MkI Es­cort Twin Cam

This fast Ford started out as a 1300XL auto but only the colour is the same.


Con­ceived and de­vel­oped by Ford’s tal­ented mo­tor­sports team at Bore­ham and lighter, faster and more nim­ble than the leg­endary Lo­tus Cortina, the ef­fer­ves­cent Es­cort Twin Cam (of­ten af­fec­tion­ately re­ferred to as the ‘Twink’) burst onto the scene in Fe­bru­ary 1968.

With its in­tox­i­cat­ing blend of me­chan­i­cals... in­clud­ing the lusty Lo­tus Cortina Twin Cam en­gine, which was slot­ted into a suit­ably-strength­ened Es­cort GT bodyshell (sub­se­quently known as a Type 49), the Twin Cam proved to be even greater than the sum of its well-cho­sen parts.

It was raw ral­ly­ing ta­lent and paved the way for over two decades of rear-wheel-drive Es­cort dom­i­na­tion. Not only was Ford’s mo­tor­sport fu­ture bright, but Ford’s mo­tor­sport fu­ture would be Es­cort-shaped... for quite some time!

The sem­i­nal Twin Cam re­mained in pro­duc­tion un­til June 1971, ul­ti­mately hand­ing the man­tle of ral­ly­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to the even more po­tent BDA-en­gined Es­cort RS1600. Aside from sev­eral pro­to­types and a proof of con­cept car, the records held by the AVO Own­ers Club show that just 1263 Twin Cams were built.

Un­der­stand­ably, given that most were used in mo­tor­sport, the rate of at­tri­tion was rather high. Just 330 have sur­vived world­wide, with 66 be­ing reg­is­tered within the UK. Should you wish to buy a Twin Cam, the model’s rar­ity and her­itage will re­quire you to dig deep. You are un­likely to find a good one for less than £40,000, with con­cours ex­am­ples of­ten fetching in ex­cess of £60,000. Con­sid­er­ably more if there’s a ‘Works’ prove­nance.

And, it’s such eye-wa­ter­ing prices which have placed this car be­yond the fis­cal reach of many en­thu­si­asts. En­thu­si­asts such as Antony Pate­man. Un­able to fund a gen­uine Twin Cam, but with the abil­ity to re­store cars to a fab­u­lous level, Antony de­cided to pay homage to Ford’s ral­ly­ing and racing glo­ries by build­ing him­self a Twin Cam recre­ation.

Antony, who works for a car restora­tion com­pany (one that spe­cialises in pres­tige cars), and has done since he left school over 20 years ago, is a dyed-inthe-wool clas­sic car en­thu­si­ast, who lives, eats, breathes and sleeps clas­sics.

Which ex­plains why, de­spite spend­ing his work­ing hours ex­pertly and painstak­ingly restor­ing clients’ cars, he still has the en­thu­si­asm to tackle his own projects dur­ing week­ends. Projects such as his 1952 Series 1 Land Rover, one of the first of the 2-litre mod­els. Hav­ing seen his hand­i­work in the flesh, and the progress that’s be­ing made, I have no doubt that this for­mer farm­yard four wheel-driver will soon be a con­cours win­ner. Watch this space! Then there’s our fea­ture Es­cort: NPJ 248L, Antony’s very per­sonal take on the Es­cort Twin Cam.

“I’ve al­ways loved the early high-per­for­mance Es­corts,” en­thuses Antony. “Ever since I was a school­boy. There were lots of new cars around, but it was the older cars, cars such as the Es­cort, which truly ap­pealed. They were much more in­ter­est­ing and had char­ac­ter. Then there was com­pe­ti­tion her­itage. For many years, Es­corts won just about ev­ery­thing in ral­ly­ing and racing. I ac­tu­ally bought a Mk2 Es­cort when I was 15. I re­built this in my spare time and put it on the road when I was 17... as soon as I’d passed my test. It was bright green with wide arches! As the years passed, I moved on to other cars, but what I re­ally wanted was high-per­for­mance Mk1. Ideally, a Twin Cam.”

