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Ford Escort Mk1 & Mk2 Tuning Guide

Fords replacement for the 105E Anglia was launched in 1968 and despite being technically behind the times, Ford stuck to its guns and built the Escort with a front engine, rear-drive, layout. Machpherson struts and a leaf sprung rear axle meant that it was simple but effective and worked well enough take the Escort on to become one of the most successful rally cars of all time, not to mention its many successes on track too. In its lifetime Ford saw fit to equip the Escort with the Crossflow engine (1100, 1300 & 1600cc), the Pinto engine (1600 & 2000cc), the Lotus Twin-Cam and of course the BDA (1600 & 1800cc). Today the list of engines seen under the bonnet of a rear-drive Escort is far longer with a huge selection of modern power plants making their way into engine bays. Modern engines can deliver more power, better reliability and driveability and two popular choices are Fords own Zetec and, more recently, Duratec engine. Turning the front-wheel-drive engine around is made much easier by off of the shelf conversion parts. If not, the Cosworth YB is a tried and tested conversion and the engine’s Pinto routes make it one of the easier engine swaps out there. If you don’t fancy any of the above, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with a good old Pinto or Crossflow and maybe improving those.

Regardless of engine, a common modification is the fitment of a five-speed, type-9 gearbox as removed from four-cylinder Sierras. Having an extra gear far improves motorway cruising and is a relatively simple conversion to do. We can supply a fully reconditioned Type-9. The Sierra ‘box isn’t a sporty unit, but with our modified first gear kit and a quick-shift things will improve significantly. If you are planning more power for your Escort you have several options for your gearbox. Quietest is our helical synchro gearset for the Type-9, this is stronger than the standard gearset but is just as quiet.

It also benefits from having much better ratios - perfect for the fast road car. If you’re planning something a bit more serious, we have a wide range of straight-cut, dogengagement and even sequential gearboxes from Tran-X and Quaife. Another worthwhile modification is a limited-slip differential of which we have several varieties from both Tran-X and Quaife, our sales staff will be able to advise you which is the best application for you. If you’ve got more power you’re also going to want stronger halfshafts, especially if you are going to be doing some "quick" starts.

Underneath the car, the Escort enjoys a huge range of different modification options, from mild road to out and out race car there is a product for this car. The first mod for any car should be to replace the suspension bushes throughout. Replacing your old, tired, bushes for these will make the car feel much tighter and more responsive on the go. Simple lowering springs on the front and blocks on the rear will improve the cars look and slightly improve handling for those on a budget.

The next step is to get uprated adjustable dampers. 2 1/4" coilovers are a very popular modification for the Macpherson strut. If you’re handy with a welder you can easily modify your car’s struts using our coilover conversion kits or for the more serious modifier you can buy complete, fully adjustable, coilover legs - our sales team will be able to advise you on what would be best for what you use your car for. Adjustable track control arms will give you the chance to adjust the amount of camber on your front wheels, take camber out of your road car or put some in for your track car. A high ratio (or quick) steering rack not only speeds up the steering, it also reduces the amount of turns from one lock to the other. A wise investment is also an anti-dive or double width kit for your front anti-roll bar, this helps improve the Escorts stability under braking. The Escorts axle can have a tendency to move about slightly, polyurethane bushes will improve this, but for improved axle location you will find Anti Tramp (Radius Arm) kits. This will help reduce the amount of unwanted axle tramp under heavy acceleration (standard fitment on the RS models). You will also find on the same page a Panhard-rod kit, this is great at reducing the amount the axle moves left to right during heavy cornering. For the ultimate in axle location, we can also supply five/six link kits, turrets and coilover shock absorbers. Feel free to ask one of our sales team which is best for you and your car.

A faster car that handles better is nothing without good brakes and we provide a wide range of choices. A common modification is the AP Four-Pot caliper as removed from an Austin Princess, but these are getting tired, are thin on the ground and are very heavy. Hi-Spec and Wilwood offer a wide range of ‘big brake’ kits for your Escort starting at fast-road going right through to huge, multi-piston, race kits. For those on a budget something as simple as braided brake lines can improve pedal feel, as will uprated pads for your standard calipers. We also stock remote brake servo kits for those wishing to just boost their standard brakes and bias pedal boxes which are essential for making room in the engine bay for engine swaps as well as giving a more direct feel to the brakes themselves and is a must if you opt for a rear disc conversion too.

In summary, the rear drive Escort (both Mk1 & 2) is the most popular retro Ford out there thanks to seemingly endless scope for engine swaps and a near never ending list of parts and products that will bolt straight on.