The 100E was a humble and sensible thing when it launched back in the 1950s. But Rich Lakey’s radically-reworked Cosworth Pop catapults the model into the 21st century — its 380 bhp turbo power ensuring that it rocks on every measurable scale…
The ethereal concept of creative tension is something that drives so many project builds. This is essentially the growing awareness of the gulf between what you want to happen in your life versus what is actually happening. Take the case of Rich Lakey, for example: his bread-and-butter comes from the successful business he runs down in Plymouth — RL Motor Services — an independent BMW and MINI specialist. What Rich doesn’t know about BMWs isn’t worth knowing, and the garage also caters for all manner of supercars — he’s had Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens and all sorts pop in for servicing and maintenance.
But at the same time, there’s an entirely different automotive focus bubbling away beneath the surface. You see, deep down, Rich has always been a Ford man. The nature of his business means that a work van is necessary, and his weapon of choice is an aggressively-styled M-Sport R181 Transit. But it’s the classics that really flick his switch. “I’ve been a petrolhead from day one,” he grins, “and I’ve always been into my Fords — I’ve had Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts, a Series 1 RS Turbo, you name it. At one time I owned two Escort RS Cosworths, a Sapphire RS Cosworth, a Mk1 Escort and a Mk2 Escort as well as the Pop.” Ah yes, and it’s this last toy that’s in the spotlight today, for this is no ordinary 100E. You’ve probably already deduced from the photos that something mischievous is afoot here; you can’t really miss the in-your-face bubble arches, and if your eyes have flitted to the engine bay shots you’ll have noted with interest that there’s a Cosworth YB lurking in there. This is how Rich’s creative tension manifests itself: how does a Ford fan blow off steam after a hard day’s work fettling BMWs? By building a completely outrageous, utterly unhinged old Ford.
Taking a 1959 Popular as a base for the lunacy is a frankly inspired choice, as it pulls together Rich’s enthusiasm for turbocharged Cosworth engines and his fondness for older Blue Ovals, and refocuses it all through an offbeat filter: while there have been countless modified Pops over the decades, it’s not exactly the go-to choice for a big-power build. Sure, people have put V8s and all sorts in these perky little three-box runabouts, but that doesn’t make it any less hard to turn one into a full-fat road-racer; it’s one thing to get the running gear in there, but quite another to make it all work effectively.
Of course, before you can think about shoehorning the motor in, you’ve got to make sure it has somewhere solid to live. Rewinding back to 2013, we find Rich painstakingly perfecting the 100E’s bodywork, grafting in a set of steel
Mk1 Escort bubble arches to accommodate the massive rubber that was planned, and handing the body to Autotec in 2014 to finish it in a sumptuous shade of Olympic Blue — all very appropriate for old-school Ford hi-jinks, although not a colour commonly found on the 100E. Looks magnificent too, doesn’t it? The styling really contemporises with this shade, and that’s very much in-keeping with the model’s heritage: when Ford unleashed the 100E onto the forecourts in 1953, it caused something of a sensation. Here was a car that carried on a name that had been a staple of motoring since before the Second World War, yet offered something that was fresh, all-new, and represented a whole generation of advancement over its predecessor. The plucky three-box two-door (and its four-door Prefect sibling) bore no visual resemblance to the upright, separate-winged designs that came before it, in one fell swoop making most other cars on the road seem somewhat old-fashioned.
It makes a game stab of looking contemporary now, too. Well, perhaps not contemporary as such, but its styling certainly belies its age — to the uninitiated, few might guess that the design is as old as the H-bomb, Playboy magazine or, er, Michael Bolton. And while our Transatlantic cousins in 1953 were first laying eyes on a racy new plastic sports car named Corvette, the man on the street back in Blighty had 1172cc of sidevalve poke to grapple with. Saucy.
But Rich had plans to remedy that, and over the last few years he’s minutely honed and refined an incredible new set-up. Under the bonnet now you’ll find a YB turbo liberated from a 2wd Sapphire RS Cosworth, robustly augmented by a T34 turbo, 4wd Cosworth manifold, and Swedish-style inlet plenum. It all barks like a demented banshee through a modified Cossie exhaust system, and with Omex management corralling the vital digits, Rich is seeing 380 bhp. Which is a hell of a lot of grunt from a car this tiny.
Naturally the stock 100E gearbox and axle would explode within microseconds when presented with this manner of savagery, which is why he’s fitted a Cosworth T5 ’box with a paddle clutch, running back through a custom prop to a six-linked Atlas axle with LSD. The bubble arches come into full effect here, the Atlas proudly wearing 8 inch-wide wheels for a meaty contact patch, and helpfully this allows Rich to convert the back end to run vented discs as well. Up front you’ll spot some utterly enormous Hi-Spec Monster eight-pot callipers, which is just as well considering the improbably rocketship-like speeds this little race toy can generate. Converting each corner to take adjustable Bilstein coil-overs was a must, to ensure the Pop could tackle the curves with just as much vim and vigour as the straights.
Even when it’s sitting still, Rich’s 100E shimmers with malevolent energy. Merely glancing through the window demonstrates how serious a machine this is: fully stripped of all carpets, soundproofing and headlining, it’s strictly business here with an imposing roll cage, a pair of Sparco buckets, and not a lot else. The custom carbon centre panel houses switches marked ‘Launch’ and ‘Anti-lag’, which would have been enough to give your average 1950s Ford dealer the screaming heebie-jeebies, and perhaps the coolest element of the interior is that, if you check Rich’s Instagram, you can see snapshots of his son beaming in the passenger seat. It’s a heck of a way to pass the passion on to the next generation.
Master of all
This Pop is a donut machine and a burnout hero, a track weapon, a quarter-mile terror and a B-road blaster, and it’s been fastidiously engineered to be fast, agile, safe and reliable, as well as flawless and beautifully finished. It’s the ultimate riposte to the perils of creative tension: after the long days of spannering on BMWs and supercars, Rich blows off steam by making Ford magic happen. There’s no gulf between dreams and reality, he’s plugged the gap with a hilarious blue missile.
Words Daniel Bevis
Photos Steve Fry
See more photos and get the full spec on this Cosworth Pop in the January 2020 issue
Click here to see more Classic Ford feature cars