By exorcising the demon red rot from his flying modified Ford Fiesta XR2, Lee Jiggins turned his nightmare into an automotive dream. 

Feature from Fast Ford magazine. Words & Photos: Dan Sherwood.

Everyone loves a horror film, don’t they? Surely even those who proclaim their hatred for the gore-soaked genre can admit they get a little bit of a kick from a well-timed jump scare or the nail-biting suspense of supernatural thriller.

But whether it’s the sight of blood splattering across the screen or the thought of a knife-fingered madman lying in wait under your bed that makes you cower behind your popcorn, there’s always a piece of us that enjoys peeking into somewhere we realistically know we shouldn’t.

It’s an age-old horror-flick tactic. We’re all screaming at the character on the screen to not go down into the basement, but they just have to do it anyway, often resulting in them meeting a rather sticky, if obvious, end.

Modified Ford Fiesta XR2 driving shot

This kind of curiosity in the face of potential disaster happens in the car world too. We tend to do things we know we really shouldn’t, but we just can’t help ourselves. It might be giving our already stressed engine just one more psi of boost, or even giving that 20-year-old bolt an extra ugga-dugga with the impact gun; we know in our hearts that we’re tempting fate, but we do it anyway. And this is a feeling that 31-year-old Ford fan Lee Jiggins knows only too well…

He says, “I don’t know what possessed me to remove the bodykit and have a look behind the arches, but it was at this point that I realised my outwardly tidy Fiesta was a complete rot box. I was gutted.”

Prior to this revelation, Lee thought he’d picked up a decent machine when he bought the Zetec-powered modified Ford Fiesta XR2 for just £2000 a few weeks previously. But his nightmarish discovery meant some major automotive surgery was in order if he was to resurrect his motor from the brink of death.

Modified Ford Fiesta XR2 interior shot

Lee remembers, “It was horrific. I had bought the modified Ford Fiesta XR2 back in 2015 as a cheap weekend toy to play around with, but it turned out that the hidden rust was even more extensive than I first thought. In the end I had to strip the car to a rolling shell and drop it off at the bodyshop to sort it out.”

Brewsters Motors in Essex was charged with ridding the Fiesta of the parasitic disease that was riddled through its body; a task that required taking the shell back to bare metal before replacing the majority of the panels, – including the rear quarter panels, the inner and outer sills, both front wings and the front panel – with brand new items.

Modified Ford Fiesta XR2 engine shot

“With the body now looking less like the victim of a particularly vicious acid attack, it was given a fresh coat of factory Ford Diamond White,” says Lee. “When I got it back it looked so good that I couldn’t bring myself to drill holes in the perfect panels to refit the kit, as the kit itself was looking a little worse for wear and would’ve ruined the clean look of the paint job.”

But it wasn’t just the plastic bodykit that was showing signs of aging, as Lee noticed that the wiring loom in the engine bay was also way past its best, so thought it prudent to remedy the situation by installing a set of motorbike carburettors and eliminating the messy wiring.

Lee explains, “While I was doing the carb upgrade, I also acquired a set of Cobra Monaco Pro bucket seats, harnesses and a rear roll cage, as my vision for the build was a clean track car that could also be used as a show car. To complete this show-and-circuit hybrid, I also needed to lower the ride height, so I modified a set of Mk1 VW Golf coilovers for the front and fitted 50mm lowering springs with adjustable arms at the rear.”

Modified Ford Fiesta XR2 seats

The now racy-looking machine might have looked the part, but Lee was never happy with how the modified Ford Fiesta XR2 ran on the bike carbs and just couldn’t get the tune quite right. This niggling doubt ate away at his sensibilities, and he hit a crossroad with the build and even considered chucking in the towel and selling it.

“It was touch and go for a while, but in the end, I bit the bullet and bought an Omex individual throttle body kit and ECU,” Lee says. “It was a substantial investment, but it was worth every penny.”

As well as the fancy induction, Lee also installed an Ashley exhaust manifold and a bespoke cat-back system from Stuart at IWS Developments in Colchester, before a mapping session that resulted in a cool 160bhp and 140lb.ft readout on the dyno.

He used and abused his track toy for the next two years in this guise, the only upgrades being a full six-point Safety Devices roll cage that gave him an extra level of security should the worst happen while on circuit.

Lee says, “It was February 2021 when I decided to take the modified Ford Fiesta XR2 off the road again, and I took it into work to give it a bit of a refresh. But as so often happens with these things, I got carried away and I ended up rebuilding and restoring the whole car.”

