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    1977 Ford Escort 1300 Estate - stunning showstopper

    Posted in Cars on Tuesday, 10 September 2019

    Homebuilt hero: Escort Estate From wreck to stunning showstopper. The first thing that strikes you about this Imperial Blue estate is that the finish is utterly flawless. But there’s far more to this Escort than a minty-fresh paintjob… Words Daniel Bevis. Photos Rob Schaverien.

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    THE CURIOUS ORANGE FORD MK2 ESCORT / #Vauxhall-engined #Ford dares to be different!

    MK2 ESCORT

    Our cover star is an Escort with a difference. You’ll find no Pinto, or YB under the bonnet of this tasty saloon!

    There are a lot of orange Mk2 Escorts out there. So how do you make one stand out from the crowd? Simple: you pay attention to the details… Words: Dan Bevis. Photos: Damian Hock.


    Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. Too much exposure to any given thing can inherently bleed out any genuine passion for it, leaving a void of disinterest – or, worse, actual animosity. This is something that rears its head here and there in the old car ecosystem. Look at the watercooled VW scene, for example; the values of Mk1 Golfs and two-door Jettas are spiralling, with incredible detail and effort going into making each build stand out from every other quite-similar car on the scene. Engine bays are shaved and smoothed to absurd degrees, wheel choices and fi tments are agonised over, anything to escape that contemptuous judgement of having not put quite as much effort in as others might. It can all get a bit nasty. Cars that appear superb in isolation get swallowed up on the showground.

    Of course, this is only something you need to worry about if you care what other people think, rather than building or speccing a car for yourself because you like it that way. Once you’re free from the constraints of other people’s egos, you can just do what the hell you like, can’t you? And if you do the job properly, the car will stand out all by itself, without any need for you to lose a wink of sleep over it.

    Slotting neatly into this line of thinking is Retropower, a company that will no doubt be familiar to regular readers. They build the sort of cars that we like, in just the way we like them, but there’s never any sense of trophy-chasing or backslapping: they’re just very good at what they do, they won’t let a car out of the door unless it’s perfect, and it’s all centred around the customer’s commission. So when they were briefed back in early 2012 to build a trackday-oriented Escort, there was no fevered headscratching along the lines of ‘Goodness, how can we differentiate this Escort from the thousands of other ones out there?’, they just knuckled down and built the car right. It’s testament to their skills that the car’s come out the other side as one of the fi nest Escorts on the retro scene today. Who cares if familiarity breeds contempt? There are always fresh ways of doing things, new ways to shock. Fight malaise with passion.

    “The Escort was bought as a complete, running car and looked fairly tidy,” says Retropower’s Callum Seviour, an artistic soul who clearly has a genuine passion for this citrusy Ford, “but as is almost always the case, there were a lot of horrors lurking. It was still a reasonably good shell, but there was a lot of previous botching to undo – things like the turrets being welded in an inch further forward one side than the other, and the inner and outer arches joined only with expanding foam and underseal – standard old car stuff, sadly!” The heavy tone in his voice suggests that they come across these nightmares all too often, although the smirk indicates that it’s all in a day’s work…


    “The car was already a stripped-out fast road/ track day car, but cobbled up and rough round the edges,” he continues. “The asthmatic Pinto completed the somewhat lacklustre experience! The brief was to completely strip the shell and make sure it was perfect in terms of metalwork, and then rebuild to be a faster, more precise and more exciting machine, but with the same intended use. Of course, as is often the case we all got carried away with the ideas as the project progressed, and it ended up dangerously close to being a full-on Group 4-spec rally car!”


    Well, yes, it is easy to get carried away, isn’t it? Particularly in a garage full of oldschool petrolheads and an eagerly enthused customer. This is where Retropower’s approach really starts to make sense, keeping the client close to the project at all times to chew over ideas and see what’s realistic, desirable and, naturally, affordable.

    “The joy of a Mk2 is the ability to chuck around a lightweight and stiff shell with pinpoint precision, so they have to be as strong as possible,” Callum explains. “There’s the usual Group 4 kit which gussets from the chassis rails into the bulkhead, and the extra plate over each strut top which are then welded to brackets attaching the strut brace, so that is all mega-stiff. Then we seam-welded all the critical areas, and also double-skinned the front of the chassis rails so that they could be jacked without damage, adding jacking points under the rear chassis rails. The rear bulkhead is fully welded in too, and tied into the fabricated arch tubs and turrets so there’s a lot of stiffness added there. The cage then ties everything together, so it does feel pretty epic to drive in terms of precision, accuracy and predictability of steering input.”

