Monday, March 8, 2021
540hp Mk2 Escort Big Clean

The Mk2 Escort is a true ‘70s icon. Known globally for its rally-bred pedigree as a rear wheel drive hooligan, the only way truly is sideways for this timeless classic. Highly-modified by all manner of petrolheads, the Mk2 remains a revered masterpiece of design, packaging and desire. Spend just a few hours looking around any motorsport event and you’ll inevitably find a specialist rally or track-day prep firm offering incredible motorsport fabrication with seam welded bodyshells and ludicrously powerful naturally-aspirated Vauxhall, Cosworth or Honda motivation onboard.

The purity of this aging chassis means that the specialist aftermarket for this vehicle is truly enormous. Firms like Rally Design, Burton Power, Millington, DEN Motorsport, HT Racing, Harris Performance Engines, ND Tuning – Retro Ford and many more besides – are all engineering custom parts specifically to rebuild, enhance and uprate the Mk2 Escort with legendary performance potential.

For Des Morris, a SE London lad who has developed a passion for high performance Ford’s over the years, this project has taken just over a decade to reach completion, but as with any project car of this magnitude it’s been through a few evolutions during that time.

“I bought it in 2007 from an old friend,” Des explains. “I recall seeing the car first being built when I was just 15 at HT Racing close to Brands Hatch back in the late ‘90s.  The guy who owned it then, Matt, was throwing crazy amounts of time and money at the project and the fabrication was truly next level. At the time it was due to have a Hart 420R F2 engine installed. I never imagined for a second that it would be mine one day.”


The complexity of the fabrication and the parts being used pointed to something very special, “I recall Arron and Ray at HT telling me about the gearbox. Apparently when the owner asked what a strong gearbox was, they told him, BMW E36 M3 Getrag, the next day he turned up with one. At the time they were brand new, can you imagine what an F80 BMW M3 gearbox would cost nowadays?”

As a track-focussed weapon of a machine, this Escort sees regular action around Brands Hatch, Snetterton, Goodwood and even Silverstone, and thanks to a transplanted Sierra Cosworth YB engine (wire rung 205 block, Mahle 7.2:1 pistons. HT Racing ported head) this old Escort has more than enough fire power to get into lots of trouble. “It makes 540hp and 440ft.lbs at the moment,” Des tells us. “But it’s the way in which it delivers that power that’s incredible.”

The turbo itself is a later Turbo Dynamics T4 based hybrid item that features bigger turbine and compressor wheels with uprated roller bearings. Maxing out at 2bar of boost it features a separate radiator and water-cooling system to prevent the engine radiator and header tank from boiling up when the turbo is glowing red.  Converted with a bespoke adapter plate and bellhousing to transfer drive to the aforementioned BMW E36 M3 six-speed gearbox and rear differential, Des says it will easily go off the 170mph speedo that’s currently fitted, “It’s even done a theoretical 202mph on the rolling road, but I doubt that’s possible in the real world,” Des smiles. We won’t mention the number of scalps Des has claimed, but when you can cleanly transfer the turbocharged grunt to the tarmac, it’s one hell of a visceral machine. Even his exit from Autoglym HQ on the day was quite… erm, eventful.

Des is the first to admit that it spends more time on the road going to shows and Ford events than it does out on track, but with those bare metal, polished Revolution split rims and pristine bodywork that was painted all the way back in 1999, it’s incredible to see how immaculate it remains. Of course, no small part of that is down to the Autoglym regime that dominates Des’s regular detailing schedule.  “I try to keep water off it now as much as possible or ensure that it’s perfectly dry before it goes back in the garage. There’s a tiny bit of rust creeping through now, so things like Rapid Detailer are a vital part of my cleaning arsenal. Removing spent rubber from the flanks on the day was accounted for with some Intensive Tar Remover and the window rubbers were also treated to wipe down to remove any old contaminants.

Because the car was so clean when it arrived, it was deemed unnecessary to Polar Blast or UHD Shampoo the exterior, Ryan opting instead to give the bodywork a once-over with some Rapid Detailer and Instant Show Shine to lube and soften any of the slight contaminants on the surface.

Attention then turned to the bare, polished metal dishes of the 10.5 and 12-inch wide wheels. Where the nuts and bolts secure the wheels together it’s usual for corrosion to form over time, but Ryan suggested that a quick going over with some Custom Wheel Cleaner would break down any grime, fallout and brake dust from the surface before a quick scrub with a soft hair brush could get into the more inaccessible areas.  Ryan then applied some Metal Polish, buffed it off with a microfibre, and then sealed them up with some Silicone Sheen to restore the shine to the uncoated metalwork. The difference from arrival to departure on the wheels was like night and day!

Rapid Detailer was also utilised beneath the bonnet to lift any grub and grime.  Upon really closer inspection, the roof was deemed to have some slight scratches (barely visible to the naked eye), but after measuring the paint depth, Ryan opted not to go at it with any polishing compound or a DA buffer. Bringing back some of the plastics – and particularly the window rubbers – Ryan used both Intensive Tar Remover on the seals and Rapid Detailer on the custom lacquered carbon parts to restore the lustre  Likewise, the badges and grills were treated to a quick once-over with Rapid Detailer to restore the sheen to them.

Taking an already pristine car and making it even better is the Autoglym way, but in the case of Des’s Escort we had a real soft spot for this car, and considering many of the panels (bonnet, wings, boot, doors) are made from carbon fibre, it remains one of the most talked about and appreciated cars to enter the Autoglym detailing bay in some time. To keep track of his adventures, head on over to: @RS1cossie_power on Instagram to see what Des gets up to next.

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