HERITAGE: Escort 8cwt van
Original classic Fords: A phone call out of the blue saw Kevin and Chris from Montescort buying then restoring this 1974 Escort Van and adding a handful of sensitive upgrades as they went…
Restored commercial from Montescort.
Classic car barn finds are becoming so commonplace, we’re starting to wonder if there is anything out there still left to be discovered.
Happily, it turns out there is; this 1974 Escort van for instance. It started with a phone call to Kevin Vaites of Montescort in late 2016. “It was from a garage,” explains Kevin, “saying one of their customers –— an old lady — had a Mk1 Escort and did we want to buy it? I was hoping it was an RS2000 but it turned out to be this van, which was a little bit disappointing at first — at least until we looked at the photos they sent over.”
The story goes the van had been left in a barn by its second owner; a man who had subsequently died. “His widow just wanted rid of it and phoned her local garage to take it away, the garage — being far more used to working with modern cars — then called us and offered us the van. We had a look, blew the dust off and it looked honest, so we put in a bid and won it.” The 8cwt van was transported to Montescort where Kevin and business partner, Chris Skill began to strip it down. “It had 53,000 miles showing and the original 1100 engine was seized,” remembers Kevin, “but I don’t know if that was the reason it came off the road or the result of it being parked up for a number of years. Beyond that it seemed mechanically very good and the bodywork was in decent condition, too. We stripped it to a bare shell, put it on the rotisserie and media blasted it, which revealed it needed new outer sills and one inner sill had to be fixed. It also had repairs to both front wings, the front valance and the area under the rear doors. Otherwise, it’s still got completely original sheetmetal.”
“I don’t know anything of the van’s previous history, but it clearly didn’t have a hard working life. Most were beaten to death by builders, but this one only had scratches in the back, the load area wasn’t even dented. The interior in the
front was very good too. The bodywork corrosion was obviously all done on the road, rather than as a result of the storage.” Shine like a Diamond Before long the shell was ready for several coats of Diamond White and the guys discussed the next step. “The engine had all the pistons seized in the bores and we weren’t excited at the prospect of rebuilding and putting the original 1100 back in,” continues Kevin. “I’ve driven a few 1100 Escorts and they’re not fast, so this van — especially with a load in the back — would be even slower. We thought about a 1300 transplant but in the end dropped in this rebuilt 1600 since we always have plenty of those lying around. But we didn’t want it to look obviously modified, so we did our best to make it appear like the original 1100. It’s got the standard air filter and a stock Weber, too. The only other real changes were inside the diff; swapping the original 3.8 gears for the 3.54 from an RS2000 in the standard casing. We also put on 1600 Sport front struts and new inserts, but the rears are standard van ones – in fact they were the ones it came with.”
Kevin recalls that other than service items the rebuild generally consisted of, “taking parts off, painting them and putting them back on. We found new front bumpers and restored the original rears. We put in new seals all round but all the original glass went back in, including the
toughened front windscreen.” One other deviation from standard is the wheels. “We added Mexico wheels with hubcaps since we wanted slightly wider tyres while keeping it looking subtle. To me the look is now perfect.”
“We also put in a passenger sunvisor since it looked lopsided with just the original one and fitted inertia reel seatbelts in place of the static lapbelts. It got new doorcards from Aldridge Trimming (01902 710805, www.aldridge.co.uk) and a new carpet, but the seats and dashboard only needed a good scrub.”
“The DVLA made life a bit difficult when we came to register it,” remembers Kevin. “Having sent off the form and declared it restored with mostly original parts, they then contacted the widow to find out what condition the van was in when we bought it. It was annoying because this took several months just when we had decent
“MOST VANS WERE BEATEN TO DEATH, BUT THIS ONE SOMEHOW SURVIVED”
weather and we couldn’t use the van until it was registered. Other than that, the hardest part was finding nice door handles.”
“It was an infill job for us, done during quieter periods over about five or six months. It made a change because although we tend to restore mainly Escort saloons and have only had the occasional van, they tended to be runners that we’ve bought then sold on. You rarely see the more ordinary Escorts in the condition we found this; if you do they’re generally the four-doors.
“We’ve had some offers to buy it,” admits Kevin, “but it’s extremely rare, so for the moment it’s going nowhere and will sit in our showroom. We’re considering adding our logo to make it our company van. It’s a great daily, and it’s turned out really nice, it’s quiet and a pleasure to drive — although it won’t break any speed records. Whenever we take it anywhere, we seem to meet everyone who ever owned or drove one!”
“THE VAN’S QUIET AND A PLEASURE TO DRIVE, THOUGH IT WON’T BREAK ANY SPEED RECORDS”
With the load area luckily suffering only scratches when Montescort found it, they’ve been able to create a stunning finish in here — way too good for carrying anything!
New door cards were sourced from Aldridge.
The original 1100 was seized so was swapped for a 1600 dressed to look like its smaller-capacity brother.
Seats and dash were filthy after being in storage for so long, but they came up great after a good clean.
The rear quarter bumpers were still on the van, so were carefully media-blasted and re-finished by Kevin and Chris.
The van’s bodywork was in good shape, with the wings thankfully needing just small repairs.
Kevin and Chris normally sell their finished projects on, but this one is staying put, despite offers to buy it.
While the temptation to fit a six-clock dash would have been great, Kevin and Chris wisely left well alone.