a barking Vauxhall Red Top into a Classic, X-Pack arched MK2 Escort?
That's just not cricket. Or is it...?
Andy Basco. Photos: Matt Woods
you cant bat for both sides
so to speak. Or that if youre
from Liverpool, youre a red or a blue; a Liverpool fan or Everton
scum (guess which one I am!). A similar ethos has been adopted for years
by both the Ford and Vauxhall purists. Many feel that that once a Ford
man, always a Ford man. And the same goes for Vauxhall owners.
thought of an Escort owner selling his pride and joy to buy an Astra
is enough to send shivers down his spine and cause his heart to palpitate.
But what about combining the two? Taking the best bits of a Vauxhall
and incorporating them in a retro Ford to build kind of a best of both
worlds machine? Well, this is exactly how proud Mk2 owner, Dave Barber,
has ruffled the scenes feathers. Daves prized possession
and daily driver is a stunning Mk2 Escort featuring not only an X-Pack,
but a fiery Vauxhall red top heart boot. And its fair to say that
although Dave isnt the only Ford owner running a Vauxhall engine,
his is certainly one of the finer examples. Interestingly, Dave actually
bought the car with the engine already in place. I knew the guy
that built it, he explained, I had a Mk1 the first time
I saw this one and was instantly impressed. Its a guy not far
from me who put the engine in. Hes a mechanic and MoT tester.
In fact, he still looks after the car and tests it for me. He misses
it so much, so I usually leave it with him for the day so he can have
a play. Sparky is his name. Not his real name obviously, but thats
what everyone calls him... I bought the car off him about three
years ago. Itd been sitting in a barn for about three years and
when he hinted that he was considering selling it, I pretty much bugged
him every day until he agreed to let it go. It was one of those things
where he wasnt using it, but just couldnt bring himself
to part with it, Dave continued.
had purchased the car as a completely standard 1.1-litre example.
As you can probably tell, it didnt stay factory for long.
His first port of call was acquiring a donor car that he could
dissect and glean the needed repair parts from. After all, the
car had been sitting for a little over three years, enough time
for things to begin to rot. As it happens, the X-pack arches were
pretty much a fluke. One of the first donor cars just happened
to have the arches already in-place, although the car itself was
rotten. Bit of a result for Sparky.
the car up and running, taxed and tested, it was time to bin that
weedy 1.1-litre lump. Like a host of Mk1 and Mk2 owners, Sparky
sourced a Pinto block for his ongoing project, keeping the heart
and soul of the project within the family. That having been said,
it wasnt too long before he was changing his mind. He took
the car to one of Santa Pods many Run What Ya Brung days
and soon found the Pinto block struggling at the top end. He wasnt
expecting it to set any quarter-mile records in its standard guise,
but just hoped for a bit more higher up the rev range. It was
at this point he began to reason with himself. Should he persevere
with the Pinto lump and risk experiencing reliability issues as
he began fettling, or should he go for a later, more dependable
engine, one with more natural and easily released top-end grunt?
|The thing was, Sparky was building the car on a budget, and even
though hed been carrying out the work himself, he still
needed to watch the pennies. What he therefore needed was a block
not too expensive, perhaps significantly younger for reliability,
and one with more high-end potential. And although there were
a number of different options available to Sparky, it was Surrey-based
tuner, SBD Motorsport, that ultimately made his decision for him.
so? Well, for a number of years now SBD has been doing great things with
Vauxhall blocks, in particular the 2.0-litre C20XE (aka red top) engine.
To the extent that its developed a kit that squeezes just shy of
300bhp out of the lump, while still retaining the naturally aspirated
format. So a red top it was. The exact block Sparky got his hands on is
believed to be out of either a late Mk2 Astra GTE or an early Mk3 Astra
GSi, although the chappy selling it couldnt say for sure. Either
way, it was running sweetly so Sparky snapped it up. It came without a
gearbox and drive shaft, but both elements were already mated to the Pinto
engine previously installed and could be used for the conversion. In reality,
that wasnt a massive problem with the Capri 2.8i Type 9 five-speed
box fitted with a quick-shift rose-jointed lever and mated to the red
top with a SBD five degree bell housing. The next challenge was to make
it all fit.
