Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

Inspired by his father’s Stardust Silver Mk1 Mexico, Charlie Pocknee’s matching Mk2 is a pristine fast-road screamer built to make memories. Words Daniel Bevis Photos Andy Saunders.


THE FAMILY SILVER MK2 ESCORT

MK2 ESCORT 1700 Superb Stardust Silver sleeper.


If there’s one thing that events of recent months have taught us, it’s that time is short and it’s crucial to live in the now. Life, it goes without saying, is something to be cherished. When you think about your existence in mathematical terms, the likelihood of you being here at all is phenomenally small; so many improbable circumstances across the generations led to your appearance at this juncture in space-time that you might as well be a fi ctional construct. And when you think about the age of the universe, years become largely irrelevant.


Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

What’s a million years in relation to the solar system? Chicken feed. But a million years to the human race? Where will we be in a million years’ time? Nowhere. A whisper in time within the glimmering tail of a comet.

“THE MK2 IS THERE TO BE USED — IF IT GETS CAUGHT IN THE RAIN, IT’S REALLY NOT THE END OF THE WORLD...”

So if the fancy takes you to spend four years rebuilding a Mk2 Escort because it anchors your existence in the memories of similar cars that your dad owned when you were a kid, that feels like a very important thing to do. As a species we are, after all, simply a collection of our memories. This is the creativity we need to nurture.


Mk2 heaven

“I love the Mk2 Escort,” enthuses Charlie Pocknee, “as my old man bought one back in 1999 — it was a green droop-snoot RS2000 which gave me the bug, and I just loved being in that car. It made me smile every time being in it as a young boy, driven around by my dad.” Sadly the ownership of this RS was short-lived, and Charlie’s dad ended up instead borrowing a Mk2 Harrier from a mate to drive young Charlie around in. As you might imagine, these early adventures ingrained a deep-seated passion for the Ford brand within Charlie’s psyche, and he grew up yearning to recreate those halcyon days whenever possible.

Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

“I’ve owned a few 105E Anglias over the years which I’ve modified myself, changing engines to 1600 Crossflows and fitting roll cages and what-have-you,” he says. “And then of course there’s my father’s Mk1 Mexico that he’s owned for 18 years, which I’ve helped a lot with over the years — rebuilding engines with him, changing the suspension, fitting diffs and generally maintaining. I also did a few years at college learning the basics, and picked up everything from my old man with the old Escorts.”

Fate had clearly been keeping an eye on Charlie’s burgeoning automotive development, and the ensuing projects and adventures, as the next episode came as a rather unexpected one: he got the opportunity to buy a Mk2 Escort 1600, and the seller was that very same chap who’d lent his dad the Harrier when Charlie was a nipper. It was in a really sorry state, but of course this wasn’t just a car — this was a tie to the past as well as a step into the future, and the scenario was simply too perfect for him to ignore. So without a moment’s hesitation the Escort was acquired, and what followed was an intensive four-year project to transform the Mk2 from a knackered hulk to the gleaming vision of automotive perfection you see before you.


Project manager

Charlie was extremely methodical in his approach, project-managing the build to ensure that each job was carried out by the people with the appropriate skillsets. “The car was being built on a budget of simply what I could afford every month,” he explains, “so I was selling parts that I didn’t need to put the money towards bits I did need, and trying to find a little deal here and there. Every part used throughout the project was either new or refurbished, as I wanted to make it all as like-new as possible.”


Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

The mechanical side of things was all taken care of by Charlie, with the help of his dad, the two of them working together just like they always have done. “I knew I wanted to have a hot Crossflow in there, because I love the sound of them and they’re so easy to work on,” he continues. “My old man always loved to tinker with Crossflows too, and here I went with a 1700 with a lairy cam and big carbs — plus a straight-cut ’box, something else I’ve always wanted.” The mechanical specialness isn’t just confined to the powertrain either, there’s plenty of other treats under the skin including front coil-overs, decambered leaves with lowering blocks and adjustable shocks, M16 callipers and a 3J Driveline LSD — a fully exploitable box of tricks wrapped up in a classically styled shell. Speaking of which, there was some remedial metalwork to do…

Tuned 145bhp 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2

“A good friend of mine took on the job of replacing all the panels, welding and the prep work,” says Charlie. “The bodywork was extensive, and required a new front panel, front bib, wings, drip rails, radiator support panels, slam panel, driver and passenger door skins, and fuel and spare wheel panels. And after all of that was completed, the car went off to another good friend who did all the final adjustments to the bodywork, and then stuck 7-litres of Stardust Silver on it.”

