Classic Ford heads to Cologne to check out the latest impressive project from serial car builder, Guido Pitzen – this former Group 2 Fiesta XR2
It says a great deal that even in our modern, highly-connected, drastically-shrunken world, we still find ourselves fascinated by the regional specialities the Ford of almost half-a-century ago deemed it important (in some cases necessary) to bestow upon certain countries and or continents. The internet has done much to condense and homogenise the global old school Ford scene, and yet – and maybe because of, we’re still drawn to special editions, region specific optional extras, or simply a different nation’s approach to building classic Fords.
Enter stage left, Cologne-based Guido Pitzen, the builder — but not the owner — of the perfect, indeed, so perfect that it makes you suck your teeth and nod your head involuntarily, Mk1 Fiesta you see here. A veteran Classic Ford feature bagger of some renown, Guido’s old Ford CV is beyond reproach, though it’s probably fair to say this latest build (a car he’s creating for a Swiss customer) is among his most ambitious to date.
Group 2 hero
First though, a look back at what made this particular Mk1 so special in the first place, namely that it was built as a Group 2 Fiesta XR2 race car in period. This meant that it was always as an out-and-out race car, albeit one still firmly grounded in real world practicalities, as demanded by the carefully worded Group 2 regulations.
“That it was a Group 2 Fiesta was a key reason why the owner decided to take it on some years ago, but it was never at the front of his mind when it came to how he — and later, I should build it,” explains Guido. “It’s now a long, long, long way removed from the carefully regulated Group 2 car it was built as some three-and-a-bit decades ago, but that’s not the point. He wanted me to build him his dream Mk1 Fiesta, and it so happened that the Group 2 car was the best base for this.”
The owner of the car, known to all as Siggi (the man with his name atop the logbook of another Guido-built Ford, the FujiFilm RS1600i, was first drawn to the car thanks to its stunning, all-steel arches. These had been beautifully fabricated by hand by a previous owner, then artfully grafted to the Fiesta in a manner seldom seen these days.
“I was impressed with that aspect of the build right away; the arches were really well made from high grade steel, hand fabricated and expertly welded to the Fiesta. They don’t flex one bit.”
While the arches were nothing short of stunning in their application the same could not be said for other areas of its build, which was why Guido ended up taking on the project mid-build some months back. Not that ‘finishing’ has involved anything as low level as merely bolting on running gear and calling it a day, because that would be underselling Guido’s engineering skills and involvement short by several orders of magnitude.
Case in point, the suspension, the rearmost section of which has now been thoroughly re-engineered off the back of Guido’s unmatched experience when it comes to making front-wheel drive Fords handle in a manner most would think impossible.
“The rear-axle is now completely adjustable for caster and camber, while I’ve also made my own dampers from a pair of Bilsteins originally intended for a Puma with a spring adjuster and race-spec springs. The axle itself has been mounted in such a way that it camber and toe can be easily adjusted.”
It’s a similar story at the pointy end of the Fiesta, Guido having implemented his decades of old Ford experience to create a front suspension setup with a dizzying scope for adjustment and micro-management. Think Bilstein coil-overs, adjustable track-rods and wishbones from Kustom Karl in the USA, as well as adjustable top-mounts, this time of Guido’s own design.
You need only clamber inside the Fiesta to see evidence of Guido’s commitment to chassis poise, with the newly remade roll-cage (an area where technology has come on a long, long way since the mid ’80s) hard to avoid — literally. It’s a welded in, fully triangulated affair, and snakes its way throughout the Fiesta’s interior and out into the engine bay.
The interior is especially lovely, what with the mix of form and function married together seamlessly. For the former, read lashings of carbon fibre for the door cards, dash surround and Momo deep-dish wheel. For the latter, you can’t help but be drawn to the custom fuel tank housing and one-off steering rack, actually a Mk3 Escort item and reworked so as to gift the Fiesta a straight, centrally mounted column.
A keen eye for detail — both in terms of pure aesthetic appeal and performance enhancing potential — has long been one of Guido’s calling cards, and it’s in evidence in rampant abundance under the bonnet of the Mk1. There’s something refreshing about seeing this much carbon fibre sharing scuttle-space with other, more old school fair, not least the throaty twin Weber carbs and manifold, snaking its (heat-wrapped) way towards the centrepiece of the build, an all-steel Crossflow.
“The engine was supplied with the car but separate, and as such I’m not entirely sure of its speciation. I do know that it cost a good five-figure sum, was built by Andy Belcher of Tech-7, a UK-based Caterham specialist. It’s been dyno proven at 160 bhp, meaning I’m confident in saying it’s now a long way removed from its original Group 2 spec,” explains Guido with a chuckle.
Dialling in the details
Despite having moved a long way beyond its original, strictly prescribed Group 2 origins this car remains grounded in pure competition thinking, and as such it would have been only too easy for Guido to dispense with such fripperies as panel fit, polish and, at the risk of infighting disquiet for deployment of loaded word, ‘stance’.
The wheels — custom 8×13 inch splits from MB Racing — are a key part of this, shod as they are with Toyo 888s with the merest whisper of stretch applied, just enough for their tread to fit beneath the confines of the arch. It won’t be to everyone’s cup of tea, but this they provide yet more evidence of Guido’s ability to marry form and function effortlessly.
It’s also clean, fastidiously, head-spinningly so. Indeed, so clean is the pristinely painted, gloss white underside of this Fiesta, that you’d be forgiven for thinking that Guido has never graced a gravel trap in his life — and you’d be correct, at least in this particular car. But then it isn’t finished, not quite.
“It’s been a more complex build than you might have first though, what with it being dropped off to me as a rolling shell. Getting some of the Group 2 parts either rebuilt, replaced or rectified has taken a while, as have the seats. They’re original Recaro SPGs from the mid ’80s, and they need to be retrimmed ideally.”
This done, Guido will be in position to drop the Fiesta back to its lucky owner — another fabulous old school Ford build added to his immense CV of completed projects.
Who knows, maybe the next feature car Guido builds will actually wind up with his own name across its logbook!
Words Jamie Arkle
Photos Adrian Brannan
See more photos and get the full spec on this Group 2 Fiesta in the March issue
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