block itself wasnt too much of an issue. With a little shuffling
around there was enough room for the engine. The gearbox, on the
other hand, is a bit bigger than the one the Mk2 was originally
designed to accommodate, so the tunnel had already been modified
to provide enough clearance. The engine mounts are directly welded
to the chassis rails to keep the centre of gravity lower than
if mounted to the crossmember. A RS2000 two-piece propshaft is
used to translate the power down.
some tax and ticket to its name, the mechanic was loving his reworked
Escort, although by his own admission, it actually felt a touch
slower than it did before. That having been said, he knew the
potential of the block, and when funds became available, he soon
began releasing plenty of reliable power. The majority of the
additional goodies came from SBD. Fast 230 road cams, pocketed
pistons and a four-branch heat-wrapped manifold were all ordered,
along with twin 45 Dellorto carbs, adjustable verniers and a custom
twin-box exhaust. Once set up, this all made a dramatic difference
and instilled some real fire in the Fords belly. But sadly,
other commitments meant that Sparky couldnt invest as much
time and money into his project in the coming months. Although
he was unable to use it, he couldnt bring himself to sell
it, so the Escort was bubble-wrapped and stored in a barn for
the next three years, before Dave managed to wrangle the keys
from Sparkys hand.
has always been a Ford man, and has owned half a dozen Mk1 and Mk2s in
his time, as well as countless Cortinas and Capris. In fact, one of his
Cortinas housed a stonking 5.2-litre Dodge engine, while beefy 3.1-litre
V6s have also found their way into some of his other Fords. So, engine
transplants arent new to him, and judging by his portfolio, big
throaty blocks in particular take his fancy. But the prospect of a high-revving,
2.0-litre 16v lump in his favoured Mk2 shell intrigued Dave more than
anything else. He knew the car, knew the owner, and after a few months
without a Ford to play in, he couldnt resist. It felt really
strong when I drove it, Dave let on. Not the quickest Ford
Ive owned but really stable and driveable, well, until I got the
Toyo R888s on it anyway! Theyre great in the dry but pretty scary
in the wet! The car was pretty much there to be honest. Sparky had got
the mechanicals virtually spot on. But he had done it on a budget so it
needed some love to get it to the state you see in front of you now.
of the first issues to be sorted was an overheating problem. The Mk2
had a tendency to spew coolant all over the tarmac when stationary so
an alloy radiator with electric fan was added, and now the Ford almost
doesnt heat up enough! Next was the interior. Sparky had already
fitted an RS dash, a six-point roll-cage and stripped away some of the
carpets and trim. But to be honest, it was pretty untidy inside so Dave
turned his attentions here next. The cage was removed, repainted and
re-installed, the interior was stripped properly and new lightweight
alloy door panels were fabricated and fitted. The pair of old Capri
seats were then replaced with two new Cobra Monaco S buckets, and water
temperature, oil temperature and oil pressure gauges all added to the
RS dash along with an RS2000 custom clock pod.
had the Escort dynod about a year later to check all was healthy.
It produced 190bhp, which was pretty much what hed expected. The
dyno session also provided Dave with the incentive to try and break
the 200bhp mark, which essentially instigated the next round of modifications.
The time on the rollers also showed that although the engine itself
was staying relatively cool, engine bay temperatures and therefore intake
temperatures were through the roof. To combat this, Dave moved the brake
servo to the boot and cut out part of the panel near the headlight,
clearing the way for more cold air to hit the filter.
was then back to SBD for an MBE97i engine management system. This
meant that a lot of the old wiring, not to mention the tired coil
could be binned for a more suitable, reliable and mapable setup.
Although Dave hasn't had the car back on the rollers since, he's
estimating the Mk2 is now good for around 210bhp, a figure we
reckon is extremely realistic. What this essentially means is
the running gear of this Mk2 is as fruity as its vibrant exterior.
As mentioned earlier, the previous owner had already fitted the
X-Pack arches after fully seam welding and strengthening the shell.
