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Peter Elliott - Escort Mk1
Classic Ford
August 2009
Classic Ford August 2009
It looks like a Mk1 Escort resto with classic Mexico stripes. But take glance under the bonnet and you'll find it's not so original...
Words: Garath Charlton Photos: Jon Hill
The way we react when something stops us doing the thing we love speaks volumes for anyone’s character, tenacity and drive. We could be talking the credit crunch hitting your project plans hard, arc-eye stopping you from finishing off that full roll cage or blistered palms preventing... well, you get the idea.

When an accident on the oval circuits led to a neck injury and doctors ruling out his life-long love of competitive racing, Peter Elliott shrugged it off and, rather than leave behind the world of barking sidedraughts and sideways glory, took his love of classic Fords straight to the streets. “My mum and dad always had Escorts, which is why my roots are with Mk1s,” says Peter, of his love affair. “I’ve had plenty, a lime green Mk1 was the last one I built, and there was a red Mk1 Mexico which caught fire, so I cut out the engine bay and fitted a 2.8 V6 — just for something a bit different.”

Vive La Difference

Doing something alternative is the key, and it’s Peter’s latest Mk1 that we’re here to see and with good reason — it’s a stunner. “I was going to build a Mk2 as I was finding a Mk1 so difficult to get hold of, but I was asking around one day when I heard of an old Mk1 in a barn — turns out if hadn’t been on the road since 1989!” he laughs. “It was a right mess: sills on top of sills, top plate on top plate, arches on top of each other; a real mess. I put it on a roll-over jig at the house and got to work...

Classic Ford August 2009 “The original intention was to put a few grand into it and do it up, but it snowballed and I decided to do it exactly as I wanted.” Basically, this was to be a once in a lifetime build, and Peter was determined to get it right. This meant a lot of hard work, seven-day working weeks and saving before Peter had the money up front to pay for all the bits needed for his dream build. “The main idea was for me to build a car I could use,” says Peter, “something I could give a good thrashing and represent what I stand for. I thought I’d do it once and do it well. And I always wanted the Vauxhall engine, basically because I know everything about them.”

Out Of The Vaux

The engine in question is, of course, an absolute screamer, tuned to within an inch of its life to provide a dyno-proven 249 bhp and monster 204 lb.ft of torque. Based on a John Cleland championship-winning grasstrack engine, the 2-litre lump has an Ultra-lite all-steel bottom end, heavily-worked, big-valve QED Coscast type head with hydraulic lifters, Anthony Hawkins-spec pick-up hot rod cams, heady 12.3:1 compression ratio and a pair of Weber 45 DCOES. A glorious custom-built for the engine Simpson manifold hangs off the side which Peter’s begrudgingly had to heat-wrap, and feeds into a stainless-steel exhaust. Which means the XE sounds awesome even on tickover.

“The rev range of the cams is 4000-9000,” says Peter. “The limiter’s set to 9 and it’s been there! We played around with the cam timing a fair bit so they’re coming in at about 3500, as it just wasn’t driveable as it was, especially with the on-off, triple-plate sintered clutch. I never thought it would be as smooth as it is, I couldn’t believe it really for the spec.”

With the best part of 250 bhp and a brutal power delivery Peter’s ensured every tiniest component and upgrade is done to the highest quality and built to sustain prolonged abuse, while avoiding the rattly race-car-for-the-road feel. “Mike Halliwell did all the one-off components like the steering column with phosphorus bronze bushes, the con-rods, crank, gearstick conversion, machining the rocker cover and any brackets,” he says. “And Eugene Farrell did most of the fabrication work; without his help there’s no way it would be this good.” Sounds like a lengthy list of one-off parts, and that’s not the half of it...

