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.