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