NZ Performance Car - - Ford Escort 1969 Mki - WORDS: MAR­CUS GIB­SON PHO­TOS: ROD DUNN

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

thrash it.”

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

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