How do you scare a V8 owner at the drags? Tell ’em you’ve got a Barra turbo under the hood.
But what if, in some alternate reality, the XR6T was actually an XR6S? Yep, the legendary Barra six was almost supercharged, according to former Tickford and FPV program manager Gordon Barfield.
“Yes, [the XR6 Turbo] was my baby,” Barfield tells MOTOR. “During the development of the four-valve six-cylinder, we (at Tickford) were saying, what are we going to do with this thing? How do we go forward?
“We could modify the engine and we might have got five kilowatts, but that wasn’t going to do it.” Essentially, Barfield wanted to create a fast Ford that would appeal to those who didn’t care for – or need – a V8.
Soon, the late former racer and Ford legend Howard Marsden joined the now-FPV team, and suggested moving along with a supercharged version of the 4.0-litre inline six. Barfield, however, knew it was too late to start developing a supercharged version.
“We couldn’t upset the existing architecture, the front-end drive (the belts and pulleys and such) so a supercharger was out,” Barfield says. “In fact, a supercharger would have put the development program back months. Howard had his eye on a Sprintex supercharger, but I said to him, ‘No, that isn’t going to work’.”
Instead, Barfield looked to the Swedes, who were at this point using low-pressure turbos to help move things along. Low boost levels on a large engine meant little lag and no real negative effect on reliability.
And so a new Aussie performance hero was born, with Barfield in particular confident it would be a success: “I named it ‘Gull’ (as in seagull), because we knew it was going to shit on everything.”
For more on the Barra's development check out the 15 Years of XR6 Turbo feature in the Yearbook issue of MOTOR, on-sale November 30.
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