HOME­BUILT HERO:

Alex El­liott’s love of clas­sic Es­corts came about thanks to his fa­ther’s Ford ad­ven­tures of old. And now the two of them have built their fruity masterpiece to­gether.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Daniel Be­vis Pho­tos Dar­ren Wool­way

Mk2 Es­cort

By far the coolest thing about 1970s cars is the sheer wealth of con­text; the sto­ries be­hind them, the places they’ve been, the things they’ve seen.

In our line of work it’s easy to get blasé about such de­tails, be­cause most cars that ap­pear be­fore the lens ar­rive fresh from some in-depth build, ne­ces­si­tat­ing a fo­cus on what’s new, what’s changed. But when you take a step back out of the here-and-now, our on­go­ing love for four-doors starts to make a lot of sense.

You see, much as we adore two-door Es­corts, there’s an in­her­ent rak­ish­ness and sporti­ness in their pro­file, isn’t there? Rally hero­ism and shady street-rac­ing are baked right in. But with a four-door… well, it’s far more likely to have orig­i­nally been bought as a fam­ily runaround, some­thing to ferry the kids to school and then nip off to the shops to cash in some Green Shield stamps. Which makes trans­for­ma­tions like this one all the more star­tling. Imag­ine what those ex­citable kids on the back seat would make of their mum’s mo­tor now.

You see, Alex El­liott’s Mk2 four-door is spe­cial. No, ac­tu­ally ‘spe­cial’ isn’t big enough a word. It’s be­guil­ing, it’s as­tound­ing — it isn’t of­ten that you come across a spec list that oozes such flaw­less right­ness. Ev­ery move he’s made has been the right one, ev­ery de­ci­sion has brought this Es­cort one step closer to per­fec­tion.

From this as­pect, the num­ber of en­try points is en­tirely im­ma­te­rial. But from a his­tor­i­cal, nos­tal­gic stand­point? The ex­tra doors just make it ex­tra cool.

Dad ’n’ lad

And since we’re talk­ing nos­tal­gia, let’s en­cour­age the scenery to go all wib­bly as Alex trans­ports us back to a time when he was just a whip­per­snap­per him­self. “This all re­ally started back when I was 14,” he rem­i­nisces, with starry eyes. “My Dad had a Jago Jeep, which was Es­cort-based, and I re­ally en­joyed work­ing on it with him, so my love of cars all stems from that. And all my Dad’s sto­ries of his ad­ven­tures in a hot Cross­flow Capri! My first car was an arched Mk1 Fi­esta, and I’ve ended up own­ing quite a few Fords over the years, most of them mod­i­fied in some form or an­other — one of which I sold to the Wheeler Deal­ers show!”

A rich and il­lus­tri­ous his­tory then, and the time­worn fa­ther-and-son mo­tif that we come across so of­ten. So why a four-door?

“EV­ERY­ONE’S DO­ING TWO DOORS, BUT I RE­ALLY LIKED THE IDEA OF BUILD­ING A FAST ROAD FOUR DOOR”

“Well, I’ve al­ways liked Mk2 Es­corts,” he says, in a tru­ism akin to say­ing ‘I’ve al­ways liked oxy­gen’. “It’s the old story, watch­ing them on TV as rally cars, all the he­roes drove them. But I never thought I’d ac­tu­ally be able to af­ford one.” Fate does have a ten­dency to smile upon the right­eous, how­ever, and Alex hap­pened across this par­tic­u­lar project donor for a rather rea­son­able £3000. See, dreams can come true.

“I’d just driven by it one day and it caught my eye; I men­tioned it to my brother-in-law who hap­pened to talk to the guy, and he asked him if he knew any­one in­ter­ested, so that was it! I went to look at it prop­erly, and fell in love with it af­ter driv­ing it!” Some­times you just have to trust your gut, don’t you? The car turned out not to be in bad con­di­tion; the doors were a bit ropey, but it largely just needed a tidy up, so that’s ex­actly what Alex did — ti­died it up, and put it on the road.

