HOMEBUILT HERO

Mk2 Escort turned into a Sport trib­ute .

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Daniel Be­vis Pho­tos Adrian Bran­nan

It doesn’t mat­ter if you’re nine or 90, ev­ery­one knows what an Escort is.” We reckon Davy Smyth has hit the nail squarely on the head here: clas­sic car en­thu­si­asts of­ten have a hard time ex­plain­ing to peo­ple why they’ve poured so much time and money into an old car when a newer one would be cheaper and ar­guably su­pe­rior, but rear-drive Es­corts al­ways get a free pass. That up-and-at-’em at­ti­tude, the stylis­tic mix of ev­ery­man run­about and as­pi­ra­tional sports car, it’s a ma­chine that ev­ery­one can in­stantly re­late to. Peo­ple com­plain about val­ues sky­rock­et­ing, but that’s only be­cause ev­ery­one wants them. Old Es­corts are as much a part of the fab­ric of mod­ern cul­ture as smart­phones, beards and FOMO.

“I’ve al­ways been a Ford man, even from a young age,” Davy ex­plains. “My Dad owned a few Fords in his time, and on my first day at school I re­mem­ber ar­riv­ing in a Mk3 Cortina. Since fin­ish­ing this Escort I’ve been to a few Ford shows and out on Ir­ish Escort Club runs, and at one show I met an old man who said ‘That’s my car!’ He owned it for 10 years in the past and was re­ally happy to see it, and had to get his pic­ture taken with it. I kept count of ex­penses and the hours through­out the build too — a to­tal of 377 hours and the ex­pense... well, enough said!”

“I KEPT COUNT OF EX­PENSES AND THE HOURS THROUGH­OUT THE BUILD — A TO­TAL OF 377 HOURS AND THE EX­PENSE? WELL, ENOUGH SAID!”

One-man band

What makes this Mk2 all the more im­pres­sive, as you pore over the pho­tos and drink in the fab­u­lous de­tail of the crafts­man­ship, is that Davy did pretty much ev­ery­thing him­self — and he hadn’t re­ally done any­thing like this be­fore. While he’s a welder and fabri­ca­tor by trade, he read­ily ad­mits that he’s got no real his­tory of mod­i­fy­ing his own cars. That said, he could usu­ally be found be­hind the wheel of some­thing quick, be it a BMW M3 or a Nis­san Sky­line, although it was those old-school Fords that al­ways flicked his switch. “Your eyes just light up when you see them, don’t they?” he grins. “My first car was a Mk2 Escort 1.3, which I got a 1660 Cross­flow fit­ted to. It went well, but this re­la­tion­ship ended not so well when I lost my li­cence! I stripped it down with the in­ten­tion of re­build­ing it but never did and I’ve kicked my­self ever since, so I al­ways said that I’d get one again some day.” What you’re see­ing here, then, is a dream that’s come true. But not by some fairy’s wish; no, there’s been a lot of hard graft to get to this stage. Fif­teen-odd years af­ter that last Mk2, Davy found him­self brows­ing the in­ter­net for some­thing to rekin­dle the teenage dream, scour­ing ev­ery day and night but only find­ing things that were too ex­pen­sive or too rough. But then one night, he spot­ted a de­cent 1600 Ghia auto on DoneDeal.

“I rang up straight away, but it was 10 pm and I got no an­swer,” he re­calls. “I kept try­ing for days to no avail, and as­sumed it had been sold. But even­tu­ally he rang me back to say his brother was sell­ing the car and wasn’t back un­til the fol­low­ing week, so I begged him to see it and promised I wouldn’t mess him around and he agreed. Off I went — it was only half an hour from home — and I knew as soon as I saw it that it was for me. It needed restora­tion, but was good in all the right places.” And so a deal was done and Davy drove the thing home, job done!

