The first generation Ford Escort was produced between 1968 and 1974 while the second generation carried on until 1980. These were rear-wheel drive cars, powered by Kent or Pinto engines available in several displacements, from 1 to 2 litres. Ford soon developed sportier version and even racing ones. These got a Lotus twin-cam under the bonnet, soon replaced by a BDA DOHC sixteen-valve engine. Sporty versions such as the GT, Mexico, RS 2000… are now highly coveted and command big money. More than 40 years after Escort production ceased, Carwyn Ellis and his team are relaunching brand new Mk 1 and 2 Escorts!
Just like a good old Meccano set
The Escort follows the « American School » automotive thinking : it is a bit like a giant Meccano set, borrowing as many parts as possible from other Ford models: Anglia, Cortina, Capri….. This explains why a large number of Ford (as well as other brands) engines are easily fitted under the bonnet. Even today, RWD Escorts remain ideal fun cars. Being a simple and efficient design, the Escort dominated rallying throughout the 1970s and even beyond.
It won everywhere : the European Championship in 1968, London-Mexico in 1970 as well as the World Rally Championship title in 1979. Bjorn Waldegard and Ari Vatanen also won World Rally Drivers titles behind the wheel of an Escort. In the early 1980s, the Audi Quattro and all-wheel drive cars put an end to its supremacy. However, in the hearts of many enthusiasts and drivers, Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts are still the best rally cars around.
Fancy a restomod Escort?
There is no need to introduce Singer and its “restomod” 911s. These cars usually sell for steep prices that are completely out of reach for an average enthusiast. MST stands for “Motor Sport Tools”. This British company (based in Gwynedd, Wales) specialises in supplying racing parts. Carwyn Ellis loves rallying. He drives an Escort and developed his business around it. At first, he was selling parts to friends and competitors who drove Escorts too. Over the years, he stocked tons of parts and soon building a new Escort became a reality!
Brand New Mk1 and 2 Escorts
Qualifying as brand new cars, these Escorts are not restomods. They are even available in several versions, à la carte. In the UK, they can even be fully registered as new cars! Ford does not support the MST project, though. That’s why there is no Blue Oval or « Escort » monograms on them. The “Escort” name belongs to Ford and the brand still uses it in China and Taiwan! Prices obviously depend on the equipment and finish levels. They start around €70,000 and can jump to €90,000 to €100,000, depending on the selected engine, gearbox, wheels… Admittedly, this is a lot of money. However, it’s not too expensive for a car ready to be driven in a rally or a turnkey Escort, we could even say it is still within reasonable limits.
Today’s cars are complex and difficult to modify, quite the opposite of a good old Escort that is easy to adapt, modify and maintain. Let’s not forget that these cars are brand new ones! Restoring an Escort usually means loads of body work. Things would not be that cheaper, and it would still have to be reinforced. MST uses parts sourced from Magnum Car Panels. This other British company produces high quality reproductions body parts and panels for several Ford models, including the Escort Mk 1 and 2.
MST subtly updates the old Escorts. The aesthetics are a matter of choice : some prefer the Mk1 and its groovy, Coke-bottle shape while others prefer the Mk2 square lines. Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts share the same platform, making it easy to offer both versions as brand new cars.
Under the magnifying glass…
The MST Escorts are indeed brand new cars, in the wake of the continuation cars from Aston Martin or Jaguar. They are available in “fast road & track”, “group 4 rally” or “ultimate rally versions”. Of course, they differ from the original cars : the company uses modern and powerful Ford engines, optimised electrical system with adjustable ECU as well as electric power steering.
Under the bonnet, no Pinto or Kent lump. These engines have become very expensive and, above all, no longer comply with current emission standards. MST uses American market 2.5 litre Duratec engines fitted with a proprietary intake system as well as a modified electronic control unit allowing it to develop 200 bhp at 7000 rpm, with 270 Nm of torque at 4500 rpm. At customers’ request, Millington or BDG engines developing up to 370 hp can be fitted too. The 6-speed gearbox comes from the Mazda MX5 and uses an hydraulic clutch. A sequential gearbox is even available as an extra.
The Bilstein suspension is fully adjustable. The brakes are AP Racing parts : the front discs are 267 mm with four-piston calipers, while the rear discs are 247 mm with single-piston calipers and front/rear distribution is fully adjustable. At the rear, there’s a live axle. However, the leaf springs have been replaced by four longitudinal arms and a Watt’s parallelogram. The limited slip diff is an Atlas part. The wheels are small 13″ Minilites but it is possible to upgrade to 15″.
In the trunk, an aluminium racing tank takes up almost all the space. A complete FIA- approved roll bar is welded inside the car. Buckets are provided at the front- there’s no back seat- and the dashboard is complete. The car weighs only 950 kg and although its performance may seem average by today’s standards (0 to 100 km/h in 6 seconds, 200 km/h top speed), it is more than enough and far better than what original racing Escorts of the 60s and 70s could achieve. Enough to go back in time and have fun without any second thoughts! (Text: Dimitri Urbain)