Fast Ford


You could eat your dinner off Simon Trayler’s immaculate Mercury Grey S2 Escort RS Turbo, but you’d have to catch it first..

- Words: Dan Goodyer Photos: Chris Wallbank

When you spend all day refurbishi­ng alloy wheels to perfection, it’s bound to have an effect. Thirtyfive year- old Simon Trayler spends his working life looking for flaws in alloy wheels and then fixing them. He a self-confessed OCD sufferer which could ordinarily be seen as a bit of a hindrance, but not when it comes to building a flawless and fast Series 2 Escort RS Turbo.

No, that’s just the right kind of obsessive attention to detail you need to pull off a build like this. With a 2.1-litre ZVH engine under the bonnet pushing out around 330bhp, it also helps to be a bit of animal behind the wheel. This is a car that needs taming. Simon is definitely the right kind of ‘Jekyl and Hyde’ for the job; prepare it well, then go out and drive the wheels off it.

“What I really like about the Escort is that it looks fairly original, quite retro these days, but it has enough performanc­e to scare some properly quick modern stuff. I’m used to fast cars, my daily driver is a 580bhp Mercedes E63 AMG, but the power delivery is completely different. The Escort really shoves you into the seat and I love that.”

Simon adds: “For me, when you pop the bonnet it should look like the original CVH engine. Everyone is throwing Zetecs into them but I didn’t want to be a sheep and follow the crowd.” It’s an interestin­g point. Petrolhead­s that are familiar with fast Fords might recognize the CVH cam cover, but might miss the bottom- end is actually from a Zetec, making this a ZVH. Engine capacity has increased from the original 1.6-litres to somewhere around 2.1-litres, and the single- overhead cam 8-valve alloy CVH cylinder head gives the ZVH a more punchy, torquey character than a full Zetec turbo.

While we’re paying attention to the engine bay, it’s easy to miss the other clues that this is not a standard engine with some dressup bits to make it look pretty. For example, the subtle tweaks by Norris Motorsport to the inlet manifold, or that the intercoole­r pipe running over the cam cover feeds from the offside (for a frontmount­ed intercoole­r), rather than the nearside ( for the original side-feed intercoole­r). These little details reveal this engine is hiding big power.

Simon bought the car as a 30th birthday present to

himself. He had one when he was just 18 years old and regretted selling it. After breaking every rule in the book when buying the car, he nearly regretted buying this one. “It looked good in the dark!” he laughs, “but when I got home it clearly needed work. It’s had a full nut-and-bolt restoratio­n; new floorpans, inner and outer sills, new tailgate, the works. It’s been about five years in the making.”

What he’s created is part showcar, part race-car for the road. It’s not unlike what Porsche did when turning the GT3 into the GT3 RS; strip out the back seats, rear ‘cage, better seats, more power, stronger brakes, etc. It’s a bit of a cliché to use when describing when describing a road-legal trackday car but it really fits here. This isn’t a racecar that is rougharoun­d-the- edges either. By effectivel­y stripping the car and rebuilding it completely, Simon’s RS Turbo is now so immaculate that he’s considerin­g entering some Show ‘n Shine or Concours competitio­ns.

The bodywork was carefully perfected by Brian Xyrizou at BX Motors in Edmonton. He sorted out other people’s bad metalwork and resprayed the car in the original shade of Mercury Grey. At the front, the only indication that this isn’t a bone stock RS is a set of quad headlights and a raised bonnet. While at the rear, smoked rear lights and mud-flaps are the obvious tweaks. That and the 4.5in outwardly-rolled tip of the Hayward & Scott stainlesss­teel exhaust system, which is beautifull­y-made and is pretty much a 3in straight pipe from the turbo back.

“The exhaust wasn’t cheap but I learned very quickly to ‘buy right, buy once’. When I first got it, I had some engine work what seemed like a cheap rate. They dropped the car off at 5am, so I didn’t get a

“This ZVH engine holds 2Bar of boost ( 29psi) all the way to the 7,200rpm rev limit”

good chance to check their work. Let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. So after looking around online and asking some fellow Ford enthusiast­s, I started using Norris Motorsport for all the mechanical bits. Karl is the boss and what he doesn’t know about engines isn’t worth knowing, while Oli is the mechanical whizz who physically built my engine. I’ve been really impressed with their work and their willingnes­s to explain everything to me, I’d recommend them to anyone.”

The engine build began when Simon called Karl and literally said: “I want a genuine 300bhp, come and take it away.” That was just over a year and a half ago, and the car stayed at Norris Motorsport for a good four months, getting a

thorough mechanical makeover.

One interestin­g aspect of the engine build is the pistons. Karl Norris’ depth of knowledge is fascinatin­g, and he explained to Simon that the Mahle pistons in his engine are not actually forged, they’re actually a high-pressure casting, which has several benefits. For one thing, highpressu­re cast pistons don’t ‘grow’ as much as forged pistons, so the tolerances can be much tighter.

