Harry's involvement with agriculture lasted up until 1954, when he resigned as chairman of Massey Ferguson. He then turned his attention to motorcars with the intention of improving the family car as successfully as he had transformed the tractor.
Harry had sustained his strong interest in motorcars and motorcycles throughout the years he had spent developing the Ferguson System. The first Ulster Grand Prix, staged in 1932, was a result of his negotiations with local government and he also encouraged the RAC to organise the famous Tourist Trophy motorcycle races between 1928 and 1936.
In 1950, he started a new company, Harry Ferguson Research Ltd, with the aim of creating a safe family car with a four-wheel-drive system. The resulting R5 was at least forty years ahead of its time both in the technology it incorporated and in its overall design. Comfort and responsiveness were also significantly ahead of contemporary standards.
Many manufacturers were approached to produce the new car, including the Rover Motor Company and Standard Motor Company, but it was the British Motor Company (BMC) who showed most interest, committing to a production run of 350 vehicles. However due to technical problems in the design, only six prototypes of the R5 were built, in 1956. The R5, with its four-wheel drive, anti-skid braking, electric windows, disc brakes and hatchback boot access, was the forerunner of the modern car.
THE JENSEN FF (FERGUSON FORMULA)
When it was introduced in 1966 the Jensen FF (better known as the Jensen Interceptor) was the most technically advanced car in the world. It remains a remarkable car.
At its launch, it had a Chrysler V8 engine and Torqueflite automatic transmission, along with a host of sophisticated ideas not found in any other car.
FEATURES OF THE JENSEN FF
The first feature of the Jensen FF was the Ferguson four-wheel drive system. In essence, this system allows all the power generated by the six-litre engine to be spread proportionally through all four wheels. This gives the extra grip of double traction and almost eliminates the chance of wheel spin.
The second idea was borrowed from aircraft technology. It's the same system which prevents planes skidding on landing - the Dunlop Maxaret anti-skid braking system. While the four-wheel drive system inhibits individual wheels or pairs of wheels from spinning under acceleration, the Maxaret anti-skid system’s job is to inhibit them from locking, even when braking heavily on slippery surfaces. Exerting too much pressure on the brake pedal causes it to kick gently back. This mechanical reflex indicates that the Maxaret system is operating on the brake servo system to prevent a skid.
FOUR-WHEEL DRIVE SYSTEM
Convinced that the four-wheel drive system would be of great advantage in racing, Harry searched for a manufacturer to take on the job of coupling the system with a racing car, but when none were forthcoming, decided to undertake the development himself.
P99 RACING CAR
In 1950, designer Claude Hill, Brooklands Riley racer Fred Dixon and Tony Rolt, a 24 hours Le Mans winner, teamed up with Harry to develop what would be the world's only Formula 1 winning four-wheel drive car. The P99 racing car project was born. In time the Ferguson Formula four-wheel drive system would become widely used and was adopted by the motor industry around the world.
Harry believed the best way to generate public interest in the four-wheel drive system was to successfully race a car that utilised it. The P99 achieved success in the hands of the legendary racing driver Sir Stirling Moss, who drove the car to victory at the Oulton Park Gold Cup in 1962. P99 was then used in the Tasman series races in 1963 and 1964. Modifications were made by other manufacturers which improved road holding, making the car a successful hillclimb race car for Peter Westbury in 1964.