So, what do we have here? Another Escort Mk1. No surprises there. It’s easily the most popular choice amongst classic Ford enthusiasts in SA and standing out amongst other Escorts isn’t easy. So how do you set yourself apart? A gleaming custom once-off paint job. Mexico themed styling. That’s a good start.
You may ask, what is this Mexico malarkey? The Escort is considered by many as the holy grail of international rallying and it became so successful that in 1970 Ford actually won the London to Mexico rally. This gave rise to a special road-going edition, aptly named the Escort Mexico, with just over 10000 cars built for European and Australian markets. Back then the modest Escort Mexico would’ve set you back around R5000, but these days mint examples can fetch up to half a bar making them extremely rare and lusted after by Ford purists the world over. The next best thing then would be to build a replica in homage to this classic, which is exactly what Jerome Joseph did.
Jerome picked up the rolling chassis from a late friend, who knew that he always had a soft spot for the car. The body was straight and relatively rust-free but that’s just about everything it had going for it. The car was left in storage for a year while he put together his plan of action and imported parts. Jerome and three close friends Yuven Naicker, Dereshan Kanniah and Suraj Ramadhar would forever alter the course of this little Escorts life over the next 3 years and the quartet possessed all the skills and knowledge between them to sculpt the Ford into something truly beautiful.
The plan was to retain the essence of the original Mexico whilst adding their unique style and perspective to the build. So, instead of chucking the 1600 crossflow lump in favour of a more modern powerplant, they embraced the fact that the Escort was never going to be about straight-out speed and decided to just rebuild it stronger and better than when it was released from the factory almost 50 years ago. Within that stunning looking engine you’ll find a stroker kit and high compression (10.5:1) pistons that, in conjunction with the ported and polished head and 288-deg camshaft, results in performance and a glorious soundtrack that the stock Kent motor could never match. A set of 40mm Weber side drafts, fed by a Facet fuel pump, dominates the bay and a colour coded Burton rocker cover adds the perfect finishing touch, all of which was handled by Dereshan from DK Precision Auto along with the other mechanical work on the car.
While the Escort Mk1 has always been considered as one of the best handling Fords of all time, the old suspension setup was a bit long-in-the-tooth and needed to be refreshed. This is where Suraj stepped up to the plate sorting out the handling and stance in the process. Up front we find a pair of coilovers mated with camber plates while the rear end is brought down by a set of lowering blocks. The entire setup is stiffened up with the help of poly bushes and when combined with the nimble 890kg weight factor, this Escort now handles like a go-kart. Suraj also played a major role in sourcing and customising the rare Tom’s Racing wheels that adorn each corner of the Mk1. The group were contemplating stepping them up to 15-inch but in the end decided to keep them as they were and simply high polish the dishes and finish off the centres in the same shade of gold paint as the Mexico striping kit. The 8J 13’s fill the widened arches perfectly giving the Escort a mean, bulldog-like demeanor.
And that brings us to this cars piece de resistance: The bodywork. Yuven from Glayer Auto stripped down the body before adding on the imported wide arches at the rear and new flared Mexico fenders up front. He then expertly applied multiple coats of a once-off bright metallic green paint with gold flake giving the Escort a mind-blowing, iridescent glow from every angle, especially when in direct sunlight.
This Mexico-inspired Escort possesses a pure, wonderful simplicity that you just don’t find in cars of today and the minimalistic approach to this project emphasizes that you don’t need the biggest engine or bank balance to build something noteworthy.