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Retro Ford

July 2006

Tarmac Terrorist

Ballistic Mk1 Escort capable of mid-11-second quarter-mile times, and it's powered by a Vauxhall.

Words: Ben M

Photos: Tricky

As you may or may but be aware, I am a big fan of the Vauxhall 2.0 16v engine especially when it is lurking between the wings of an old-skool Ford. It may not be to everyone's taste, but it is one hell of an engine. I have seen Kevin Jenkins' car at Santa pod and let me tell you it literally chews up the quarter-mile, spits it out and demands more, although to Kevin the Escort seems relatively slow as he spent a good few years drag racing, competing in many championships with big power V8s and the like. His passion for cars really resides in drag racing, and unfortunately this got to a point where everything was suffering: the house, the garden, the holidays etc. He spent all his time immersed in the sport, as well as a large amount of his money, so he made the decision to give the drag racing a rest. Until of course the Escort came along.

Just over four years ago Kevin bought a 2.0 16v Vauxhall engine for his next little project, all he needed was to find a car to slot it into. His intention was to get out and do a few track days, sprints and the like, but this time working under strict motto of "If I haven't got the money, the car doesn't get the parts". Along cam a relatively straight and tidy Mk1 Escort shell on eBay, so with money in his pocket, he bought the car. Drawing from his drag experience and from the fact that it would most likely end up on the quarter-mile at some stage, Ken 'mini tubbed' the rear inner arches, bringing them hack in towards the chassis rails to enable his to run big rubber.

This created a problem in itself as it meant that the turrets were then in the wrong place and the shock absorbers rubbed don the rear of the tyres, so to get around this he fabricated turrets inside of the boot and suitably braced them with tubing. He wasn't sure how well it was going to work, bit it turns out it went really well as once the car was finished and corner weighted it was exactly as a well-set-up one should be, although Kevin admits that it was more lick than judgement. When it cam to the axle he knew that it had to be strong and while he had been down the English axle with two-piece half shafts road, it still wasn't strong enough.

Rather than opting for the ultra strong but ultra-expensive Atlas axle that we see under so many high-powered retro Fords, Kevin used his drag racing knowledge and contacts and imported an eight-inch Mustang axle from America. It came made to his specification with billet steel half shafts and a Detroit locker for less than a third of the price of a similarly specced Atlas, and his is pretty confident there is no way he will be able to break it. Up front Kevin installed the Xe, chopping out the bulkhead to enable him to move the engine rearwards for that all important weight distribution. He made his own lowered rack mount crossmember so he was able to get the engine in nice and low. At first he didn't enlarge the tunnel, but after going through several gearboxes to find the right gear ratios, he settled for a T5 gearbox as normally found behind the Cosworth YB.

Retro Ford
Retro Ford He had to modify the SBD bellhousing that he had bought and also make up a spacer plate to get it to fit behind the Vauxhall engine, but Kevin assures me this really is the best gearbox for the job. The only downside to this is that he has encountered a few problems changing gears at high engine speeds and thus he is already on his third or gearbox. He has planned a way around this though and is looking to get himself a "proper" gearbox from America. The weakest link was now the propshaft, a problem that let itself be known when it snapped at the top of a power run on the rollers Track and Road - not a pretty sight. It did a fair amount of damage as you can imagine, but thankfully this is sorted now with a Gartrac item transferring power form the gearbox to the axle.

The Xe under the bonnet sounds damn horny as it sucks in gallons of air through the twin Weber 48s, although these aren't the only trick up the Vauxhall's sleeve. The car runs a very trick nitrous setup, using a progressive control system, meaning it can be programmed to launch with, say 30bhp than after a period of 3-4 seconds feed in 60bhp, meaning you don't waste all the power in a wheelspin on the line.

To say this car launches hard is an understatement, it regularly picks a front wheel up at Santa Pod. Kevin used to import and fit nitrous systems which meant there were no problems installing it to this engine. Thus far the Escort's best quarter-mile time is 11.58 seconds, although Kevin is sure he can bring it down to 11.3… I think you will agree this is awesome in a car that looks so unassuming.

Old-skool Fords are never finished, and this is no exception. Kevin has plans to covert to a hydraulic clutch and make a bespoke system using an electronic line lock in both the clutch and brake lines in order to lick the brakes and hold the clutch down. This means that when he is in stage all he has to do is set the revs and when the green light goes hit the button- the car should launch perfectly and bring his reaction times right down. There are also plans to change to an American setup at the rear, as currently the bard launches take their toll on the rubber bushed link bars. All this is like music to Kevin's son Keiron's ears as he has got his eye on the car, which he looks set to inherit when he is old enough to drive (lucky git - All).

On the outside it may appear to be 'just an Escort' but under the skin lurks a very well-built purposeful weapon of a car. It may powered by a Vauxhall, but when it overtakes you (and it will), you'd be forgiven for thinking a BDA lurks between the wings, as the XE draws hard through Weber 48s and sings the old-skool anthem of induction noise in your face.

Retro Ford
A big thanks to the guys and girls at Epsom Downs racecourse who let us photograph the car in front of the Queen's Stand
Tech Spec
Vauxhall 2.0 16v, steel rods, 87.5mm Omega forged pistons, standard valves, standard ports, solid lifter cams, dry sump system, twin 48 Weber DCOE carbs, Direct port fogger nitrous system.
T5 gearbox, B&N pro shifter, SBD RWD bellhousing modified to fit T5, bespoke adaptor plate, heavy duty clutch cover plate. cerametallic paddle, Gartrac single-piece prop. Mustang 8" axle, 28 spline billet one-piece half shafts, Detroit locker differential, 5.46:1 final drive ratio
Gaz fully adjustable 2.25" front struts, 350lb springs, adjustable top mounts, twin cam anti-roll bars, quick rack, alloy hubs, lowered rack mount crossmember, Leda fully adjustable 2.25" coilover rear dampers, 200lb springs, 5 linked
Wilwood four-pot front calipers, vented drilled & grooved discs, Wilwood four-pot rear calipers, Bias pedal box, hydraulic handbrake, line lock, additional bias valve for rear brakes
Road:6x13" Minilites with 185/60r13 Yokohamas front, 7x13" Minilites with 215/50r13 Yokohamas rear. Drag 6x13" with 155r13 tyres front, 8x13" Minilites with 24.5x8x13" Drag rear tyres
RS front wings, RS decal, RS badges, polycarb windows
Alloy panels, alloy centre console, full cage, carpeted, fibreglass bucket seats, Autometer gauges, Springalex steering wheel. Jazz fuel cell, battery & dry simp cell in boot

Old Skool Ford Drag Championship 2006: Round 2 - Best Burnout

Old Skool Ford Drag Championship 2006: Round 4 - 1/4mile Fastest 5.6 seconds

Old Skool Ford Drag Championship 2006: Round 5 - Fastest Overall Time 11.63 seconds

Kevin Jenkins web page
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