The Mk1 Ford Escort That Actually Isn’t One

When Ray Venter was a pre-schooler, his father owned a Mk1 Ford Escort oval track racer. Ray has fond memories of the car, and for as long as he can remember, he wanted a Mk1 of his own.

Unfortunately, when the time came to find and purchase one, Ray got a nasty surprise. Mk1 Ford Escorts don’t come cheap in South Africa anymore, and that’s likely true of every other place in the world too. But just because Ray couldn’t buy his long-time dream car didn’t mean he couldn’t build an Escort – or at least something that resembles one.

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Ray’s search for a Mk1 led him to Gert Botes, a local race car builder that specialises in custom space-frame chassis with fibreglass bodies for competition use, specifically for oval and circuit racing.


In a stroke of good luck, Gert had an Escort-bodied rolling chassis in his workshop at the exact time Ray called him and a deal was done.

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Ray’s other car, a previously featured big-boosting BMW M135i on Air Lift Performance suspension is a very clean build, but for the Escort he had the opposite in mind. Ray wanted this one to have a real ratty feel about the exterior, which meant getting creative.

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Ray says that quite a lot of work was involved in making the fibreglass body looked like time-worn metal. First, he used Dulux Metalshield QD Enamel Topcoat in different colours as the base coat, before applying Fired Earth Liquid Rust on top in between coats of a paint activator and plenty of sanding.

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It took a few tries for Ray to get the exact look he wanted, but I’m sure you’ll agree that all the effort was worth it. The black striping and ‘Mexico’ graphics were done by hand in QD Enamel before the whole body was sealed with a bonding liquid normally used for tiling.

There’s lightweight polycarbonate windows all around – vented on the sides – while the lights and door handles are original Ford Escort items.

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Like many rat builds, what’s under-hood is the party piece, and for this aspect of the project Ray called on Nico Storbeck of Performance Pinto to build a fun-but-reliable setup.

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It starts with a Ford Pinto 2.0L 205 block fitted out with oversized AE pistons, but stock conrods and a 6-bolt Pinto crankshaft all balanced by Fulrace Engineering. The cylinder head was flowed, ported and fitted with three-angle valve seats and swirled valves on the inside, while an Estas billet camshaft – ground to a custom turbo profile with 288-degree duration – is timed via a custom adjustable vernier cam pulley.

As you can see, there’s boost in the equation too, and that comes via a T3-T4 turbocharger coupled with a 38mm TiAL wastegate and front-mount intercooler.

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A stock Ford 2.0 EFI intake is used – necessitating a hole to be cut through the hood – while the fuel system has been upgraded through a modified Pinto fuel rail running 1,000cc Bosch injectors supplied by a Bosch Motorsport 044 pump that draws from an aluminium fuel cell in the rear.

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You can’t miss the intercooler pipes, exhaust, screamer pipe, intake pipe and tubular turbo manifold all created by BYM Fabrication. With such an excessive use of pie-cuts some might think that it’s over the top, but I think it suits the theme of the car perfectly. Also, a side-exit exhaust will always be infinitely cooler than one that runs the whole length of the underbody.

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Managing the engine is a Dicktator ECU, which tuning has revealed 201kW (270hp) and 415Nm (306ft-lb) at the wheels on 1.0bar (14.7psi) boost, running a 50/50 mix of ethanol and 95RON pump fuel.

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Putting the power to the wheels is a Type 9 Ford 5-speed gearbox running a lightweight flywheel with double dowel pins, a 4-puk copper button clutch and a custom Driveline Technologies propshaft running into a locked M75 Ford Cortina diff.

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Initially Ray planned to use the Escort for circuit racing, hence the adjustable custom rose-jointed front and rear suspension, with coilovers all round and a 4-link rear arrangement. These days though, he’s more interested in chasing ETs on the drag strip – for fun – something the Escort is well suited for weighing just 750kg (1,653lb).

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South African Ensure wheels in a 13×9-inch fitment feature at all four corners, hiding a disc brake upgrade front and rear.

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The interior is all about function and not much else. There’s a Momo steering wheel with a quick-release hub, a custom pedal box, Acewell digital dash and a couple of extra analogue gauges, plus a pair of custom-trimmed seats with Sparco harness. The roll cage is part of the space-frame structure.

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As much as Ray wanted the keys to an original Mk1 Ford Escort, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be having as much fun as he does with this car. It’s a really cool build, and a perfect extension of Ray’s personality.

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Ray’s not done with the ‘Fraudscort’ yet though. He’s already bought a new GT35 turbo, which should lift power by around 70kW (94hp) with 1.4bar (20psi) boost dialled up. In the Escort’s original guise it ran a 12.7-second ET, with the only change being slicks fitted out back, but with the new turbo setup and a bit of suspension fine-tuning, Ray is hoping to achieve an 11-second pass down the quarter mile.

But more importantly than that, it’ll be even more fun to drive.

Stefan Kotzé
Instagram: stefankotzephoto
[email protected]


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