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Retro Ford
June 2013
Retro Ford June 2013
Great Oaks.....

..from little acorns grow. When Tony Paxman starting building a Classic Hot Rod in 2007, he never dreamed he'd one day drive it on circuits like Spa and Daytona.

Words:Ben Pics:RB Photography

Many of us can relate to a misty-eyed look back at when times were simpler and seemingly better. It is this kind of reminiscence that often drives us to go out and buy a cheeky little project to relive those times. The same can be said for Tony 'Porky' Paxman who, in 2007 after seeing Barry Lee and George Polley demonstrating what would become the Classic Hot Rod formula, fancied reliving the glory days of the Escort on the short oval, but in the here-and-now. He wasted little time and bought a 1300L Mk2 from Darran and Mark at Escort-Tec.

The initial plan was to raid the 20-odd years worth of parts that he had gathered and build a Classic Hot Rod on a budget, so after a rummage through what he had, a 'to-do' list was complied. Now, as many of us are aware, with the best will in the world, family commitments and work can often hamper progress with any project. This was the case with Porky's new Mk2 Project; it would take around a year for all the fabrication work to be done (in-house at Oakcroft garage). With things like the four-link boxes, gearbox tunnel and general rust repairs taken care of, it was time to give some serious thought to what would power the Mk2. After much chin-scratching, it was decided that a Pinto would be the best four-banger for the job, with the building of it being entrusted to local engine building royalty: Mr Ron Harris. Ron and Tony were long standing friends and so Ron was more than happy to help out. It wasn't long before a HPE blue Pinto was on the engine stands and ready to go into the Escort. The next step was to give the car a lick of paint, so before Christmas of that year the guys at Oakcroft Garage turned their hand to painting the shell, inside, outside and underneath in a gleaming coat of Ford Radiant Red. Into 2009 and the job of uniting the pile of parts and the freshly painted shell was upon them. The engine, gearbox and suspension were all bolted in, friend Keith was called in to build and install a custom lightweight wiring loom and the car was good to go. But, with all of the hard work that had gone into the car, the team had second thoughts. "The general consensus was that the car was too good to put around the ovals," explains Tony. "The Classic Hot Rods at the time had a bit of reputation for, shall we say, slight contact." With several other hot rods dropping out of the series at the time, the decision was made to take the Escort to the long circuits instead.

Retro Ford June 2013

With this decision made, a team was assembled and the car prepped for circuit racing, Andy Pyke, who raced against Tony when they both campaigned in the V6 Eurocar championship, would now become second driver and events organiser' in order to keep costs down by sharing drives at race meetings. Bob from Harly Farm Garage was enlisted as 'head of logistics', roughly translated to mean 'man with trailer'. He'd also be there to work the spanners should the need arise. Keith who did the wiring stayed on board and rewired the car to suit its new role as long circuit racer. 'Plan B' as it was now called was ut into place and Wednesday night was designated as 'race night' where the team would all converge to crack on with rebuilding the car for its new purpose. Another, more comprehensive parts list was compiled and this included a larger fuel tank, diff cooler and a four-speed dog-box, amongst other trick race parts. In order to get some focus, Tony and Andy decided to set a deadline for when the car needed to be done by. This was a 'shake down' race at Lydden Hill which would consist of two 14-lap races as part of the Classic Touring Car Championship. Many late Wednesday nights ensued to make sure that the car was ready in time. The good news is that the hard work was worth it as the car went well, the team made plenty of tweeks to the geometry and got many pages of information in their notebook for the preferred setting for each driver.

Next stop was one of our track days at Brands Hatch, which Tony used as a chance to say thank you to everyone that had helped with the car so far by giving passenger rides. This also gave both Tony and Andy the chance to get more valuable seat time in the car to ready them for future events. From here several race meetings cam and went with car performing well but a seed had been sewn in both Tony and Andy's minds. Several fellow competitors had mentioned that racing on the Continent was the way to go and as luck would have it, the legendary Spa six-hour race was just around the corner. The writing was on the wall, the Escort was destined for Belgium.

