Mk2 Escort turned into a Sport tribute .
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!”
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.