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A childhood spent ambling around custom car shows with his Dad has led Jack Gibson to build a fresh, unique Mk1 Escort Estate with more than a few secrets…

mk1 escort estate

It was author and poet Maya Angelou who once said ‘You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot…’ The nature of being human is that everything we do is influenced, to some degree at least, by everything we’ve seen and done, and this naturally evolves the longer we live. At Classic Ford, we often feature guys in their 40s or 50s who are building a car that emulates something they had in their youth, incorporating the myriad influences of everything that’s happened since. But it’s equally refreshing to find a younger enthusiast who can bring a totally different perspective to a build – offering an alternative creative approach, and a disparate set of influences.

mk1 escort estate

“As I’m only 22, I don’t really have much driving experience in custom cars,” admits Jack Gibson, the mastermind behind the Escort estate you see before you, “but I’ve always been very interested in classic, custom and American cars due to going to car shows with my dad from as young an age as I can remember. In the time I’ve spent driving this, I’ve completely loved it – it turns heads everywhere and I have a smile from ear to ear every time I’m in it!”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Where did the thing come from, and how did it end up looking like this – and why did he choose to modify a wagon?

“I chose a Mk1 Estate basically because it was in the right place, at the right price, at the right time,” Jack admits, “although it’s turned out to be quite practical. I do a lot of shows, and it’s great for throwing camping gear in!”

The base car also ticked a lot of boxes for what he was hoping to achieve with his build; it was a running, driving Escort, looking a bit shabby but ultimately solid. “The shell was good, and I was looking for something I could do a complete ground-up overhaul on; I wasn’t planning radical body changes, just to make everything neat and strong.”

Solid find

And so, with a deal agreed and the car safely ensconced within the warm Gibson embrace, Jack set about stripping everything off the car to see just what he’d bought. The answer, it turned out, was a very solid Mk1 – although a lot of weather has blown through this damp isle since 1972, so the encroachment of a little tin-worm was inevitable. “Once I’d got it down to a bare shell, I spent night after night welding it up, just to make sure that everything was tip-top,” he recalls. “It wasn’t too bad, as that’s my profession – it was therapeutic to get the whole car straight and true!”

And once all the lines joined up and everything was pointing where it should be, the creative lobe of Jack’s brain started to spark and fizz, wondering just what to put under the bonnet. There was a functional Crossflow already in-situ, but this build was always bound to be about crafting something a little different, a homage to the creativity that he’d spent his life enjoying at car shows across the land, and ultimately the decision was made to stick a 1.6-litre Zetec SE in there. This makes a lot of sense, as its bigger brothers are a proven swapping quantity in the world of rear-drive Escorts, yet the often-overlooked SE version is readily available for peanuts. 

“I decided to use a Type-9 ’box, which necessitated fabricating a larger tunnel,” Jack explains, “and then I had to source a rear axle; in the end I went for a shortened Capri 2.8i LSD unit, with Baby Atlas halfshafts. But the hardest part of putting it together was making up the custom wishbones.”

Magic happens

‘What’s that, now?’, we hear you murmur. Yes, there is in fact quite a lot of witchcraft and chicanery going on beneath those pristine arches. Jack’s made custom inner arches all round in order to accommodate these bespoke wishbones and allow the wheels to sink deeper into them. Why would he do this? Well, you’ve presumably glanced at the photos and guessed already – the car’s running air-ride.

“It just made sense,” says Jack. “I wanted to be able to slam it as low as it could go, but also have a comfortable, sensible ride when I was just driving around – plus I reckon the slab-sides of the estate look a lot better with the chassis rails on the floor than the standard two-door would! It generally gets a pretty good reaction, too – particularly when I walk away from the car and use the remote key fob to air it out. As the empty car sinks to the Tarmac, you can hear people saying, ‘How did that happen? There’s nobody in there!’” He’s got a mischievous smirk as he tells this story, and it’s well-earned.

“In making those wishbones, I had to make them suit both the chassis rails and the mountings for the airbags while fitting it all inside the wings, which meant I had to stretch the inner wings, and build a new crossmember which holds the steering rack so it wouldn’t hit the sump… this, as you can imagine, took a lot of time, and mock up after mock up, until I was completely happy with it.” 

This wasn’t the only problem that presented itself when engineering to run that low either – quite a lot of headscratching went into fabricating a custom stainless-steel exhaust set-up that’d help the Zetec exhale effectively while also tucking itself out of harm’s way when all the altitude escaped. 

The whole build is like an intricate jigsaw puzzle — expertly executed and indeed, impeccably finished.

Future’s bright

And speaking of impeccable finish, take a look at that glorious show-car bodywork. Jack’s relentless night-time labours have paid off in spades, with a flawlessly smooth finish being neatly showcased by a searingly glacial coating of Ford’s Diamond White, as applied by his ever-helpful dad, Baz. The side-stripes are a bit special, too. “They’re not transfers,” Jack reveals. “They’re painted on – it’s a Piaggio shade of orange, and the wheels have been colour-coded to match. And if you crouch down and peer underneath, you’ll find a bit more orange there too…”

You can tell by now that Jack is a stickler for the details. His cared-for donor offered a lovely original interior, which is now slathered in soft leather; elsewhere within we find a new hand-crafted headlining, fresh carpets that hide extensive Dynamatting, and even a bit of cow-hide wrapping the dash.

Poking around in the boot, you’ll spot that the air tank has been mounted in the spare wheelwell, while the compressors are also hidden out of sight. The influence of countless car shows is in clear evidence, with this build being as much about form as function.

mk1 escort estate

“It was built to be a reliable daily driver, but also something that feels special every time I take it out,” says Jack, with a proud tone. And from the reactions of everybody who sees the car raising and lowering itself on countless showgrounds, he’s not the only one who’s happy with the results.  

Words Daniel Bevis

Photos Chris Frosin

Get the full lowdown on Jack’s Mk1 Escort Estate in the May 2015 issue

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