John MacNiven’s put his heart and soul into the lat­est build of his XR2, with enough trick touches to keep you guess­ing for hours.

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Jon Hill Pho­tos Adrian Bran­nan

Clas­sic Mk1 with 16-valve power.


Some­times it’s hard to look at a car as a mere ma­chine — as some­thing that gets you from A to B. But then, be­cause we’re read­ing a mag­a­zine about pre­serv­ing and mod­i­fy­ing old Fords, I guess it’s safe to say, none of us are nor­mal.

The longer you’ve had a car, the more dif­fi­cult it is to part with, es­pe­cially if you’ve been mod­i­fy­ing it from the day you bought it — it be­comes part of your soul. Even if it were a stocker, when some­one says, why don’t you just sell it, it’s im­pos­si­ble to ex­plain why you sim­ply can’t – it’s yours, has your stamp and even if it were a rusty wreck in the cor­ner, it’s like los­ing a limb to let go of.

John MacNiven’s XRZ-badged Fi­esta is a car he’s had for for­ever. Back when he first bought it, it was a white stock XR2 and it’s true to say it’s evolved. John’s gone through plenty of paths — from the usual hot Cross­flow to the cur­rent Zetec power that sim­ply looks like it should be there, hence the XRZ graph­ics - a clever play on XRV, the now rare Mk1 Fi­esta van but sport­ing XR un­der­pin­nings — but the shift up the al­pha­bet to hint at the more modern pow­er­plant.

Evo­lu­tion the­ory

The good thing about the evo­lu­tion process is that it paved the way for things to come. The Fi­esta’s a great car and the XR2’s a fan­tas­tic base be­cause it al­ready has a lot of the stuff ev­ery­one strives for. The brakes for a start are ex­cel­lent so they don’t re­ally need that much to bring them up to scratch. It’s true to say, the Mk1 Fi­esta mod­i­fy­ing process is get­ting to­wards

for­mu­laic – which is a good thing be­cause it sim­ply gets more of our type of car on the road. Great it maybe – and light too, so any sort of hot power’s go­ing to make it go like the prover­bial rocket – but it does need a touch of mod­i­fy­ing to get there – stuff you kind of need a welder for – or know a man that has…

Un­like the later Mk2, early Fi­es­tas only came with a four-speed man­ual so to get the later box in, means mod­i­fy­ing the near­side chas­sis leg with a rather large notch. That al­lows for the longer five-speed BC or as in this case, the even later IB5. It was part of John’s hot Cross­flow con­ver­sion that he did this in the early stages of his own­er­ship.

Cross­flows are great en­gines but in the Fi­esta they’re start­ing to be seen as the nat­u­ral choice if you’re sim­ply restor­ing an XR2. But if you want cost-ef­fec­tive power then a Zetec makes far more sense. John re­ally tried with the Cross­flow and he had more than one. “I fit­ted a hot cam and it was quite quick but in the end it was the reli­a­bil­ity that swayed me – it just kept break­ing down. I wanted to be able to drive it know­ing I wouldn’t

be com­ing home via the RAC, plus the added bonus of a bit more eas­ily at­tain­able horse­power.”

You have to agree that modern fuel-in­jec­tion’s hard to beat. Set up cor­rectly, it starts ev­ery time and with an easy 130 bhp on tap – and way be­yond that if you’re re­ally se­ri­ous - what’s not to like? Al­though, it didn’t ac­tu­ally start there be­cause first off, John swapped in a Fi­esta Si 1600 Zetec. “It was OK but a bit slow, to be hon­est,” which is why the cur­rent 1800’s sit­ting in the bay and it looks like it should be there.

Twin cram

John started with a Black Top Mon­deo lump from a donor car via Paddy and Jo Mil­lar who pre­vi­ously ran the Fi­esta Farm. Now it’s been kind of re­versed with a Sil­ver Top cam cover and Mk5 Es­cort-based in­jec­tion sys­tem – note the in­take pipe feed­ing the throt­tle body has orig­i­nal 1800 Zetec stick­ers. We guess it’s re­ally ap­ing to­wards a Mk1 Fi­esta RS1800.

It isn’t stan­dard though. “There’s a Su­per­chips pig­gy­back up­grade to the ECU,” which makes per­fect sense as the orig­i­nal sys­tem’s good to around 155 bhp. That may not seem like rocket power now but it’s enough to make the light Fi­esta shift and re­li­ably too – which of course, is what John wants – plus it’s al­most like a resto – it just looks like it should be there.

All this kind of glosses over the ac­tual shell be­cause it sounds like he’s done noth­ing to it, which is far from the truth. Fi­es­tas do like a bit of rot and this one was no ex­cep­tion. “It was re­ally bad – the whole front cross­mem­ber had sep­a­rated and I’ve since re­placed the doors, sills, tail­gate plus a new pair of wings, too.” It stayed white for quite a while, ac­cen­tu­ated with a set of Pep­per­pots al­though it’s now suc­cumbed to that trick XRZ theme us­ing cus­tom replica graph­ics with that unique twist made up by DMB Graph­ics. Then there’s the added bonus of Kawasaki green paint – re­ally in your face but it just works.

That’s prob­a­bly be­cause there’s a lot more sub­tly to back up the XR-yet-loud theme. The in­te­rior too looks like it’s al­most stock but it’s been care­fully thought out — those Fi­esta RS Turbo Re­caros have not just been sim­ply


re­cov­ered. Bailies of Lin­wood have taken the cen­tres out of the orig­i­nal back seats and used them as the cen­tres for the fronts. Then the sides have been re­uphol­stered us­ing grey leather.

The dash has had a whole load of work too — it needed re­plac­ing but the one John got was cracked. He used that op­por­tu­nity to build in a load of modern twists; like the iPod dock, push-but­ton start and loads more in­stru­ments be­fore hav­ing the lot flocked. It is the well thought-out trick touches that se­ri­ously make a car.


If you’ve got an XR2, you can’t re­ally move too far away from the orig­i­nal theme, yes those graph­ics make it, but with the added bonus of re­fur­bished Su­pers­port four spokes, it wraps the whole lot up. Sub­tle 40 mm low­ered stance and a tone of de­tails make this keeper some­thing you’d never want to get rid of – that’s be­cause it’s got way too much soul that not ev­ery­one will un­der­stand.


Black Top 1800 Zetec re­places the Cross­flow, but fit­ted with the ear­lier Sil­ver Top cam cover and cross­over pipe to make it look more like an RS1800.

John’s re­ally made his mark on the in­te­rior with the flocked dash and cus­tom di­als join­ing those cus­tom-trimmed seats.

John’s raided the parts bins to make the Zetec look like a fac­tory in­stall.

The XR2’s gone through many changes in the years John’s owned it..

RS Turbo Re­caros have been clev­erly re­trimmed.

Cus­tom XRZ graph­ics were ex­pertly made by Dave at DMB and work a treat against the Kawasaki shade of green.

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