A Ford Built To Divide & Conquer
Divisive Decisions

Throughout the history of automobile related rivalries, people nearly always come down in one camp or another. I’ve always found the idea of devoting one’s self to a single manufacturer or a specific region or style quite interesting.

None of us are born with these preferences, but rather they are developed and nurtured by our friends, family and social groups. If all your friends love Nissans and drifting, chances are that you’re going to follow a similar path. As your love and passion for one marque flourishes, your dissent for the ‘other side’ grows. Of course, this is more often than not a friendly rivalry. After all, we’re all in it for the love of cars, right? Be that as it may, there are the more heated rivalries too…

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-11

I would like to think that in this modern age, most of these conflicts have fizzled out in the name of progress and harmony. Some still burn strong though and are kept alive by a generation who fought on the frontline. Few exemplify an automotive rivalry quite like the one that exists between the suburb of Dagenham in London and the town of Luton not 50 miles away. That is, Ford and Vauxhall respectively. There’s nothing quite like proximity to keep a feud going. And although this discord will likely continue indefinitely, there are the few who have chosen to step across the lines of combat and make peace with the other side, allowing them to enjoy the best of both worlds with a clear conscience.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-24

One of those few is Paul Reene, and this is his Vauxhall-powered Ford Escort.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-29

Whilst he might say the opposite, I don’t think Paul came to the decision of the final evolution of his Escort being Vauxhall-engined too lightly. Having owned the car for over a decade, it has seen several iterations including a Pinto and more modern Zetec swap before it was taken off the road for this, its ultimate incarnation.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-4

As you’re about to see, this is anything but a straightforward engine-swapped track build. This is the culmination of one man’s experiences and how to build the best car he possibly could, whilst still retaining all the things that make the car special in the first place.

The Perfect Base
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-1

As I’ve already mentioned above, Paul has owned the Escort for a shade over 10 years. He knew the shell was in great condition and he wanted to build on this. With the car stripped bare, the work commenced by seam welding the shell and installing the FIA compliant rollcage. Despite being a ’73 car, rust wasn’t an issue and there was no need to patch even an inch of the car.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-22

With the shell at maximum stiffness and strength, Paul wanted to try and reduce the burden of the added weight of the T45 cage. Anything that was non-essential was removed or lightened as much as possible without losing structural rigidity.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-7

It would have been easier to tube chassis or space frame parts of the car, but Paul was intent on this car remaining an Escort and not just the silhouette of one. The car still features its original chassis legs with only a small section of the inner front wings having been removed.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-15

With the Irish motorsport community being quite close knit and very traditional, some were aghast at the idea of a perfect MkI being modified so heavily. “Some rallying locals went daft when they heard I had cut so much out, saying that I’d ruined a good shell. In fact, I improved a good shell,” Paul told me.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-32

With everything that could be removed, removed, it was then time to relocate any other weight to a more optimal location.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-6

Starting with the engine which has been moved back 9.0 inches (228.6mm) and sits approximately 1.6 inches (40mm) lower than the factory engine originally would have. This was made possible by completely fabricating a new bulkhead from scratch, which uses much thicker steel than Ford originally did, and adding a dry sump system.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-8

In a further effort to move as much of the overhanging weight lower and closer to the centre of the car, the fuel cell was sunk through the rear floor.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-33

Now lurking out of sight, the lowered tank is kept company by a Sytec fuel pump and an accompanying swirl pot. Also keeping schtum in the shadows is a custom Fostek English axle with a Watts 6-linked rear and Tran-X limited slip differential.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-16

With such an obsession towards weight saving and weight location, there was only ever going to be a single seat in this proverbial house. Of course, any old seat wasn’t going to cut it, so Paul ultimately cherry picked a lightweight aluminium Kirkey race seat.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-28

Fibreglass front wings, front panel, bonnet, doors and boot lid all do their part in reducing this Escort’s weight to an impressive 770kg (1,697lb).

Red Hot Red Top
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-3

One of the key parts in retaining the very essence of the Escort was choosing the right engine for the job. As such, it was always going to be a high revving and naturally aspirated motor. As we already know from above, Paul opted for a Vauxhall motor in the shape of a JRE-built C20XE. What likely softens the blow for a Ford fan, is that the C20XE shares a strong Ford connection in that Cosworth designed the XE for Vauxhall in the late ’80s. A tenuous link, but I’m sure it helps many sleep easy at night so we’ll let that one slide.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-5

What really pushed Paul towards the Vauxhall motor though, was the sheer number of options and parts available to him. It’s a proven engine with a huge amount of knowledge and expertise out there, so there’s never going to be a ‘what if’ situation. It was a simple case of picking a combination of parts to build upon the stock engine’s 150hp. 48mm Jenvey throttle bodies, an exquisite Tony Law exhaust manifold along with fully forged internals and custom camshafts and valving brings the total power output to 250hp and 189lbs/ft (256Nm).

