Monday, 19 June 2017

VTEC Combat Escort

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

As bases for project cars go, the Mk2 Escort is always going to be a strong choice. If you can bring yourself to use the horrendous word 'winningest', you'll be able to boast that your car shares the DNA of history's winningest rally car. Of course, the Mk2 has form on the track too, as Zakspeed and the like were keen to demonstrate in the late-1970s, and it's this Group 5 aggression that's being channelled here.

Behold, it's a flatfront Escort.
...a flatfront Escort with super-wide arches, astonishing aero, oodles of functional carbon-fibre bits and, best of all, an F20C - the manic Honda engine from the S2000 that revs right up to the stratosphere and back. (And that's not an easy conversion - not only is the modern Japanese motor totally alien to the retro Ford, it's also very tall and it spins the wrong way.) So what we have is a sort of who's-who of awesome, coalescing to form one of the coolest Mk2s on the scene today.

Spotted at the 2017 Players Classic - more pics here.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Lotus Esprit GT1

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Lotus were having a hard time in the early 1990s. Production of the leggy Excel and FWD Elan had ended, the number of franchised dealers had almost halved, and they'd been unceremoniously dumped by General Motors. The Lotus F1 team had gone bankrupt, so Group Lotus found themselves without a single motorsport outlet with which to promote their sports cars. What they needed was a fresh new racer... so they took the venerable old Esprit and reworked it into a brutal GT1 monster. Makes sense, right?

The resultant Esprit GT1 was a mixed bag of fortunes: it was able to keep up with the McLaren F1 GTR, but was blighted by reliability issues too. It never became a poster boy for the genre, and many are surprised nowadays to learn that the Esprit GT1 was even a thing. This particular one was run by Lotus in 1996 before passing into privateer hands the following year; in the fourth race of the '97 season it suffered extensive crash damage, and ultimately had to endure the ignominy of being a spares car for its sister Esprit in the 1998 Le Mans 24hr. Such was its fate from then on, in fact, endlessly picked over for parts to keep the more together cars in action... until, that was, the day five years ago when the car was bought by marque enthusiast Peter Downes. He's been methodically piecing it back together, chasing up the correct period GT1-spec parts, and reckons before long it'll all be finished and ready to race. Looking pretty damn fine so far, isn't it?

Spotted at 75MM - more pics here.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Wooding Group 2 Escort RS1600

Words & photos - Daniel Bevis

Arguably the coolest car at Goodwood's 75th Members' Meeting wasn't even supposed to be there. Despite not appearing in the programme and not venturing out onto the track, this sublime little Mk1 Escort was making a proper show of itself in the Group A paddock, surrounded by Sierra RS500s and causing a scene with its revvy, shouty BDG.
The '72 RS1600 wears the period Texaco colours of Hamburg's Wooding race team. The outfit campaigned the DRM in 1971 and '72, running Alan Mann-style torsion bar setups and roaring twin-cam motors, although the team disbanded in 1973 and the cars went on to new lives elsewhere. This particular one passed through various hands; documentation from 1983 shows it still in Wooding livery with Robert Pucher as the owner; he sold it to Alfa Romeo racer and Ferrari dealer Fritz Neuser, who passed it on to German Ford collector Helmut Stein in the early 1990s. Stein owned it until 2013 - in his tenure it had enjoyed a hillclimbing career, with modifications to the floor, tunnel and bulkhead, but importantly it retained its unique torsion beam arrangement and was a prime candidate for restoration to historic Group 2 specs.

Simon Hadfield Motorsport spent two years on the resto, during which time it received new (correct) floorpans and bulkhead, an Alan Mann-style 6-point rollcage, FIA-friendly seat and harness and a plumbed-in extinguisher system. And the engine... oh, that's something else. An alloy-blocked 2.0-litre twin-cam Cosworth BDG built by Craig Beck Racing, it runs Lucas mechanical fuel-injection and produces an astounding 279bhp at a frankly silly 8,750rpm.
Shakedown tests saw it running quicker than the more powerful Group 2 Capri RS2600, which speaks volumes for the Wooding chassis setup. I can't wait to see this gorgeous little Escort out and about on the classic racing scene...

Spotted at 75MM - more pics here.