Building race engines for a living, Mark Shillaber’s gone for a (slightly) quieter life with his stunning Series X Mk1 Fiesta 1300S rebuild.
When Mark Shillaber got this 1979 Fiesta 1300S in the mid-1990s he hadn’t really planned to restore it. “It was bought purely for spares for my hillclimb car when Fiestas were worth next to nothing,” admits Mark. “It had sat in a field for a number of years and the shell was in quite a bad way, so some time later I ended up buying another to help with its restoration. I decided to make it into a Series X — part of Ford’s RS programme that allowed you to customise a Fiesta to your own tastes.”
After stripping everything down to a big pile of parts, Mark started with the engine. Since he runs SRD building race engines, it was easy for him to turn the 1300 powerplant into something a bit special. “I regularly build
280 bhp 2-litre engines — mainly Pintos and Duratecs for race and rally cars. I wasn’t planning such a radical powerplant for my Fiesta, though. I wanted it to look like a Series X, but also include a few subtle upgrades to make it perform better.”
Upgrades that included a twin 40 Weber DCNF carburettor conversion mounted under a large oval, steel air filter. “That filter body is modified from an XR3 unit and we made a new base, it’s now very similar to a Series X one I spotted.” A Kent 224 cam and followers were fitted, then steel Duplex vernier wheels, and a set of plus-60 1100 pistons achieved a 9.75:1 high-compression ratio along with an SRD big-valve head with unleaded valve seats, bronze-lined valve guides, lightened steel rockers and uprated valve springs. While his spanners were out Mark also fitted a 1 inch lower engine mounting kit.
“We modified the block and sump to take a Mk2 Escort double-width timing chain and Duplex cover, which involves adding in a section from the Escort sump, and I fully balanced all the engine internals. With DTA S40 non-distributor mapped ignition, tubular 4-2-1 exhaust manifold and Peco exhaust system it’s now a 1350cc block making 103 bhp at the flywheel and 84 bhp at the wheels.”
Naturally Mark wasn’t going to waste that extra power by bolting the standard 1300S gearbox back in. “I took a Fiesta five-speed gearbox casing and put in the IB5 cluster from a 1700 Puma, so now it’s a close-ratio five-speed with a 3.6:1 final drive. I also used the Puma quickshift gear linkage. It’s a pretty straightforward conversion that works really well.”
Of course, the rest of the 1300S’s running gear was reconditioned, too. “As I went through the car each mechanical part and its mounting was stripped, blasted and repainted or etch-primered.”
In the meantime, Mark was also bringing the bodyshell up to scratch. “I had to replace one of the front wings due to crash damage around the headlight area. There were some rust repairs needed around the rear corners of the boot where four different panels meet and I sourced a new bonnet since there were a number of dents in the original. I’ve kept that original bonnet, though.”
A deviation from the 1300S original spec is the addition of those XR2 circular headlights and mountings — which were often added to a Series X car.
The bodyshell was then painted in Sunburst Red by a friend of Mark’s called Colin Jefferies who is so in demand for his painting skills that he doesn’t want any more publicity. “I then fitted a genuine Ford spoiler and arch kit, as used on the XR2 and SuperSport Fiestas,” says Mark. A set of 1300S side stripes and appropriate boot lettering from DMB Graphics finish off the body.
All the glass, trim and both the door handles were reused, but a new rear bumper was sourced from Holland. On the front are specially-made Series X quarter bumpers, with Escort indicator lenses, which Mark powdercoated in satin black. He was lucky when it came to the electrics since, “The wiring was very good on the donor car and only required some minor adjustments in order to fit those repositioned front indicators.”
The Fiesta is lowered an inch on Sport springs, and the rest of the suspension comprises new-old stock Bilstein front struts (which took Mark some time to find since they are no longer available) and Monroe Gas Matic rear dampers. “The original driveshafts seemed in good condition so I stripped, then cleaned, repacked and fitted them with new gaitors.” The Fiesta rolls on genuine Fiesta SuperSport wheels that Mark fully refurbished, getting them diamond cut and polished. Even adding new wheel nuts and locking nuts.
“The interior was shot,” remembers Mark, “but I spotted some suitable fishnet Recaros in a Suzuki Ignis and modified them to fit the Fiesta seat runners. They not only look the part but they’re really comfortable, they even have lumber support.” The back seat is a standard 1300S piece. “The dashboard is also the original and includes the correct rev counter. “There’s no radio though; I wouldn’t be able to hear it.” Mark also rebuilt the heater with a new matrix.
“If I couldn’t reuse an original piece off the car then I searched hard to find new-old stock parts, only using brand-new pieces if there wasn’t an alternative. I wanted it to look and feel as authentic as possible. I put a lot of effort into this restoration because I really wanted to do it right. A lot of the donor parts were tatty and needed refurbishment even if they hadn’t ever been used.” Mark finished the car in the summer of 2018, but then jumped straight into restoring a Mk1 Escort.
“I’m very pleased with the car, it drives like a brand-new 1979 Fiesta, really tight with no shakes or rattles. It’s a real pocket rocket; above 4000 rpm it really takes off. I’ve made those improvements but they’re largely hidden away so from the outside it’s not obviously changed that much from standard. It took me two years of work, but it was worth it.”
Words Mike Renaut
Photos Andy Saunders
See more photos and get the full spec on this Series X Mk1 Fiesta in the June issue
Click here for more Classic Ford features
Subscribe to Classic Ford and get the next 6 issues for just £21.99!
Click here to find out more