76′ Ford Escort #1/12

Shortly before the new year I posted on an Internet forum popular with classic car enthusiasts that like their cars fast, loud, well used and with a bit of character. You won’t find many ‘Garage queens’ over on Retro Rides, just take a look at some of the cars I spotted when I went to their annual gathering in 2014. 

I made a call out to meet with a few of the owners with the hope of photographing their pride and joy and discovering some interesting stories behind how they came to own the car, and what made them buy it in the first place. I wasn’t disappointed as Jake Matthews kindly stepped forward!

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I’ve always loved old cars, and I’ve never owned anything beyond the late 80’s – I like to think I’m a proper die hard enthusiast, I live and breathe cars really. And despite owning and liking a lot of old Fords, I’m really not a Ford type of person. I love old Yank motors, aircooled VW’s, classic Jap cars, anything old really. My holy grail is a 240Z with a G-nose, maybe one day.

Knowing that about Jake, it was a surprise to see his daily drive was a 1976 MK2 Ford Escort! The story begins after buying a Black FB RX7, a car better suited to his taste. As fate would have it though, the sale fell through and and after a blind bid on eBay, Jake was the new owner of his MK2.

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It was collected from central London back in July 2014 – a 1100 model so absolutely bottom of the range, no luxuries or extras or anything of the sort. It has a 4-speed gearbox, wipers, a rubbish heater, lights and literally nothing more.

The car was completely standard, but quiet rough around the edges. That didn’t stop Jake seeing its potential though. The Mirrors mounted on the wings are a rare feature, the FORD lettering on the grille instead of the more familiar Blue Oval and the colour is one of the rarest, ‘Laurel Green’.

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Having spent its entire life in central London and now edging on 40 years old, the cars body work is showing its age!

Yer, it’s got numerous dings here and there, panels in different shades of green from repairs and whatnot over the years, but it all builds the character of the car. It’s a properly joyful little car that’s home built on a small budget and driven thousands of miles – not a show queen that comes out once or twice for summer then gets stored in a heated garage all year. It’s not a trend-following sheep but it’s not crying out to be different either, it’s just done exactly how I wanted to do it.

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When Jake finally got to see the car he got a better idea of what he had bought. It had no MOT, the tyres and brake lines were perished, there was rust…lots of rust! The floorpan, spare wheel well, rear arches and various areas under the bonnet were rotten.

Additionally, the seats were torn to shreds and the carpet was covered in dog hair and 40 years of… whatever it was. This was mostly due to the previous owner’s dog getting into the car and seeing the classic beige low-back seats as a large chew toy, but they’ve somehow survived and remain in the car.

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After some slow progress on the Escort due to other projects and commitments, a burst of motivation hit around January 2015 after seeing another MK2 Escort.

I lowered it 2″ all round and got the lights working, engine running and the shell stronger. In March I took it for an MOT, although it wasn’t to be as I ran out of fuel on the way as it had no fuel gauge!

I was still doing bits here and there but I was taking my time as there was no real rush. That was, until my daily driver, an awesome little Supercinq Renault 5, caught fire. It burnt out all the wiring loom and needed a lot of work until it would be done again. I ended up finishing that a few months after but sadly sold it immediately as my heart was set on the Escort.

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The electrical fire induced a mad rush to get the Escort mot’d, the golden day was may 14th when the Escort passed the MOT and I could legally drive it. At this point it was still lowered 2″ and sitting on black staggered banded steels, looking back now it was funny how cool I thought it was but I was just so overjoyed to have it on the road after some blood sweat and tears.

A few days later I did the logical thing, a 175 mile round trip in pouring rain with no windscreen wipers to Snetterton for Retro Kings/Time Attack. It was epic and I had zero issues.

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Afterwards I ended up buying some 6×13 Slotmags and I lowered the car a tad more. I thought it was amazing, attended numerous events and kept driving the car all the time. I then lowered it again, and went to what is probably the best event on the show season calendar, Retro Rides Gathering. This was a 250 mile round trip but there were no issues for the little crossflow-powered escort. As mentioned earlier, the car had no fuel gauge for the MOT, well, I never ended up changing that. I drove around 7000 miles in the car before I finally decided to fix it , and I did the temperature gauge while I was at it, so technically everything in the car works – although there really isn’t much to go wrong!

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Soon afterwards I travelled back to Oxford to buy a wider set of Slotmags from the same person the first set came from. Those were a pain, they didn’t fit despite being the correct pcd and centerbore and the brand new tires kept leaking. After redrilling and resealing, I was good to go. It also had no carpet in for over a year, I kept searching for one but had no luck. The reproduction ones are rubbish, but after ages trawling ebay and related sites, I finally found one – it was brown, torn, and from a left hand drive model, but I repaired it and made it fit. It’s one of my favourite parts of the car actually, it’s so plush and ties in with the interior nicely.

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Jake has more plans for the future as well. The car is still running the original 1100 Crossflow with the original carb and exhaust. But he has purchased a new set up for a little more power. His new engine consists of a 711M block 1600 Crossflow with an Ashley 4-branch exhaust manifold, twin Choke Weber 32/36 carbs and electronic ignition. Jake won’t be letting this one go any time soon, and I can’t blame him.

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Next month I will bring you #2/12, Josh Oakes 1974 Scimitar GTE Overdrive

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