This means Simon’s engine burns less oil. As a general rule, Karl only recommends forged pistons on engines that regularly see over 8,000rpm. By comparison, this ZVH engine holds 2Bar of boost (29psi) all the way to the 7,200rpm rev limit. The connecting rods are made by Farndon to Norris Motorsport’s specs, and the turbo is a relatively old-school T34 with a .63 exhaust housing, think of it like a tweaked version of the big-turbo Escort Cosworth turbo.

The Omex 600 engine management is also fairly old tech but Karl says it’s used here for two reasons: “It’s cost- effective and it works perfectly for what Simon wants to achieve.” Of course the engine is completely lightened and balanced, with all the necessary bearings required to stand up to prolonged abuse. For a CVH, the cylinder head is built to rev. It features big valves and solid lifters, an aggressive Norris Motorsport camshaft and lots of porting. So Simon has no fears about keeping his foot in all the way to the redline.

As you would expect, the fuelling has been improved significan­tly with new injectors and an uprated fuel pump, but also with a modified inlet manifold. Norris Motorsport have converted it from the primitive K-Jetronic mechanical fuel injection to a modern EFI setup ( Electronic Fuel Injection), with a fuel rail and four injectors that are roughly 650cc in size. This has also changed the character of the engine because each cylinder can now be fuelled more accurately, so it runs smoother and makes more power too.

Another neat Norris Motorsport trick is the intercoole­r setup. Karl explains: “When you fit a front-mounted intercoole­r to an RS Turbo, it blocks off the airflow coming in through the small vent in the front bumper. Even though it’s only a small vent, covering it up can cause serious overheatin­g issues. To avoid this, the intercoole­r can only be 20cm tall – the 2WD Cosworth intercoole­rs just

“When it comes on boost it sounds like a jet-fighter taking off!”

happen to be 10cm tall. So we’ve taken two, cut and welded them together, one on top of the other, before making custom end tanks. So we’ve ended up with one perfectlys­ized, very effective intercoole­r.”

Karl explains that keeping the inlet temperatur­es low is critical to making reliable horsepower, as is a free-flowing exhaust. That’s why Simon upgraded to the 3in Hayward & Scott system, as his previous smaller-bore system was strangling the car on the dyno. “Exhaust back pressure is the enemy of all turbo engines,” confirms Karl. With all this care and attention, Karl was able to extract an estimated 330bhp from the engine. We can’t say for sure as it was mapped on the road and hasn’t been dyno’d yet. It could be more.

With talk of 1,000bhp engines bouncing around the internet these days, it’s easy to overlook how much grunt that is in a Mk4 Escort. This is a car that rolled off the production line in 1988, in an era when cars were much smaller and lighter than they are today. So when Simon tells us about the time he completely ruined the day of a smug DBS driver who made the mistake of sneering at him, we believe him. Full boost is achieved around 3,500rpm and it comes in hard. This thing is an animal.

“I drove the car recently at an RS Owners Club event and Paul Cox, one of the registrars, said if there was an award for the best-sounding car, mine would win it. When it comes on boost it sounds like a jet-fighter taking off!” laughs Simon. With all that grunt available, Simon needed the gearbox to be up to the job. So he went for a Stage 2 item from Competitio­n Transmissi­on Services. This is a 5-speed manual ‘box that has been uprated with bigger bearings, stronger input shaft and shot-peened and cryo-frozen gears.

A Quaife ATB limitedsli­p differenti­al helps put the power down properly through both front wheels, and Simon reckons the B& M Quickshift­er is a great upgrade too. “It just helps you get through the gears slicker, which makes a surprising difference when you’re really going for it.”

Getting the car stopped is a Reyland brake setup front and rear that includes a pair of massive AP Racing calipers on the front. “If you really stamp on the brake now it feels like it bites into the road at the front and lifts the rear a bit, they’re that powerful,” explains Simon. The small grooves on the discs are important, partly because you would struggle to get a cigarette paper between the rear wheels and brakes. These small J-shaped grooves help pull the hot gas away from the caliper, which is created by the friction of the pads clamping on the discs.

Being a wheel refinisher by trade, Simon has had several sets on the car. He wanted a really lightweigh­t 17in wheel, so these OZ Superlegge­ras fitted the bill nicely. Of course, he’s refinished them, and like the rest of the car they’re completely immaculate.

That’s the great thing about Simon and his car. It’s so unbelievab­ly clean that, pulling a favourite from my big book of car magazine clichés, you really could eat your dinner off it. You’d probably not want gravy though. And Simon will probably chase you. Still, it’s a mint car with proper power and most importantl­y, Simon is enjoying driving it. He admits that some of the purists don’t get the modificati­ons he’s made, but he’s not bothered. “You should build a car for yourself, not anyone else.” With those words he lights them up and disappears down the road. With a huge grin on his face..!

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Seats and doorcards have been retrimmed in leather and look gorgeous
Seats and doorcards have been retrimmed in leather and look gorgeous
 ??  ?? Alcantara headlining is simply beautiful
Alcantara headlining is simply beautiful
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Huge AP Racing brakes keep Simon in control of his rapid Escort
Huge AP Racing brakes keep Simon in control of his rapid Escort
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Combing power with style, this RS Turbo really does have it all going on!
Combing power with style, this RS Turbo really does have it all going on!

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia