260bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

260bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

There are a thousand recipes to build a Mk1 Escort for the modern era. All it takes is patience, determination, dedication, and a dare-to-be-different mindset. This is one enthusiast’s dream build come to life.


Words Jason O’Halloran

Photos Matthew Everingham


K-POPPED RESTOMOD MK1 ESCORT

There are a thousand recipes to build a Mk1 Escort for the modern era. All it takes is patience, determination, and a dare to be different.

260bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

What does the perfect Mk1 Escort look like? What does it sound like? How does it drive? Is it a street car or a track-tuned weapon? Does it have traditional Ford running gear? What colour should the paint be? How big should the rims and tyres be?

There is not one of us that hasn’t asked ourselves questions like these a hundred times, because that what enthusiasts do. We pick a car, and then we mentally perfect it. We look at all aspects, working out what is the best parts and approaches to use there. Our minds create incredible machines, and occasionally, one of our minds rolls up their sleeves and turns their ideas into tyre-smoking reality.


260bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

Enter Tim Reid from the Sydney region in Australia, and his incredible Mk1 Escort that is the reality of his vision. Tim has mentally built a thousand perfect classic Fords in the past. His Blue Oval of choice has always been the Mk1 Escort, and his format is always the two-door configuration. This is where normality becomes blurred with creativity, because Tim knows that to create his perfect Mk1 in 2023, he would need to raid the parts bins of other vehicle manufacturers.


Blank canvas

This amazing Escort started like so many others as a bare shell, when Tim picked up the rust free project back in 2020. “It was a blank canvas,” explains Tim. “No interior, no suspension, no running gear, just a really good shell to kick things off with.”

This perfect start was quickly complimented with a full sandblast, some body strengthening, new wheel tubs, new trans tunnel, new front wings and some difficult work on the driver’s door. It turns out that there were three different doors offered by Ford, with some longer and shorter than others, and Tim needed to spend some time getting gaps lined up perfectly. A set of steel bubble arches were also grafted into place, giving the Escort timeless muscular proportions.


60bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

With the exterior now arrow straight, Tim had the whole lot expertly covered in the eye-popping PPG Red Hot paintwork. A cool custom lower stripe was designed by Tim, and subtly adds a factory sport feel of the Mk1. On went the best chrome and trim Tim could muster, along with perfect light lenses, mint GT mirrors and a set of performance-indicating quarter bumpers at the front.

Under the front bubble arches, a set of GAZ Shocks adjustable struts are teamed up with adjustable track control arms, and fourpot AP Racing callipers and 270 mm vented discs. Down the back, there is another set of GAZ dampers, Motorsport Tools springs, and a six-link set-up. The rear brakes are a perfectly-suited set of Sierra Cosworth callipers and discs. Equally awesome is Tim’s choice of Image three-piece 8.5x15 rims shod in super sticky Pirelli P7 tyres, offering a combination of performance and optical delight when wedged under those meaty arches.


60bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1


One vision

Inside, the vision Tim had in his mind, was one that incorporated the feel of the 1970s combined with the functionality of the modern era. Factory seating has been retained, but it’s been retrimmed and now has the unique baseball stitching and perforated inserts you may find in an Audi R8. No surface has been left untouched, with some you can’t see like the custom rear seat frame to clear the widened rear tubs and link boxes. Did you spy that perfect, rally-inspired double-dash arrangement? What about the flawless Smiths gauges and the Haltech dash monitor screen? Hang on, what?

It is at this point, you have all been dragged into the rabbit hole that is Tim’s creative mind, so strap in because things get really juicy from here on in. The Haltech Nexus 5 monitor is linked to the screaming twin-cam up front, but don’t expect to see FORD on the valve covers. “I wanted the engine to be different for all the right reasons,” says Tim. “I knew I needed well into the 200 bhp range at the wheels to realise my dream, but driveability was a big priority as it was going to be a street car. I decided to go for a Honda K24 simply because the engine is perfect in most regards. It’s affordable, it’s full of power, and with the right exhaust it sounds phenomenal.”


Power tour

Honda powerplants have been a the choice of many classic Ford rally teams for a while now, and fit perfectly between the Mk1 strut towers. Little is needed to level-up the Honda motors, and Tim has invested in some basic mild mods to tickle the horsepower count. Fully rebuilt, the 2.4-litre now has a polished crank, Manley rods, ported head, bigger cams, and a quad throttle body arrangement. On the hot side, a big pipe primary full Simpson race exhaust allows that Vtec to really scream.


260bhp Honda 2.4-litre engined Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Escort Mk1

Mated to the Honda fire breather is more of Tim’s vision, and this time he has invited Toyota to the party. A Toyota Supra donated its W154 five-speed gearbox, which is teamed up with a TTV Racing clutch and lightened flywheel set-up. Further rearward, a Toyota Hilux has generously handed over it’s custom shortened diff housing, which Tim has had filled with 4:11 gears, limited-slip diff, and heavy duty 28-spline shafts.

The driveline, suspension and brakes that Tim has assembled, offer a package that can rise to any challenge. On each drive, this unique combination now offers a spicy 260 hp at the wheels, fuel-injection for driveability, five-speed ’box for top end cruising, and massive brakes for testing your eye retina strength under hard braking. The choices are interconnected, they compliment each other on many levels, and in many driving scenarios.


