If someone asks you what ‘retro’ means, just show them Mike Johnson’s modified Mk1 Ford Fiesta – a sumptous slice of flame-spitting ’80s cool that reminds us not to take life quite so seriously…
Do you ever wake up in a cold sweat in the night with a fleeting urge to pack everything in and get away from it all? In an age of skinny frappe-induced, Insta- obsessed monotony, it’s easier than ever to fall into the trap of a modern, grown-up lifestyle. And that’s not a good thing.
How about if you never traded that cool hatchback motor you learnt to drive in for that boring German saloon you now own, for example? Mike Johnson here has done exactly this with his ’83 Fiesta that’s been by his side for over a decade now.
And with 10 years of love poured into it, it’s just getting cooler and cooler by the day. This retro ride therefore acts as a window into what could’ve been if we decide never to become boring…
Having owned most models of classic Fords that’ve graced our fine roads before this little hatchback came into his life, Mike admits this once-base spec Mk1 Fiesta Popular was never meant to be much more than a run-around when he picked it up. “It came as a granny spec, with rust in all the usual places,” he says. Not a great starting block for a long-winded mega build, then.
Mike’s perceptions of the car began to change, however, as he started playing around with what was under the bonnet. Not afraid to whip out the angle grinder, he soon dumped a throaty Crossflow engine in place of the original 1.0-litre, complete with twin Weber carbs and complemented with a boxy wide-arch kit. With its new-found grunt working wonders on transforming the car, Mike spent the next few months in a whirlwind of weekend rips, tunnel runs, and even tearing up the quarter-mile strip, all with a huge grin on his face, naturally.
“I needed more power, so I swapped the Crossflow out for a Zetec engine, which I then supercharged,” he explains modestly. Shunning the more common turbocharged Zetec route helped him stand out from the crowd (as if he needed that). Plus it came with the advantage of instant boost. Ideal on a car that weighs about as much as a multi-pack bag of Quavers.
Now squealing like a banshee and breaking necks wherever he went, surely things couldn’t get much more extreme for Mike’s little thrash-around, could they?
“I still needed more power!” he continues. “So now I’m running a beefier M90 supercharger and have forged a new Zetec engine.” A near-enough race-tuned lump tucked under an old-skool Fiesta. Not what you’d expect, is it?
Mike can thank Zak from Power Engineering for getting the beasty motor to talk to the car, but admits most of the work was carried out by himself. “It’s a bit of a running joke that nothing ever seems to fit in the tiny engine bay!” Mike laughs. “Everything I buy seems to end up being cut about and modified to fit…”
If you haven’t seen this thing in action at a local track day or drag event, or even just flying down the road, for that matter, allow Mike to explain to you what it’s like to pilot this beast now. “It’s smelly, noisy, rattly and bumpy, with a pinch of torque steer,” he grins. “I always tell people it’s just like driving a Bentley!” Still, we bet our bottom dollar it’s a lot more fun than doing the morning commute in a modern diesel Beemer…
But the engine only makes up half of the reason this car is so damn awesome. Of course, it’s the out-there looks which help to warm people’s hearts when they first spot this rebel hatchback. Let’s not forget that in days of old, Ford absolutely smashed it when it came to successful race and rally cars, with design tweaks from these winners becoming the must-have tuning mods of the time.
Mike’s sprinkled these cues into his retro design, such as those aforementioned box arches and the painfully cool ‘turbofan’ wheel covers (Ken Block eat your heart out). Then there’s the Kamei front spoiler modified to fit, and the home-made aluminium boot spoiler, all adding to that iconic square silhouette. Finally, the fact it’s beige and is rocking retro hockey-style side stripes only makes us love it more, too!
Peer inside and you’re once again left breathless as to the boundary-defying sight that beholds you. Forget the frilly bits. Mike has gone to town with a brutal race-inspired interior, complete with those no-prisoners- taken aluminium buckets and the minimal- yet-immaculate dash designed around a fleet of practical Autometer gauges. The perfect place to enjoy laying the 250-plus bhp and countless amount of torque now on offer down to the tarmac, we imagine!
Growing up with a car and getting to know its ins and outs over a long period of time, rather than trading up every couple of months, has clearly worked wonders here with Mike and his beloved Fiesta. By tweaking bits as he thinks of new ideas and never getting too hung up about the inevitable niggles that have occurred along the way, his car has acted as a test bed for crazy new ideas.
“I’m currently building a compound Borg Warner turbo setup to get more boost but retain the minimal lag,” he tells us. “I’m not sure if it’ll work and I’m fully aware I could get the same result easier from a roller-bearing unit. But where’s the fun in that?! And you get ultimate pub points if your car’s a twin-turbo, of course.” We like your style, Mike!
What does Finkle is Einhorn mean?
Some people use stickers on their car to show off the beloved club they’re a part of, or to boast about what modifications have been carried out. But why has Mike opted to slap one of the most iconic and hilarious statements from Ace Ventura: Pet Detective along the back of his rear spoiler? “The truth is, there’s no real reason for it,” Mike laughs. “I just wanted something funny on the back of the car as the tuning scene sometimes takes itself too seriously.”
OWNER: MIKE JOHNSON
TECH SPEC: MK1 FORD FIESTA
Area 6 race-prepared 2.1-litre forged Zetec engine; ported big-valve head; Eaton M90 supercarger; Jaguar XJR supercharger brackets; Jenvey intake plenum; custom charge cooler; home-made exhaust manifold.
Five-speed manual gearbox with Escort RS Turbo limited-slip differential; quick shift kit.
8x15in Schmidt RFX alloy wheels with custom
PFE turbofan covers; adjustable coilovers all-round; Kustom Karl rose-jointed traction control arms and tie bars with adjustable top mounts.
Fiesta RS Turbo replica fibreglass arch extensions; modified Kamei front spoiler with home-made splitter; custom charge cooler radiator front grille; louvered bonnet; custom hockey stripe decals; louvered
rear window; home-made aluminium boot spoiler; Engelmann wing mirrors; US-spec rear lights.
Six-point rollcage; Kirkey aluminium race seats; custom dash with Autometer gauges throughout.
Words Tom Wilcox Photos Stephen Colbran