MK2 ES­CORT SLEEPER

Stealth-style Mk2 from New Zealand.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Daniel Be­vis Pho­tos Sean Dou­ble

One of mankind’s most en­dur­ing and re­lat­able be­hav­iours is our abil­ity to play the hands we’re dealt, to work with what we’ve got. While we’re a species of dream­ers and al­ways have ideas of what we’d like to do if our EuroMil­lions num­bers sud­denly come up, we’re also keenly grounded in re­al­ity and make the best of what he have avail­able to us. “Two-door Es­corts very hard to find and they’re al­ways ex­pen­sive,” says Brian McIn­tosh, owner of this sparkling blue four-door, and that’s a case in point. If ex­am­ples with an ex­tra set of en­try points are more abun­dant, then that’s what you use. And it cer­tainly hasn’t held him back from build­ing a fairly stun­ning ex­am­ple of the breed. It’s not as if he has to make any sort of apol­ogy for it, it vo­cif­er­ously speaks for it­self.

“I bought this car a few years ago as a stan­dard 1300 au­to­matic,” he re­calls. “It was cop­per bronze with a tatty vinyl roof, a few dents here and there, and a cou­ple of thumb­nail-sized rust holes.” We’ll just give you a mo­ment to com­pare and con­trast the lev­els of rust you’d find on equiv­a­lent, un­re­stored UK cars. Brian, you see, lives in New Zealand, and they haven’t re­ally ac­knowl­edged rust over there. It’s some­thing that hap­pens to other peo­ple in colder, saltier coun­tries.

“The car had spent its first 32 years with one fam­ily in Cen­tral Otago, on the South Is­land, which has a dry cli­mate — great for the preser­va­tion of old cars,” he ex­plains. “I wasn’t par­tic­u­larly look­ing for a project, but my mate Sean Dou­ble spot­ted it for sale and knew I would be in­ter­ested. He was right!”

Colour change

With a solid but ba­sic four-door ac­quired, a plan rapidly be­gan to form it­self on the fig­u­ra­tive draw­ing board of Brian’s garage. The over­ar­ch­ing am­bi­tion was to keep ev­ery­thing as pe­riod-ap­pro­pri­ate as pos­si­ble; given the gar­ish for­mula that mod­i­fied Fords of­ten fol­low, he was keen to do things the old-fash­ioned way.

“Imag­ine be­ing 19 years old in 1980, be­ing given a bucket of money and told to mod­ify your mum’s Mk2 Es­cort,” laughs Brian. “That’s pretty much what I had in mind.”

Step one was to amp up the aes­thet­ics; while Brian cer­tainly didn’t mind the cop­per bronze, the gen­eral tat­ti­ness of the roof, bumpers and trim pieces (along with the fact that his wife re­ferred to the paint as ‘fence stain brown’) eas­ily talked him into a re­vamp, and the choice was made to go with the smooth and slick Nordic Blue along with his in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a dechromed Pop­u­lar Plus look.

“It had to be a pe­riod colour,” he as­sures us. “You should see the shades peo­ple paint old Fords over here — and don’t even get me started on the wheels you see on Es­corts.” Thank­fully, a keen eye has en­abled a canny side­step here, with an ap­pro­pri­ate set of Minilite-alike Rev­o­lu­tions sat un­der the arches along with the req­ui­site 175/50 rub­ber.