    The effort that’s gone into the chassis draws upon decades of motorsport-derived evolution, and is very much the ultimate spec in terms of this kind of intended usage. So what manner of motor powers such a creation? Are the 1600 Sport decals a clue?

    “Er, no,” laughs Callum. “It’s a C20XE, a 2.0-litre Vauxhall Red-Top, which was chosen for various reasons of cost, power, and tuneability. There were a few ideas being considered – Honda S2000, Duratec and so on, but they all have their complications, and the Vauxhall unit is a fantastic engine – it was designed by Cosworth at a similar time to the YB. It’s easy to make enough power to shift an Escort pretty fast, and it’s the most compact among the aforementioned list of engines, making the fitment that little bit more straightforward.

    Also, it’s fun to upset the purists!” Well, quite. Diehard Ford fans will always snort with derision when you lift an Escort bonnet to reveal an XE… but again, who cares about the slings and arrows when you’re building a car for yourself? There’s no need to take it all so seriously, this is a car built for fun above all else, after all. It’s not as if they’ve just slung a bone-stock XE in there, either – the spicy twin-cam features steel rods and forged pistons, hungry throttle bodies, eager cams, hedonistic fuelling, and rorty exhaustery. It all adds up to a nice round 200bhp, as verified by the rollers. More than enough to plaster a grin over the face of the discerning Escort fondler.

    The 1600 Sport logos, then, are endearingly tongue-in-cheek. “It’s my favourite Mk2 livery,” Callum admits. “The car did come to us with RS2000 decals, but having intentionally left it narrow-arched – as the owner prefers the look – I think the 1600 Sport decals finish it perfectly.”

    There’s precision tomfoolery afoot within as well, from the Sparco Pro 2000 buckets to the raft of functional switchgear and flocking. Hell, there’s a hydraulic handbrake and a bias pedal box in there too – this car may be exquisitely finished, but it’s no show pony. It’s been built to throw around, and that’s just what the owner intends to do.

    “The project took a little over three years to complete,” says Callum, eulogising fondly over a car he’s clearly going to be sad to see the back of. “The owner had sourced the engine and axle himself, and also bought a lot of the parts directly with a little advice from us here and there, but he always knew the basics of what he wanted – our role in this build was to execute all the hundreds of little decisions when it came to exactly how everything should look and work, and that’s what adds up to give the overall feel of the car. There were no massive hurdles with this one – we could just knuckle down to making sure every detail looked cool!” And it’s safe to say they’ve pulled that off with aplomb and alacrity. Every angle is a right angle, as it were; each component glimmers with intent – it’s function-over-form, and yet so pristine that form can’t help but follow function to a show car finish. “The owner is fairly local, so had been to see the car a lot during the build,” Callum continues. “He’d never displayed a huge amount of emotion, but there was an occasion, just prior to the final handover, where we invited him over for a final inspection so he could go over the car and point out anything he wanted changing or wasn’t happy with. It was a sunny day and he was absolutely beaming! I think it finally struck him that it was real and the car was his… I took him out for a quick thrash with a little bit of sideways action and that only made the smile bigger. It’s always hugely satisfying to see a proud and happy owner taking delivery of their car.” Imagine having that manner of job satisfaction, eh? Callum and his team truly are dream-weavers, and that’s a sentiment that would surely be echoed by the man who’s now holding the keys – if, that is, you can find him sitting still for long enough. With so much time invested in optimising the performance potential of this Escort, it’s understandable that he wants to give it a good thrashing at every given opportunity.

    And that, in a nutshell, is how it’s done. Sure, you can agonise over how to make your car stand out among its peers in a saturated scene... or you can just follow your heart and let it speak for itself. The results we see here suggest that the latter is probably better for your soul.

    Specification #Ford-Escort / #Ford-Escort-MkII / #Ford / #Retropower

    ENGINE: 2.0-litre #C20XE / #Vauxhall / #Vauxhall-C20XE / Red Top , steel rods, forged pistons, QED direct-tohead individual throttle bodies, SBD cams, MBE ECU and Raychem race- spec loom, GRP4 Fabrications radiator, Retropower coolant hoses, cast aluminium ‘big wing’ sump, stainless steel 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, Retropower 2.5in stainless exhaust system, #GRP4 Fabrications fuel tank & base, Bosch 044 pump and -6 Tefl on lines, braided fuel lines throughout, 200bhp.
    TRANSMISSION: Ford Type-9 with Tran-X straight-cut gear kit and quickshift, aluminium 7-degree bellhousing, Atlas axle with plate-type LSD
    SUSPENSION:, Group 4 #Bilstein front struts with Bilstein inserts, compression struts and adjustable track control arms, quick-rack with Corsa electric assistance conversion, 5-linked rear axle, Group 4 Bilstein rear coilovers into turreted shell,
    BRAKES: AP 266mm vented front discs with AP 4-pot aluminium calipers, 240mm solid rear discs with Sierra-type calipers
    WHEELS/TYRES: 6.5x13in Revolution 4-spokes with 185/50x13 Yokohama A539 tyres
    EXTERIOR: Complete bare-metal restoration, rear end bulkheaded, arches tubbed and shell modified for full 5-link axle location, front panel modified for larger radiator and welded in Group 4 strengthening kit, welded in strut-brace mounts, all redundant engine bay brackets and holes welded up, full repaint inside, outside and underneath in Ford Signal Orange, 1600 Sport decals
    INTERIOR: #Sparco Pro 2000 seats, OMP Corsica steering wheel, flocked dash and centre switch panel, custom aluminium centre console with fusebox, full rewire from scratch, SPA Kitdash instrument panel, hydraulic handbrake, bias pedalbox, heated windscreen, interior heater removed

