Jenkins - Escort Mk1
It, Done It
school Ford is just that we speak to Kevin Jenkins, a wellknown
classic Ford drag racer whos seen the scene evolve and hasnt
been afraid to move with it.
|Words Blakey Photos Jon Hill
|Name: Kevin Jenkins
Job: Plant machinery contractor
Own: XE-powered MkI Escort, MkI Escort Nimbus Camper (destined
for tow-car duties with a 2-litre DOHC Sierra motor)
Previous classic Fords: Anglia 105E, MkII Cortina, 13-second Escort
MkI V6, Rover V8-powered Popular and 100E, MkI Escort Mexico
Favourite classic Ford: Too many to choose but as a road
car itd be a two-door V8 Corsair, low and mean. As a race car, Mark
Pointers Fordson Hooligan
the classic Ford scene getting more popular by the day its all
to easy to forget its been around for donkeys. And few have
stayed with it as long as Kevin Jenkins, serial blue oval owner and
the keeper of what is arguably the fastest accelerating street-legal
naturally-aspirated MkI Escort in the UK. Likewise, few are able to
comment on what its been like to be part of the scene for 25 years
and also demonstrate how theyve moved with the times when it comes
to fettling classic Fords. So who better then to ask for an overview
on how our favourite hobby has evolved and the best and worst aspects
of being a bona fide classic Ford enthusiast? Over to Kevin then for
the lowdown on why old Fords really are a way of life...
Ford: So when and why did you get into the classic Ford scene?
Kevin Jenkins: I started
with an Anglia 105E in 1982. This was followed by a MkII Cortina which
had a hurried auto box conversion so that Ali, whos now
my wife, could learn to drive after I picked up a ban.
The first classic Ford I drag raced was Mr Six,
an Essex V6-powered MkI Escort that I built in 1984 and which ran
13-second quarters with the help of slicks and a bit of gas. At the
time, choosing Fords was obvious as they just seemed so available
and I never really considered anything else.
Youve been into classic Fords for over 25 years, whats
KJ: Ive found them
easy to work on, but whats appealing is the support that the
cars enjoy. So many people appreciate them and its hard
to imagine a more friendly or enthusiastic bunch, especially when
youre racing. In the past Ive done karting and sprinting,
but everyone pretty much kept themselves to themselves and the atmosphere
was a bit odd, it just didnt feel like there was much camaraderie.
How has the scene changed over the years?
KJ: The quarter-mile times
have got a whole lot quicker! I was out of it for eight years before
I built my current Escort and the cars are now so much faster. Theres
a much bigger following too and classic Fords now have a really high
profile thanks to the dedicated magazines. The advent of the Internet
has also been a major factor, highlighting the availability of cars
and spares and the rise of dedicated classic Ford websites like Old
What are its best and worst aspects?
KJ: The people make the
scene, in the main being friendly and quick to offer advice. We have
made a lot of new friends through owning a classic Ford that we wouldnt
normally have associated with!
On the downside, theft is always a risk, and like quite a few
classic Ford owners down my way, Ive recently had a knock on
the door from a
chap whos thought to be up to no good. Its always been
a problem though, its just that when anything does go missing
its now a lot easier to spread the word.
Out of all the memories, whats the highlight of your time with
KJ: Ive raced quicker Fords but Ive had the most fun
with this Escort. Most of the others have had Powerglide transmissions
but this ones running a five-speed manual and you really have
to drive it when youre out of shape and trying to shift
its a bit of a handful. Competing in the Rover V8 Challenge
was really good, both in terms of racing and the banter and startline
wind ups. Ill always remember going head-to-head with Steve
Greens Cortina, Ian Hampsteads Escort and Paula Atkins
100E. One race with Ian was a particularly good laugh. Budweiser
was sponsoring the Round and wed been given a crate of beer
when we signed on. The night before the main event wed all had
a couple and started talking about racing. Ian mentioned that he got
quite nervous when it came to staging and his leg would start shaking
if it went on too long. The next day, I left him in stage for as long
as I could...
On the road, Chelsea was always fun and it was good to get along
to the recent reunion on the bridge.
And your lowest point?
KJ: Wrapping my MkI Mexico
round a tree! Back in the day, getting invited to race by a
promoter and then being stuck in some shoddy pits was pretty grim.
