DREAMS OF BUILDING A WORKS TARMAC-SPEC ESCORT AS A TEENAGER NEVER LEFT SCOTT COUZINS, SO, 20 YEARS ON, HE FINALLY PUT THAT PLAN INTO ACTION WITH A MODERN TWIST
The headers are factory Altezza, although they have been modified to collect fourinto-two-into-one, before a single 2.5-inch exhaust and single rear muffler
'It’s funny how a decision you make as a teenager can be carried with you into adulthood. For Christchurch local Scott Couzins, it was the dream to build a tarmac-spec Escort. At the time, he was pushing a rusty, very unreliable MkII Escort Sport, a car he describes as a piece of shit, but one that never failed to bring a smile. Fast forward 20 years, and Scott’s garage has been home to no shortage of modified machines, but the dream for an Escort that he’d conjured up while 17 had still not come to fruition. So, the hunt began for the project shell. Scott didn’t care if it was a MkI or MkII; it was more about finding the perfect base, as he explains: “I test drove a couple MkIIs down here, and then found this car in Whanganui. I flew up and drove it back down. It had a hot little 1600 in it, but I had always planned to put in a late-modern engine. The plan was to build it like a works tarmac car from back in the day, with similar amounts of power, but I wanted something I could take the family for a drive in, then take it to the track the next day and
The MkI hadn’t been in Scott’s possession for longer than a month before the strip-down began. He suspected that the floor was dodgy, and soon discovered that it had been filled with plastic bags and RTB, then skilfully painted so that it looked really good from underneath; when in reality, it was completely rotten. “We ended up having to replace the entire floorpan, and, while we were at it, we enlarged the gearbox tunnel and firewall, so virtually the entire underside is new,” Scott explains. Luckily, the car’s exterior was not destined for the same fate. The paint job on it was in great condition, so it’s remained untouched since he purchased the car.
But the mechanical side of things was a completely different story. Scott is an engineer, and he carried out a ton of research and looked into what guys in the UK were doing before putting his plans
into practice using a bit of the good ol’ Kiwi can-do attitude. The front uprights were modified to take adjustable spring platforms and Koni inserts, while the rear leaf springs were swapped for 150-pound examples. The decision was made not to bother converting the rear to coilovers, as this set-up has been used with great success overseas, and, after a few other modifications — including a pan hard, tramp bars, and traction rods — the early reports from Scott suggest that it handles just as he dreamed.
When it came to what modern engine to run, he found the necessary knowledge a little closer to home than the UK, with Christchurch’s unofficial 3S-GE Beams specialist, when Simon from Surfab got in his ear: “I had seen a few cars come out of Surfab, and went in there one day and started talking engine options. I was thinking SR20 or 4A-GE, and he just started laughing
The Beams version of the 3S-GE was the last version of this engine. It had a cylinder head designed by Yamaha, with a focus on increasing airflow and achieving a wider power band. It was Toyota’s first engine to use VVT-i (Variable Valve Timing with intelligence), and the valve train had titanium valves to help the car rev faster The 4A-GE ITBs feature custom bell mouths, and bolt to the engine via an alloy adapter plate
and asked why I was going to bother with the 4AGE when there are these late-model things that have more power and are lots cheaper.” Simon was, of course, referring to the Beams version of the 3S-GE. Scott started hunting around, and soon found one complete, as well as a six-speed from an Altezza, which was purchased for a lot less than the price he sold the 1600 for.
The 3S-GE remains factory internally, but that just means there can be future work to keep Scott interested in the project. He reckons that if it was 100 per cent finished, the shine would wear off. But, with 136kW spun up on NZEFI’s dyno and the glorious-sounding combination of VVT-i and individual throttle bodies (ITBs), it certainly provides plenty of smiles, as Scott explains. “It’s so much fun. I had a 400hp [298kW] WRX that ran in the 11s, but this Escort has half the power, and it puts twice the smile on your face. It’s just so predictable; it’s just like driving a big go-kart. Your arse is dragging on the ground, it’s loud, it’s noisy, it’s bumpy, it’s everything that a fun car should be to drive.”
With the cert plate now finally on, Scott plans to get in plenty of kilometres with his three kids in the back over summer, and just maybe a few days at the track, too. In the meantime, it will remain more a family cruiser than race-track bruiser, but, in future, Scott sees that balance swaying in the other direction. When it does, we’re sure this tarmac daddy will have no drama picking up that inside wheel and providing plenty of fun around Mike Pero Motorsport Park. His car is, after all, just a giant go-kart.
It was the flares that originally caught Scott’s attention when he was trawling the net for a base car. The exterior is the only part of the car that hasn’t been changed since he’s owned it; every other piece has been replaced or heavily modified Replacing the stock dials are a Stack 10,000rpm tacho and 260kph speedo, which fit perfectly in the factory cluster
Rocking 15x8-inch Minilites on the Escort mean these wheels will never go out of fashion
SUPPORT STRUTS: (F) Koni adjustables, 300-pound springs, keeper springs, roller-bearing top mounts; (R) KYB rear shocks, 150-pound tarmac-spec leaf springs, three-inch (76mm) lowering blocks BRAKES: Adjustable pedal box; (F) Wilwood four-pot calipers, 285mm vented rotors, Wilwood pads; (R) Nissan two-pot calipers, 250mm rotors, Greenstuff pads EXTRA: Adjustable traction arms, extended steering arms with rod ends, Panhard rod, tramp rods, Nolathane throughout DRIVELINE GEARBOX: Toyota 3S-GE six-speed CLUTCH: Factory FLYWHEEL: Factory DIFF: Toyota Hilux limited-slip (3.7) EXTRA: Custom cross member, custom driveshaft hoop DRIVER PROFILE DRIVER/OWNER: Scott Couzins AGE: 38 LOCATION: Christchurch OCCUPATION: Project coordinator at Hamilton Jet BUILD TIME: Two years LENGTH OF OWNERSHIP: 2.5 years THANKS: Thanks to my wife, Karyn, and three boys for putting up with me in the garage up to all hours; Neil, Jim, and all the boys from work for their help and advice that I didn’t always listen to when I should have; and Simon from Surfab SHOES WHEELS: 15x8-inch JBW Minilite, 30mm front spacers TYRES: 195/45R15 Falken ZE912
HEART ENGINE: Toyota 3S-GE Beams, four-cylinder, 2000cc BLOCK: Factory HEAD: Skimmed, custom rear-heater housing INTAKE: 48mm 4AGE blacktop 20-valve ITBs, ITB adapter plate, 70mm stacks, Uniflow filters EXHAUST: Modified factory headers to be four-into-twointo-one, 2.5-inch exhaust FUEL: Bosch lift pump, Bosch main pump, surge tank, Aeromotive fuel-pressure regulator, all new lines ECU: Link G4 Storm COOLING: Custom alloy radiator, custom header tank, 10-inch electric fan EXTRA: Full rewire, Hitachi idle-speed controller, NZEFI 1.2-bar manifold-absolute-pressure (MAP) sensor, balance tubes, oil catch-can
INTERIOR SEATS: (F) bucket, (R) factory STEERING WHEEL: SAAS INSTRUMENTATION: Stack 260kph speedo; Stack 10,000rpm tacho; Veethree water-temp, oil-pressure, and volt gauges EXTRA: T7 Design 3.5kW lightweight heater
EXTERIOR PAINT: White respray, RS2000 decals ENHANCEMENTS: Works MkI flares, new firewall and gearbox tunnel PERFORMANCE POWER: 136kW (183hp) at the wheels TUNER: NZEFI FUEL: 98 octane