There are few Ford Escort race cars more iconic and recognisable than the Zakspeed Group 5 Mk2s.
These loud, wide-bodied racing machines were successfully campaigned in the mid-to-late ’70s, and with only five cars originally built by Zakspeed in Germany as works machines, they are extremely sought after today.
There’s not a lot of information about the whereabouts of the five cars today, but at least one is still being raced. That car belongs to Gary Wilkinson in New Zealand.
When Gary first saw the car it was stored under a pile of rubbish in an old shed in Malaysia. Armed with a lot of knowledge about the Zakspeed Mk2s, he believed he had chanced across a genuine car, but it was only after the chassis tag information was relayed to Zakspeed that it was confirmed. This was the Group 5 Escort campaigned by Hans Heyer. Gary bought the car, restored it to pristine condition, and it remains in his possession today.
As you’d have read in the title, the car we’re looking at today is not an original Zakspeed build. It’s a masterful recreation owned by Lance Vogel that was built here in South Africa.
I first spotted the wild-looking Escort at the Emerald Speed Fest back in February, and knew I had to find out more about it. Our lockdown put my plans to shoot the car on hold for a bit, but I recently managed to meet up with Paolo Piazza Musso of Piazza Motorsport and connect all the dots.
The build began in 2006 and took 10 long years to complete. This was largely due to an immense amount research in finding the correct parts and homologation papers for the car, and then recreating everything with the highest possible accuracy.
Paolo fell in love with the Group 5 Zakspeed Escort as a youngster, watching them compete at Kyalami Raceway from 1975 to 1977. In the 1977 Wynn’s 1,000km race, Paolo’s dad competed in an Alfa, running alongside the cars that took him by awe. So it’s easy to see where Paolo’s inspiration for building this car – one that honours the 1977 Wynn’s 1000 Kyalami race winner, driven by Hans Heyer and Jody Scheckter – came from.Recreating Perfection
The most visible feature is the delicious Group 5-spec wide-body. The kit is constructed from FRP, but not just guesstimated from photos – moulds were pulled from original Zakspeed panels. The livery matches the 1977 race-winning machine, right down to the driver names on the doors.
The 16-inch split BBS center-lock wheels under the arches measure 9-inches wide at the front and 10-inches wide at the rear, all wrapped up in Hoosier racing slicks.
The outside of this recreation is pretty much on point, but when trying to replicate a car like this, it’s definitely not just about how it looks – it’s also about what’s underneath the bonnet.Underpinnings
No corners were cut here, hence why there’s an 1,840cc Cosworth BDA unit taking centerstage. The DOHC 16-valve inline four-cylinder engine breathes through twin Weber 48DCOE carburettors with a Pipercross filter, while a 4-into-1 exhaust manifold runs into a side-exit pipe cleverly hidden within the left-side sill. All of the fittings and lines have been upgraded, and there’s also an aluminium race radiator in the mix to keep things cool.
The engine is reputed to generate 250hp at a screaming 9,000rpm, and while that might not sound like much in the modern age, it’s a decent amount for a car that weighs less than 800kg (1,764lb). Backing it up is a ZF 5-speed manual gearbox running to an LSD-equipped Atlas rear end fitted with floating shafts.
When it comes to suspension, the Escort uses MacPherson struts with TCA arms that have been rose-jointed in the front and rear. To get to a stop, disc brakes with 4-pot and 2-pot callipers front and rear respectively are used with racing compound pads.
Inside, there’s an FIA-spec roll cage, Momo steering wheel, and a single Cobra Imola Pro-Fit seat fitted with an OMP 5-point harness. The squared-off dash houses all the vital gauges – including a 10,000rpm tachometer – and switchgear.
This is a stunning recreation in all respects, so it’s little wonder that an invitation to attend the Goodwood Festival of Speed and Goodwood Members’ Meeting in 2018 was extended to Lance – and accepted. Paolo drove the car, and you can see it in action in the video above.
Given this recreation took a decade to complete I’m sure there were many headaches along the way, but in the end Paolo persevered and turned out something truly epic for Lance.
Now we just need South African motorsport to resume again, allowing the Escort to be hammered around the track, the very thing it was built for. Because although it looks great sitting still, it looks much better at full tilt on the tarmac.
Additional Photos by The MotorhoodGallery