Liam Stolton’s hardcore Mk2 Fiesta is so clean you could eat your dinner off it. But he didn’t build it to win show trophies – this thing is a manic out-and-out track beast…
The creative tension between form and function has sat at the core of project car builds from the very beginning of modifying itself. Ever since Karl Benz looked at his Patent-Motorwagen back in 1885 and thought, “You know what, I might stick another wheel on that” [facts may vary, consult a historian], there’s been a quagmire of internal wrangling: do I make it go faster, or look better?
Of course, if you’re doing it properly, it’s entirely possible to achieve both at once. Behold the Mk2 Fiesta hillclimber you see before you. Staggeringly attractive, isn’t it? It looks like the sort of thing Darth Vader would tear about in when he grows weary of annihilating planets and pops off for half an hour to obliterate some hydrocarbons instead. And yet, despite the impeccable finish and glorious attention to detail, the form entirely follows the function – this hasn’t been built simply to look good; it’s been put together to be eye-wateringly quick in a competitive context. The fact that it looks so cool is simply a happy by-product of its focus, and proof positive that its owner, Liam Stolton, knows exactly what he’s doing.
“I’ve always been into my old Fords, from a young age,” he tells us, “and following in my brother’s footsteps is where it all began. I was always working on them with him before I could even drive. It all started for me driving a white stripped-out and rollcaged Mk2 Fiesta with an 1800 Zetec, which was a laugh until it got written off when it was parked up outside work. There was something about old Fiestas that I loved so much, and I just had to get another one…”
With his line in the sand firmly drawn, Liam came across the car you see here advertised online – although it’s safe to say that it was a pretty different car back then. A completely original, rust-free, two-owner example with only 35,000 miles on the clock, this 950cc 1984 Fiesta Bonus was the sort of thing that some purists might have preferred to mothball in a static collection, to remind future generations of the frugal simplicity of early-eighties proletarian motoring. But not Liam. He saw past the wheezy motor and tightwad spec to the true potential: namely, an extremely solid shell.
“I didn’t really have anything specific planned on what to do with it, but still I went and had a look,” he recalls. “I remember the previous owner saying to me that it wouldn’t stay that original for long and it would be ruined after I bought it! Fair point… next thing you know I’d slammed it, chucked a set of black steels on and fitted an ST170 on ZX9 bike carbs, leaving it in full sleeper spec. I drove that around for a year or so, but eventually started getting bored and decided to do something different – and that’s when the supercharged build started.”
Yep, this is a guy who certainly doesn’t do things by halves, and he’s also incredibly keen to get stuck in and do everything himself – fabricating, welding, painting, you name it. It took three years of solid graft to transform the Fiesta into what you see today, and what’s emerged from the workshop is something really quite splendid. The supercharged element of the build involved bolting the Eaton M45 blower from a Mercedes SLK230 to the ST170 engine, and, of course, there are quite a few knock-on mods that had to be carried out to suit. Liam’s fitted an air-to-water chargecooler, and there’s also a Crazycage inlet manifold, a Sierra RS Cosworth alloy radiator, a 2.5-inch stainless exhaust system that exits to the side, and it’s all governed by an ME221 ECU. The upshot of these monkeyshines is a safe 198bhp on the freshly rebuilt engine, which is running 5-6psi of boost with its stock internals. A strong and usable power level, with easy potential for more as the project evolves.
Naturally there’s an LSD to help deploy all of this – a Quaife ATB, which works hand-in-hand with a Mk6 Escort IB5 gearbox, and a hydraulic clutch conversion with a AP Racing 4-paddle clutch. Intriguingly, the car’s running the spindly little driveshafts from a 1.1 Fiesta. “They’re like matchsticks, but they’re holding on strong!” Liam laughs.
A huge amount of engineering ingenuity informed the running gear, and that’s before we’ve even considered the chassis and aero upgrades. “A lot of work went into it, all carried out by myself,” he assures us. “The only thing on the whole build that I didn’t do was the aluminium welding, but I still made all the parts and got a good friend Leroy to weld them. Everything that I could replace for new I did, all the suspension and running gear was powder coated, and I did a full shell respray too.”
