There’s an established method when it comes to building a modified Ford Escort Mexico Mk2. It’s safe to say that Andy Devine has ignored that method and paved his own way. Watch the feature below!
There are two types of Hot Wheels fans. Some like to keep the cars in their original packaging, pristine and collector-grade, untouched by human hand. Others prefer to rip them out and zoom them around at high speed, bouncing off the skirting board and rushing about like there’s no tomorrow.
Which kind of person is Andy Devine? Well, both actually. The modified Ford Escort Mexico you see here is flawless, fresh, clean as a whistle and straight as an arrow. But it was also built to run 10s on the strip, and the firepower of the engine and focused nature of the chassis signal a car built for hardcore high-speed mayhem. “It’s a little bit different, and it’s a bit of fun – and that’s the thing when you’re building a car,” Andy reasons. “I didn’t make this to impress anyone. I built this for me.” Which is just as well, as certain corners of the old Ford community have, shall we say, expressed concern upon learning that the base for this project was a genuine Escort Mexico. But those pitchforks can be safely holstered as this has always been about personal value, not market value; “I’ve owned the car for twenty-eight years, and I’m never going to sell it,” he says. “So what’s the value? I’m not someone who’s going to store it in a shed and watch it appreciate, I built it to be used and to have fun. That’s the value of the car to me.”
What’s particularly endearing and engaging about this project is that, in essence, Andy’s just got carried away. He never meant to go this far, things simply accelerated as he went along, until he found himself in the position of having no choice but to build one of the UK’s most highly-specced and desirable Mk2s. Which is a unique place to find oneself, it has to be said.
Having originally bought the Escort Mexico for £600 back in the nineties, Andy’s initial plan was simply to pep it up and run it as-was; with a 2.1 motor on twin 50s, it did the job that a Mk2 was meant to do back then, although dreams of power inevitably began to seep in and he started to transform it into a sleeper, tucking in a Cosworth YB motor and a set of 7”-wide rims about seven years ago. With this high-octane makeover achieved, he took it to Santa Pod, got about five runs in… and promptly blew it up.
“I brought it home to figure out what to do,” he recalls. “Should I go for a bigger turbo? That’d involve cutting out the inner wing… OK, and it’ll need 6-linking as it was tramping at the back… and then it sort of snowballed a little bit from there.
“So now, the YB is a fully-built unit by Julian Godfrey Racing,” he continues. “The only parts left over from the original YB that went bang at Santa Pod are the head, the crank, and the exhaust camshaft; the rest has all been replaced and upgraded.” And it was always the intention for this new era of upgrades to be just as much about the ‘show’ as the ‘go’. While the original plan had been to create a sleeper, Andy was rapidly changing his mind; after all, if he were to build a fairly stock-looking big-power Mexico, he could take it to a show and simply lose it in the crowd of Mk2s; “there’s a strict rulebook for some people dictating what’s acceptable or unacceptable in modifying these,” he says. “RS alloys, lowering blocks, stock interior, maybe a half-cage and you have it pretty much covered, just don’t move too far from that or you’ll be in trouble. And there’s nothing wrong with that look, it’s just not really me.”
An idea for the aesthetic direction was beginning to crystallise in his mind, keenly aided by @mikefpe’s inspiring Instagram feed of old Group 2 and Group 5 racers, and Andy was increasingly keen to draw in some of that classic race-car influence. So he found someone who could supply a set of Zakspeed arches, ordered a special set of lightweight doors from Magnum, and basically went crazy with the carbon – that’s a pukka carbon fibre bonnet you’re seeing, and the bootlid, and even the roof: that’s not simply a skin bonded on top, the whole roof has been cut out with an air-saw and replaced with a lightweight carbon panel.
“The idea was always to have the car look slightly unreal, like a digital render or a Hot Wheels model,” he says, “even down to the fact that the emblems on the bootlid are now stickers, not badges. As you can see, there’s a lot crammed into a tiny space – I didn’t want something that was fast but looked an absolute mess, I really wanted a very fast track car that’s also a show car. All the complexity had to be hidden away.”
The result of this line of thinking is a full-on restomod, incorporating modern tech into the 1978 shell to create something extraordinary. That sublimely built Cosworth engine (which currently runs 550bhp on pump fuel, 600bhp+ on race gas) sports a full twin charge-cooler setup from a BMW M5, as Andy reasons that if a company has spent millions developing this tech, it makes sense to exploit the fruits of their labours; the Escort is also running a modern CANbus system, and there’s a whole load of bespoke 3D-printed parts.
“The 3D-printing opened up something new for me,” he says. “That was a sort of lockdown skill, learning how to use the software. When I started off I could hardly draw a circle on it, but I just practised and learned; I made my rear lights with resin infusion and filament printing, and then I learned how to carbon-skin stuff myself. People look at the car and say ‘What have you actually made?’ and I have to say ‘Well, all of it’.
The steering wheel release is 3D-printed, and the wheel itself is a Sparco and I’ve made it a little bit fun – so now it has launch control, anti-lag, a forklift truck button for lifting the air cups at the front… you can turn on and off the headlights, you can flash, you can indicate, and then you’ve got the paddle-shift. The whole idea was to put all of the controls for the car into one place rather than having buttons down on the dashboard – the electronics are integrated into the CANbus with a quick-release. There’s variable-rate steering, it’s all at your fingertips. And I designed all of this. It was a bit of a challenge to figure out how to make it work – but it’s great fun! People ask me how much I’ll make them one of these multi-function wheels for, and I have to say ‘I’m not making another one, they’re a nightmare!’ It was enough doing it once.”
