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Kustom Karl Hacken’s Duratec Fiesta combines an evil punch with some neat touches courtesy of his own and Series-X goodies.

duratec fiesta

As humans evolve to become slower and fatter, the classic Ford scene is the complete opposite. A new generation of nimble street racers powered by modern running gear and tuning principles are saying goodbye wild cam profiles and massive chokes, hello fuel-injection, durability, and driveability. 

Arguably, the Zetec came first in terms of modern Ford donors giving up their hearts on a regular basis, then it was Japanese power and the Duratec in rear-wheel-drive fitment, but while the world’s gone crazy for Zetec-powered Mk1 Fiestas, there have been few people prepared to make the step up to later twin-cam power. Until Karl Hacken, that is, whose Duratec Fiesta Mk1 is an absolute beauty and the perfect example of modern technology meeting classic style. It goes a bit, too. 

duratec fiesta

“My dad bought a Mk1 when I was young — they were only sold for three years so are rare out here, and it’s difficult to get the parts,” explains Minnesota-based Karl. “He started working on them for other people and over the years we ended up with a bunch of them as people gave up on them — we had 12 at one point and have been through 30 over the years. 

“I bought this car around 10 years ago planning to give it a simple refurb and then drive it as a kind of race/street car. However, I stripped it back and as I got into it realised just how nice a car it was — it’s from California and didn’t have a single bit of rust in it. I realised that if I was ever going to build a really nice car then it would have to be this one.” And so began its evolution. 

Evolution 10

To be fair to Karl’s workrate, although he’s owned the car for 10 years, it’s been with him through college, house-buying and general grown-up life, and it’s only really in the last two years that he has pushed on to get it finished on the road. Initial plans revolved around a CVH engine — which even got built and mounted — but then Zetecs became more common and an ST170 motor was sourced, bought and fitted. Then, finally, the Duratec came along with stacks of potential. 

The main problem with a Duratec Fiesta is that there are no off-the-shelf bits to make things fit, and so Karl has worked hard to develop his own kit. “It’s needed some trimming of spot-welds in the engine bay and I’ve used the standard-type cradle under the engine to locate it,” he says, “but the transmission mounts bolt up to all the original points.”

duratec fiesta

It’s not difficult to see how well the car has come out, and Karl’s delighted with the results. “I wanted something I could drive and have fun with — I’ve had enough race cars in the past which I’ve had to trailer everywhere.”

The shell itself was stripped right back and stuck on a spit, so Karl knows it’s as good as he thinks it is. He also knows every nut and bolt on the car, as one of the few things that he’s not done himself is the final paint in Ford Azure Blue, as found on the 2003 Mustang. 

duratec fiesta

It was a labour of love for Karl to find all the RS Series-X bits the car is kitted in, with various parts being sourced in Germany, unsurprisingly — in fact the rear spoiler came back with Karl in hand luggage, and the 7.5-inch RS alloys were found on a German rally car. It looks great and a lot of work has gone in to achieving the finish — however it’s under the skin where things get really interesting.

duratec fiesta

“The engine itself is basically stock, although I’m collecting a steel crank, rods and pistons now for a fresh build,” says Karl. Using Cosworth cams, roller-barrel throttle bodies controlled by an MBE ECU and hand-made exhaust and 4-2-1 manifold, the engine is still good for 165 bhp at the wheels, or 200 at the fly. And compared with a Zetec? “It’s pretty amazing — it makes good torque, it revs really well, it produces very good figures as a standard engine, it idles properly and even drives like a grandma car if you want it to.” Then there’s the fact that if the engine pops, it’s only a cheap like-for-like replacement.  

Control and shift

Plenty of power is one thing, but it’s nothing without control. Thanks to clever engineering and the careful selection of parts, Karl’s built himself a real road rocket. The front end is fully adjustable with hand-made parts and coil-overs using the best materials, and it’s the same story at the back, allowing Karl unlimited adjustability between road, track, sprint, or autocross use. 

The gearbox itself is from a British-spec Mk6 Fiesta ST150, although Karl’s worked out that Focus ratios are better suited to his Fiesta, so that’s what he’s gone with. Converting to a hydraulic clutch, it really does complete the modern-feeling driver for daily use, with only the bark of those throttle bodies reminding you that there’s plenty of high-revving twin-cam power on tap when it’s needed. In other words, either on track, or when a modern Eurobox needs to be reminded that classic Fords still rule the roost.

duratec fiesta

Don’t assume, though, that this is a rattley, stripped-out racer which is dependant upon light weight for pace, as the little details inside are what really make this build a class apart. The seats, for instance, although GTS Classics, have been retrimmed in original and period-correct Beta cloth as found under your RS in an, er, RS.

The cage is all gusseted and beautifully presented throughout, and the digital dash reminds you that not only is this Fiesta built for go, but it’s been carefully pieced together in an attempt to fuse old and new. Karl’s also made the alloy centre console and put together all the other little touches that just work so well. If Ford was to take a retrospective look at a Mk1, you’d have to think it would come up with something very similar to this. 

duratec fiesta

Pond life

And how does it go down across The Pond? Well, with a mixture of awe and bitterness. “I try to use it as much as possible,” says Karl. “It won Best of Show at a Eurowerks show over here. It was pretty controversial as it’s mostly VAG and BMW stuff, and most people don’t see Ford as being European — I actually had to prove to a few people the car was built in Germany!”

You’d think that may be the icing on the cake for Karl, but he’s not finished yet: “I’d like to build something else; maybe a Capri as an RS3400 using the new V6 or Ecoboost V6 engine. I’d also quite like to use the Ecoboost engine in the Fiesta…” Looks like evolution might turn up something to look forward to after all.  

duratec fiesta

Kustom Engineering

Karl’s done all the hard work, so that you don’t have to. Well, that’s the idea anyway. Kustom Engineering has been a sideline for Karl since he was at college, and he’s currently in advanced discussions to market his various Duratec-into-Fiesta parts, which will make life a whole lot easier for go-faster Fiestaphiles. 

As a future bolt-in conversion, it’s not difficult to see the benefits of going Duratec over Zetec, especially with the best part of 200 bhp on tap with fairly simple off-the-shelf induction and cam changes, not to mention the world that opens up if you’ve got the cash for steel components. Keep an eye on the Classic Ford news pages for details of what Karl is going to be making available, and when.

Words Gareth Charlton

Photos Kris Clewell

duratec fiesta

This feature on Kustom Karl’s Duratec Fiesta appeared in the April 2013 issue of the magazine

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