Already the proud owner of a restored Ghia, when Nathan Mills was offered a Mk2 Escort 1300 Sport he couldn’t say no, setting out to make it one of the best examples in the UK.
It’s hard to find accurate figures, but the number of genuine Mk2 Escort 1300 Sports remaining in the UK is probably less than a couple of dozen. Of those, we’d bet a fair few have engine capacities slightly exceeding the original 1298cc in the form of a 1600 Crossflow, a 2-litre Pinto or more modern powerplants.
What we’re trying to say here is that Nathan Mills’ small-capacity Crossflow-powered Escort 1300 Sport, pictured here falls in to the very… no, ultra… no, über-rare category of classic Fords. And although, he’s just 18 years old, with occasional self-confessed boy racer tendencies, Nathan may be the perfect guardian for this Signal Orange piece of Ford history. As an apprentice mechanic at his Dad’s car business — has Dad being Ian Mills, who we recently featured in Classic Ford with his immaculate 1600E Cortina — Nathan is currently going down the official training route to a career in the motor industry as an apprentice. But his ability to tinker, mend and fully restore cars is already pretty-well established.
“Mum tells me that I fist pressed the trigger of an impact gun aged just three,” he says, “and was helping Dad out with jobs right through my childhood. By 15 I had bought and done up an MGBGT, which was the first car I really wanted, but after it was finished I’d kind of gone off the car… mainly because all I could think of the was getting an Escort.”
“First thoughts were for a Mk1,” Nathan admits, “but after nearly a year of searching for a decent project, a four-door 50,000-mile Mk2 Ghia came along and I fell for that. Even though it was in excellent condition on top, I soon got stripping everything of the bottom, redid the floors and refurbished everything else.”
“As part of a local car group and going to shows with Dad, we were also aware of an orange Escort 1300 Sport, owned by a fellow member. And although it seemed unlikely that the car would be for sale in the near future, we let the guy know that should it ever be available, that we’d be seriously interested.
“I did think I may have several years to wait and save up some cash for such a car,” Nathan says, “but then suddenly the guy was on our doorstep saying that he was willing to sell. Luckily for me, Dad offered to lend me the money for the Escort and I could pay him back over time… quite a long time.”
Lending a newly-qualified driver a wad of cash for a classic may seem like a risky business for Ian… but when you consider that a) he pays Nathan’s wages and that b) the current price of Escorts almost guarantees his money is safe, then things don’t look so insecure. “Definitely not,” Nathan agrees, “as I have already been offered what would amount to a hefty profit by someone at the NEC last November… although the answer was a definite ‘no thanks’.”
What Nathan had bought with his Bank-of-Dad’s loan was already a very sorted vehicle. The bodywork had been restored about six years ago and was still in excellent condition, the mechanics, including upgrades to the suspension with single leaf springs, KYB dampers and 1 inch lowering blocks were already in place, but apart from that the Mk2 was very original and pretty-much perfect.
The trouble is, pretty-much perfect isn’t actually good enough for Nathan, as one of his main hobbies is car showing, especially in the detailing events that are becoming more popular in recent years. With these competitions in mind, he brought out the fine-toothed comb and passed its teeth across the Escort.
“Polishing up the paint, which had become swirled over time was a must,” he reports, “as was going through the whole car cleaning and polishing everything. The only repainting so far has been to the bootlid.”
“My biggest task was to get rid of a massive excess of Waxoyl the bottom half of the car had been covered with, and some stonechipping to the underneath, which although only minor was really bugging me.
“When I’d bought the car, the seller had included a tin of a synthetic paint that he’d had mixed up in body colour. I don’t know what the stuff is called,” Nathan admits, “but it’s incredible. You paint it on with a brush and as it dries any imperfections just vanish and the finish looks sprayed on… and it seems to be hard-wearing too. I wish I knew what the product was so I could recommend it!”
“Inside, a new carpet went in, and the driver’s seat had a new cover fitted to get rid of some wear and I sourced a period radio with FM by buying one from Germany — their radios had FM when ours were still AM only!”
As already noted, Nathan and his Dad’s car hobby is based around showing their cars off at detailing shows and in 2016 he won at Waxstock, beating many modern cars and a certain 1600E along the way. “Yeah, I’ve been beating Dad a lot recently,” he says, “and there are some highly embarrassing photos online of me crying when the result was announced.”
“Dad and I have also been on TV, and can be seen on links for Quest TV… again it’s a little embarrassing as we were made to do some daft things in the name of rivalry between us.”
2017 has been full of shows, with a recent 250-mile round trip to Ford Fair completed… after having to reattach the exhaust halfway along the journey. And 2017 will be ending on a high note as Meguiar’s have invited Nathan to exhibit his Mk2 at the NEC Classic Motor Show… that’s if he replies to the offer, which he realised he hadn’t done yet when we spoke to him!
With an imminent family house move on the way, and a dream garage being built to house Nathan and Ian’s cars and keep the damp UK weather at bay, Nathan is looking forward to spending less time with polishes and cleaners to keep his Sport looking immaculate.
It looks like this piece of Ford’s heritage has found the perfect protector in some young, but experienced, hands.
Words Marc Stretton
Photos Chris Frosin
See more of Nathan’s Escort 1300 Sport in the October 2017 issue
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