Using an ultra-rare ’80s Crossflow turbo conversion, Kristof Wuyts has created his ultimate Mk1 – the Croix Blanche Fiesta XR2 turbo. Built in just a couple of months, this is a lesson in dedication, as Bryn Musselwhite reveals.
Have you had one of those moments when you open a package or box that’s been closed for decades? Maybe you have to carefully unwrap wax paper to reveal a bearing, or marvel at dealer stickers that have turned crispy with age. That new-old stock feeling is something else, and the rarer the component, the better.
To be completely honest, when we first saw Kristof Wuyts’ Mk1 Fiesta at the much-missed Venlo Classic Ford Event, we’d never heard of a Turbo May conversion, and very little about the garage it came from in France — Croix Blanche.
Stood in the blistering sunshine of a Belgian Monday, less than 24 hours after that initial meeting, this car just keeps on getting better. For a start Kristof is so insanely-talented, it would be plain annoying if he didn’t turn his hand to classic Fords. As it is, we’re just in awe as we’re led around the family workshop. Here Kristof shows us past and future projects — in his mid-20s, as Kristof has turned out an average of one concours-worthy restoration every 18 months since he was 16 years old.
Starting with a Mk1 Escort four-door, he’s moved on to Mustangs and other classic Fords — you name it and he’s either done one, or is going to. Aside from a Mk2 Escort, the Fiesta sat in front of us is easily the newest project he’d done. It’s also the only front-wheel-drive one.
Kristof has got a good reason though, “When I was little we had a Fiesta as a loan car, and we were allowed to drive it in the fields. It was a 1300S with all the options, so that’s pretty crazy looking back!”
Kristof has been planning his Fiesta project for a long time, and if you think you’re a dab hand at finding new old-stock parts, you have to get up early to beat Kristof — that genuine RS arch kit the Fiesta wears was bought at Highclere Castle back in 2000. The event? Our very own Ford Fair in its pre-Silverstone days!
He originally bought an XR2 around 10 years ago and still owns it, though he now wants to restore it to original. So another donor was found. “I found this Mk1 on the internet, it was an XR2 and I just had to have it.”
He didn’t build it in 12 months though, try just two — having started the project in August 2011, and don’t assume it was solid either:
“The arches were gone. The tailgate was bad, but when you looked closely the car was pretty original. It had just been an every day car.”
The incredible build time of eight weeks was partly thanks to having a few key elements on the shelf, and along with the RS kit, Kristof also had a turbo kit stashed away…
“The turbo is thanks to my father — he went to Croix Blanche many times in the ’70s. He still knows them, so he said to me that if I did a special Fiesta maybe I should do a turbo. So I called them and they had one turbo kit left on the shelf — brand-new and in the box!”
It must have been expensive, though? “I spent a lot of money on it,” Kristof admits, “it would have been 2000 Euros back in the ’70s.”
The intensive two months of work started with a complete stripdown and the bodyshell was then sent off for prep and paint, while Kristof concentrated on the turbo conversion.
Given the build time, you’d think it was a straightforward, bolt-on kit, but oh, no. “I had to modify some parts,” Kristof explains. “The kit was from 1979, and in Europe we didn’t have 1600cc Fiestas, so it was designed for an American inlet. I had to find one of those, as the inlet lowers the Turbo Mays plenum and it means it won’t foul the bonnet. The Europeans lower the engine on the mounts, the Americans lower the inlet. The brake cylinder is longer on the XR2 as well, so it was designed for a 1300 car and brakes with a 1600 engine — I just had to work that out.”
Keeping it period was the intention from the start, “Basically I wanted it like it would have been in the ’70s,” he tells us. That period theme even spills into the interior, where you’ll find some RS1600i seats and the Fiesta rear bench cleverly retrimmed to match.
Tuck and roll
When it was parked up at the Venlo show, the wheels that are tucked under those RS arches were what really drew us in.
“I wanted the wheels to look bigger, but period. Normally I’d go for wide Capri BBS rims, but you pay big money and often they are broken or damaged.”
The HTNs fitted are perfect, we reckon — the 7Jx15s filling the kit perfectly without working too hard to pull it off.
With the body back and in paint, it was simply a case of bolting it all back together and driving the car to Venlo where it debuted. But that would be underestimating the incredible attention to detail Kristof’s gone to — everywhere you look you can see areas that would take the normal restorer weeks to deliberate over, but Kristof didn’t have the time.
So what’s it like to drive, is it quick? “It’s fast, although you have to remember you have a carb still, but when you put it in fourth and put your foot down, it goes.”
It’s still early days for Kristof and the Fiesta, and although he says it’s done and he’s ready for the next project, there are still things he’s planning.
“Maybe some bigger brakes and new coil-overs at the back to bring that end down. There are some small bits of detailing too, such as putting the right XR2 trims on the rear boot arches — just putting the correct things on it.”
Detail is very much Kristof’s strong point, whether he finds it in old unopened boxes, foreign countries or just in his fingertips, we’re sure we’ll see more of his creations in Classic Ford, and hopefully soon.
The Turbo May conversion
The Turbo May conversion was offered by Croix Blanche (who also did turbo conversions for the Granada and Capri) during the late ’70s and early ’80s. They offered various options which ranged from bolt-on kits using an adapted blow-through carb, to more advanced options which properly lowered the compression ratio thanks to internal engine work. Together with an uprated cylinder head, power was claimed to be around the 145 bhp mark. All of the kits were very rare at the time and as a result they’re as rare as hen’s teeth now.
If you wanted to perform your own turbo conversion to a Crossflow engine, it’s best to adapt something that’s already set-up to take boost — the best options are to use a Renault 5 GT Turbo carb or an SU item from something like an MG Metro Turbo. A custom exhaust manifold will be needed to mount the turbo, and you’ll need to lower the compression ratio too, ideally by using a new set of aftermarket pistons to get good results.
This feature on Kristof’s Croix Blanche Fiesta XR2 Turbo first appeared in the May 2012 issue
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