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It’s been 12 years in the making, but now Ashley Farazmand’s incredible Escort Harrier has raised the Escort showcar game a level — or three.

There’s a saying that does the rounds every few years which really gets our goat, and it’s this: Don’t sweat the small stuff — in other words, don’t worry about the details. Not only does it sound immensely irritating, it is a load of utter cobblers. You should absolutely fuss over the details in almost all walks of life, particularly so when it comes to the all-important task of taking on a classic Ford project — just ask Ashley Farazmand.

He finally finished the build of this outstanding Escort Harrier in the Summer after an intensive three-year build, and Ashley would be more-than-pleased to hear you say that he’s produced a simple and clean car. Under the skin though, it’s far from that, with hundreds of unique touches and a spec that Ashley has been developing for some 12 years… We’re not the only ones to notice — the Mk2 has been cleaning up at the shows all summer, but now the season is over, it’s time to delve deep, deep into what makes this car a game-changer.

First steps

“Believe it or not, this was the first car I ever bought. That was when I was 18, and I’m 31 now,” laughs Ashley, who comes from a family with a long connection to classic Fords, especially the oval track variety. “I got it from a friend and drove around in it for about a year before deciding to do a couple of bits to it. I stripped it down to a shell to tackle some rust, then got a job that kept me busy and often away from home, and the Harrier sort of got forgotten about,” he ruefully admits.

“I’d come back to it now and again, though. I had a hot Pinto built for it, but then ended up buying a Sierra three-door base model for £300 and the engine went in that… Then I had the shell acid-dipped at SPL, and it came back as a bit of a teabag, but to be honest that’s what I wanted because I wanted to be able to see exactly where all the rot was — I didn’t want any filler left in the car. After that I took the shell over to a guy to put new floorpans and arches in, but I wasn’t happy with the work, and ended up putting the whole lot up for sale. I got so many stupid offers for it though, that I gave up with that idea. Obviously, I’m glad I did now…” 

The disassembled Escort went back under wraps, but then in 2016, Ashley and his Dad, Jon, decided it was now or never and steamed into the rebuild. Ashley found someone else to taken on the bodywork, not only letting in the new metalwork, but also painstakingly turning all of Ashley’s ideas for custom touches into reality. And there are many which run from the front panel to the rear, all there to satisfy Ashley’s pursuit of super-clean lines. A single wiper sits bang in the middle of the reworked scuttle panel. Smoothed engine bays have been done before on Escorts, but Ashley went the extra mile — insisting the heater bubble be made smaller and the hole moved further down out of sight, right next to the now-smooth bulkhead lip. The bonnet, too has lost its distinctive crossbrace — a single one now doing the job.

Moving further back, the C-pillar vents, which were rotten anyway, have been smoothed-over, and the roof gutters now ending further up the pillar. The rear panel has been smoothed, too, along with the bootlid — these touches going back to Ashley’s image manipulation attempts as a 13-year-old.

Staying dry

With the myriad of body touches finally complete, the unpainted shell was delivered back to Ashley and Jon for a dry build.

“We decided to do a full dry build, as I didn’t want to add or be left with any redundant holes after the shell was painted, right down to fitting every single nut and bolt, to make sure the final car would be 100 per cent how I wanted it. These evenings were pretty intense at this point,” he admits, “and me and Dad did fall out and disagree on a few things — one of us would have to walk away. It was also demoralising knowing I would have to take it all apart afterwards, but looking back, it was definitely worth it.”

At this stage, with so many years of planning, Ashley knew exactly what the spec of the car would be — he just needed to make it happen. With the engine being built at Connaught, Ashley sourced a Quaife QBM1M sequential gearbox — the four-speed Rocket replacement that his brother previously had used in oval racing. “It’s nice and compact, and I just love the sound,” he grins. “It features quick-release drop gears at the back — you can change the gearset in around 45 minutes.” This leads (via a Mazda Steel Grey one-piece prop) to a shortened SHP axle (also an oval track essential). “Again, it’s to maintain the clean-theme. I really wanted a carbon fibre diff housing, but I had to admit defeat with this one and get an alloy one carbon-dipped instead.” Inside, there’s a Quaife ATB and 4.1 gears, and looking around the rear undercarriage, we were expecting to find air bags, but no, the standard-position dampers and leaf springs are still there. 

“We spent months messing around with the leaf springs trying to get the ride height correct. In the end we settled on 95 per cent straight, with the eyes reversed.” Fortunately, the front end was easier to sort  — GAZ coil-overs being the simple and most effective way of getting the correct height.

