble score, but Bizzarrini was more concerned with winning races. So, the lightweight GT 5300 Strada was created by Giotto Bizzarrini to compete at Le Mans. Around 160 racers and road cars were built, all using the contemporary Chevrolet Corvette’s 5.3-litre V8 with 365bhp. The road-going cars were quick but with challenging handling that required skill to get the best from them. On the track, Bizzarrini’s best result was ninth and first in class at Le Mans in 1965.
Jensen Interceptor (1966)
Jensen had already tried out an American V8 in its C-V8 model before coming up with the jet-set desirable Interceptor in 1966. It used a 6.3-litre Chrysler V8 with 325bhp that could be uprated with the SP pack, which stood for Six Pack and provided three twin-barrel Holley carburettors if you felt the standard set-up didn’t drain the fuel tank quickly enough. To make the most of the Interceptor’s power, the firm was the first ever to offer a performance car with four-wheel drive in its FF model in 1968, which also featured anti-lock brakes.
Trident Clipper (1967)
Ford provided its 4.7-litre V8 to Trident and the Clipper could tick off 0-60mph in 5.0 seconds on its way to a top speed of 145mph. Impressive stuff in 1968 and the composite-bodied Clipper should have had the world at its wheels. However, the stretched Triumph TR6 chassis wasn’t up to the job. Nor were the company’s finances and the Clipper was consigned to history in 1977 after faltering production saw 135 cars produced.
Monteverdi High Speed (1967)
Switzerland may not be an obvious place to build large-engined performance cars, but Peter Monteverdi was no ordinary producer. Calling his first models High Speed set out the firm’s stall and they used whopping 7.2-litre V8s bought in from Chrysler to deliver rapid yet relaxed performance. Offered in two-door coupe and four-door saloon forms with styling by Frau, the High Speed was built in tiny numbers before the firm finally closed in 1984.
De Tomaso Pantera (1971)
A truly international effort this one as Argentinian Alejandro de Tomaso married US V8 muscle to his pretty Italian coachbuilt sports models. He’d already dabbled with the recipe, but it was the Pantera that caught the imagination of supercar buyers thanks to its sensational looks and reliable Ford engine that started with 330bhp in 1971. During a remarkably long life that outlived even the Lamborghini Countach, the Pantera survived until 1991 in GT5S form still with the same motor but now making 350bhp.
AC Brooklands Ace (1993)
AC got the old team back together to create the Brookland Ace in the 1990s, bringing together English craftsmanship and a Ford-supplied V8 motor. In this case, the engine was a supercharged 4.9-litre unit with 325bhp but 0-62mph took a surprisingly sluggish 6.2 seconds. There were other flaws in this plan, such as bland styling, iffy build quality and a price tag of £79,750 that made it twice as expensive as much faster, far better made rivals such as the Porsche Boxster and BMW Z3 M Roadster. Unsurprisingly, it flopped and bankrupted the company.
Marcos Mantis (1997)
Marcos was never shy about plundering other car makers for its engines and latterly settled on the Rover V8 for most of its models. However, this former Buick unit gave way to a Ford Mustang-derived 4.6-litre lump for the 1997 Mantis. Complete with supercharger, it provided 506bhp to push the Mantis to more than 170mph. It was also a landmark car as the first British production model with more than 500bhp, though only 16 ever left the factory.
TVR Griffith (2018)
We could easily discuss here the original Griffith V8 with its 4.7-litre Ford V8 crammed into the tiny and pretty Grantura model. However, we’ll focus on the new Griffith with its dry-sumped 5.0-litre Ford Coyote motor that’s been worked on by Cosworth. This means a lightened flywheel and revised ECU to generate 500bhp and see this latest model reach a top speed of more than 200mph. The exhausts exit from the sides just behind the front wheels to allow for a flat floor that generates ground effects to sucker the car to the road for better handling; we can't wait to drive it.