Wide arches, BBSs, Motorsport shell… Guido Pittzen’s Herbst Escort just needed the perfect powerplant: an über-rare Schrick 16-valve conversion.
Take a drive around Essex and you’ll see the widespread influence the Dagenham plant has made on the area. Modern Fords swarm the rush-hour traffic jams. Classic Blue Ovals are polished on every second driveway. And then there’s even Essex Arena, which is home to more big Ford saloon smashes than we’d care to imagine!
Nip across the water to Cologne in Germany and the Ford plant there has had a similar effect on the local region. It’s no coincidence that this area is home to a significant number of the Fords we’ve featured in the past (well, the nearby Nürburgring might be drawing us in too, but we’ll get to that later!).
Granted this Ford scene may not have a following quite as widespread as the VAG and BMW marques, but German Ford fans tend to be among the most die-hard Blue Oval enthusiasts anywhere. Guido Pittzen first got involved while working as an apprentice at a Ford dealership, doing quality-control checks on Mk3 Escorts. And going by his creations in later years, we can only assume he was in the boss’s good books when it came to attention to detail!
Five years later, Guido owned the RS1600i he had always promised himself, and during his
10 years of ownership it was transformed to full race-spec, painted purple, and ended up sitting on some very tasty Ronal Turbo rims.
Typically, when chatting to car enthusiasts in or about Germany, the subject of the legendary Nürburgring will crop up. When asked, Guido modestly replies, “Yes, I spent many years racing at the Nürburgring. I have completed over 1000 laps!” It’s fair to say the fella knows his way around the Green Hell, then.
It was at the legendary circuit where Guido acquired one of the Escort’s most interesting features — the insanely-rare Schrick 16-valve CVH head conversion. Guido recalls talking to a Cologne plant engineer in the pits at the Nordschleife, who asked, “Do you want to race a CVH?” After exchanging a knowing nod, the guy then explained, “I’ve got just the part
The mysterious part in question turned out to be an experimental cylinder head from German tuners, Schrick, which converts the CVH to a 16-valver.
These heads were supposed to be scrapped when the project was halted, but at least two were smuggled away before they were binned. The head from the Cologne plant ended up with Guido via his new friend — and in later years one of the heads that made it to the UK for testing was offered for sale for several thousand Pounds. Guido still has his eyes on this one, but says the price being asked is “beyond crazy”.
After Guido’s RS1600i was sold, the engine — now complete with the Schrick head — was kept and a new project was sourced. This Stratos Silver Mk3? Nope, not yet.
First came a Group A Escort, complete with weld-in cage, digital dash and various other race-derived features. Despite being 99 per cent finished a few years ago, this project is still incomplete. The reason? That’s where the wide-arch silver machine comes in.
Originally built from scratch by Herbst Tuning as a prototype aftermarket-tuning package, this Mk3 featured several unique design touches by the founder, Herbert Striebosch. As it was built outside of Ford from a Motorsport shell, it’s actually listed as a ‘Herbst Escort’ on the logbook due to über-strict German laws.
Guido first spotted this car in the ’80s at an autotest near the Cologne plant, and even though it was wearing a quite outrageous blue-and-red livery and spaced-out Capri 280 alloys, he instantly fell for it, and those arches.
Sadly though, the car wasn’t to be spotted again by Guido for several years. During this time it was driven by Mrs Striebosch as a promo car, and she became quite attached to it, but not so much so that it wasn’t eventually sold. Two owners later, and after an aborted restoration attempt, Guido spotted the car once again, this time in the most unlikely of places. He actually noticed it in the background of a classifieds listing for a 1.9-litre CVH engine (which turned out to be the original engine from the same car). Guido couldn’t believe it, and was immediately on his way to meet the seller and view the car.
The Mk3 was in a much worse state than the last time he saw it at the autotest event, but even though it was completely stripped and sitting upturned on an old mattress, the shell itself was in good condition — and those epic arches were intact. Guido knew he had to rebuild it.
Better over time
Fortunately tastes and trends evolve over time, so the two-tone livery has been ditched in favour of a much cleaner and simpler Stratos Silver finish. The outrageous Group 2 front spoiler has been replaced with a much more pleasing custom design, and the original rear spoiler has been removed to make way for yet another ultra-rare part — an original RS1700T adjustable rear spoiler.
Add some gold BBS split-rims and it might sound like a crazy mismatch, but one glance just proves how well it’s worked.
It’s not all about the looks though, as underneath you’ll find custom top mounts, coil-overs, uniball Group A arms and much more — all contributing to Guido’s ongoing quest for the ultimate-handling Mk3.
And of course, there’s that Schrick 16-valve engine as lifted from his previous RS1600i, further fettled to produce a genuine 189 bhp at the wheels. Plus, aided by some lairy 278-degree cams (which are soon to be replaced by even lairier 300-degree items) this 1.6-litre CVH revs all the way round to 10,000 rpm.
It’s refreshing to see how Guido has abandoned typical tuning routes to create a unique car, made up from a wide variety of period parts and influences. It’s no wonder that he’s earned the nickname ‘Professor Futzemann’. The first part is appropriate due to his meticulous and expert work, but the second part roughly translates as ‘big kid’.
It’s also very fitting, as even in between discussing the engine’s pre-heater and 13:1 compression ratio, he can’t help but suddenly stand back and chuckle about really wanting to slam the already decked chassis even lower to the ground. Then a very noisy blast around the grounds of Cologne Airport at the end of our photoshoot just adds further confirmation that he truly is Professor Futzemann at heart.
Words and Photos Adrian Brannan
Get the full story and spec behind the Herbst Escort in the June 2017 issue
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