Of course, as al­luded to, gen­uine Twin Cams are for the deep-pock­eted and Antony’s pock­ets weren’t quite deep enough. So, he got cre­ative. And lucky. “About ten years ago, I started think­ing about do­ing my own take on a pe­riod, high­per­for­mance, Es­cort Mk1,” he ex­plains. “For­tu­nately, around this time, my brother bought a 1973 two-door, Er­mine White, Es­cort 1300XL Au­to­matic rolling shell. He was kind enough to sell it to me. He’d ac­tu­ally bought it from a for­mer me­chanic who used to work for the Roth­mans rally team when they were run­ning Es­corts!”

Hav­ing plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with older cars, in­clud­ing ‘60s Fords, Antony fully ex­pected the shell to be rusty. As it tran­spired, it wasn’t rusty. Far from it in fact. “The first thing I did was to strip the shell right down,” he men­tions. “I reck­oned that there’d be lots of rust. As it turned out, there was hardly any. There were a few small sec­tions that needed re­pair­ing, and the rear arches re­quired some at­ten­tion, and I re­placed ev­ery nut and bolt, but it has to be one of the best Mk1 shells I’ve ever seen. And, be­ing an au­to­matic with the wider trans­mis­sion tun­nel, and be­ing a two-door of course, it’s ex­tremely de­sir­able.”

Ex­tremely de­sir­able in­deed. Good ex­am­ples have com­manded a pre­mium for many, many years. As a ba­sis for a high-per­for­mance ver­sion, the two-door au­to­matic is the Mk1 Es­cort Holy Grail – and per­fect for a Twin Cam recre­ation. Even so, at this early stage, Antony had a rather dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tion in mind... and at hand.

“I’d re­built the bodyshell, in­cor­po­rat­ing strength­ened front top mounts and brack­ets for anti-tramp bars and a Pan­hard rod, and re­sprayed it in­side and

out,” he says. “For fi­nan­cial rea­sons, I’d also re­built a Cross­flow en­gine. It was 1660cc, with all the right bits. But, I kept think­ing about the Es­cort Twin Cam and, very early on in the pro­ject, the idea of fit­ting a clas­sic en­gine, such as the Lo­tus Twin Cam, started to take over. So I sold the Cross­flow, saved hard, and started look­ing for a Twin Cam en­gine.”

And he found one. On eBay. It cost Antony the princely sum of £2600, a frac­tion of the price it would com­mand to­day. Ac­cord­ing to the seller it had been re­built, and was in good work­ing or­der. Nev­er­the­less, Antony de­cided that a thor­ough in­spec­tion would be in or­der. In­deed it was!

“It turned out to be not quite as good as it was sup­posed to be,” smiles Antony. “Al­though the bot­tom end was fine, and had been bal­anced and light­ened etc and bored to 1598cc, the head had a few is­sues. It wasn’t set up prop­erly, the cam tim­ing was wrong, and one in­let valve was bent. I had a lo­cal en­gi­neer­ing com­pany reface the head and fit new, larger, valve seats. I then re­assem­bled the head with over­size stain­less steel valves and shimmed and timed the camshafts prop­erly.”

Antony also re­newed the wa­ter pump, re­built the We­ber DCOE car­bu­ret­tors, over­hauled the oil pump, re­placed the tim­ing chain, fit­ted an elec­tric fan, an up­rated radiator and, with the helped of his very tal­ented brother, he fab­ri­cated a free-flow ex­haust man­i­fold. The en­gine

was now in fine fet­tle in­deed. It ran very well too, but only after be­ing ex­pertly set up by Mike Tarr, at Ratt Racing.

“Mike is a ge­nius with Twin Cams,” tells An­thony. “He gave me lots of great ad­vice and he set my en­gine up per­fectly.”

Antony’s Twin Cam en­gine: po­tent and ex­pertly tuned, is mated to a 2000E four-speed gear­box, which he re­built. He also over­hauled the axle and in­stalled a lim­ited-slip dif­fer­en­tial along the way. “The lim­ited-slip helps put the power down nicely,” he grins. “I was go­ing to stick with the four-speed gear­box, which is why I went for the tallest axle ra­tio to help cruis­ing, but I’m think­ing about fit­ting a Type 9 five-speed gear­box next year... after I’ve fin­ished the Land Rover restora­tion. The au­to­matic bodyshell has the larger tun­nel which makes fit­ting the Type 9 much eas­ier. And, nowa­days, you can get a wider se­lec­tion of ra­tios. This wasn’t the case when I first built the car.”

