Shaun Greatbatch’s beige Mk2 Escort has been gobbling up trophies on the show scene recently. But don’t go thinking it’s just a show pony – this furious stallion’s hot to trot.
The South London look is one of those automotive styles that’ll never go out of fashion. Ever since the halcyon, sepia-tinted days of the late-1970s and early-1980s when it was possible to dump your clutch and smoke out Chelsea Bridge without being grumped at by passing hipsters, the formula has remained the same: take a rear-drive Escort, shove in a hot nat-asp screamer of a motor, run the thing low on 13 inch wheels with low-pro tyres, keep the arches stock, and paint the body in some lurid pastel shade.
What we find with the Mk2 Escort you see here is that, in fact, we’re not in gritty South London. We’re in leafy Oxfordshire. And the key deviation from the time-honoured look in this case is that, instead of being jaffa orange, banana yellow or baby blue, this hot Mk2 is rocking the beige, and that gives it a whole extra dimension of cheekiness. Coral Beige is the colour your Nan had on her base-model Sierra, it’s not a sporty shade is it? Aha, but there’s the subterfuge… this is one of the most amusingly and secretly-aggressive Escorts on the show scene this year, and of course it’s not just been built to hoover up trophies (although it’s done plenty of that) — check out the specs and you’ll see that this Oxonian hooligan is 100 per cent South London in spirit. It may be as clean as a whistle, but it’s happiest when it’s howling sideways on full lock, throwing up an acrid rubber smokescreen.
Shaun Greatbatch is the man jangling the keys and, as you might expect, this car hasn’t simply popped up out of the blue — it’s the logical conclusion of a lifetime of Blue Oval obsession.
“I’ve been around Fords all my life,” he explains, “as my Dad used to mess around with them — Cortinas, Granadas, Escorts… then my brothers got me into them too, and I’ve had loads; Mk1 and Mk2 Fiestas, Mk3 and Mk4 Escorts, Series One RS Turbo…” As it is for so many, it was the iconic Mk2 Escort that really flicked the switch, that served as the Holy Grail on the wishlist. When he was young, Shaun’s Dad and his brother both had them, and it was an itch that he’d always wanted to scratch. So when fate came a-knocking, how could Shaun refuse?
“My boss let me know that the owner of this car couldn’t afford to have any more work done to it, so I asked him to sell it to me,” he recalls. And just like that, Shaun was in the club.
“Working on cars has always been a bit easy for me, as I’m a shotblaster and powdercoater by trade,” he explains, “and my brother owns his own bodyshop — SG Customs. My Dad is a mechanic too, so I’ve learned so much from both of them, and with my brother, Stuart’s help he got me building this Escort into the best car I’ve ever done!”
Of course, ‘easy’ is quite a term to throw around, and while there may be a great deal of natural and ingrained automotive skill in the Greatbatch family, it doesn’t necessarily follow that this entire build has been a walk in the park. In fact, to be honest, the car’s fought back a bit.
Ups and downs
“It’s been up and down,” Shaun laughs, with the ready jocularity that comes to those who’ve headbutted diversity and made it through to the other side. “There were num erous problems throughout the build, particularly with parts arriving that just wouldn’t fit without modification. Oh, and the first engine that was in it? That was a standard 2-litre Pinto with a cam and 40s, but that died after the Classic Ford Show. The car did win the show-and-shine, though! I limped it back home carrying the trophy…”
Shaun fixed that motor up in time for the Retro Show at Santa Pod, although it still wasn’t running right — but the Escort won another trophy, so it lived to fight another day. “Then I decided to put a real engine in it for Ford Fair,” Shaun smiles, devilishly. “And it won Best Modified in the whole show, so it was worth the effort and expense!”
That ‘real engine’ is a full-fat 2.1 Pinto in Team Ashton spec, the Ashton Mobile guys fully lightening and balancing the motor and strapping on a set of juicy 45 DCOEs to invigorate the thing. It’s wearing the 105speed manifold too, flowing through to an upswept tail that just screams motorsport. And it’s not all rasp and no trousers – 175 bhp is nothing to be sniffed at, and the quality build means that it’ll run those numbers all day long. In a car this light, you can imagine how much fun that is.
The Escort’s certainly come a long way from the day when Shaun took delivery of a bare-blasted and welded-up shell. Having assembled what was effectively a massive, complicated jigsaw puzzle, the chassis now ticks all the correct boxes for exploiting that howling Pinto in proper urban style. GAZ coil-overs up front and GAZ Golds out back work in conjunction with lowering blocks on the single leaves, while the old-school upgrade solution of M16 front callipers and RS2000 rear drums keeps it all in check like a true ’80s hero. Throw in a Type-9 and an LSD and the job’s a good ’un!
“I love this car, and everyone else seems to as well,” Shaun smiles. “Everywhere I go I get told that it looks smart. I even took it to a little local show in Brackley and had all the old-timers coming over to admire it! I think the next thing on the agenda is to start really focusing on the quarter-mile and seeing what this set-up can do, but to be honest I’m just really enjoying driving it now. And yes – to all the people who ask about it at shows, this is no trailer queen, I do always drive it everywhere. The cleaner a car is, the easier it is to keep clean!”
That’s perhaps the most endearing thing about this build – it’s been engineered to be used hard, but you’ll never, ever see it looking dirty. Shaun’s got the proper Chelsea Cruise mentality running through this car, a voodoo street-racer that’s beautifully presented. And since he’s out in the countryside, he doesn’t have to worry about bus lane cameras or furious bobbies either – he’s taken the Escort out of South London, but he certainly hasn’t taken South London out of the Escort.
Words Daniel Bevis
Photos Adrian Brannan
Get the full spec and see more photos of Shaun’s beige Mk2 Escort in the May 2018 issue
Click here to see more Classic Ford feature cars.