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…

Classic Ford - - CONTENTS - Words Mike Re­naut Pho­tos Chris Wall­bank

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.”

Orig­i­nal opin­ion

“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.

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