This homebuilt custom Mk5 Ford Fiesta was once an old lady’s shopping car, but it’s been given new life as an EcoBoosted track weapon.
Feature from Fast Ford magazine. Words: Simon Holmes. Photos: Jason Dodd.
It’s sad to think that some cars are destined for a simple life of transporting a weekly shop, or being driven at walking pace while a new driver learns for the first time.
The truth is that any car has the potential for more, and when it came to this 2001 Fiesta 1.3 Flight, Andy Franks saved it from a life of boredom by stepping in to give it a new reason to live. Now spending its days mainly on race circuits, Andy has been developing it from a standard road car to a capable track weapon, complete with cutting-edge EcoBoost power from a Fiesta ST180.
The story starts back in 2016 with Andy buying the car from an old lady who used it for shopping. With just 55,000 miles on the clock, he bought it for his brother-in-law to learn to drive in, but the plan never came to fruition. Instead, the car sat on the driveway for two years without moving, so Andy reclaimed it in 2018 with a new idea in mind. Although it had been sat for a couple of years and the paint had faded, under all the dirt and grime Andy could see it was still a good shell. So after a good clean and a polish it looked ready for its new life.
Andy reveals, “The plan was to build a low-budget track car from it. I had always wanted to do track days and thought this would be a perfect starter. I thought I’d put a bigger engine in, uprate the suspension and brakes, and get it out on track.”
The first stage of the plan involved stripping the car down, removing the original 1.3-litre engine and replacing it with the more powerful 1.6-litre engine from a Mk5 Fiesta Zetec S. To go with it came Zetec S bumpers and side skirts, while a set of coilovers and bigger brakes from a Focus ST170 created a great base for an entry-level track car. From there came a rear roll cage to help stiffen the shell, as well as provide safety, plus better seats, poly bushes and strut braces.
The package was simple but effective, and Andy began to put it to good use on track days, although it was a steep learning curve.
Andy remembers, “The car was good when I first went on track, other than I used cheap road tyres so had terrible grip. But second time out, I upgraded the tyres and it was so much better; it handled great and the brakes were really good. I just had no power on the straights and was overtaken by everything.”
Although further modifications and developments followed with each track day, such as full bucket seats and uprated engine mounts, the Covid lockdown meant the car was then laid up to rest.
But in December 2021, Andy was back out on track at last and found himself inspired to take the custom Mk5 Ford Fiesta up a level.
He says, “I was on the way home from a track day having done a few laps in my brother’s Fiesta ST180. I was telling my girlfriend how much quicker it was than mine and she suggested I should just put that engine in my car.”
Andy had already been looking at fitting a Focus ST170 engine in an effort to increase power, but the idea of an EcoBoost stuck with him, and after some research he realised it could be done without too much hassle.
“For the cost involved, there wasn’t actually much in the two conversions either. I did a lot of research before rushing out and trial fitting parts,” he says.
His heart now set on the idea, by the next weekend he was on the road to pick up the engine from a damaged ST180 he found on eBay. Opting to fit the engine the simplest and cheapest way, Andy retained the IB5 gearbox already in the car, therefore avoiding the need for expensive custom driveshafts.
The clutch kit to mate it together is an off-the-shelf paddle, and the engine mount was bought from a specialist in EcoBoost engine conversions. After fitting all of the related turbo parts, such as an intercooler and adapted exhaust, it just left the parts for the power steering, which were custom-made, and the small matter of the wiring and ECU.
Again, opting for the easiest solution, Andy found a specialist who offered an adapted wiring loom and an original ECU coded to work without the associated Mk7 Fiesta looms, modules and sensors. Avoiding the need for a hugely expensive aftermarket ECU capable of direct injection, Andy had the conversion finished and fitted in a fantastically simple and inexpensive way, and the result was very effective.
Although the car is very much built for track days, Andy is quick to point out that it is road legal and he does use it on the road for local shows and coffee mornings. The stripped-out interior makes for a hardcore ride, but it otherwise drives nicely, he says.
He confirms, “It drives well at low speeds but it’s a handful when you put your foot down. It puts a smile on your face, as there are no electronics; no traction control and no ABS. Grip has become a problem and it spins the wheels really easily.
“At the moment the engine is completely standard, other than a de-cat, induction kit and a Stage 1 map.”
Out on track, the added performance has made the custom Mk5 Ford Fiesta a lot more fun, as Andy is no longer at the back of the pack, but the improved power highlighted some issues.
“It handles like a go-kart, but the first time on track with the new setup, it went through a set of pads really quickly, as I’m braking harder due to the higher speed.”
Andy also feels that the coilovers need replacing soon, as he’s noticed they feel much softer now that cornering speed has improved, but there are plans on the horizon, including a full roll cage and plenty more.
“You always want more, and a change of turbo to see 300bhp is next, but before that it needs an LSD. I think it’s going to be one of those projects that never ends, probably the same as everyone else’s.”
Far from finished it may be, but we’re sure he’s certainly going in the right direction, considering how the car could have been living out its life.
Tech Spec: Custom Mk5 Ford Fiesta
1596cc EcoBoost conversion, custom engine mount, induction kit, de-cat, Stage 1 map, custom intercooler, custom exhaust
200bhp (owner’s estimate)
IB5 gearbox, Pumaspeed paddle clutch
AP Sport Suspension coilovers
Front: Focus ST170 callipers with ST170 300mm discs and EBC Yellowstuff pads; rear: Focus ST170 callipers with ST170 283mm discs and EBC Yellowstuff pads
Wheels & Tyres:
7x16in Ford Mondeo Si wheels, 4×108, ET35 with 195/45/16 Nankang NS2R tyres
Zetec S bodykit and spoiler, TRC front splitter, additional Renault Laguna splitter, front canards, Fiesta RS Turbo bonnet vents, single-wiper conversion
Sparco Sprint bucket seats on weld-in seat rails, TRS six-point harnesses, OMP steering wheel and boss, roll cage, Zetec S clocks