    Discrete exterior belies the changes that have taken place inside.
    Simple, clean and detailed to perfection.
    (Left) Vauxhall XE powerplant is both inspired and controversial in equal measure.

    “The Escort was bought as a complete, running car and looked fairly tidy, but as is almost always the case, there were a lot of horrors lurking”
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    James Nicholls
    James Nicholls updated the group cover
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    James Nicholls
    James Nicholls updated the group picture
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    PART OF THE FAMILY #Ford-Escort-1600-Sport / #Ford-Escort-1600-Sport-MkII / #Ford-Escort-MkII / #Ford-Escort / #Ford / #1978

    When Mark Cookman bought his Escort way back in 1988 little did he know that he’d still have it in 2016! It’s a stunner. Mark Cookmanhas had his Mk2 Escort for 26 years and he doesn’t plan on parting with it any time soon. Words & Photos: #RBPhotography .

    As the eighties marched on, hairstyles got better, dress sense got better and cars (it could be argued by some) got worse, as many were switching from rear drive to front-drive platforms. If you were a young lad in the 80s, Ford’s XR3 was the new must-have car and its older brothers the Mk1 and Mk2 Escort were considered old-hat and cast aside. Now this was understandably good news for people who liked the Mk2 as they were getting cheaper by the day. Plus it was also good news for people buying their first car, as inevitably they would be entering into a love affair that, for some, would never end. There are people that had a Mk2 Escort in the 80s and moved with the times, but are now looking to re-live their youth and get in on the current boom, and there are people that fell in love with the Mk2 and were sensible enough to never part with it. Mark Cookman and his Mk2 Escort fall into the latter category.


    “This Mk2 was the second car that I’ve ever owned,” reminisces Mark. “The first was a rusty Mk2 1600 Sport that I stripped down and then scrapped. I bought this one purely because it was rust free and had a solid chassis to modify. As silly as it sounds, having a car with a working heater was important to me back then as the one in my first car didn’t.” Mark actually bought the Mk2, complete with toasty-warm heater, back in 1988 when it was only ten-years old.

    As you might have guessed, Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts were really cheap back then and Mark paid an incredibly modest £400 for his 1.1 Popular shell. When you think that £400 would barely buy you a pair of wings these days, it’s fair to say it was a sound investment. “All of the usual rust-traps were fine, including the top mounts and wheel arches. It might sound silly, but even at ten years old these Fords were going rusty, it’s actually a miracle that there are any left at all,” comments Mark. “Obviously being a 70’s Ford, there is always going to be something that needs attention. It has to be said that the techniques to repair that we used back then are a lot different to how they are today. There were no rollover jigs, for instance. I had to lay on the floor with a grinder, getting all the mess in my face in order to repair it.”


    The most striking thing about Mark’s car is the Series-X body kit. It might not be revolutionary these days, but back when Mark was 18, they were a huge departure from the Mk2 Escort’s normal lines. Unlike today, Mark had no problem sourcing parts, adding “back then the parts were still relatively cheap. Looking back, the hardest part of the build on the car was fitting that bodykit. There were endless hours of filling and sanding to get it to look right. I was only 18 and know a lot more about such things now as I work in a car bodyshop, but I still say I’d never fit another one – It was just too much work. The X-pack requires you to cut the arches off and then bond and rivet it all together. It’s not for the faint-hearted. These days Mk2 body shells are so expensive, but back then if I’d messed up I could have just gone out and bought another car.”


    The majority of the work on the Mk2 was undertaken by Mark and his brother-in-law, either on the drive or by the side of the road (and as such, despite having bought it in 1988, it didn’t actually see road use until 1991). “We were, nonetheless, proud of our efforts. Mechanical upgrades like 2.8i Capri brakes were the done thing back then. It was just a case of heading to the breakers yard then back home for a lick of paint,” Mark recalls. “I’m sure that the brake and suspension upgrades these days are far superior, but they are also a lot more costly. But I’m happy with my set-up, it’s more than adequate.


