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MK1 ESCORT RACE CAR: IN THE BLOOD

Posted by Matt Bell on 29th March 2021

With a track record for owning and building some incredible motorsport Fords like this road legal Mk1 Escort race car, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was in father and son, Vince and Jake Falzon’s blood.

Feature first appeared in Classic Ford magazine. Words & Photos: Dave Moore

Despite its relatively small size and population, Malta punches well above its metaphorical weight when it comes to both the number of Ford fanatics and classic and modified Fords you can find on the island.

With a huge following in drag racing and a geographical landscape that lends itself to hillclimbs, it’s not surprising that the majority of modified cars are built for one of these disciplines, so to find something ready to take on even the most demanding of rally stages or race tracks (when there isn’t one in the country) is somewhat of a rarity, especially when it’s been built to such an impeccably high standard and is loaded with what can only be described as a mouth-watering
spec list!

Vince has owned some pretty fine examples of the most popular Ford’s over the years — in fact, he still has a few in his collection today, but it’s obvious his latest builds is his jewel in the crown.

Like father, like son

Vince’s relationship with his son, Jake epitomises how most car-mad Dad’s would want it to be, so when Jake suggested to his Dad that they should build a Mk1 Escort race car together, it was like an itch that just had to be scratched.

“It’s his fault!” Vince laughs, pointing in his son’s direction. Those two things as it turned out, were all it took to start the build and the end result, as you can see, is what’s undoubtedly up there as one of the finest Mk1 Escorts around today.

A donor Mk1 Escort in standard road trim was found on the island and Vince spent no time in dismantling it back to a bare shell, before the real work could begin; “Everything has to be immaculate when I build a car, outside, inside, engine bay and also underneath”, he says with a smile.

The shell was prepared to his strict standards and that included fitting the bubble-arches and making the necessary modifications to house a Wales Motorsport fully-floating six-link rear axle setup.

As with nearly every aspect of the build Vince likes to be hands-on himself and painting the shell was no different. He prepared everything ready for paint, before his brother, Simon was entrusted to give it a beautiful coat of Frozen white; Vince being Vince still wanted to do as much as he could himself and he ended up spraying the interior himself.

With the shell back at his house, he started the overall assembly process, thankfully with so many decades of performance parts out there to choose from, he knew it exactly what chassis components he wanted and as you’d expect, they’re more than up to the job.

Avo three-way adjustable dampers were fitted to help with the handling while a tried-and-tested AP Racing braking set-up on all four corners is responsible for bringing things under control, for when they eventually do get a little bit wild. With the chassis components well underway, Vince turned his attention to what was going on under the bonnet; “I wanted something really special for the engine”, he enthuses. To that end Smith & Jones were brought into the mix via one of their bespoke YB blocks which when joined by the Arrow crank and rods would provide 2.4-litres of displacement.

Siamese style

A 2wd head was bolted in place for the time being and to that was joined a beautifully fabricated tubular exhaust manifold, which was in-turn mated with the gen2 version of the Garrett GTX3584RS. Eight 1000cc injectors in a siamese set-up were responsible for providing enough fuel whilst an RS500 inlet plenum with spacer was being fed the cooled charge air thanks to an Airtec intercooler up-front — well as cool as you can get charge air in the Mediterranean, anyway.

There’s no denying the father and son’s commitment, with every evening and weekend spent working on the car, but with so much work to get through at such a high-level, it took 20 months from start to finish… and in that time, Smith and Jones had actually updated their block design to use long studs that went the full height of the block; “I wanted one of their own head castings anyway, so thought I had to update my block as the build wasn’t finished yet”, Vince laughs. So, a later-spec block was ordered and when it arrived he stripped his first engine down and rebuilt it into the updated block and added the new Smith and Jones head casting at the same time.

Art work

As you can see, the interior and even the boot were also given Vince and Jake’s full attention with incredible touches and detail littered throughout, together with every single fitting and hose imaginable being of an Aeroquip-style, in a stealthy shade of black, rather than the typical red and blue affair.

The whole car is a work of art, and as with all of it, the interior is much akin to seeing a good film, where you really need to watch it a few times as you miss so many things the first time, or on your first glance, as in this case.

A sea of carbon fibre greets you, from the seats to the door cards set against the towering and unmissable carbon fibre sequential gearbox lever, which fires quickly through the gears of the six-speed Elite transmission at the other end of it. Then there’s the removable deep-dish wheel, the floor-mounted pedal box, Stack dash, the AIM digital display and control system… there’s literally something to please your eyes wherever you look, all finished and installed impeccably; rarely do you see such hardcore motorsport componentry blended together so well in something that’s actually road legal… yes, really!

There in lies one of the best things about this build, apart from it bringing a father and son together to spend some quality time on something they both love, it could easily win a concours-style competition for its cleanliness and finish, yet it also gets driven hard as Vince enthuses “There’s no point in building something like this to then not use it… and besides, I just love the power and the handling of it, it makes me smile a lot every time I take
it out!”

Next in line

With this Mk1 Escort race car demonstrating his fondness of the Blue Oval, the time Vince gets to spend with his son and his capability of building incredible projects we only had one question remaining… ‘So, what’s next?’ which was simply met with one of Vince’s trademark grins… watch this space!

Tech Spec: Mk1 Escort race car

Body:

Group 4-spec Mk1 Escort, bubble-arches, gusseted, drilled front panel, quarter bumpers. Frozen White

Engine:

2.4-litre Smith and Jones YB block with Arrow steel crank and rods, Omega forged pistons, Titan dry sump, custom profile cams, RS500 inlet plenum with spacer plate, eight Dynamic 1000cc injectors, Edwards Motorsport tubular exhaust manifold, Garrett GTX3584RS gen2 turbo, Airtec intercooler and radiator, 3 inch exhaust system with side exit, Link ECU with switchable maps (450 bhp, 650 bhp and 1000 bhp), traction control, launch control, three Bosch 044 fuel pumps

Transmission:

Elite six-speed sequential gearbox, Wales Motorsport Atlas axle, TTV Racing twin-plate clutch

Suspension:

Front – AVO three-way adjustable coil-overs, Group 4 World Cup crossmember, Safari-style bottom arms and hub assembly.

Rear – AVO three-way adjustable coil-overs, six-linked

Brakes:

Front – AP Racing four-pot callipers.

Rear – AP Racing two-pot callipers. Bias pedal box, hydraulic handbrake

Wheels and tyres:

9×15 inch (front) and 10×15 inch (rear) Revolution 8 Spoke Classic Rally wheels, with Avon ZZS tyres

Interior:

Stripped, roll-cage, Stack speedo, tacho and auxiliary gauges, AIM digital dash and controller, carbon fibre bucket seats, carbon fibre door cards, detachable OMP Alcantara wheel