The aesthetics are what draw most people in, as it really is an aggressive-looking car. The Mk2 is such a familiar shape that there’s something deliciously naughty about doing this kind of thing to it: the one-off front splitter with its jutting canards is first to grab your attention, unless you’re approaching from the rear, in which case your brain will be ambushed by the colossal diffuser. It all just looks so damned serious. The rear window louvre is there for fun, although it does neatly tie into the aero vibe, and if you’re scratching your head in puzzlement at the reprofiled arches, they’re actually a set of Mk1 Golf items that have been welded into place to shroud those fat 7×13-inch steels with their sticky square-sidewall rubber.
It’s just as serious inside too: everything superfluous is stripped – Liam simply straps himself into the bare-bones minimalist Kirkey seat and hangs on. The doors and inner rear quarter skins have been gutted, and everything he doesn’t need has gone in the bin. In addition, all of the fuel and brake lines now run inside the car to save them being damaged. There’s also a full suite of high-quality gauges to keep an eye on that supercharged ST170, and, of course, there’s a rollcage in there as well.
“The car isn’t road-legal, and I don’t plan it to be – although it could be very easily,” says Liam. “It’s only used on track and at shows. It surprises a lot of people out on track thanks to its power delivery from the supercharger, and I get asked quite often what’s under the bonnet as the ’charger whine can be heard from miles away! One thing I get told a lot is how clean it is, which some people don’t expect as it still gets hammered around the track!”
With a solid chassis CV comprising modified Mk1 Golf coilovers, a custom adjustable rear beam and all manner of polybushing, it’s certainly been built to be shown a hard time, and that’s exactly what Liam uses it for. Sure, its gleaming finish and flawless construction mean that it’s every inch the static show darling when it needs to be, but this perky little Fiesta was primarily constructed for function. It just so happens that, as with all the best builds, the form has naturally followed.
TECH SPEC: MK2 FORD FIESTA
XR2 bumpers and spoiler, Perspex windows, fully cut out and lightened door- and rear quarter inner skins, welded-on Mk1 Golf arches, removable bonnet with 4x aerocatches, cold air intakes made from old headlights, one-off front splitter with side canards, boot floor cut out for massive rear diffuser, rear window louvres
ST170 2.0-litre Zetec, ME221 ECU and loom, Eaton M45 supercharger (from Mercedes SLK230 – currently running 5-6 psi boost), stock internals, custom billet crank overdrive, Crazycage inlet manifold and engine mount, Vibra-Technics engine mounts, air-to-water chargecooler, 2.5in stainless side-exit exhaust system, Kubota lightweight alternator, FPE baffled sump plates, Sierra RS Cosworth alloy radiator, baffled aluminium fuel tank, Torques fuel filters, Sytec fuel pump and regulator, Mk6 Escort IB5 gearbox, Quaife ATB limited slip differential, converted to hydraulic clutch with Wilwood pull slave, Fiesta turbo flywheel, AP Racing 4-paddle clutch, rebuilt stock 1.1 driveshafts
7x13in ET0 JBW pepperpot steels, 175/50 Yokohama A048-R tyres, modified Mk1 Golf coilovers, fully polybushed, custom adjustable rear beam, XR2 brakes with EBC YellowStuff pads, Matt Lewis Racing braided hoses, adjustable bias pedal box with remote reservoirs, hydraulic handbrake
Kirkey lightweight aluminium seat, Luke harness, flocked XR2 dash, Stack boost gauge, Stack oil pressure gauge, AEM wideband gauge, OMP deep-dish steering wheel, fuel lines and brake lines run inside car, full multipoint rollcage
“Big thanks the my brother Martin, Leroy at Atomic Welding, and Phil at Miniature Manufacturing.”
Words Daniel Bevis Photography Chris Frosin