1974 Ford Escort Sport Mk1 - untouched and rare
Ford Heritage: Colonel Sanders may have a secret blend of herbs and spices, but when it comes to originality, even he would struggle to beat Jason West’s achingly authentic and super-rare 1300 Sport.
Words and Photos Dan Sherwood
ESCORT 1300 SPORT
HERITAGE: 1974 Ford Escort Sport Mk1 Untouched and rare Mk1 breaks cover.
Some people don’t even know that Ford made a Mk1 1300 Sport, let alone have ever seen one in the metal,” laughs 33-year-old automotive paint sprayer Jason West. “And with just 52 examples known to still exist in the UK, it just shows what an incredibly rare car this is, especially with this level of originality and condition.” And with its perfect Sunset Red paintwork and unblemished chrome trim of the dogbone front grille surround glinting in the harsh spring sunlight, you could be forgiven for thinking this example had just rolled o the production line, but as Jason can testify, there was a little more to it than that. But first, a brief history lesson from Jason…
“The 1300 Sport model was launched in 1971 and had the looks of the brawnier Mexico and RS1600 models, but lacked the more powerful engine and motorsport pedigree,” explains the Cambridge-based classic Ford fan. “Combined with the low number of Sport models made, it was never a common or hugely popular model even in period, which further explains their scarcity today.”
In fact, it was more by chance than by design that Jason ended up with his pristine example in the first place, having stumbled across an advert for the car which was being sold through an auction house in Peterborough. “It wasn’t even a car specific auction, as most of the lots were of antiques and the like,” he laughs. “I just happened to see the car listed and knew what a rare model it is and decided to take a punt on bidding for it.”
The car itself is a one-owner 1974 model that was originally sold from new by Peterborough Motors and has stayed in Cambridgeshire to this very day — it still has the original dealer stickers in the window! It came with 76,000 miles on the clock and had been stored unused in a garage for the last 10 years after the death of the previous owner. It was finally put up for auction by the bereaved widow in May 2022. “I bought the car unseen, but had a fair idea of the condition from the description,” Jason says. “It was far from cheap, but I was happy when I realised I’d placed the winning bid.”
Jason’s happiness soon turned to elation, however, when he got the car back to his uncle’s bodyshop, Cambridge Classic Cars, and he could finally give the Escort a thorough inspection.
“I couldn’t believe just how clean and original it was,” Jason beams. “I was prepared to do a fair amount of work to the car, but it really didn’t need it. It was completely rust free, the engine ran like a dream and the original chrome and trims were complete and intact. Even the interior was immaculate, only needing a deep clean to get it looking as good as new.”
So what was initially planned to be a thorough restoration, has ended up as more of a carefully-considered refresh, while retaining as many of the original parts as possible. “Within a week of owning the car, my uncle and I began the task of stripping the car down to a shell before carrying out a full exterior respray to freshen up the factory paint job,” says Jason. “We were surprised to see that the original underseal was still perfectly intact and the whole underside was just as good as the exterior.”
With the shell devoid of all its panels, glass, trim, engine and under carriage, Jason carried out the extremely light remedial work that was required to the bodywork before painting the underside in factory grey and priming the rest of the exterior in readiness for a gleaming top coat of original Sunset Red paint.
“We didn’t even touch the interior of the car, as it was perfect as it was, so the paintwork was restricted to the exterior panels, as well as the engine bay and the boot,” he says.
Up and running
With the shell now returned to as-new condition, Jason and his uncle turned their attention to refreshing the running gear, brakes and suspension. As with the rest of the car, the car’s original suspension was still in perfectly serviceable condition and a simple clean up and repaint was all that was needed to get the springs, dampers and rear axle all looking factory fresh. “The braking system was remarkably good for the age of the car, with even the factory brake lines in perfect order,” Jason reveals. “The only things I replaced were the brake callipers and the rear shoes and drum cylinders. The original discs were lightly skimmed to remove any unevenness and surface rust in the disc faces that had built up from the many years of storage, but that was about it. As nice as the car looks from the outside, its actually the underneath that’s my favourite now, as it’s just so clean!”
While the engine was removed, Jason and his uncle stripped it down and inspected all the parts, cleaning, replacing and reconditioning where necessary. This included re-lapping the valves and cleaning the head, cleaning and painting the sump and rebuilding everything with new gaskets, piston rings, bearings and spark plugs. The original ignition leads and distributor worked perfectly so were retained along with the factory fuel pump, as was the Weber downdraught carburettor, which was rebuilt with an off — the-shelf service kit.
“Before reinstalling the engine I repainted the original exhaust system in silver and the manifold in high temperature black paint,” Jason says. “I also cleaned and painted the rocker cover and brake booster black and gave the airbox a lick of royal blue, aping that of the original.” Once complete, the engine was dropped back into the flawless bay and connected back up to the original loom. It now starts on the button and runs as sweetly as the day it left the factory gates.
Incredibly, for a car that’s nearing its 50th birthday, all the original lights, trim, chrome and interior have been retained, with only a spot of elbow grease needed to bring them back up to immaculate condition. “Aside from a tiny tear in the vinyl in the corner of the driver’s seat, which I had professionally repaired, the interior has hardly been touched,” Jason says. “You really don’t see many cars like this that have survived the last five decades in such pristine factory condition. Even the original rubber floor overlay and mats are intact. It really is like stepping back in time.”
The final piece of the puzzle was for Jason to repaint the original 5x13 inch wheels and equip them with fresh tyres, as no-one wants to be driving round on decades’ old rubber. “Once complete, the car’s first outing was to the Classic Motor Show at the NEC,” Jason says. “The car was included on the 1300 Sport stand with two other Sport models, believed to be the only three road registered cars in the UK, to celebrate the Sport’s 50th anniversary. It was the first time they’d ever had a stand for these super-rare models.” And it’s this unicorn-like rarity, blended with such flawless original condition, that means Jason’s tasty 1300 Sport is a seriously collectable classic that’s finger-licking good!
“YOU DON’T SEE MANY CARS LIKE THIS THAT HAVE SURVIVED IN SUCH FANTASTIC CONDITION”
Nicely-worn original dealer sticker has survived all these (49) years.
SPORTING HISTORY THE MK1 SPORT
The two-door only Escort Sport was introduced shortly before the 1971 Earls Court Motor Show, mainly due to Ford not having a sporting version of the Escort that was priced below the magic £1000 barrier – the RS1600 cost £1496, the Mexico £1179 and the GT £1021 at the time. The Sport came in at £940, which came at the expense of a lower-spec interior, but added sporting elements such as radial ply tyres on 5x13 inch rims, plus the steroidal flared arches of the AVO models. Powered by a 1300 GT version of the Kent Crossflow engine utilising a downdraught Weber carburettor it packed a 71 bhp punch. This was delivered to the rear wheels via a four-speed close ratio box with a slightly lower 4.125 final drive to provide the Sport with a 0-60 mph time of 12 seconds and a 99 mph top speed. Only 52 examples are known to exist in the UK, with 47 SORN and just three registered for the road, making for a seriously rare classic Ford.
The GT-spec 1300 Crossflow was removed and stripped for checking, but Jason deemed it more than fit for purpose.
Apart from a small seat repair, the superb interior is completely untouched.
“I WAS PREPARED TO DO A FAIR AMOUNT OF WORK, BUT IT REALLY DIDN’T NEED IT”
Underside has been nicely detailed and is now Jason’s favourite part of the car.