Massive Props

Drivetrain first: the twin-cam up front is mated, via an Ultra-lite steel flywheel, to a Tran-X four-speed straight-cut box using an alloy bellhousing, through a heavy duty RecoProp 4-inch propshaft to a five-linked strengthened English axle complete with Panhard rod. Fully adjustable TCAs and compression struts are used, along with eccentric top mounts to mount the Koni 2.25-inch coilovers, and a 2.25-ratio quick rack fitted with custom-made lowered steering arms. “I went to Rally Design for the crossmember with lowered rack mounts,” says Peter. “I’ve also had to bend the steering arms to accommodate bump steer as I wanted the car to run so low. There’s a 2.4-ratio quick-rack, but since the rack’s been lowered and the arms adjusted it’s about half a turn from lock to lock! You’ve got to really know the car or it’ll just spin out.

“I had to make the pedal box too, as the starter motor had been in the way I’ve had to move the clutch pedal across for the steering column to pass where it needed to — then the gearstick’s been made as I’ve pulled the steering and pedal box back and didn’t want to be reaching for the gears.”

Classic Ford August 2009
It’s all about weight distribution, and the race-bred touches don’t end there: how about the removable footwell panel which means the gearbox can be accessed and removed in no more than 20 minutes? Or the work-of-art historic-rallying-spec roll cage? Peter’s not been afraid to build his car his way, without worrying about winning ‘scene points’ or earning plaudits on forums. Everything’s been meticulously planned to ensure ease of maintenance and reliability in the future — make no mistake, Peter gives it plenty of beans, but hasn’t cut corners on quality of finish.

“I’ve cut out all the spring brackets now it’s five-linked, seam-welded the whole car, and gusseted and triangulated the engine bay,” says Peter. “All the diff tunnel’s been cut out and the firewall made by Eugene.” And what’s that, a Mk1 Escort without Mexico wings? “I just don’t like them,” smiles Peter. “I actually took the brand new ones off the car and sold them to make a bit of money back. I wanted the look to be completely symmetrical, and I’ve ended up making wings out of two pairs — welding them up and extending the lip by 20 mm. It’s all stitch-welded in and completely flush.”

It’s a refreshingly self-orientated take on building a Mk1 Escort during times when everyone’s got an opinion on how someone else should build their car. What do we think? That it’s one of the best new Escorts in a long time. just goes to show what can be achieved if you put your mind to it and don’t give up...

Tech Spec
1972 1300 Sport shell, remade wings with 20 mm greater lip, new sills, repair sections, gearbox and transmission tunnels, CDS and T45 historic-spec roll cage seam welded and tied into suspension, bumpers rechromed and straightened, gusseted and triangulated engine bay, custom transmission and diff tunnels, 960 kg.
Vauxhall 2-litre XE, big-valve Coscast head, 12.3:1 compression ratio, Kent KCD 1042/1045 pick-up cams, vernier pulleys, Ultra-lite steel crank, rods and forged pistons, twin Weber 45 DCOEs, Facet Red Top race pump, MBE fully mappable ignition, alloy big-winged baffled sump, Simpson stainless exhaust manifold and system, Ultra-lite steel flywheel, Ford Courier alloy radiator, Kenlowe electric fan, custom alloy expansion tank and breather tank, Mocal 12-row oil cooler, Vectra alternator and crank pulley, 249 bhp at 6950 rpm, 204 lb.ft of torque at 6050 rpm.
Tran-X four-speed straight-cut gearbox, SBD alloy bellhousing, Triple-plate sintered clutch with modified cable operation, Reco-Prop 4-inch large flange race propshaft, Tran-X plate type LSD, 3.89:1 final drive ratio.
Koni 2.25 inch coilovers all round, 250 lb springs at front and 180 lb rear, eccentric fully adjustable roller bearing top mounts, fully adjustable TCAs and compression struts, five-linked with Panhard rod.
Capri 2.8i vented discs and callipers at front, Mk2 Fiesta disc and calliper conversion at rear, braided lines throughout.
Wheels And Tyres
Laser-cut, polished and powdercoated 6Jx13 inch Laser four-spokes, 186/60R13 tyres.
Group N Prodrive steering wheel, original six-clock dash, dashtop, plumbed-in fire extinguisher system, OMP bucket seats, TRS harnesses.
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