Whilst planning logistics for their trip into Europe, the guys got talking to Bernie from Race Car Holidays who just happened to mention that he was organising an event at Daytona in the USA. Most of us at this point would have dismissed this as a pipe dream. Yeah it would be nice but it's never going to happen. However, Tony and Andy aren't your usual home-grown motorsport fans. Having both been to the legendary Daytuna 500 race on more than one occasion, well, you can guess where this one is going...

With Spa booked, going to America seemed like a logistical impossibility, as to get the Escort Stateside, it would need to be shipped the moment it got back from Belgium. Like Del Boy Trotter, the boys puffed out their chests and wen with a 'he who dares, wins' approach and the next thing you know the Mk2 Escort was booked in to compete in the Spa Ardennes challenge at Spa and the Anglo-American challenge at Daytona. Neither of the drivers had driven around either track so this was to be a true baptism of fire. However, once at Spa it soon became apparent that the top half of the grid would be a realistic target and, as it happens, the Escort came an impressive third in class. With this result under the belt, the car was bought home, given the once over and then swiftly sent on its way to Daytona. Drafting in a third driver, Steve Dance, acted as a quantitative easing on the wallets and the three of them flew out to the land of hope and dreams. The little had its work cut out, fighting against stunningly prepared V8 muscle cars. The plucky Brits in their nimble Escort did well, after a couple of hours of practice between them, the Escort went on to compete in ten races over the weekend and managed a trip down 'Gatorade Victory Lane' which had been a life-long ambition of all three of the drivers.

Retro Ford June 2013
In America.... It's not often you'll see a Mk2 Escort Stateside, and you're even less likely to see one at Daytona. So this must have been a real highlight for Tony, Andy and the rest of the team!

Come 2010 the car returned to the UK and not wasting a second, the guys got talking about more power. They got on to their old friend Tim Swadkin at Connaught Competition Engines, who just happens to be the man that bolts together their legendary Warrior engines. As they go back years, he was more than happy to bolt together an all-steel 2.3 Warrior engine wearing a dry-sump and twin-Weber 48s. Once in the hole, the Escort then went to Simpson Race Exhausts where Matt fabricated a gorgeous 'bunch of bananas' to get those gases out as efficiently as possible. Tony has worked with Simpson Race Exhausts for years and swears by the work that the guys there do. The car was destined to be competing in the Heritage Race series before heading back, once again, to Spa so another gear would be welcome, as would the ability to handle more power - so a Quaife five-speed gearbox was hung off of the back of the engine.

2010 was a fruitful season, with the car going to Spa twice. But in the world of motorsport, there is no standing still. For the 2011 season a few chassis mods were carried out and 15" rear tubs added by PG Tek in Surrey. The season started well apart from when Andy decided that the Aston Martin DB6 that they were battling with at Oulton Park would look better with a bit more Mk2 Escort in its rear end. Racing at Spa was once again their season highlight.

At the end of the season Tony decided that the Escort deserved a bit of a revamp. To kick things off they got a new seat, as Tony explains: "As Andy and I are different builds, Corbeau custom-built the seat for me and then made an insert to put in for when Andy drives it." Next on the shopping list was a set of Jenvey 48mm throttle bodies mounted on a bespoke inlet manifold. then cam a Quaife sever-speed sequential gearbox, swiftly followed by a brake upgrade to Wilwood six-pots and 280mm discs up front and Midilite four-pots for the rear. The car then went to SHP Engineering for some mods to the front suspension setup and the rear axle. In SHP's hands a new front setup was fabricated using a drop linked anti-roll bar and compression struts. At the rear SHP installed one of its trick, custom-built English axles complete with two-piece halfshafts and a disc conversion to suit the Wilwoods. To round off the upgrades, Ohlins dampers were installed in each corner.