Although I took a break when my son Kieran was born, Ive never
considered selling up and calling it a day, or swapping to another
Youre quite into your drag racing, is this a key part of
the scene in your eyes?
KJ: For me, it definitely
is and I like the adrenaline rush that happens in such a short
space of time. Ive raced since the mid 80s and
the atmosphere and people are great. Drag racing appeals to me
as you can race against someone else in a proper competition or
just for fun. I think its always been part of the
scene and especially now as theres the Old Skool Ford Drag
Challenge. Ive taken on more of an organiser role in this
years Challenge and have used my experience to help come
up with a handicap system that is based around a 13-second quarter.
Because were running handicaps everyone has a chance
of winning and coupled with the relaxed nature of the series,
this means were seeing more and more younger members having
a go at racing.
Your Escort uses a Vauxhall XE. Have you always been keen to try
new things, and what bearing have such developments had?
KJ: I actually bought
the XE before I got the Escort, as I got it for a silly price
from a mate who was breaking a hot rod. Its the smallest
engine Ive ever had in a race car but I could see its power
potential. Ive always tried new things as theyve
come about though, such as the G-Force gearbox and the NASCAR
twin-plate sintered clutch, and Im planning a more serious
XE that I think will be the first to feature Pro-Charger induction
with a bespoke manifold. Its a natural progression I suppose
and I think any classic Ford owner looks to evolve their car,
you do something and then youve got to do something else.
The scenes certainly good for ideas and really benefits
as a result, theres always someone trying something different
and the Maltese cars are having quite an influence at the moment.
How does the XE stack up, and how have you managed to get the
Escort to run so quick?
KJ: The XE works really
well and for performance per pound its very good. When
racing it runs with slicks and different ignition map and exhaust
system, but getting it to go like it does is really down to using
the right bits and understanding the ET and terminal speed.
Talking about the Escort, its got a reputation for launching hard
and lifting a wheel. Whats the secret of getting it to hook up
KJ: Its something Im
actually looking to improve as theres too much squat and I need
it to rise. Using slicks helps, but traction is always a problem
and it can get out of shape at any time and in any gear. I was on for
a 10.7-second pass once but had to come off it when it started to break
loose in fifth! Off the line I use 60 hp of nitrous and, depending
on where Im racing and if the surface has been prepared, drop
the clutch at 7000 or 5500 rpm.
How do you think the classic Ford scene will evolve?
KJ: Its difficult to
visualise but I never thought it would ever get this big and I cant
see it declining. I dont think later models will become
acceptable though, as to me a classic Ford will always be rear-wheel-drive,
but theres sure to be more developments, especially now were
seeing the alternative ways and tricks that enthusiasts in other countries
are altering their classic Fords.
Kevin, Ali, Kieran, Old Skool Ford, Dave and Avon Park Raceway
Having pulled a 10.6 quarter @ 122 mph, Kevins 1973 two-door
is without doubt one of the UKs quickest naturally aspirated
Sporting fresh Olympic Blue paint, plastic windows and Maltese-style
dash for this season, its also one of the best presented. However,
when Kevin bought it four years ago the subtle saloon was more scrapper
Allegedly restored, the front end told a different story and its
rotten state prompted Kevin to chop it all off and hang the dry-sumped
Vauxhall XE motor, trick suspension and Dzus-fastened front panels
off a lightweight tube frame.
The aforementioned XE benefits from such bits as twin 48s, 87.5
mm Omega pistons and steel rods, and despite a relatively standard
head kicked out 194 bhp @ 7500 rpm before it spat out the prop on
Kevins one and only visit to the dyno. An extra 100 bhp is
injected via a progressive, direct-port fogger nitrous kit and tasked
with the job of putting it all down goes to a G-Force five-speed
manual, an 8.8 inch Ford rear end and, ultimately, 8x13 inch Compomotive
Best of all though, the Escorts a bona fide street car. Yep,
Kevins Escort is all legal but before you get too jealous
at the prospect of driving a 10-second classic Ford on the street,
you might want to bear in mind his thoughts on piloting the Escort
down Sutton High Street: Its bloody orrible, the
clutch is just a switch!
Jenkins SBD webpage
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