Ford T-Drive

An Abandoned Engineering Prototype

Timeframe: early '90s

In the last 30 years, Ford has produced several experimental engine developments which were ultimately abandoned. Most have never been seen, much less detailed technically. T-Drive is one of them; another was the stratified charge V-8 engine of the 70s. We've finally found some information on T-Drive, a truly unique and innovative system. We'm still looking for information on the stratified-charge V-8, and while some information was published 30 years ago about it I haven't yet been able to find any information about it in my personal library. I remember seeing a picture of a room full of them, after being broken up with sledge hammers when the program was abruptly terminated.

T-drive is a system consisting of a transversally located inline engine, a transmission, and associated packaging. It was designed by Ford in approximately the 1990 timeframe and shown in several auto shows and to magazines. Ultimately, it was abandoned due to several reasons. Ford went ahead with the "modular" V-6, V-8, VB-10, and V-12 engine families instead.

The T-Drive engine was literally t-shaped - the transmission was located in the middle of the engine instead of the end. This allows easy and compact placement in small spaces. Due to the tight spacing of the cylinder bores, engines were possible from 4 to 8 cylinders. And T-Drive was designed from the start as a DOHC engine, state-of-the-art at that time. Because the technology was entirely consistent across the board, any new technology could be applied to the entire range of engines quickly.

Engine output was never discussed. However, there are no reasons why it wouldn't be exactly the same as a conventional engine. Displacement was apparently 2, 3.2, and 4 liters (4, 6, and 8 cylinders).

Ford Engineers:

Advantages:

Problems:

This is the most outrageous example of T-Drive: a V-8 Tempo.

Yes, a 4 liter V-8 Tempo.

Note the DOHC inline-8.

The test car didn't have room for a conventional braking assist system - note the two reservoirs hung off the strut brace.

Judging from the patent text, this was at a minimum a front wheel drive car. It's not known if there was a take-off for a driveshaft to the rear, making it an AWD car. The patent does allow for that.

You'll note that on both of these engines, there is a gap in the middle of the engine where the drivetrain take-off was engineered.

This is a FOX-chassis T-Bird, with a 6-cylinder T-drive engine.

The engine is transverse, possibly leading to an unfavorable weight balance.

The rest of the driveline is conventional rear wheel drive. This car was probably built to demonstrate use of the near-off-the-shelf driveline.

Note that the engine takes up the full engine bay - not the radiator placement (normally very far-forward in a FOX T-Bird). 

T-Drive Patents

Related information on this site: