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So you own  a genuine Escort Mexico but want to make it your own? Take a leaf out of Colin Bailey’s book and treat it to some subtle mods and very clever paintwork…

Take a look around the Readers Rides section of the Old Skool Ford forum and you can’t help noticing that several of the top cars on the site have been treated to some trick paintwork. As a longtime member and administrator on Old Skool Ford (OSF), Colin Bailey wanted to join in with a bit of that action when he gave his Mexico a refresh back in 2011. Can’t notice where? That’s because he’s had this custom paintjob done lovely and subtle. 

From a distance Colin’s Mexico looks to be a standard and original example, but get up close and those graphics have a surprise in store. They’re not stick-on vinyls at all, but glass-smooth hand-painted detail… and when the sun shines a second trick emerges as those stripes shimmer with an ice white pearlescent flip. The subtlety doesn’t finish there either, as the white-on-black numberplates are mini pieces of hand-painted artwork, too. This car is all about keeping the appearance stock Mexico, but with well-picked details to make it a unique and individual motor. Colin’s pulled that plan off perfectly.

South of the river

Now living and working in Crawley, Colin is a Mitcham boy by breeding. “It was nature’s course that my mates and I would get in to Escorts and Anglias when growing up,” he says. “My first car was a hearing-aid beige Mk2 that got the lowering and alloys treatment, then came a matt black Forest-arched 1600 Sport known as The Beast, a Harrier that was sadly a complete rot-box and a yellow Mexico replica.” A break while some company cars took over daily driving duties followed, but in 2003 the urge to get back into an Escort took hold. 

“Most of my old Escort-driving mates were into BMWs by then, and took the mickey by quoting ‘you can take the boy out of Mitcham, but can’t take Mitcham out of the boy’ when I told them what I wanted,” Colin says.

“My first thoughts were for a black Mk2 RS2000,” he continues, “but after a lot of looking at basket cases I came across this Electric Monza Blue Mexico in Portsmouth and fell in love with it immediately. The next day I got a lift down with a wedge of cash in my pocket — always a bad move as you know the outcome before you’ve even seen the car. The condition wasn’t too bad, and there were two folders of history too, so with a bit of negotiation I was soon heading back up the M23 in it.

“There were a few jobs to be done, so straight away I booked the Mexico in to get it where I wanted. With some new sills and a few patches let in I was happy and spent much of the next eight years just enjoying the car and getting involved with the ever-growing Old Skool Ford scene. Along the way I kept the spec as original as possible, although in 2004, when the engine needed some work, I had it rebuilt as a 1700 by Boss Racing Engines of Charlton — a hot rod specialist — and fitted twin 40s. Boss did a great job and the motor’s still running fine and strong now.”

Freshen-up

By early 2011 Colin’s Mexico was starting to look a bit tired around the edges, and with the opportunity to take it off the road for a while he decided to go for a second, but this time, complete and comprehensive refresh. Shopping around to find a company to do the work, he met up with Glen Johnson and Sean Saffin, fellow OSF members who, with 40 years experience between them, had recently given up working for others and set up their own bodyshop and car building business called Maximum Application.

“I had a few meetings with Glen and Sean and it was soon clear that they were the perfect people to do the work,” says Colin. “Not only did they like my ideas, but they’ve come up with plenty of their own along the way and their attention to detail and dedication has been spot-on. Most of all the pair seem to be doing classics because they enjoy it, rather than just for the cash. Not something you always get with more mainstream bodyshops.”

The work carried out by Maximum Application has included a new front panel and crossmember, putting a complete new roof skin in place to remove the car’s unwanted Webasto, a lot of time getting the swage lines correct and tidying up the previously-fitted sills. 

“There were plenty of things that the boys picked up that I’d never even noticed,” Colin notes. “The bootlid wasn’t the straightest panel, so hours were spent fixing that, and their attention to detail on the panel gaps was incredible. I’d get a call where the guys had noticed something not quite right, then they’d say ‘but don’t worry, we’ve already sorted it.’”

escort mexico

On ice

With the body pin-straight, attention turned to the paintwork. “There was no choice to be made with the colour, as it had to stay the original Electric Monza Blue,” says Colin, “but I wanted a twist and that would come with the stripes. At first we were going for Ford Frozen white, but then came across this pearl Ice White on a Focus RS and the decision was finalised.”

To do the job the entire roof and down to the swage lines was painted with the Ice White. Then some low-tack Mexico graphics (made up specially by Dave at DMB Graphics) were applied and the blue topcoats applied. With the Mexico stencil kit removed, any paint edges were polished back then the whole car received four coats of clear lacquer to give it a deep finish. It was at this point that the idea for painted-on numberplates came up. That took hours and hours of stencil-making, masking and layering to achieve but is well worth the effort. Three days of gentle flatting and polishing followed and the finish all over the car is glass-like.” 

escort mexico

With the paint sorted the running gear and other mechanical bits were refitted after cleaning and refurbishing as necessary, and the interior was improved with a half roll cage, an Aldridge Trimming black headlining, some very nice, original Mexico seats, a custom-made carpet set with gel-matrix backing and some subtle touches like the carbon-fibre clock inserts and a flocked dash.

The result is, Colin notes, just how he pictured his car ending up. At first glance it’s a classic Mexico, but on examination has the personalised touches that make it his Escort. 

“It was tricky deciding how far to go, as I’m more for original over a modified look,” he says. “And as great as the other OSF airbrushed cars are, I think my Mex is just as stunning… it just stuns you far more subtley.” 

Words Marc Stretton

Photos Michael Whitestone

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