But the paint had dropped a little in places and a few cracks
were beginning to appear around the kit. So Dave recruited the
help of a mate to give the Escort a fresh squirt of the same blue
that could be done though, a few other cosmetic issues came to
the fore as the two of them began to rub the shell down. The main
issues though were the bottom of the doors. Small rust spots were
beginning to bubble through and for the sake £40 a side,
Dave invested in new skins. As for the paint itself, Dave didn't
know the exact colour. The story goes that when it was resprayed
the first time, Sparky pointed to a van in the yard, thought to
be a Leyland Daf workhorse, and said that he wanted it as close
to that as possible.
|This meant Dave had to take the car to be
colour matched as he didn't have a paint code to go by. The finish
is superb, which inspired him to invest in some shiny, deep-dish
footwear. "I went for 8x13" Minilites with 185/60 R888s,"
he explained. "I wanted 13s to keep it '70s if that makes
classic wheel choice, and one that always works well with Mk2s. The
previous owner had already fitted Bilstein front dampers with adjustable
top mounts and 190lb springs, plus Spax adjustable rear shocks, single
leaf springs and 2" lowering blocks. Not to mention RS2000 brakes
all round with a GRP4 adjustable brake bias pedalbox. "What I'd
ideally like to do is five-link the rear end so I can get rid of the
leaf springs. Then a Quaife straight-cut box and an alloy fuel tank
in the boot and I'm pretty much there.
you can never actually finish a project car, can you? There's always
something you want to change," Dave concluded. And how true that
is. More often than not when we feature cars, it's nice to meet the
man who built the car and knows it inside-out. And although it was the
previous owner who plumbed in the Vauxhall XE lump and fitted the X-Pack
arches, there is no way we'd be giving as much coverage for this car
if it were not for Dave Barber's passion and expertise.
engine was already inside and yes, the arches were on. But the red top
needed tuning and setting up to make it the barking terrier it is today.
And that's not to say he simply twisted a few dials and pressed the
odd button to get it to this state, either. Being in the oil and gas
industry, Dave has access to a lot of machinery which he utilised by
fabricating countless adaptors, connectors, mounts and brackets to get
everything in place operating effectively. Large sums have been spent
on ancillaries and the engine management to ensure the red top was the
best it could possibly be considering its spec. And when it comes to
the exterior, Dave hasn't held back from investing in new panels, tasty
wheels and a full respray in an effort to make this hybrid stand out
from the rest.
we're sure some of the Ford and Vauxhall purists will be up in arms
over this one given its unconventional approach, we personally love
Dave's individual Mk2. It may have a Vauxhall pulse, but Dave's all
Ford at heart.
2.0-litre 16v Vauxhall XE Red Top engine, Opel Manta big
wing sump and pick-up pipe, SBD 230 fast road cams, SBD pocketed pistons,
ported and gas flowed head, adjustable verniers, twin 45 Dellorto carbs
with cold air feed, oil cooler, GRP4 Fabrications alloy radiator with
electric fan, SBD four-branch heat wrapped manifold, custom twin box
exhaust system, SBD MBE97i ECU, distributor and coil-less ignition,
Capri 2.8i Type 9 five-speed gearbox with rose-jointed quick-shift,
modified gearbox tunnel, SBD five degree bell housing, RS2000 two-piece
propshaft, RS2000 rear axle with anti-tramp bars, electric fuel pump
with pressure regulator, battery and washer bottle all relocated to
8x13 Minilites shod in 185/60 Toyo R888s, extended wheel studs,
19mm spacers, Bilstein dampers up front with adjustable top mounts and
190lb lowering springs, Spax adjustable dampers on the rear, single
leaf springs, 2 lowering blocks, RS2000 vented front discs with
AP Racing four-pot calipers, RS2000 rear drums, Goodridge hoses, lines
relocated to run inside car, GRP4 Engineering adjustable brake bias
pedalbox, brake servo relocated to boot
Fully seam welded and strengthened shell, full X-Pack wide-arch body
kit, RS rear boot spoiler, fibreglass front quarter bumpers, bonnet
pins, full respray in Leyland DAF blue
Six-point bolt-in roll-cage including door bars, blue Cobra Monaco S
bucket seats, three-point harnesses, RS dashboard, RS2000 custom gauge
pod, three-spoke steering wheel, stripped interior including carpets,
sound proofing, trim and rear seats, alloy firewall, alloy door and
rear quarter panels, alloy pedals, water temperature, oil temperature
and oil pressure gauges
Nick at the barn for the paint, Dave at Henstead Motorsport
for the rolling road, Sparky for selling it, Carrie for putting up with
Barber SBD Webpage
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