In a world where 1000hp is becoming the norm for performance builds, 250hp may not seem like an awful lot. Because of the car’s low weight, the XE is still providing this Escort with over 320hp per ton. That’s far more than is required to put a smile on your face and allow you to post competitive times.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-23

With the chassis sitting just 50mm from the ground, clearance would have been an issue for a traditional under and out exhaust system. Working its away alongside the gearbox and passing through the cabin the custom side exit system exhales into the atmosphere just behind the passenger door.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-9

The shorter system also has the added benefit of saving weight and an increased exhaust flow.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-13

To ensure that there’s no let up in the power delivery, the car has been equipped with a Quaife 60G sequential 6-speed with Bradley Motorsport matched ratios along with the required hardware for flat gearshifts. With its Dunlop slicks warmed up, the Escort is capable of sprinting from a standstill to 60mph in 4.3 seconds.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-10

Helping it to return to a stationery position are AP Racing brakes, both front and rear. The lightweight Compomotive wheels help maintain the lowest possible unsprung weight.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-31

The suspension setup doesn’t fall short of the mark either. GAZ coilovers both front and rear with remote reservoirs on the fully adjustable front end. The springs have been custom weighted to suit the lightweight Escort. As such, roll has been virtually eliminated with approximately 40mm of travel available. In case you haven’t guessed by now, this is a track-only car.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-39

When I met with Paul to shoot the car, it was his first time driving it in any sort of anger. Watching him unleash the XE for the first time down the relatively short back straight in Tynagh, Co. Galway, you could immediately sense the happiness and relief the car brought him. Everything will always work in theory, but it’s not until you turn key and lay rubber that you can honestly know if the hundreds if not thousands of decisions you’ve made were the right ones.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-37

The low-slung Escort absolutely ripped around the track, with the immediately identifiable pops on every flat upshift being accompanied by the incredible induction roar that only a naturally aspirated car of this ilk can produce. Aural perfection.

2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-38

Before our time on track was up, Paul delivered the required amount of post-build celebratory donuts at the bottom hairpin, shattering the peace of the Irish countryside in quite some fashion.

I think there’s something we can all take away from a build like this. Sure, there are the hundred small details which can be incorporated into our own cars and builds. What we really all should learn from Paul’s build is to aim to build without compromise, follow your own ideas and plans and that sometimes, it’s okay to step across the battlefield and get help from the proverbial enemy. You might be surprised to discover what you have in common…

Paddy McGrath
Instagram / Twitter: @pmcgphotos

Cutting Room Floor
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-2
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-12
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-14
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-21
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-17
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-18
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-19
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-20
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-25
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-26
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-27
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-30
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-34
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-36
2014 Ford Escort MKI Paul Reene PMcG-40


Comments are closed.


by Oldest
by Best by Newest by Oldest



Love a good valver, I used to run a lumpy xe in my first car :) awesome engine if looked after


What a car! 


Great write up and what a killer car. Nice one Paddy!


for the cost of build, he could've easily bought a 911..


The front three quarter angle of this car is so tough!


@Frozenstar You're right, he could have. But thankfully, he chose to build this instead.


Ben Chandler Thank you, Benjamin.


the_escape_road It's awesome, right? The detail and dedication are second to none.


elliottrosscullingford There's a reason they're so popular within the Ford community. It helps that they make a decent sound too.


Peter_Kelly He was driving behind me for the chase shots, thing looks so mean in your mirrors.

Rikard Lagerberg

What a perfect build! Brings tears to my eyes and inspiration to my heart and head. Killer photography as well!

Damn... One more feature with this much flared holes and I can't resist those dimple die or punch and flare kits anymore...


this is one car that not only Looks good but probably also performs like a rocket. too often fast cars look shit or showcars are Trailer-Queens. not this one obviously. thumbs up!


@Frozenstar I'm so happy he didn't buy a 911... That would have been boring.


Super clean build - very nice photography.....great job.


I have always loved these cars. I typically go for Japanese and European cars but this car is just so amazing. If I recall correctly Americans never got this car which is such a shame. This car is just amazing. Great article and great job building this amazing work of art.
Lastly, that seat is out of this world but I love it


Rikard Lagerberg Thanks, Rikard. You know adding lightness is the right path, do it!