For about six months. Then he stripped it all down and started chang­ing things. Not al­ways easy to re­sist the urge, is it?

For the road

“When I first had it on the road with a hot Cross­flow, I re­ally fan­cied the idea of mak­ing a fast-road four-door,” he re­calls. “Ev­ery­one’s do­ing two-doors, but they cost for­tunes! So this was the way to go for me. The orig­i­nal plan was ac­tu­ally to Zetec it, but then I got a bet­ter job, so I binned all of that and de­cided to do it prop­erly…”

He’s not kid­ding. Alex shipped the stripped shell off to a mate who was charged with the task of mak­ing it per­fect (com­plete with its new doors) and paint­ing it all in Mex­ico Or­ange 76; mean­while, our man got him­self a Pinto along with most of the Bur­ton Power cat­a­logue and set about turn­ing the mo­tor into a screamer — twin 48s, all-steel bot­tom end, big-valve head, port-matched ex­haust, the works. The trans­mis­sion it howls through reads like a who’s-who of su­pe­rior driv­e­line choices too, with the Type 9 ’box be­ing stuffed with 3J Driv­e­line gears and mat­ing to a sin­gle-piece prop, at the other end of which you’ll find a

3JD diff and ac­com­pa­ny­ing half­shafts. You can see from the burnout photo that this thing’s been en­gi­neered for old-school mis­chief. And the fact that it’s bright or­ange and rolling low over wide 13s shows that it’s by no means shy about that.

“The doors came from Es­cort Tec, and a lot of parts came from across the broader Ford com­mu­nity, who are al­ways help­ful,” says Alex. “My dad’s got a lot of time in the build too, he’s the guru be­hind the scenes! And my good friend Rob, he helped me no end, spend­ing count­less hours help­ing me build up the street screamer I al­ways wanted.”

Per­haps what’s most en­ter­tain­ing about Alex’s trans­for­ma­tion of this car, not least to those nip­pers sit­ting in the back in 1978, is that he’s to­tally thumbed his nose at the log­i­cal con­struct of hav­ing a four-door. Sure, the back doors still open, but what do you find in­side? Monkey bars, that’s what. A Safety De­vices ’cage, a cou­ple of har­nesses bolted to the floor, a fire ex­tin­guisher, and a whole lot of or­ange.

“I BUILT IT FOR HAV­ING FUN AND THAT’S EX­ACTLY WHAT I DO. I’M JUST EN­JOY­ING IT NOW AF­TER ALL THE HARD WORK.”

That’s not to say that this Es­cort isn’t still ca­pa­ble of ca­su­ally pootling to the shops, of course. It’s very much road-le­gal, and now fea­tures some ul­tra-squishy BMW leather front seats with fancy elec­tric ad­just­ment, to im­bue a fris­son of 21st-cen­tury lux­ury. But all that be­ing said, pootling is not what this four­door’s for. Shouty revs and atom­ised rub­ber, that’s more the ticket. “I built it for hav­ing fun,” Alex shrugs, “and that’s ex­actly what I do. I’m just en­joy­ing it now, af­ter all the hard work. Sure, there are al­ways go­ing to be haters, but I don’t re­ally care about that — my an­swer is that it’s my car, and I like it!”

And that’s as sim­ple as it needs to be, re­ally. The spec­tre of the car’s past is a whirlpool of pos­si­ble re­al­i­ties, but the present and fu­ture are very clearly de­fined: it’s time for the car to write some new sto­ries. Prefer­ably very loud ones.

Boot area is as clean and neat as the rest of the car.

All-steel 2.1 Pinto is built for abuse and Alex has specced the rest of the run­ning gear to cope.

Leather re­clin­ers were lib­er­ated from a ’90s BMW.

At least Alex doesn’t have to give any­one lifts now...

Oil pres­sure gauge keeps tabs on the pre­cious Pinto.

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