The car was orig­i­nally a sil­ver Ghia with a black roof and beige in­te­rior, and the idea of keep­ing it orig­i­nal did cross his mind, although the pas­sion to build his dream Escort was a lit­tle stronger, so Davy set about mak­ing a plan. “It had to have a Pinto of course, I think that’s what should be in an Escort,” he says. “And We­ber 45s for the noise!” An ad­van­tage of build­ing a replica is that it gives you the free­dom to al­ter and per­son­alise. Own­ers of gen­uine Mex­i­cos and RS2000s ag­o­nise over the bal­ance of merit be­tween mak­ing ir­re­versible mod­i­fi­ca­tions and po­ten­tial fu­ture value, and the same’s true to a lesser ex­tent of the 1600 Sport. So this is Davy’s own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the Sport,

“IT HAD TO BE POW­ERED BY A PINTO I THINK THAT’S WHAT SHOULD BE IN AN ESCORT, ALONG WITH A PAIR OF 45s FOR THE NOISE...”

op­ti­mised for his own re­quire­ments. “I stripped the car down, and sent it to get blasted and primed in two-pack epoxy white so I could see all the hid­den bad bits, which wasn’t ac­tu­ally a lot,” he says. “Some­one who owned it be­fore had sprayed some kind of black tar-like stuff on it and the shell was like new be­low that! Any­thing I thought looked iffy I cut out and re­placed with new metal; it re­ceived two wings, the front panel, rear arches, driver’s side outer and in­ner sills, pas­sen­ger side outer sill, and spare wheel and tank wells; the scut­tle panel was re­moved and re­paired as you can’t buy them!”

Trial and er­ror

With the body­work per­fected, Davy set about a trial fit of all the parts to make sure he hadn’t

“THE BEST PART OF THE BUILD WAS WHEN I GOT THE SHELL BACK FROM THE PAINT SHOP”

missed any­thing — and it was a good job he did, as he’d for­got­ten about mov­ing the gearshift hole back! And at this junc­ture, it’s worth ex­plain­ing what he’s done with the trans­mis­sion: the Type 9 gear­box was stripped and re­built to First Mo­tion Trans­mis­sion FM298 specs, with the longer first gear, and this goes through a sin­gle-piece prop to a 3.89 diff with a Tran-X LSD which Davy built him­self af­ter learn­ing how to in the Au­gust 2014 is­sue of Clas­sic Ford. Hey, we’re here to help.

With the hot 180 bhp Pinto built up — see box­out — ev­ery­thing was ready to go back to­gether, and you’ll no­tice that in the course of the build-up the beige in­te­rior made way for a set of taste­fully re­trimmed roll tops, along with a Safety De­vices cage and some 1600 Sport clocks.

“I did all the work by my­self, apart from build­ing the in­ter­nals of the en­gine and pre­par­ing and paint­ing the car,” he says, with de­served pride. “The best part for me was when I got the shell back from the paint shop — I could hardly be­lieve it was the same car! And I couldn’t be­lieve it when I tried to start the en­gine for the first time and she fired up, and when I drove it for the first time it was just over­whelm­ing, which sounds a bit sad, but if you have an old Ford you’ll know what I mean!” We cer­tainly do, and it’s grat­i­fy­ing to learn that Davy’s us­ing the Escort as much as he’s phys­i­cally able — and driv­ing it the way an Escort should be driven. “There’s no point in keep­ing it in a shed col­lect­ing dust,” he rea­sons. “And I’ve left a few peo­ple with red faces in my old 43-year-old car…” That’s the way it should be. Let’s just hope he doesn’t lose his li­cence with this one!

Davy sourced a pair of roll top seats and had them re­cov­ered in Beta cloth to give the in­te­rior a clas­sic RS feel. Lim­iter stops Davy’s right foot from get­ting too ex­cited.

As first projects go, we reckon Davy’s done pretty well!

Davy’s friend Derek put to­gether the 2.1 Pinto to a good, solid spec that’s ripe for more power if and when Davy wants it.

Black Sport graph­ics look great next to the Pure Orange.

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