WHAT TO LOOK FOR

BODy­WOrk

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - Buying Guide -

Un­re­stored cars are likely to be rusty but a sur­pris­ingly large num­ber of pan­els are avail­able. The clas­sic Ford weak spot is the front MacPher­son strut top mount. Re­pair pan­els cost £96.65 apiece; they need to be seam-welded to give the nec­es­sary strength. Also check the in­ner wings, the in­tegrity of the bon­net mount­ings plus the seams be­tween the in­ner and outer wings. In­spect the base of the wind­screen; re­move the vent to check for rust. Cor­ro­sion here will mean wa­ter­logged footwells. Next scru­ti­nise the outer front wings around the head­lamps, along their trail­ing edge and along the seam with the front valance. The valance it­self cor­rodes, as do the rear whee­larches while the boot fills up with wa­ter when the seals per­ish. The rear spring hang­ers and floor­pans also dis­solve.

eN­GiNe

Most Es­corts have a 1098cc or 1298cc Kent en­gine, with a 1598cc ver­sion in the Mex­ico. The Kent en­gine is easy to work on and rel­a­tively cheap to re­build – spe­cial­ists charge around £1000 for a re­vi­talised unit. Checks are straight­for­ward; look for worn pis­ton rings or cylin­der bores, be­trayed by blue ex­haust smoke when the en­gine is run­ning un­der load, in­di­cat­ing oil be­ing burned – check the rear view mir­ror when ac­cel­er­at­ing hard. The only other likely prob­lem is worn cam fol­low­ers, so lis­ten for tap­pet noise from the top end. Once the fol­low­ers have worn it’s im­pos­si­ble to ad­just the tap­pets prop­erly, so a topend re­build is needed.

Gear­BOx

Some Es­corts got a three-speed Borg Warner au­to­matic trans­mis­sion but most have a four-speed man­ual gear­box; both are strong. All reg­u­lar Es­corts have the same man­ual gear­box, with closer ra­tios in the GT and Sport. The auto should shift ra­tios quickly; if not it’s be­cause the bands have worn and a re­build is on the cards. The man­ual gear­box is strong too, but lis­ten for rum­bling from the first three gears, which will be from the bear­ings. These are the first parts to wear, but once they start mak­ing a noise they’ll sol­dier on for years with­out prob­lems. If the gear­box crunches as you’re chang­ing ra­tios it’s prob­a­bly a stretched clutch ca­ble; a new one is £20.

sUs­PeN­siON

Peer un­der the front whee­larches and look for signs of leak­ing sus­pen­sion struts. While re­plac­ing just the strut in­sert is pos­si­ble, it makes more sense to re­place the spring too, which has a sim­i­lar life­span. Re­place­ment Bil­stein Capri struts cost £200+ each (they’re the favoured up­grade), and springs are typ­i­cally £40 apiece. Knock­ing from the front sus­pen­sion while the car is driven sug­gests worn anti-roll bar bushes. The steer­ing will also be vague, but re­plac­ing the bushes is easy and cheap, with new units cost­ing just a fiver apiece.

eleCTriCs

Elec­tri­cal glitches are usu­ally down to cor­roded con­tacts within the loom and ox­i­dised fuse­box con­tacts. The multi-con­nec­tor that plugs into the fuse­box is the usual cul­prit; this cor­rodes and leads to poor con­nec­tions. The switchgear (in­clud­ing the col­umn stalks) can also fail when the con­tacts ox­i­dise and plas­tic in­su­la­tors within the rocker switches break up; de­cent used items are the only op­tion. The Es­cort’s in­stru­ments are usu­ally re­li­able but the front in­di­ca­tor lamps cor­rode badly.

iN­Te­riOr

In­te­rior trim is gen­er­ally durable, but can split or tear. High-qual­ity re­place­ments are avail­able from Aldridge Trim­ming. The win­dow seals per­ish, but re­place­ments are avail­able. Un­for­tu­nately the Trico wiper blades orig­i­nally spec­i­fied aren’t so easy to find – so all sorts of poor sub­sti­tutes tend to end be­ing sub­sti­tuted. If you test drive a MkI Es­cort in the rain, you’ll soon see if orig­i­nal-spec items are fit­ted…

ex­Te­riOr TriM

This is largely un­ob­tain­able, un­less you stum­ble across some­thing at an au­to­jum­ble. The ‘hockey stick’ trim around the rear win­dow is es­pe­cially scarce. The prob­lem with most of the ex­ter­nal bright­work is that it’s chrome-plated Mazak (a zinc-based al­loy), which pits over time. Once it starts to go there’s no way of restor­ing it ef­fec­tively.

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