“I did most of the body­work, with the fi­nal prepa­ra­tion and paint be­ing com­pleted by An­drews & Gil­more here in Christchurch,” says Brian. “I’ve been us­ing them for years for panel and paint­work; they pre­vi­ously did a great job on my bub­ble-arched Mk1 race car.” And with the aes­thet­ics tick­ing all the right boxes, our man turned his mind to mo­tive power:

Pushrod power

“The run­ning gear had to be Ford,” he says, with some fi­nal­ity. “There are, of course, Ja­panese al­ter­na­tives to make your Es­cort go fast — and do it much cheaper — but it wasn’t the look I was af­ter. With that in mind it could only re­ally be a Pinto or a Cross­flow… I’ve got a Pinto in my Mk1 race car, so I de­cided on a Cross­flow for the road car.” And it’s no or­di­nary Cross­flow; work­ing with a 1600 base, he’s slid in a set of +60 1300 pis­tons to in­crease dis­place­ment to 1658cc; twin 40s take care of the fu­el­ing, and a ver­i­ta­ble taster menu of clas­sic tun­ing parts help it to walk the walk: a Kent cam, bal­anced bot­tom end, Ash­ley sys­tem, big-port al­loy head, the works. And the clever­est part is that it’s all strictly gov­erned by the wag­ging fin­ger of 123 Ig­ni­tion man­age­ment (www.123ig­ni­tion.nl) — a Blue­tooth-con­trolled slice of wil­i­ness that lets Brian tweak set­tings from his phone. While the build may be 99

“THIS IS JUST THE SORT OF CAR A YOUNG GUN­SLINGER IN 1980 WOULD HAVE TURNED HIS MUM’S RUNABOUT INTO”

per cent old-school, this is a con­ces­sion to moder­nity that makes a lot of sense.

“I reckon it all adds up to about 135 bhp,” he grins, rightly proud of what he’s ac­com­plished. “It’s quite en­ter­tain­ing, and makes all the right noises.” Yeah, we bet it does. “I’m very pleased with the en­gine, but not sur­prised as I have a very good en­gine builder in Shane Back­house,” Brian con­tin­ues. “Shane also built the race Pinto mo­tor for my Mk1. The gear­box here is a Sierra Type-9 — well, why not when the car has an auto tun­nel? The Es­cort came with a 4.1:1 diff, and I’ve kept that; it’s cer­tainly no open road cruiser, but it does ac­cel­er­ate very well.”

Long­time com­ing

If this all sound­ing a bit like a retro jig­saw puz­zle, don’t go think­ing it’s been an easy ride. This is the cul­mi­na­tion of a life­time of Ford fet­tling for Brian. “I’ve been play­ing round with cars since I was a teenager,” he says, “and have owned a wide va­ri­ety of cars in­clud­ing a few clas­sic Fords, the high­light of which was a Mk1 RS2000 which I owned briefly when I was 20. It cost me al­most as much to in­sure it as it did to buy it! Good job it was in­sured though, as some mon­grel stole it six weeks af­ter I bought it, never to be seen again.”

These things are sent to try us, of course, and it’s all step­ping stones along the path to rein­ven­tion. What’s re­sulted here, af­ter more than a lit­tle ex­per­i­men­ta­tion, is a more-door with a gen­uinely cov­etable spec: un­der­pinned by GAZ ad­justa­bles and the time­less combo of shorter springs up front and low­er­ing blocks on the leaves, you’ll also find M16 cal­lipers in the mix and, for the delec­ta­tion of the driver’s palms, a deep-dish Springalex. His brief was ab­so­lutely bang-on — this is just the sort of car a young gun­slinger in 1980 would have turned his mother’s runabout into if some wealthy bene­fac­tor had given him the keys to the auto fac­tors and a copy of Street Ma­chine. It’s low, it’s proper, it’s pe­riod-per­fect, and most of all it makes Brian’s point far more suc­cinctly than a two-door ever could. For that au­then­tic ‘mod­i­fy­ing mum’s mo­tor’ vibe, you’ve got to have all the doors.

Re­caro re­clin­ers look right at home in the re­vamped in­te­rior.

Springalex wheel and pod-mounted tacho a neat touch.

Twin 40 DCOEs now fuel the feisty pushrod. What else?

Clas­sic eight-spoke wheel is ac­tu­ally from Rev­o­lu­tion. Gold is a great choice, too.

Sin­gle-leafs, poly­bushes and low­er­ing blocks sort rear.

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