Name: Aaron de Vries Location: Christchurch Occupation: Sparky
NZ Performance Car: Hi, Aaron. Your Escort estate is a bloody tidy example. How did you come to own it?
Aaron: Hey, NZPerformanceCar. My brother-in-law Pete had a 1600 Sport when I was about 14, and I couldn’t get enough of that. They weren’t worth much back then; I think he bought his for $1800 or so. He sold it and, while looking for a new one, spotted a mustard yellow estate that he insisted I look at for myself. I was about 16 then, and wasn’t sold on the estate but looked anyway — my dad said no projects, but that didn’t stop me [laughs]. After looking it over and deciding that the minor issues weren’t too much to deal with, we went back to buy it and found the son of the owner revving it out in the driveway. He probably thought it wasn’t a good idea to sell it any more … I still took it home.
Nothing like the hard word from Dad! Tell us how the mishmash engine eventuated?
Oh man, that was a bit of a handful. I watched way too many rally Escorts on YouTube and loved the 2.0-litre variants — the induction sound was amazing. I did some digging and found a Cortina engine online for $40, and bought it thinking, what a bargain. Four heads later, and I finally had one that wasn’t cracked … but the wait meant [that] I was able to find the 45-millimetre Webers that I told myself it had to run. Once I got the head back on and fired it up, something didn’t sound right. Took the rocker cover off and it was full of metal — I forgot to install a $5 pin that spins the oil pump off the dizzy. Oops. The motor came out straight away, and Pete at Kennelly Cams built the new one — which has the Subaru pistons and Datsun 1600 rods — which made 187hp [139kW] at the fly.
Hard-learned lesson, that. What persuaded you to make the mission up from Christchurch to Auckland for nats?
Well, I bought a manual VN Commodore to pillage the engine and box for another conversion, then decided to take it on a roadie up to Auckland with a mate. That got us thinking what a sweet drive it would be in our other cars [the Escort estate] — so we did it. V 4&Rotary Nationals was a good excuse, and, once we hit the south Auckland motorway, it was worth the effort — it was the smoothest bit of road the entire way. I actually threw sparks over my mate’s bonnet just out of Hanmer Springs on the way up. But, all together, it was the best roadie, and the car did well, managing a 14.8 at the drags.
Damn, that’s a hearty effort. Does she get out much day to day?
I would drive it every day if I could! I have to drive a work vehicle, but it gets used whenever I get out, that’s what it was built for — not to look pretty in a garage, [but] to get used regularly.
And it looks super rad doing it, too. Cheers for the chat, Aaron.
ENGINE: Ford Cortina, 2100cc, four-cylinder, 2mm oversize Subaru pistons (10.5:1 compression), Nissan 1600 I-beam forged rods, 2mm stroker crank, ported big-valve head, Kennelly Cams 300-degree high-lift camshaft, adjustable cam gear, Weber 45mm side-draughts, Pacemaker extractors, 2.25-inch exhaust
DRIVETRAIN: Five-speed manual, shortened driveshaft, Quaife LSD
INTERIOR: Original, resprung and reupholstered black
EXTERIOR: Full restoration, resprayed white
WHEELS/TYRES: 13x8-inch Revolution, 175/50R13 Yokohama A359
SUSPENSION: (F) Ford Capri conversion, Munroe shocks, Jamex adjustable sleeves, 20-pound springs, adjustable alloy top hats; (R) 2.5-inch reset leaf springs, 1.5-inch blocks, Bilstein shocks, Watt’s link system, two-link axle-tramp kit