The idea for the colour scheme came from Charlie’s dad’s Mk1 Mexico, which is also Stardust Silver with matt black decals — it was always the plan to build matching father-and-son Escorts, and the finished effect is truly remarkable when you see them both together. There’s so much passion and history tied up in both cars, not to mention time and effort. And just as it’s always been, these pristine pieces of automotive artwork are used as the good Ford intended.


In use

“The Mk2 is mainly used when the weather is nice, but it’s not just a show car,” Charlie assures us. “It’s very much there to be used, and if I get caught in the rain then it’s not the end of the world! I’ve been taking it to a lot of shows, breakfast meets, to Santa Pod, all sorts — really getting the enjoyment of going out on a Sunday morning drive along with my old man in his car. I get a lot of comments on how nice my Escort looks and how well it’s come out, which I am very proud of and it’s really great to hear from other people.” The accolades and the admiration are all fuel to the fi re, but of course this Escort was built with one over-arching aim: to rekindle the memories of old, as well as to create a whole bunch of new memories for the future. Because that really is what life’s all about.


Tech Spec

  • Body 1979 Ford Escort 1600 Mk2 shell, fully restored including new front panel, front bib, wings, drip rails, radiator support panels, slam panel, driver and passenger door skins, fuel and spare wheel panels.
  • Paint: Stardust Silver with matt black Mexico decals
  • Engine 1700 Crossflow, twin 45 DCOE Weber carburettors, Ike Engineering ported Stage 3 big-valve unleaded head, Newman PH3 race camshaft, 711M block bored to 84.5 mm, +90 machined and pocketed pistons, steel rocker shaft and post, lightened con-rods, lightened and balanced reground crank, new bearings throughout, ARP bolts throughout, alloy rocker cover, Bestek electronic ignition, high-pressure oil pump, Tony Law exhaust manifold, ultra-light flywheel.
  • Power: 145 bhp
  • Transmission Four-speed Type E gearbox with Quaife Pro straight-cut gearset, RS2000 alloy bellhousing, single-piece propshaft, 3J Driveline 3.9 LSD
  • Suspension Front: GAZ Gold coil-overs with 300 lb springs. Rear: single-leaf decambered springs, 2 inch lowering blocks, GAZ Gold adjustable dampers
  • Brakes Front: M16 callipers, vented, grooved and drilled discs, EBC Green Stuff pads. Rear: 9 inch drums
  • Wheels and tyres 5.5x13 inch (front) and 6x13 inch (rear) Lotus Cortina-style steels by Retro Ford, 175/50R13 Yokohama tyres
  • Interior OMP Classic bucket seats, three-point harnesses, RS2000 centre console, fully carpeted, 1600 Sport clocks, retro oil and temp gauges

Thanks To my dad, Tony for everything he has done over the years helping me build this car, and letting me keep my car in the garage for the build while his has lived outside, also to Danny at Ink’s Autos West London, the West London Classic Ford group for all their help and advice, and Danny at D&C Coachworks for painting my car

Lotus steels with caps are a great choice.

YOUR NEXT PROJECT

After a couple of Anglia builds, Charlie knew the time was right to take on an Escort and this unfinished project proved to be the perfect base.

Bought from a friend of his dad’s, the Escort was ripe for Charlie to out his own mark on it, The first job was to assess the bodywork, with the front end coming off ready for fresh panels.

With the front end replaced, Mexico spoiler added and rest of the body repaired, it was time for paint.

Stardust Silver was the choice of paint, inspired by Charlie’s dad’s Mk1. A great choice it was too.

The planned Crossflow was built up at home then carefully lowered into the freshly-painted engine bay.


COG SPORTIF

THAT STRAIGHT-CUT ’BOX

You can’t beat the sound of a straight-cut gearbox. The nature of having all of the teeth in contact all of the time (rather than meshing in segments like a helical gearbox) produces a distinctive whine which just sounds terrifi c. Naturally there are drawbacks — you lose a bit of smoothness in road car applications as you really have to bang the gears in — but the motorsport prowess is clear. “I always said to my dad that if I ever built a car, I’d want a straight-cut gearbox,” says Charlie. “I had a touch when I found a fella selling this one cheap — I bought it, sent it to my gearbox man to check over, and he told me I’d got a brand-new ’box here! I was over the moon.”

OMP lowback buckets work perfectly with the classic interior. Matt black Mexico stripes and decals look great against the silver paintwork. 1700 Crossfl ow is built to a classic spec, complete with Stage 3 head. Silver and black theme extends to the engine bay. Hungry Crossflow is fed by Weber 45s.

“I WAS SELLING PARTS I DIDN’T NEED TO PUT THE MONEY TOWARDS THOSE I DID, DOING A DEAL HERE AND THERE”
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