5 MIN­UTES WITH:

A pro­lific car owner and builder, Ben likes his clas­sic Fords very low, very fast and prefer­ably not on fire...

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS -

Ben Szanto

How did you get into cars?

My Grandad was a big in­flu­ence, but I’m afraid it was mainly through banger rac­ing. I bought a Capri when I was 16, built it and raced it on paper-round money at Bramp­ton Race­way. I did this for a while but af­ter spend­ing two solid weeks build­ing a fresh car, only to be pushed into the wall be­fore I’d even com­pleted a lap, I thought, enough’s enough and it’s been road cars only since.

What was your first road-go­ing Ford, then?

A 2-litre Laser Capri. Not long af­ter I bought it I got of­fered a com­plete but rot­ten 3.0S so I swapped all the run­ning gear over. I was only 20 at the time and the in­surance was hor­ren­dous.

What hap­pened to it?

I sold it to a good friend and I’m pleased to say he’s still got it.

How did you go from build­ing your own Fords to do­ing other peo­ple’s?

Once my Mk1 Es­cort Es­tate (fea­tured in the Au­gust 2011 is­sue) was out there, it got me no­ticed. There were a lot of touches on that car that no-one else was re­ally do­ing back then like the su­per-tidy en­gine bay, and so I started get­ting asked to do work on owner’s cars, which I did af­ter work for a while. I’d trained as a welder/fab­ri­ca­tor but at the time was work­ing for a guy help­ing him build rally cars, and he told me I should strike out on my own, and even helped me find a unit. I’ll never get rich do­ing this, but then I’ve al­ways been more into the cars than the money.

What are you work­ing on at the mo­ment?

I’m restor­ing a Mk1 two-door Es­cort for some­one. It was a re­ally tired shell and I’ve done the in­ner wings, bulk­head, and it’s had a full floor. It looks good now, but I’ve still got to hang the front end pan­els and re­pair the rear tubs and arches. Af­ter that, I’m do­ing a rack con­ver­sion on Jake McCon­nell’s cus­tom Mk2 Cortina — the one that won the Show & Shine at Ford Fest.

What about your own cars?

I’ve got a ’68 Es­cort, the pre-Aero flow Mk1 Cortina two-door, my 1600 Sport with the NA YB plus Doris, my 1.1 base-model Mk2 Es­cort in Mid­night Blue. It’s only done 40,000 miles and the shell is lovely, so any­thing I’ll do will be bolt-on only, and I’m keep­ing all the orig­i­nal parts — I must be get­ting old! Plus there’s my Mk2 Fi­esta daily, low on banded steels. I’ve just done a 48-hour en­gine con­ver­sion, and it’s now run­ning a Honda D-se­ries on twin carbs.

And your ul­ti­mate clas­sic Ford?

That has to be a three-door Cosworth with a 2JZ con­ver­sion. But then again, you can’t beat a sim­ple, two-door Mk1 Es­cort with a 1700 Cross­flow. Can I have that, too?

What’s you most em­bar­rass­ing car-re­lated mo­ment?

I’ve lined up at the Pod with the car in re­verse, but ev­ery­one’s done that, haven’t they? I was weld­ing up the sills on one of my Capris when I was younger, and some of the in­te­rior caught fire. The whole thing went up in smoke, so that was pretty em­bar­rass­ing. I now have a rule that if any­one brings a car to me for weld­ing, they have to take the in­te­rior out first.

What event do you al­ways look for­ward to?

The Clas­sic Ford Show be­cause it al­ways falls in my birth­day and the week­end turns into one big laugh. I’ve met loads of great peo­ple through that show.

“IT’S ONLY DONE 40,000, SO ANY­THING I DO WILL BE BOLT ON ONLY I MUST BE GET­TING OLD”

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