This is the text of an article / press release entitled THE Formula Ford 1600 KENT ENGINE in 2002 which was written and distributed in 2002 after a number of significant after-market Kent engine parts were approved by the SCCA accompanied by some rules adjustments. These two actions combined gave new life to the class. The original article was then updated in 2007.
Recent approval and production of aftermarket Kent engine parts has meant new life for one of motor racing’s great formula car classes. And there’s more to come for the venerable Formula Ford and its “sub-classes”, Spec Ford and Club Ford. The training ground for so many National and International racing champions, Formula Ford began life in the US in 1969 when it was recognized by the SCCA. These relatively inexpensive open wheel machines with simple, rugged, four cylinder 1600cc engines, were purpose built open wheel racing cars capable of speeds up to 130 miles per hour. Grids grew to mighty numbers and Formula Ford became SCCA’s - and the world's - most popular class. Many great American racing champions got their early track experience in the sleek, nimble, tube framed machines. In Europe, most Formula One drivers got their start in Formula Ford.
A major turning point was reached in the mid-1980’s when the world-beating Swift DB-1, designed and built in California, relegated all other marques to also-ran status. As the competition between multiple car builders dwindled, so did the influence of Formula Ford as the open wheel class of choice. That factor, coupled with the rise of other formula car classes, resulted in big reductions in Formula Ford entry numbers and the associated decline of the class.
But with the birth of the Club Ford class - and on the west coast, Spec Ford - these readily available cars had new appeal for club racers throughout the country. Since they were now able to take home a class trophy, racers sought out the older cars and brought them back to life. Into the 90’s, grids increased and Formula Ford was once again seen to be an ideal amateur class. Careful car preparation and meticulous attention to engine building and to chassis tuning can yield formidable racing machines which can provides club racers everything they are looking for. Twenty or thirty car grids are not uncommon. The original spirit of the class has been rekindled and the camaraderie among fellow competitors is evident everywhere.
After Ford ceased to produce the Kent engine, the effort to assure adequate aftermarket parts supplies was initiated and it continues to gain strength. Now, through the efforts of many members of the FF community and with the cooperation of the SCCA, several engine parts availability problems that threatened to compromise the class have been rectified.In late 2000, following on proposals originally put forth by Kent engine guru Jake Lamont and others, many members of the FF community appealed to the SCCA and lobbied for rules changes. The result was that a new cylinder head and camshaft were approved. Following that, the SCCA indicated that an aftermarket crankshaft matching the original profile and weight would be acceptable. SCCA Enterprises is working to produce this critical component in a stronger and more reliable version. SCCA’s new, active role in the future of the class, has come at a perfect time. Other critical parts will likely be produced including cast iron cylinder blocks, pistons and connecting rods. In addition, the approved weights for pistons, rods and flywheels have been reduced.
All of these developments mean that the future of this great racing class and its classic engine is assured. Members of the FF community are extremely active on the web at www.apexspeed.com which is filled with a myriad of relevant topics, spirited debate, parts and tuning information, safety topics and a whole host of valuable information freely shared with fellow competitors. There are also classified listings for cars and parts.
There is no question the class is alive and well - even after 38 years! With the continued participation of highly involved amateur racers and with the proper support from the SCCA, there is every reason to believe that Formula Ford, Spec Ford and Club Ford can continue as an essential part of the club racing world for several years to come.
Learn the history of the Formula Ford engine: Engine History