Built Not Bought
Author: Tom Magnay, Photo/Video: BlendLine Magazine
Tucked away in a secure barn, nestled in the countryside, we walk in to find the owner and builder of this magnificent 0 mile car just making some adjustments in the engine bay. Pleasantries and small talk out of the way, it's time to have an in depth look at the car.
0 mile is, literally what it is. In summer 2020 when we first arrive to see the car, the engine has been installed around 2 weeks prior and everything subsequently plumbed in, and it's been run a few times and pushed around the yard to make sure everything engages and works as it should.
The cars owner wishes to remain anonymous. He is also the cars builder, and the story began in around 2014 when he sourced a fairly rusty 1980 3 door, 1.3 litre automatic transmission Escort MKII. It actually ran at the time of collection (not so important with the intended purpose in mind, but a nice bonus) and was driven on to the trailer and brought back to this workshop where it was subsequently stripped down immediately. More important, though, was the fact that it had a set of number plates and a matching DVLA V5 logbook, and previous history checks had shown that this was indeed genuine. With many Escorts becoming cloned, exported or imported around the world, the last 10-15 years has seen an epic "boom" in the price of Mark 1 & 2 Escorts in all forms, from rotten shells to fully running cars - if they are accompanied by a valid ownership document.
Throughout 2014 - 2019 the owner of the car meticulously stripped every component, inspected it, and either threw it away or restored it. There was plenty worth saving - glass panels, doors, the tailgate, indicator stalks, mirrors, heater controls, brackets, mountings and so on. But the pile of scrap metal grew higher as more and more of the bodyshell was cut out to be replaced. The car was blasted and treated, and after some months of hard labour the wide Group 4 spec arches were added too. Help was drafted in from various specialists - Sean Edwards at Rallyweld, who was pivotal in various points of the shell resto, including the CDS weld in rollcage.
It is important to note that the cars owner was doing his work on the car in evenings that he could spare, odd weekends whilst commuting for a busy full time job, so it is understandable how it took so long to complete when he was determined to do as much as possible himself - as much to be a part of all of the project as wanting to save cash.
Custom carriers were installed to add a 6 link axle to replace the original spec leaf springs, the car now sits on Bilstein coilover suspension with multi-way adjustment. The Atlas axle shares its front housing with a P100 pickup, with a custom propshaft carrying drive to the rear, meanwhile the gearbox itself is a Mazda MX5 transmission which fits fairly seamlessly with the engine that the owner has sourced. The motor itself is a brand new 2.5 litre Ford Duratec crate engine, the owner deliberated for literally years during the early stages of the build to decide between Cosworth YB turbocharged engine (Escort Cosworth spec) or various NA 2.0 or 2.5 litre engines. The decision was finally made to stick with normally aspirated, and the engine was ordered from SPD Motorsport, along with all the ancillaries and mountings to make it fit in the engine bay.
Spec is currently standard block and head, running the standard camshafts for now. Things spice up a bit with the addition of Jenvey individual throttle bodies and an MBE ECU to control it all. There's much more detail about this in the video below.
The tunnel was enlarged to suit the gearbox (the purchase of an automatic donor car helped slightly with this already, as the tunnels are already larger in these) and the MX5 gearbox was mounted to the engine with an adaptor kit that rotates the bellhousing slightly to suit the Ford engine.
The shell was painted by a local specialist, one of the few jobs fully outsourced, and finished in the beautiful gloss white. Kevlar guards feature on the leading edge of the rear arches, in anticipation of real world conditions.
Inside the Corbeau seats welcome you with a reassuring hug. Our first visit in summer 2020 allowed us to fire the car up for our video (below) and draw it outside for some photos (the ones you see in this post), for it to be wheeled back indoors again to allow the owner to carry on rummaging in the engine bay.
A month or so later and we were back, this time the car was ready for a short drive on the lanes although the ECU was still not mapped due to complications with logistics of transporting the car during Covid, so we had a hard limiter of 5000rpm set for the drive. The car runs a Simpson exhaust manifold (a beautiful piece of TIG welded engineering) and full 2.75" system, even with the silencer it is very loud and resonates through the fully stripped interior with menace.
A 10 mile drive has me truly hooked, a spellbinding engagement with the engineering masterpiece that is this home built machine. The gear lever slices through the H-pattern gate with ease, as I skip through gears frequently to keep well clear of the temporarily lowered limiter. Even with the engine not fully tuned, it pulls extremely well in all ratios, meanwhile the quick steering rack offers plenty of response leading you to need full concentration at all times. The semi slick, road legal track tyres (205s on the front, 225s rear) offer superb grip, and although far from pushing them to their limits we had them well warmed in the summer morning sunshine. While we're on the subject of rotating mass, worth noting the lightweight Minilite wheels, 15" and 8" wide, and beautifully finished in their original gold colour, purchased straight from the manufacturer. Stopping power is brought about by large AP 4 pot calipers on the front, Ferodo DS2500 pads mean a little temperature is needed to achieve some reassuring bite.
All the while, information is being fed to me via an awesome Stack dash, integrated into the cluster (dials sourced from an RS2000 for the extra room for displays) and the illuminated inset digital readout can cycle through oil and water temp and other engine vitals. Meanwhile speedometer and fuel gauge are all standard, meaning the relatively advanced technology of the Stack almost go unnoticed.
A large capacity fuel cell and swirl pot in the boot are from AH Fabrication and the display of aluminium fabrication here is a sight to behold, as is the water radiator in the engine bay.
The warmth of the day has no effect on the cars running temperatures as we noisily return back to the yard for some more photos and a coffee while we stand back in the sun and chat about the car.
The way the car sits in its arches is splendid. Purposeful and showing intent, those who know, know.
The owner has been using the car ever since, throughout the late winter and early spring of 2021, while he tidies up some small teething issues.
The pandemic has delayed plans for mapping and full camber/toe setup, the former being carried out on the other side of the country and not worth risking a long drive in lockdown. As soon as restrictions are eased in spring and the last jobs are done, BlendLine will be back for 'part two' of our YouTube video of this car (above) and a proper drive. The owner will be joining us on some events throughout 2021 so we look forward to getting together then.
Tom Magnay: @tommagnay01
Tal England: @talengland
BlendLine Apparel: @blend_line
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