We check out the Minton’s tuned Mk2 Ford Escort and not for the first time! As this period race car build appeared on the cover of Fast Car way back in 1990.
Rear-wheel-drive Escorts have taken on cult status in the 21st-century, there’s no getting away from that. While they were everyday runabouts in period, with every aspirational Mexico or RS2000 being counterpointed by a couple of dozen 1300cc four-doors, today they’re all big business: even knackered base models are worth a pretty penny. We’ve passed the tipping point whereby the market’s being driven by people who grew up lusting after the hot Escort their dad or older cousin had; nowadays these cars are sufficiently aged that they exist within their own finely matured appreciation bubble.
People pay top dollar for decent shells to use for rally projects (because, even after all these years, there really isn’t a better rally car than a Mk1 or Mk2 Escort), while at the other end of the spectrum you find unscrupulous miscreants selling VIN numbers for RS models so that people who’ve imported rust-free two-door shells from Australia or South Africa can ring them and pretend they’re valuable UK sport models. It’s gone a bit nuts. You can pay ten grand for an Escort that you can sweep up with a dustpan and carry home in your pocket. And buying your way into legit retro Escort thrills? That ain’t cheap.
The car you see here, you’ll be pleased to note, is no iffy ringer or patched up snotter – this is the real deal. A pukka race car from back in the time when everything was sepia-tinted and twitter was just something birds did outside your window on a spring morning.
A 1975 shell, this car was originally built up as a race car in 1979 by a chap named Steve Minton along with his brother, to compete in the Wendy Wools Special Saloon Car Championship – which was very free on regulations! From 1980-85 they also competed in various Special GT meetings. The diverse Special Saloon series ran through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, as forerunner to the Thundersaloon series; cars competing here were big-hearted evolutions of recognisable mainstream cars, with fat bodywork and improbably wide slicks. Lunatics, basically. And as series regulations evolved, this Escort found itself competing from 1987-91 in the British Thundersaloon Championship, racing against such big names as David Leslie, John Cleland, Dave Brodie and Gerry Marshall.
At this time it was running a Hart 420R engine – a Formula 2 twin-cam screamer from the company that’d go on to develop Ayrton Senna’s F1 motors. The car was retired in 1991 and stored until ’98, at which point it was sold. And that could have been the end of the tale, had Steve Minton’s son Dan not happened upon a surprising forum post online in 2004…
“I saw a post on Ten Tenths about the Minton Racing Escort being up for sale on eBay,” Dan recalls. “I managed to get hold of the guy who had it in Hastings; dad and I went down to have a look at it and, sure enough, it was the car! On the way home we stopped into a pub and talked about whether it was worth saving, as it been through three different owners over the ten years and was in a really poor state as well as not having been driven. The guy was also a little reluctant to sell it, although the fact that he was expecting a baby worked in our favour, I think. So we paid him three grand for the rolling shell – but it had a crappy old English axle and a pair of standard struts on it just to push it around… luckily dad had kept the struts that they’d made for Thundersaloons, and all the bespoke TCAs and compression struts were still on the car!”
A few other period features were still in situ, which helped – not least the dry sump setup and swirl pot in the boot, which works to retain some of the old-school originality. The one-piece droop-snoot front end was in a bad way though, so the father-and-son team cut the wings off and mounted them directly to the shell, and converted the car to flat-front, putting a front bulkhead back in as this had been chopped about during the Escort’s evolution and needed remedying. This also had the benefit of making the car eligible for Group 2 racing. That’s right – the Mintons weren’t just restoring a museum piece, they were keen to get the old battler back out on track!
“The Escort was originally dark blue and white, before it was painted in its well-known red and white livery, so we decided to go with the blue front and Ermine white rear colour scheme,” Dan explains. “We still had the Hart 420R engine at the time of getting the car back, but with an original bulkhead and front panel it was too long and wouldn’t fit in the engine bay! The BDX went nicely in there though, as that’s what was in the car when it was first raced back in 1980.”
The BDX is essentially a Formula 2 full-race version of the Cosworth BDA engines you’d find in Mk2 Escort rally cars, and in the Minton Racing Escort it’s an absolute screamer – its big-valve head and Lucas 8mm mechanical fuel injection aid it along the path to 285bhp, with the rev limit at a hysterical 9,500rpm.
The fellas have this linked to a Motorsport Transmissions ZF dogleg five-speed, running back to a six-linked Group 4 Atlas axle with Gripper LSD and Gartrac internals, which is about as serious as you want to be in a RWD Escort. Those rear BBS E50s are a foot wide each side to try to tame those rampaging horses, and even with sticky Avon slicks the thing’s a proper handful. Which is just the way a car like this should be.
“It took around six years to restore,” says Dan. “We now compete in the CSCC Special Saloons and Modsports series. And yes, dad and his brother well remember doing the Escort’s Fast Car feature back in 1990 – we still race against Ricky and Danny Morris (ex-Fast Car) and Tony Paxman who were also in that feature!” What goes around comes around, huh? It’s like the cheesy old bumper stickers say – old Fords never die, they just get faster.
TECH SPEC FORD MK2 ESCORT
Original 1970s Fibresports fibreglass X-Pack bodykit, custom Minton Racing front splitter and rear wing, Perspex windows.
2.0-litre Cosworth BDX (built by Tim Swadkin Race Engineering), big-valve head, Lucas 8mm mechanical fuel injection, dry sump system, Motorsport Transmissions ZF S5-18/3 historic dogleg 5-speed gearbox, fully-floating Atlas Group 4 rear axle (6-linked with Watt’s linkage) with Gripper LSD and Gartrac internals 285bhp (rev limit – 9,500rpm; shift-light at 8,750rpm).
11×16” (front) and 12×16” (rear) BBS E50 wheels, Avon A11 slicks, MacPherson-type front struts, TCAs, comp struts and front ARB designed and fabricated by Minton Racing, Spax rear coilovers, T45 rear ARB, AP Racing Pro 5000R 4-pot front calipers with 310mmx28mm vented discs, AP Racing 2577 2-pot rear calipers with 270mmx10mm solid discs, remote adjustable bias bar pedal box, remote rear proportional valve.
Fully stripped, full motorsport rollcage, single bucket and harness.
Words Dan Bevis Photography Dan Pullen