Pushing the boundaries

“Although I’d previously had the Pinto built for it, it’s a Harrier at the end of the day so really the only right engine to build for this car was a Crossflow,” explains Ashley on his decision to stick with the pushrod. Only, this wasn’t going to be your typical 1700 build. 

“We’ve known the guys at Connaught Engines for a while so went to talk to them about a lairy build. I really wanted a 200 bhp engine, but Connaught’s Phil Price explained that although it was possible, the power delivery would be all-or-nothing, and it would be horrible to drive on the road. So we went for an 1870 engine instead, which meant I had to find them a decent AX block… Obviously, being race engine builders, they don’t give too much away about the spec, but it’s an all-steel bottom end, with AT Power 45 mm throttle bodies, a monster manifold made up by Edwards Motorsport and DTA management, along with one of their ignition packs — as plug leads running over the rocker cover is one of my pet hates!” 

And the peak power? Although Ashley went with the ‘lower-power’ engine, it still made 190 bhp on the dyno…

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Inside informer

It won’t be a surprise to hear that the interior too has been specced to Ashley’s now-usual obsessive levels of detail. With the Chocolate Brown trim of classic RS Escorts in mind, the Mk2 was always going retain some of its heritage, but that’s almost where the lineage ends. “I came across some early Metro seats, and not only were they really comfortable, they were the right width, too,” Ashley explains of his choice of perches.

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“But I wanted people to look right through the car and not have the view obstructed by the headrests, so these have been shorted, as has the top of the rear seat to bring the profile down.” (Even the rear-view mirror folds up out of sight when parked…). The whole lot was then sent off to be trimmed in brown alcantara and leather, along with the door cars, rear trim panels and dash top, and along with the additional carbon fibre trim panels, the finished effect is truly stunning.

Not being a fan of the “ugly” Mk2 steering column shroud and wiper/indicator stalks, Ashley decided to take them out of the equation entirely, settling for a simple hot rod steering column instead. “Then I noticed that the standard column was offset to the right slightly, and I didn’t want that, I wanted the column to be absolutely straight, so we had to come up with a series of UJs to make it all work…”

And all that switchgear? It now lives in a special panel in-between the seats, and linked to the DTA digital dash, and Ashley admits was all a nightmare to wire up and make work with the original Ford loom. You’ll notice there’s no handbrake lever as well. Ashley doesn’t like them… Luckily, HiSpec produce a rear calliper with a built-in electronic handbrake — one of the easier of Ashley’s requirements to resolve.

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Perfekt paint

Finally though, the car was ready to be stripped down to a shell again and taken over to Oakcroft Garage for prep and paintwork, and you won’t be surprised to learn that Ashley had already decided on the colour. “I wanted a modern take on the Harrier’s Strato Silver, so went to loads of car dealerships looking at their paint charts, eventually choosing BMW Moonstone.” Ashley and friends then spent a good couple of months of evenings, painstakingly prepping the bodywork ready for the final prep and paint to be applied by Oakcroft’s Trevor, and the result is truly mouthwatering.

This was towards the end of 2018, and Ashley and Jon now had a frantic battle to build the car up in time for show season. “We spent every minute of every hour in the evenings on the car at this stage. I was away most weekends with work, I’m a camera operator for Formula One, so we were up until the early hours most nights.”

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Real recognition

We think you’ll agree, all those hours were worth it — the end result is one of the most-involved classic Ford projects we’ve ever featured, and after doing the rounds all summer, Ashley and the Mk2 have gained praise and recognition that extends way outside of the classic Ford community. 

Now, with show season over and a stash of trophies on the shelf (including Best In Show at the recent Ultimate Stance, London Cartel and Players 13.0 shows, Ashley’s been able to take stock of the finished build, and you won’t be surprised to hear that he’s already planning some changes. “I can’t decide whether to fit a Mexico front spoiler or not,” he admits, “and I’d like to get the Harrier stripes painted on instead of the decals, though I admit this would be a nightmare job for the bodyshop. Most importantly though, I really want to get some miles on it — I’ve not been able to drive it much.”

“Would I do it all again? Yes, I would actually — I’d like to do a Mk1 Escort next, and we’ve already got a car lined up. Can I have a year off first, though?” 

Words Simon Woolley

Photos Adrian Brannan

escort harrier

See more photos and get the full spec on Ashley’s Escort Harrier in the January 2020 issue

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