No ifs, no buts, everyone loves a Mk2 Escort. Whether your passion for Ford’s mid ’70s mid range star stems from childhood memories watching the likes of Ari Vatanen and Roger Clark’s giant killing in the British woods, formative years spent tinkering with Pintos and Crossflows, or merely an appreciation of a damn fun car from an era of easily accessible rear-wheel drive performance, the Mk2 is a fully paid up automotive icon.
The only downside to build a car like the Mk2 Escort, at least from a Retropower perspective, is how best to set about spinning a unique slant on it, particularly as so many have been so creatively modified over the years. We were helped by the owner of this particular Escort, Leo, being clear from the very beginning that he wanted it to be a part-time track car; a classic, naturally aspirated offering with a decent spread of power, understated good looks and a revised chassis. A trio of Retropower specialities, basically.
This project began in our now customary manner, with a careful strip-down to assess how well the Mk2’s shell had weathered the last four decades or so of driving. It soon became clear that a combination of the British climate and some ‘creative’ repairs by previous owners had left their mark on the Escort, with the liberal use of expanding foam between the inner arches and the shell being amongst the most eyebrow-raising. Media-blasting gave rust nowhere to hide however, and it wasn’t too long before we were able to begin adding fresh steel where required. A fresh coat of Ford Signal Orange was then applied, alongside a set of 1600 Sport decals.
So far, so conventional. Where this project moved slightly off the beaten track was when it came to decide upon the engine that would eventually power it, with any number of motors considered at one point or another. Leo eventually decided that he’d like to replace the Pinto already in the car with something a little more modern, which is how we came to select the C20XE ‘Redtop,’ an engine already writ large in the Retropower story thanks to its usage in several of our most popular projects. Now we’re not going to claim that we were the first to set about combining Redtop and Mk2 Escort (we can probably thank the rally guys for that) but it remains a fairly contentious swap among the blue oval faithful, particularly those who view anything other than a Ford engine in a Ford model as automotive blasphemy!
Look beyond the badge and there’s a lot to recommend about the XE however; it’s a known quantity, remains an impressively tune-able base even after all these years and can be mounted to Ford hardware with ease, in Leo’s case a rebuilt Type 9 gearbox and five-links Atlas axle. A rebuild and some mild engine modifications, most notably a set of Jenvey direct-to-head throttle bodies one DTA management, saw peak power climb to a potent 220bhp.
The fact that this build was always destined to end up as a track car (with an MOT certificate, naturally) dictated other aspects of the build, namely the uprated fuel system (an alloy tank with a Bosch 044 now resides in the boot) and both brake and suspension upgrades. One of AP’s four-pot kits accounts for the former, while the car is now sprung on a mix of Group 4 compression struts and Bilstein coilovers.
As for the interior, well we worked with Leo to devise a functional yet effective arrangement, one centred around Sparco bucket seats and braces, a bolt-in roll-cage and various other safety measures. We also flocked the dash to help reduce glare, re-mounted the fuse box in a custom centre console panel, added one of SPA’s ‘kit dashes’ and fitted carbon fibre inserts to both the front doors and rear three-quarters.