Retro Ford June 2013

2012 threw up a complication in that the heritage series in which they competed no longer existed, so Tony decided to try his hand in the Quaife Intermarque series in which, despite not competing in all rounds, they managed to bring Mk2 home in fourth place overall. With Spa now like a second home for the team, Tony decided to perhaps try a different European track and after chatting to Sean Brown (Mk1 Escort, RF March 2012), Portimao in Portugal was on the cards. A weekend of racing in the sun seemed an attractive proposition but the cost to get the car there was near-on prohibitive. Fortunately, Sean came to the rescue and offered to take the Mk2 for them, sharing the three-day drive with Bob. Once in Portimao the sunshine that they were hoping for was somewhat lacking, instead it was constant drizzle and cloud cover. Still, they were there and determined to make the best of a bad situation and took to the track. However, it soon became clear that all was not well with the Escort. "It was suffering from a nasty vibration, so we decided to pull the axle apart," say Tony. Nothing was found here, so they put it back together and tried again. It became clear that the gearbox would have to come out. The whole team clubbed together and worked late in to the night to remove the gearbox and discovered that the source of the vibration was the clutch. So, with a borrowed secondhand clutch and every finger and toe crossed, the car made its way onto the grid the following day for the main race. Whilst we'd love to report that the car went on to win the race in true 'happy ever after' style. sadly this is not quite the case. After two laps the crank position sensor stopped working , which put an end to the weekend's racing. "It was a little disappointing," say Tony, "everybody had put 110% effort in. You can't ask for more than that. Typically, the sun than came out, so we just kicked back and enjoyed the rest of the weekend."

That brings us nicely to where we are today; the car is undergoing another rebuild, this time a fairly major transformation, at least visually if nothing else. The Warrior lump is out and back with Tim for a freshen up after performing faultlessly and the circle f the Escort's racing life starts once again. "This project was always about just getting out there and doing a little of what we fancied," explains Tony. "The Escort and the team have organically grown over the years. When we started out we never thought we'd be running a Warrior engine nor have the chance to drive at Daytona or met the people that we've met along the way." This group of friends and their Escort have had one hell of a journey and something tells us it's only just the start. With what the team have planned for the Escort in 2013 and beyond, combined with their undoubted passion, something tells us that the future is bright.

Retro Ford June 2013
Tech Spec
ENGINE
Connaught Warrior 2.3, lightened and balanced steel crank and rods, forged JE 93mm pistons, dry sump, three stage dry-sump pump, Jenvey 48mm throttle bodies, bespoke inlet manifold, SBD MBE management, Simpson race stainless steel manifold and system
TRANSMISSION
Quaife seven-speed sequential gearbox, ultra-light steel flywheel, AP twin-plate paddle clutch, single piece prop, Tran-X LSD, SHP English axle, two-piece halfshafts
SUSPENSION
SHP compression struts and drop linked anti-roll bar, Ohlins 2.25" coilover front shock absorber conversion, Ohlins rear coilovers, five-link rear
BRAKES
Wilwood Superlite six-pot front calipers, 280mm vented, drilled and grooved discs, Wilwood Midilite four-pot rear calipers, solid, grooved rear discs, Goodridge hoses, bias pedal box
WHEELS AND TYRES
Various 9 x 15" Compomotive MLs, Toyo R888 tyres
INTERIOR
Corbeau seat, Mountney steering wheel, multi-point roll-cage, FEV fire extinguisher system, custom dash with switches and fuses boxes, custom gear lever town, Stack dials
EXTERIOR
Group 4, Gartac Monte Arches and front spoiler, Mexico rear spoiler, Ford Radiant Red
THANKS
Ron Harris HPE, Simpson Race Exhausts, Quaife, Advanced Wear, GAZ shocks, Corbeau, SHP Engineering, Mike Stokes for the Toyo's, SBD, Premier Wheel Repairs,, Aurok for the Ohlins suspension parts, Connaught Competition Engines, Andy, Bob, Pops, Keith, Big Bobby, Harrison, Phillip Baker and all of our families for putting up with our nocturnal hours
Oakcroft Garage Website
MBE Management Systems
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