The snowball started when Lee removed the engine, stripped it down and sent it off for vapour blasting so it could be reassembled as clean as possible. That was soon followed by the suspension components receiving the same treatment before being repainted in satin black. A new race pedal box was installed and the now servo-less engine bay was smoothed and repainted.

Lee recalls, “While the engine was in bits, I decided I might as well stick some lairy cams in there to get a bit more power and upgraded the ITBs with a straight Omex inlet manifold and some 60mm trumpets. The rest of the motor then got rebuilt with new bearings, seals, rings and mounts, and painted all pretty.”

With the underside of the car looking as good as the bodywork, Lee felt his modified Golf coilovers were not really befitting the build, so swapped them for a set of shiny new Gaz GHA items with Powerflex bushes, before moving on to refresh the brakes with new discs, pads and rebuilt callipers. An RS Turbo’s limited-slip differential and custom alloy radiator also found their way onto the exceedingly awesome modified Ford Fiesta XR2.

Lee laughs, “I basically just went at everything. I had the mindset that if I’m going to do this, I only want to do it once and want it to be perfect.”

A full four months of graft later, completed after work and at weekends, and the XR2 was back together and ready to hit the dyno again. Mapped by tuning wizard Steve Pitcher at Track’n’Road in Rainham, the flying Ford Fiesta XR2 was now making a raucous 190bhp and 160lb.ft, and Lee was over the moon.

“The car felt absolutely mega,” he beams. “I really enjoyed using and abusing it again, as that is exactly what it’s been built for.”

The finishing touches to the build were lavished on the Fiesta’s innards, with Lee installing a trick AIM MXG digital dash that he bought off a mate, and having the dashboard and interior plastics flocked for an authentic rally look. He also replaced a replica steering wheel for a genuine 280mm OMP Trecento item, a move that not only satisfied his inner brand whore, but also ensured a higher level of safety by using a tested-and-approved genuine part.

Modified Ford Fiesta XR2 rear shot

Lee says, “The Fiesta XR2 finally feels finished now, but I will likely end up having the exhaust system replaced with something a bit quieter. Not only does the short gearing mean it’s deafening on the motorway, it’s also a bit touch-and-go as to whether it would meet the noise regulations of most circuits. And as I plan on getting in some more track time this year, that could throw a massive spanner in the works.”

And after all the blood, sweat and grazed knuckles that have gone into his immaculate build, turning up at the track and being denied the opportunity to give it the proper ragging that it deserves would be the ultimate nightmare situation that would have even Freddy Krueger hiding under the bed.

Tech Spec: Modified Ford Fiesta XR2


1989cc silver-top Zetec, Newman PH3 cams (270 degree), 1.3mm MLS head gasket, Turbosport vernier pulleys, Turbosport alloy bottom pulley, Omex 45mm throttle bodies on Omex straight inlet manifold and 60mm trumpets, Omex 600 ECU, 330cc injectors, Ashley 4-2-1 exhaust manifold, IWS Developments manifold-back exhaust, Vibratechnics engine and gearbox mounts, custom radiator, Spal fan, silicone upper and lower radiator hoses, block breather and catch can, every part vapour-blasted, block repainted matt black, and rocker cover repainted in the same blue as Ford GT rocker covers


190bhp and 160lb.ft torque


Original five-speed BC gearbox with RS Turbo limited-slip differential, standard 220mm clutch and flywheel


Gaz GHA coilovers, Powerflex Black Series tie bar and lower arm bushes, Outlaw adjustable rear trailing arms and Panhard arm, front suspension blasted and repainted in satin black


Front: XR2 callipers with grooved discs and Ferodo DS2500 pads; rear: rebuilt XR2 drums; floor-mounted pedal box, twin master cylinders, solid lines inside the car, Goodridge braided lines

Wheels & Tyres:

6x16in XR2 pepperpot alloy wheels with 165/50×13 Nankang NS2R tyres


Original Mk2 Fiesta XR2 shell, bare metal exterior restoration, both rear quarter panels replaced, both inner and outer sills replaced, both front wings replaced, front panel replaced, repainted in factory Ford Diamond White, XR2 bodykit removed, Mk1 VW Caddy front splitter, Aerocatches in bonnet, XR2 bumpers and rear spoiler


Safety Devices six-point bolt-in roll cage, Cobra Monaco Pro bucket seats, 6TWO1 four-point harnesses, all plastics have been flocked, 280mm OMP Trecento suede steering wheel, AIM MXG dashboard