@JDMjunkies I do honestly think that Paul has struck that perfect balance. It could quite easily be a (albeit hardcore) street car.


@RonMen Thank you, very much appreciated.


@tom I think a few imports have made it to the States, but it never officially went on sale. I could be imagining it but I think Larry or Mike wrote up a spotlight on one from a show last year?

Rikard Lagerberg

Paddy McGrath stop provoking me... ;)


verry nice.


really not a hard choice. Mk1 scort all the way


as a mentle ford fan, i felt my heart stop when i came to the engine. But... red tops are amazing lumps and as he has already had a zeetec in it (probibly a 1800) then why not? theres a guy in England (probibly a few actually) who has dropped a s2000 lump into a mk1 estate. It absolutly rips...


It's articles like these where I wish there was some sort of sound clip or video! That car must sound like hell on earth in the best way possible


RahRooReeRah I've been invited back to drive the car, will definitely capture that on video.


*Slow Clap* Well done, sir, well done.


While you are correct on the rival manufacturer part, I can safely say I will never put a Mercedes engine in my E30


Love it.Saw it in cf too.
Who cares what engine its running its another old car out there kickin ass.
And yes i am an old skool ford nut but i love reading about oather car schenes, jdm ,usdm etc etc.


turbom You and me both!


Maybe its because of the past motorcycle week but i can see this thing rocking a hyabusa turbo motor any one else?


Great to see more Fast Fords on SpeedHunters!


jacobherman14 I think a turbo 'busa motor would be epic in a car weighing only 770kgs!


The escorts on SH are back!
And your photos are quite ace!


sweet! More builds like this SH, please!


Incredible! Looks awesome.


Closest thing we ever got in the states was the pinto. Shares a bunch of parts but the looks are off quite a lot. Clean ones can be imported out of south America for much less then having one shipped in from Europe.


Thats the nuts right there.


C - L - E - A - N. Perfect balance of form and function, this one one
truly is greater than the sum of it's parts. Man I wish we got these in
the States!!

Chris 'Haffy' Hafner

I bet your gagging for it?


Simply incredible car!
Well done!
The shots of the whole car don't look real, just pops out at you.


Absolutely magnificent. Looks like an absolute blast of a car to wring out.


At first i thought there were turbos in place of the headlights lol. Still looks like fun tho!


Simply beautiful inside and out!


beautiful car - beautiful pics


You killed it with this feature Paddy. It's great to have you back! :)


Cool Escort after another, this is great! Now, when can we see some classic Opel's? Manta, Ascona, Kadett, Rekord, Commodore etc!


Great car, great article. Love the Drillium he has added to  the car, especially pic6 in the article


MikkoKukkonen I'll definitely keep my eyes open for some cool Opels :)


Taryn Croucher It's good to be back!


Beautiful vehicle but to do that here in Australia would not be cool because the rivalry between Ford and "cough " Holden/Opel runs so deep you would be a reason for people from both sides of the fence to throw hiss at you while lobbing rotten fruit and vegetables at you as you drive down the road ! This is the idea i have for a build  . . .Mark II with the new 2.3l ecoboost from the new mustang and throw the catalogue at it ! After i win the lotto !


turbom agreed


Heikki Rotten fruit? It'd probably be torched overnight if you left it in the wrong areas!


MikkoKukkonen +1 on the Opel Manta. A neighbour had a Mk2 GT/E when I was a kid and I never got over it!


Cosworth didn't design the C20XE - It was Dr Fritz Indra. Cosworth merely provided the casting via Coscast on the early heads. There is some good info from the man himself here: http://www.calibrawiki.com/images/d/db/Vauxhall_Calibra_Designer_Interview.pdf


MilesHayler MikkoKukkonen I currently own two Manta B's, an '83 and an '84, both of them GT/E's. I've had my share of old Opels in the past in form of a '72 Ascona, '67 Rekord Coupe and three Manta B's. The Opels run deep in our family, although my dad used to rally a few Escorts too (Mk 1 and Mk 2). He kept me off of the old Fords and always told me that technically they are junk compared to Opels. :) Still I love the look of Mk 1 and 2 Escorts though.


MikkoKukkonen MilesHayler I'll pretend I'm not jealous. The neighbour had a bright red B2 in mint condition (as much as an 8 year old would notice) and I absolutely loved it.


MilesHayler MikkoKukkonen Maybe it'll ease your jealousy a bit if I told you I've got my hands
full of sheet metal work with both of them. They rust like nobody's
business! I'm currently finishing the body work with the '83 and I'm
going to transform it to look like the B1 model with chrome bumbers etc.
The other I'll probably restore to it's original GT/E state. Both of
them are only used in the summer nowadays, so hopefully I won't have to
deal with the rust anymore! :)


Hello car of the year


Sweet! I own an '83 GTE hatch, just about to replace the engine and get it ready for summer!


