Christian Pike’s Group 2 Fiesta tribute is stunning, make no mistake, but it’s only when you get up close that you can truly appreciate the level of detail he’s put into the build.
Make no mistake, this is an impressive-looking Fiesta — the ideal fusion of modern, twin-cam engine tech, and retro livery inspired by Ford’s own factory dabblings with the Fiesta in the WRC.
It sits perfectly on fat Minilites, sports iconic Cibe Oscars up front, and has arrow straight bodywork — if it wasn’t for the Zetec peeking out from behind the slam panel, you could very easily mistake this for one of the Group 2 cars Ari Vatanen and Roger Clark campaigned in the 1979 Monte Carlo Rally. Yet despite all this, you really need to get up close and personal with the car to truly appreciate just how much effort Christian Pike, the car’s owner and builder, has put into it.
Christian earns his crust stickering up all manner of competition cars, though as this car proves, he’s as handy with spanners as he is the vinyl cutter. The Fiesta first came into his ownership in 2007, though back then it was nothing more than a rotten, barely rolling shell. This necessitated Christian learn some bodywork skills, and though the tip-top condition of the current car shows that he eventually mastered the skill, the man himself admits it wasn’t all plain sailing.
“There were a few incidents along a fairly steep learning curve, including me accidentally welding a hammer to the shell and cutting open my chin when I was grinding out a chunk of rotten sill, but I got the hang of it in the end,” Christian muses.
Battle of the bulge
Christian was driven by those same works Fiestas Ford trialled at the end of the ’70s, and though he didn’t fancy running a highly-strung 1600 Kent, he did want it to look, drive and sound the part. The extent of the restorative metalwork required ran to the wings, sills, inner arches, front valance and, mainly as Christian was ultra-keen to get that characteristic bulge, the rear panel from a Supersport.
That was only the tip of the iceberg though, as Christian really went to town prepping the shell, chopping the hole in the passenger-side chassis rail in order to accommodate an IB5 ’box (he’d decided on a Zetec by this point), and relocating the battery to a specially built box behind the passenger seat and sunk into the floorpan. Still not impressed? Well how about the fuel filler that’s been relocated to the C-pillar in order to replicate the rally cars, or, our favourite touch, the remote switches for the battery and fire suppression system in the passenger-side front wing?
“The recess is actually made from a fuel filler cap hole cut into four, extended, then welded together. I had to source an entire rear three-quarter panel for that, though I’m pleased with the results,” beams Christian.
The metalwork would be impressive if done by a pro bodyshop, let alone someone getting to grips with the skill. Wider arches and a boot spoiler were always on the list, though the original rubber items used by the Group 2 cars are next to impossible to find now so Christian’s Fiesta sports fibreglass ones. “I’ve cut a crease where the front arch meets the splitter to ape the factory cars,” he says. The smoothed and de-creased engine bay is a work of art, as is the custom slam panel (its curves ape the cap of the custom radiator), and the tucked and hidden wiring.
This attention to detail extends to the interior, or what’s left of it. There’s the pedal box, dash, centre console from a Mk2 Escort, both painstakingly cut to fit and with their wiring hidden from view, then welded to the shell, lashings of genuine carbon fibre, an imposing looking OMP cage with extended bars running down the doors and below the dash.
Deeply impressive as all of this is, once again it are the details which really elevate the entire build, like the anodised fixings used absolutely everywhere, carbon-effect brake lines and door cards, one piece fuel line, the original Ford stickers and graphics researched and then painstakingly reproduced (we especially love the Bilstein jack neatly mounted on its own custom bracket, carefully designed to recall those used in works Escorts), and foot rests and plates custom made in ally, then coated in skateboard tape with the Ford logo on top.
None of these things add to the overall performance of the car, but they do contribute to the build as a whole, and it’s one of those cars that you could happily spend hours simply doing laps of, taking in and admiring each and every exquisite detail. “Yeah, I put a lot of time and effort into making the interior look just right, with lots period motorsport touches,” says Christian. “Things like the Mk2 Escort dash took a long time, three solid weeks in fact, but it was worth it. I’ve even remounted the windscreen washer bottle behind the driver’s seat, and it’s operated via a foot pump to the left of the clutch pedal, like on some early, basic Fiestas.”
The Zetec and IB5 were dry-fitted first, all supporting metalwork and seam-welding carried out, then removed so the whole shell could be given a gleaming coat of Diamond White. The car was painted by Christian’s friend, Martin, in a temporary spray booth constructed in his workshop and, though we’re not exactly surprised considering how flawless the rest of the build is, the finished coat is truly stunning.
This done, it was time to start putting all the pieces of the Fiesta puzzle back together, with the Zetec and ’box being up first. Induction and fuelling are handled by a box-fresh pair of Weber 45 carbs, with a Megajolt system taking care of ignition and a 4-2-1 manifold and custom system ducting exhaust gasses under the car and eventually out under the driver’s side sill. Granted this isn’t a set-up designed to make obscene power (though at 170 bhp it’s still 20 bhp more than Vatanen and Clark had in their Group 2 1600 cars back in ’79), but it was never intended to.
Like most aspects of this Fiesta, the overall effect is far greater than the sum total of its component parts, with a jaw-dropping fit and finish and almost obsessive dedication to order and neatness throughout. Want more proof? Look at the air horns, wrapped in carbon effect material to match the rest of the bay, then mounted neatly on their own brackets.
The Fiesta’s extensively modified chassis means it’s a very capable car, with a fully Rose-jointed front end courtesy of Kustom Karl, a full complement of poly bushes front and back, a series of ARBs and braces linking the car together, a fully adjustable Panhard rod and, most impressively, a Rutland rear beam. “I cut the original stub-axles off the beam, then welded some home-made plates on instead, allowing me to run Focus stub-axles and the rear brake set-up from a Focus ST170, with XR2 discs and callipers up front,” explains Christian.
Considering it was inspired by factory rally machines, it’s only fitting that Christian’s car runs wheels that wouldn’t look out of place on the Col de Turini, so fat Group 4 8×13-inch Minilites in Olympic Blue, and they look absolutely perfect when paired with the Cibie spotlights and period-inspired graphics designed and applied by Christian himself. “The blue stripes were taken from a Minilite sponsored Escort, the Motorcraft text was used on the works Escorts and some Fiestas,” he says.
The car is every bit as purposeful as the works cars, and now it’s back in one piece and running oh-so sweetly, Christian is free to plan what he’ll actually use it for. “I don’t think I can bring myself to use it for actual rallying,” laughs Christian, “plus there are a few exterior touches like the battery shut-offs in the wing that wouldn’t pass FIA scrutineering, though I’ve not ruled out the odd hillclimb or timed blast across the Epynt ranges.”
Words Jamie Arkle
Photos Michael Whitestone
For the full spec and more photos of Christian’s Group 2 Fiesta, check out the full feature in the Summer 2014 issue
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