    “Over the years I’ve basically done jobs and upgrades as and when they’ve needed doing. I’m sure I’ve spent thousands in the time that I’ve had it, but I’ve never had the cash sitting around to justify one of these £30k rebuilds, as nice as they are.”


    Classic cars have a habit of being able to spiral out of control and drain your finances at the drop of a hat, and Mark’s Escort is no exception to that. The 1600 Crossflow had glazed its bores and so he took it out for a rebuild, before he knew it he was in to a £4500 rebuild. “It was a case of ‘while it’s apart, you might as well change this and that’ but with the benefit of hindsight the money would have been better spent not rebuilding the original 1600 Sport engine stolen from that rotten shell back in 1988, but to fit a contemporary engine that would make more power in the first place. But hey, that engine and I have been through a lot together, so I couldn’t just bail on it. Having said that, keeping on top of the little jobs is, for me, part of the fun of owning an old car. Especially when you manage to sneak in a cheeky upgrade along the way.”

    These cheeky upgrades can be something as simple as changing the stripes. To you or I, it’s a mere formality, but for someone like Mark who has owned the car for so long, it’s a big change and very satisfying – it’s part of the evolution.

    The Escort is etched into Mark’s history, it’s more than just a car, it has been with him through the highs and lows in his life and that’s probably why it’ll be one of the very last things that he parts with in. “I’ve really enjoyed my Escort, and that’s probably part of the reason why I’ve kept it for all these years,” says Mark. “It’s just part of the family I guess. When you go out for a drive, people love it too – Waving and flashing you as if you are in some super car, not an old family saloon. I love that when I haven’t seen a friend for a long time, one of the first things I’m asked is: ‘Have you still got that old Ford Escort?’ I reply: ‘Of course I have!’” And we’ve absolutely no doubt that asking the same question in another 20 years will elicit the same response. Some cars are just meant to be kept!

    Specification

    ENGINE: #Ford 1700 #Crossflow , Stage 3 unleaded head, double valve springs, #Kent 234 cam, pistons machined to suit, ARP bolts, Twin #40-DCOE carburettors, Pecoinlet manifold, Facet silver top fuel pump, Constant energy electronic ignition, Magnecorleads, Ashley exhaust, Samco hoses, Rat Sport ally catch tank.

    TRANSMISSION: Type 2 gearbox with adapted quick shift gear lever, Single piece prop, English axle, Quaife LSD 3.5 ratio.

    SUSPENSION: 2.8 Capri #Bilstein front legs with 2in lowered springs, Group 4 fabrications spherical top-mounts, TwinCam anti roll bar, 2.5 turn quick steering rack, uprated rear leaf springs, adjustable Spax, 1in lowering blocks, antitramp bars, Super flex poly bushesall round.

    BRAKES: M16 calipers, vented discs, 9in rear drums, RS2000 brake servo, braided hoses.

    WHEELS & TYRES: Genuine Ford Ronal 7.5x13in deep dish RS four spokes, 235/50x13 rear, 215/40x13 (front) BFGoodridgecomp T/A tyres

    EXTERIOR: 1978 1.1 Popular shell, Ford flat front, X-Packbodykit, Diamond White ICI two pack solid paint, Bespoke Series X logo (designed by Mark) incorporated into 1600 Sport graphics.

    INTERIOR: Full RS2000custominteriorincluding original fishnet Recaro seats retrimed in new Beta cloth, original rear seat, half roll cage, white Cosworth-style dials in binnacle (fitted in the 90s!), new headlining, original carpet, period radio without cassette.

    THANKS: Huge thanks goes out to my family, brother in law Chris Clegg, Dawn, Mark Cobley, Adam Hughes, Val at the Grove Group, Surrey Signs, Peter at Sanspeed, Grant Walker, Premier Wheels, the late Peter and his wife Geraldine@ the Sporting Escorts Owners Club - contacts@seoc.co.uk

    When Mark first bought his Escort it cost him just £400! You’d be lucky to get a couple of panels for that price these days!

    It may not have huge amounts of power, but the trusty Crossflow is the perfect engine to power this cool Escort.

    It may be an iconic kit, but it was a pain in the arse to fit.

    Although this kit was fitted later, it’s pretty crazy to remember that Ford RS dealers actually offered the X-Pack kit as an option!

    “Obviously being a 70’s Ford, there is always going to be something that needs attention!”
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    James Nicholls
    James Nicholls created a new group Ford Escort MkII
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