Perfect parts

This Mk1 has been designed by an enthusiast that like us all, has mentally considered all the parts in every catalogue, and then imagined every relevant part from every other vehicle out there. This is his dream, and this is our chance to peer inside the brain of Tim to see what his perfect Mk1 Escort looks like.

“I never set out to build the car in one direction or another,” explains Tim. “I just wanted to build my dream Mk1. Sure there are always one or two things I would do different if I did it again, but that’s why building cars is so much fun. There is no right or wrong way — just your way.”

What a perfect outlook to have.


Tech Spec1975 Ford Mk1 Escort

  • Body Australian-delivered 1975 Ford Mk1 Escort, complete stripdown and ground-up restoration, full body sand blast, front breather holes, body strengthening, new rear wheel tubs, new trans tunnel, bubble arches, round headlight grille, quarter bumpers, bullet mirrors, clear front indicators, tinted windows, internal boot fuel filler, custom wiring harness, custom twin fuel pumps, Aeroflow fuel lines and fittings, custom alloy swirl pot. Paint: PPG Red Hot, custom lower decal kit
  • Engine Honda 2.4-litre k24a3, factory polished crank, Manley H-beam conrods, ACL bearings, ported cylinder head, upgraded camshafts, quad throttle bodies, custom foam air-filer, Simpson big pipe primary race exhaust, Haltech Nexus 5 engine management system, Aeroflow fuel lines and fittings, billet oil cap, alloy radiator, thermo fan, alloy oil catch can, stainless steel bolts, K-tuned valve cover
  • Transmission Toyota Supra W154 five-speed, TTV Racing single-plate clutch, TTV Racing steel lightened flywheel, custom propshaft, custom shortened Toyota Hilux diff housing, custom shortened 28-spline shafts, Toyota LSD centre, 4.11:1 gears
  • Suspension Front: GAZ Shocks adjustable coil-overs, camber adjustable lower control arms, adjustable strut tops. Rear: GAZ Shocks adjustable coil overs, Motorsport Tools leaf springs, custom link bars, custom Watts linkage
  • Brakes Front: AP Racing CP4567 four-piston callipers, two-piece ventilated 270 mm discs, Pagid RS42 brake pads. Rear: Sierra Cosworth callipers, 270 mm solid discs, Pagid RS42 brake pads, integral handbrake. Remote reservoirs, custom brake pedal box
  • Wheels and tyres Image 8.5x13 inch three-piece rims, Pirelli P7 Corsa Classic 235/45R15 tyres
  • Interior Custom trimmed factory Escort seats and trim, custom door cards with speaker ports, twin gauge cluster dashboard, Smiths gauges, Haltech monitor unit, Sparco sports steering wheel, carbon fibre shifter knob, custom shortened rear seat frame, custom switch gear, Mk2 Escort column stalks, custom cup holders, digital retro radio, new seat belts, new carpet, long range rally fuel tank, custom remotemount battery, keyless start system
  • Thanks Matthew and Craig Wildridge from Wildridge Fabrications, Ash from 4Play Racing for engine build, Brian from Classic Small Ford Supplies, Mark from Black Needle Upholstery, Ian Price from HP Motorsport, Mick Mitchell from Corse Automotive and Motorsport, and my wife, Christine and sons, Wyatt, Austin and Corban

Aussie-spec Escort seats have been superbly retrimmed in Audi R8-style pattern.

Works-style twin-cowl dash has been updated for the 21st Century with a Haltech monitor. Driver’s side features a mix of Smiths analogue and digital gauges (left).

“I NEVER SET OUT TO BUILD THE CAR IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER, I JUST WANTED MY DREAM ESCORT”

The K24 looks right at home in the Escort’s bay, and with 260 bhp at the wheels, is the ultimate road engine for Tim. Tim sourced parts from all over the globe — the exhaust manifold came from the UK. Two-tone engine bay even extends to the choice of air filter...

“ADDING BUBBLE ARCHES GAVE THE ESCORT ITS TIMELESS, MUSCULAR PROPORTIONS”

Super-neat boot space echoes the rest of the build, and is Tim’s (right) vision brought to reality.


SPECIAL K

THE BIG BLOCK FOUR-CYLINDER

The Honda K series engines are quite possibly the closest thing we would see to a big-block four-cylinder. From the factory they came as 2-litre, 2.3-litre and the 2.4-litre version. They have twin-cam heads, distributor-less ignition, Vtec valvetrains, and stunning mechanical wizardry thanks to the engineering brilliance on offer from the Honda R&D department who are closely linked to the F1 team. This amazing engine when offered in the Honda S2000 punched out a class-leading 100 hp per litre when released, but it was when the aftermarket enthusiasts got their hands on them that the numbers became truly astronomical. The rally teams are now finding a reliable, hassle-free 400 bhp in naturally aspirated form, and that is just the start. In drag racing circles, when boosted and built to accommodate a billet block, the K-series Honda engines are slamming out mind-bending 2000 hp… No matter what way you look at it, this level of development, and power is stunning.

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