The rear wheel-drive Es­cort, par­tic­u­larly those of a sport­ing na­ture like the Twin Cam, are renowned for their han­dling aplomb and steer­ing fi­nesse. Keen to en­sure that his would be ev­ery bit as good as the pukka item, bet­ter even, Antony didn’t skimp on the sus­pen­sion set-up.

“The beauty about the Es­cort is that there is not only so much avail­able for it, lots of parts from other, higher per­for­mance Fords are in­ter­change­able,” he im­presses. “At the rear, I fit­ted Capri 2.8i sin­gle-leaf springs, Avo ad­justable dampers and 11’2

inch low­er­ing blocks. The anti-tramp bars and Pan­hard rod keep the axle in check. On the front, I opted for Capri 2.8i struts, roller top bear­ings, a high-ra­tio rack and com­pe­ti­tion lower arms. The wheels are MWS 7x13in Su­per­lites, and I have kept the tyre pro­file rea­son­ably tall. I love the way it drives. It’s such a well-bal­anced car, like a go-kart!”

Wisely, Antony has also up­graded the brak­ing sys­tem, us­ing a care­fully cho­sen com­bi­na­tion of high­per­for­mance Ford and com­pe­ti­tion parts. This is a light and fast car which needs well-bal­anced and pow­er­ful brakes. “The rears are stan­dard drums, but with up­rated lin­ings,” says Antony. “At the front I’ve fit­ted up­rated Capri 2.8i discs, ven­ti­lated and cross-drilled. The calipers are also Capri 2.8i. I also in­stalled a bias pedal box and two brake master cylin­ders. This al­lows me to ad­just the front/rear bal­ance. I’m pleased to re­port that the car stops very well in­deed!”

Through­out this pro­ject, Antony has not slav­ishly fol­lowed the fac­tory’s Twin Cam spec­i­fi­ca­tion. In­stead, he trod his own path. “I fit­ted round head­lights, as fit­ted to Twin Cams from Jan­uary 1969. I had the ear­lier rec­tan­gu­lar ones orig­i­nally, but they were rather cor­roded. The rear light clus­ters are dif­fer­ent too. The Twin Cam wing badges I’ve painted black in­stead of their orig­i­nal green. I’m not pre­tend­ing this car is an Es­cort Twin Cam: it’s a Twin Cam Es­cort.”

The same is true of the in­te­rior. “The front Re­caro seats are from a 1980s Es­cort RS Turbo,” he con­tin­ues. “They’re much more com­fort­able. Ad­justable too. But I’ve had them re­trimmed to give more of a retro look. The rear bench seat is the orig­i­nal, but re­cov­ered with the same ma­te­rial and in the same style. The deep-dished Springalex steer­ing wheel is a modern ver­sion of the type used on the works rally cars in pe­riod. A newer style wouldn’t look right.”

And with style in mind, Antony has de­lib­er­ately kept the in­te­rior as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. It’s still very taste­ful, but in a re­strained way. “I didn’t want bucket seats, har­nesses or a roll cage,” he elab­o­rates. “As with the ex­te­rior, I didn’t want the in­te­rior to look boy racer-ish. It’s pur­pose­ful, but not over-the-top. Over­all, I’m re­ally happy with how the car has turned out.”

I’d be happy too. Ec­static in fact. I’ve spent many a hour in fast Es­corts in my youth, and en­joyed ev­ery minute. My favourite was a 1974 RS2000 Mk1, in Vista Orange, that be­longed to a very good friend of mine. Great times!

NPJ 248L cer­tainly brought back some won­der­ful mem­o­ries, as well as evok­ing the Es­cort’s glory days. It’s quite a car. The stan­dard of work­man­ship has to be seen to be ap­pre­ci­ated. And, the sound­track is to die for. I also like the fact that it has such clean and un­clut­tered lines and a sim­ple, sub­tle, in­te­rior. It’s all too easy to over­bur­den such cars with de­sign frip­peries. Antony isn’t about frip­pery, he’s driven by pe­riod ap­peal, clean lines, ex­cep­tion­ally high stan­dards and the fun that can be had with such a fab­u­lous Ford. Hats off to you!

Twin Cam on We­ber 45s is bored to 1598cc and was set up by Ratt Racing.

In­te­rior fea­tures re­trimmed Es­cort RS Turbo Re­caros and a re­pro pe­riod Springalex wheel.

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