It’s this commitment to learning and developing new skills, as well as the relentless pursuit of perfection, that really characterises this modified Ford Escort Mexico build. Andy’s obsession with details can be found everywhere: the bonnet, for instance – he hates bonnet pins and aerocatches, so has instead painstakingly installed BMW E90 catches into the inner wings and custom-printed parts for the bonnet side to hold the pins. And the single wiper conversion – it’s a Fiat Uno motor that’s been disassembled and rebuilt to set the wiper centrally; if you look at a standard Mk2, the central wiper hole is offset, so this meant cutting up a new grille cover and stitching it back together to put the wiper right in the middle. Very few people would notice this, but Andy would. And that matters.
“The software was all written by me for the screen, the buttons and the paddle-shift, which goes through to an air-shifter that means you can flat-shift,” he continues. “That original idea came from the drag-racing. When I blew it up at Santa Pod I was racing a friend in his Mk4 Supra, as you do, and he’s just got his car back on the road from doing the same thing seven years ago. He’s spent an absolute fortune on that as well, and the idea behind the flat-shifting was that I ultimately wanted to build a 10-second car. And that sounds very Fast & Furious, and I do know that I could have probably built a 10-second car for an awful lot less money, but… this was what I wanted to do. Half the fun of a project is the building of it; it’s actually quite terrifying to drive it because I’ve been making it for so long!”
But terror is good. It’s inspiring. And a car like this ought to be jarring. This modified Ford Escort Mexico, otherwise known as The Mexorcist, takes an established formula and gives it an entirely new twist; some may say Andy’s killed an original Mexico, but the reality is that he’s given the whole modifying scene something to think about.
Tech Spec: Modified Ford Escort Mexico
2.0-litre Cosworth YB turbo – built by Julian Godfrey Racing, Cosworth aluminium block, WRC-spec 9:1 compression, longer Arrow rods, WRC-spec pistons, billet dry sump, BD15 inlet and BD14 exhaust cams, BorgWarner twin-scroll turbo and manifold, 3.5” downpipe, 3” straight-through Vibrant Performance exhausts (stacked end-to-end with side exit), custom filter housing for K&N filter (with ram-air unit lifting air from ahead of radiators) custom Arno carbon fibre inlet plenum, 1,000cc injectors, Emtron SL4 ECU, ECUMaster PDU, full BMW M5 twin charge-cooler system with two Audi Q8 air tanks as water reservoirs/ice storage, filler in passenger-side rear quarter window to fill with ice, approx. 24m of AN12 Aeroquip hoses, twin Pierburg pumps, sensors, three radiators, boot-mounted AH Fabrications custom fuel tank and oil tank
Power: 550bhp (99-octane pump fuel); 600bhp+ (race fuel)
6-speed sequential Quaife 69G on air-shift, AP paddle clutch with Tilton concentric bearing
GAZ Gold shortened front and rear dampers, tubbed rear, 6-linked, turreted, narrowest possible 3J Driveline Atlas fully-floating axle, front tension struts with Stanceparts air cups (50mm of lift, controlled by forklift button on steering wheel), boot floor cut out and reconfigured for air system, compressor, air tank, oil cooler and oil pump on detachable frame (above rear diffuser)
AP Racing CP9440 5000R front calipers with 315mm J-cut discs, AP Racing CP4567 Monte Carlo front brake kit fitted to rear, AP Racing CP5500 floor-mounted pedal box, AP Racing hydraulic handbrake
10×16” BBS E48 centre-lock split-rims – centres reproduced in aluminium with Image lips and barrels, 225/45 (front) and 245/45 (rear) Toyo R888R tyres
Custom Cages full weld-in rollcage, Recaro Profi SPG XL seats, Takata 3×2 6-point harnesses, carbon fibre dashboard, custom carbon floor trays with LV grip tape inlays, custom Zakspeed-inspired gearbox tower, custom Off-White storage netting, central restraint and window nets, full custom CANbus system using-3D printed boxes and Arduino CANbed modules (to monitor all elements and provide launch control), custom F1-inspired steering wheel with 3D-printed controls, Android Realdash, BMW 1 series matrix connected to charge-cooler water system for cold air; heater box fan replaced with brushless high-output motor
1978 Mk2 Escort Mexico, acid-dipped shell, lightweight aluminium doors (Magnum special-order), carbon fibre boot, carbon bonnet, full carbon roof, carbon diffusers, Group 2 Zakspeed arches, modified SHP Engineering Mk1 Escort RSR front bib (hides cross boost pipe), custom front splitter and side diffusers, Lexan side and rear windows – custom tinted yellow, heated front screen, bonnet fitted with BMW E90 catches into inner wings with custom printed parts for bonnet side to hold pins, custom tail lights – 3D resin and extrusion printed and Arduino controlled, custom front indicators – 3D resin and Arduino controlled, bi-LED Toyota headlight units mounted into 7” light shells and mounted to 3D-printed surrounds, 3D-printed grille and eyebrow – carbon-skinned with Mexorcist logo, single wiper conversion with Fiat Uno motor