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Extreme Escort

A li'l red Escort with a ripper 253kW at the back wheels - yipes!

Words by Michael Knowling, Pix by Julian Edgar

Click on pics to view larger images

At a glance...

  • Ford Escort with SR20DET conversion
  • 500hp turbo and external wastegate
  • 253kW at the wheels
  • Full roll cage
  • Totally insane!
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In its day, the Ford Escort was a machine not to be messed with. Even the stock 2.0 litre Escort could rip along quick enough to snap at the heels of some V8 bruisers with engines well over double the cubic capacity.

Ahhh, those were the days.

Today, the Escort – with 25 years of use and abuse behind it – struggles to keep up with Mr and Mrs Average’s family hack. Nobody quivers with fear when a li’l Escort pulls alongside.

But don’t write off the ol’ Escie just yet!

Click for larger image

Andy of Queensland owns one of the wildest street-reg Escorts in Australia. Andy has an English background, but that didn’t stop him heaving out the stock Pommy motor from this one owner ‘79 Mark II Escort. You see, Andy purchased the car with the intention of going insane.

“I knew I wanted either a Mazda rotary or a Nissan SR20,” says Andy. “The Cosworth turbo engine is just too expensive."

“In the end I dropped the idea for the rotary because they seem a bit temperamental and the SR20 has a great reputation.”

Click for larger image

Once Andy sourced a late-model S13 half cut, he got stuck into the conversion in his home garage. We’re told the swap necessitated a modified cross-member, a relocated steering rack, trans tunnel mods and some stuffing around with the engine height. A custom tailshaft is fitted.

The factory management system was fine when working with the stock T25G turbocharger, but a Haltech E6K programmable management system with a Malpassi reg and 650cc injectors were recently roped in to provide adequate fuelling. Converting to an EFI engine also meant a complete rework of the fuel lines and installation of a Bosch primer pump, custom 3 litre swirl pot and a Bosch 044 main pump. The fuel tank is a custom fabrication kinda reminiscent of the ol’ SLR 5000 “drop tanks”.

One of the benefits of a low kilometre Japanese import engine is you don’t have to take the risk of a full engine rebuild. Andy left the SR20 intact but got stuck into the bolt-ons to liberate a bunch of kilowatts.

Click for larger image

The standard turbo was exercised up to 20 psi before Andy bit the bullet and went for a custom exhaust manifold and big huffer. The tubular exhaust manifold you can see was fabricated by a friend and locates a 500hp XTR turbocharger. A Turbosmart 35mm external wastegate limits turbine speed to prevent overboosting. Boost is set to around 20 psi using a conventional bleed arrangement, but Andy plans to switch to a Turbosmart E-Boost.

Click for larger image

View this Escort from the back and you could be excused for thinking the 3 inch tailpipe is pure wank. Well, it would be if it were the stock motor – but this is far from stock! The full-frontal view lets it be known that this is an Escort to be taken seriously. Andy has integrated a custom intercooler into the nosecone. The piping between the intercooler and throttle is also equipped with a Turbosmart blow-off valve.

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To help the lightweight Ford get its grunt to the ground, Andy has fitted a mini-spool diff following the repeated breakage of a Borg Warner LSD. It’s fair to say Andy is pretty tough on his car, judging by the number of gearboxes he’s consumed over the past 2 years. Two ‘boxes have been destroyed and Andy isn’t too pleased when it happens – a gearbox swap necessitates removal of the entire engine... At least he can keep an eye on the condition of the Exedy heavy-duty clutch and lightened flywheel!

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One of the most recent mechanical changes to the car is fitment of a pair of high lift Tomo camshafts. Andy says these released about 15kW in the top-end, bringing the tally up to 253kW at the wheels.

Yep, that’s right. Two fifty-three RWKW in a Ford Escort weighing 950 – 1000kg! Andy is pretty casual when he talks about the amount of performance on tap; “Yeah, it’s done an 11.9 at 119 mph with a couple of problems so I think it should go quicker...”

The stocko suspension would run an’ hide when asked to cope with that level of performance so Andy has upgraded to lowered King springs and Pedders shocks at the front and reverse eyelet reset leaf springs and Monroe shocks at the rear. Slapper bars also serve to reduce axle tramp off the line. New urethane bushes have been thrown in everywhere.

Rear tyres very important in a machine like this and Andy is rapt in his choice of 205/50 15 Toyo DOT approved semi-slicks.  These offer great bang for buck.

The brake upgrade is a serious one.

Andy runs with a pair of Volvo 4-pot calipers biting BMW discs at the front and a Nissan R31 Skyline discs at the rear-end. These upsized discs live behind a set of 15 inch MiniLite alloys. A Group 4 rally-style pedal box is also employed.

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Inside, the cabin is a comfortable but hard-edged place to be. You’ll find Sparco Evo seats and pedals, Splitfire gauges for rpm, boost, oil pressure and water temp, a shift light, harnesses, Momo wheel, fire extinguisher and Pioneer sound system. A roll cage and a rear firewall provide the extra safety Andy feels is warranted.

Click for larger image

Andy is a pretty handy kinda fella so he had no problems rejuvenating the 25 year old Ford body. Some rust was removed from the bulkheads, new rubber seals were fitted, the panels straightened and a coat of Honda Civic red was laid on top. The spoilers you can see were sourced from Europe, there are clear lens taillights and a host of eye-caching stickers.

“Yep, it has everything you need to get pulled over and defected,” says Andy...


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