What a car! I think this has been my favourite for a while. Can't beat old school lines whilst looking aggressive. 

Also paddy, superb photography! Glad to have you back.


Dan Sainsbury Cosworth were commissioned by GM to develop and create a head for GM's 'Family 2' engine which became the 150HP Cosworth KBA / Vauxhall C20XE. The heads were cast and assembled by Cosworth in the UK for a while -'88 until '91 were the CosCast years - before production was moved to Germany. 

It reads as if Dr Indra was dismissive of Cosworth's development from your link rather than claiming he designed it?


Heikki Now THAT sounds like a good idea! the ecoboost would not be as aesthetically pleasing but it would make for a great resto-mod racer whilst still 'keeping it in the family!'


Paddy McGrath Dan Sainsbury Its been a long running discussion for YEARS on the Vauxhall forums mate, its gone round and round in circles so many times now! There was (WAS refering to the fact it was probably about 1998 and hosted on some garish Angelfire website) another article that outlined what Cosworth did and didn't do and how he done away with their groundwork - And after Fritz's input when the original Motorsport > Road car conversion came about it was effectively a brand new head design. 

Since the rest of it is based off the Family II engine and Cosworth were to make input in 'motorsport' adaptations it's only really the head to focus on, the block was existent in the 20SEH etc already - I'll try to dig it all out but it makes for interesting reading and has SO much technical detail! It's almost textbook type stuff :)


Dan Sainsbury Paddy McGrath Some of these articles get a bit heavy alright, although it would be interesting to find out just how much of Cosworth's development made it through to the production cars. We'll likely never really know as Ford guys will always say it was all Cosworth and the Vauxhall guys will say it was all Fritz etc. when it's likely it's six of one and a half dozen of the other.

Although if Fritz is responsible for the LET, he has a lot of apologising to do to a few friends of mine...


Pretty much! Cosworth have never put their name to it themselves and when questioned say that they only dealt with the original run of 'Coscast' heads as far as the actual casting process. It could be down to them disagreeing with something that Fritz changed and not wanting to put their name to it, but I see that as a bit silly considering how close to perfect they are. The first ones are nearly 30 years old now and they've still been used for the last few years in some WTCC cars and F3, as well as the countless rally cars, hill climb cars etc that throw out crossflows and Zetecs as seen here!
The LET is mechanically the same apart from the rods and pistons, and obviously the turbo/management bits and bobs. You can even go as far as putting LET rods and pistons in the 8 valve engines or go a generation above and run them in Ecotecs and Z20LET's (Astra VXR, MK4 Coupe Turbos etc). The base engine was virtually unchanged as far as compatability goes for the better part of 30 years! Have your friends been a bit carried away with the boost? Haha... There was a time when people would just throw an EDS Phase 2 chip in on red injectors and a Frontera TD intercooler for 280-300 with an XE inlet cam retarded half a tooth on a vernier... Then get greedy and bend a rod or two lol.
And then there's people like Specky doing 9.8 quarters in his Tigra and probably another 15 I can think of putting C20's down 'Pod in the 11's and under :)


Favorite Speedhunters feature car in a long time.  Just plain awesome.  I also love that it doesn't have some crazy amount of horsepower.


All the details of this amazing machine are leaving me incapable of proficiently articulating how much I love this car. The massive weight reductions, the work into lowering the center of gravity down as much as possible, the chassis stiffening, the naturally aspirated engine choice, the simple Stack gauges, the beautiful seat choice, the trick routing of the exhaust system, 6-link rear end, I could go on and on. The color! The random carbon on the rear quarters, the air inlet in place of headlights!!!!! Favorite feature car of the year without a doubt!


I must say that I was a little concerned with the car/engine combo but, as I read the article and looked at the pictures, I fell deeply in love.  Beautifully realised, and I fully get the builder's point about keeping the car and it's chassis and not going tubular frame silhouette.

Audio of this motor being wrung out, please?


I can understand completely about not wanting to change what makes your car special. This car is a beautiful compromise


Hi .i own this car and have now decided to sell it, while its still brand new,i am working another old school project and i am  afraid she has to go to fund build .
car is now FOR SALE . asking price of £32,000 sterling or 45,000. euro .This  car cost alot more to build .......

if  intrested i  can  be contacted by email :


thanks for  positive comments guys ,inspires me to build next machine even more .


Too bad those wheels don't come in 4x100....