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The cars that moved the classic Ford scene forwards for the better… Here are the top 20 classic Ford game changers!

Mark Hudd’s Cosworth van

Featured: September 2015

A build not for the feint of heart, Mark took the Cosworth 4×4 floorpan and with the help of some equally-talented mates, adapted it into the Mk1 Escort van shell — though you’d be hard-pressed to tell. Everything about this build is sublime from the spec to the level of finish. Going for a seldom-used but standout Ford colour, Java Green, was a great idea too, and there are little touches everywhere you look that make you smile. One to help you raise your game.

Toby Kent’s Cortina GT

Featured: June 2001

In a period when there were easier and cheaper ways to get more power, Toby resolutely bucked the trend with his GT build — preferring to use so-called ‘old’ technology taking the once-humble Pre-Crossflow motor about as far as it could go with a 2-litre capacity and ultimately, 200 bhp peak power. The rest of the car’s build was just as good and well thought-through and it inspired many enthusiasts to keep the traditional route to tuning to the fore. 

Nick Anwyl’s Cosworth Capri

Featured: December 2008

Living in central London and running a 600 bhp Cosworth Capri doesn’t sound much fun, but such is the level of time and care invested in this build, that both car and driver and happy to sit in miles of traffic, if need be. The understated former 2.8i runs the best a Cosworth can get, with running gear to match. But it’s the headlines it attracted that allow’s Nick’s Mk3 to enter our top 20 — in our shootout at Bruntingthorpe, the Mk3 topped out at an incredible 180.2 mph, then calmly drove home.

Joe Little’s Mk1 Escort

Featured: December 2012

Joe’s love of the hot rod scene shines through on this build, from the ’70s tinted perspex windows that shout ‘southern California’ to the faded, signwritten paint of a desert rat, and the Hal Far-style interior. We take his influences for granted now, but it was trail-blazing stuff in 2008 and you can see elements of this car crop up in all sorts of builds. Others will shout about the 1700 Crossflow that Joe and his Dad built on the kitchen table and which helped the Mk1 ultimately to run a 12.21-second quarter on the strip, making it the fastest Crossflow-powered classic Ford for some years.

Paul Whisker’s Cortina Estate

Featured: June 2016

A Mk5 Estate with 17 inch steels from a Dax Rush, custom box arches that also form part of the rear doors, GT40-style side stripes and a Cosworth 24-valve engine fed by triple downdraughts? On paper this shouldn’t work, but Paul knew better and this mixed-up creation really stirred up the modified car scene when he first started taking it round some of the more hip shows last year. It drives incredibly well, too.

Darran Moss’ Mk2 Mexico

Featured: November 2001

It’s hard not to resort to clichés when talking about this car, but it really was a game-changer. Why was it so ground-breaking? Because the attention to detail and level of finish for what was in effect a track car-spec Escort, were something else. Inside and underneath was flawless — and it was dripping with goodies: AP Racing brakes, Gartrac suspension and an HT Racing-built Cosworth YB turbo were just some of the items on the huge tech sheet. Even today, top-spec Escort builds are compared with this.

Dave McSherry’s Mk1 Capri

Featured: May 2009

Put together with a huge amount of thought and skill (thanks in part to some incredibly talented mates), This Mk1 a very clever build that not only looks at home on the showfield but is perfectly usable on a daily basis. A classic combination of a Cosworth 24-valve engine provides the motivation while the striking green-and-black colour scheme became the inspiration for countless other Mk1 builds. It was a hit with both us and the readers as it was voted Car Of The Year in 2009. Homebuilt metal at it’s best.  

Jon Harris’ Mk1 Escort

Featured: December 2002

Others had perfected the look, but after appearing on the cover of our special, this car unintentionally became the blueprint for the South London look and spawned a whole host of copycats. Single-colour paint, lowered over Two Gates wheels, no front bumper, simple vinyl interior and, of course, a hot 1700 Crossflow built by Jon’s grandfather, Ron Harris. Jon later ran it with a Pinto and eventually sold it on, but it’s the original incarnation that everyone remembers. 

Mike Johnson’s Mk1 Fiesta

Featured: February 2009

Considered by many people to have raised the profile of the Mk1, it’s not hard to mark Mike’s Fiesta down as one of the most-inspiring cars to have ever graced our cover. The modifications were innovative and creative and yet  the car is still evolving — Mike pushing boundaries in an effort to stay ahead of the rest.

Mark Madden’s Cortina Estate

Featured: Summer 2015

Ford didn’t build a two-door version of the Mk2 Cortina Estate, so with Mark’s vision and the bodywork skills of Manny Galea, they made it a reality. A beautifully-finished conversion that ticks all the period boxes, yet one that’s powered by a Zetec turbo. Proof that with determination and skill you can build a car equally as proportioned as a multitude of Ford stylists.

Ray Gimbert’s Anglia 105E

Featured: September 2015

Where Dave Bunn’s Anglebox was an exercise in retaining the original 105E silhouette as much as possible, serial Anglia builder, Ray went all out to create his ultimate road and track toy with only the finest kit, including an alloy-block 2.2 Cosworth YB, Elite six-speed ’box with paddle-shift, Ohlins-based double wishbone suspension and those outrageous carbon fibre panels covering the full chassis. A long — and very expensive — build, but worth it.

Henry Hirise

Featured: February 2011

Henry Hirise gained instant notoriety in 1979 after appearing on the cover of the first issue of Street Machine magazine and the subsequent TV ad promoting it. With welded-up rear doors, a massive raise in ride height, huge 10×15 rear wheels, and an insane-sounding, supercharged V8 up front, few outside of the custom car scene had seen anything like this Mk2 Consul before. Even by today’s standards, the performance of the Consul was electrifying. Street Machine recorded a 0-60 of 4.4 seconds and 0-100 of 8.9 seconds — all this from a car which wasn’t exactly featherweight. Thankfully Henry Hirise has survived, and after many years laid-up partially dismantled, was returned to the road and to the pages of Classic Ford thanks to custodian, Bryan Whitfield. 

Colin McRae’s Mk2 Escort

classic ford game changer colin mcrae

Featured: November 2005

The inspiration behind Ken Block’s Mk2, the McRae Escort was touted at the time as the most advanced Escort ever built. Put together by DJM Motorsport to Colin’s specs, crucially the Mk2 featured long-travel independent rear suspension in a bid to aid traction, and well up to the task of getting all that power down to from the Series One Millington Diamond engine, which DJM mounted further back, aiming for 50/50 weight distribution. Inside, it looked more like a WRC Focus of the period.  Clips of the car and Colin in action are much shared on social media, even today. 

Ian Parker’s RS2000

Featured: July 2007

Nicknamed Werther’s Original almost as soon as it was revealed, this Mk2 is the fruits of Ian’s obsessive quest to recreate an RS2000 as it would have left the factory with all-new parts. No stone was left unturned, as he spent months scouring the autojumbles in search of the ‘right’ new-old stock parts. The estimated build cost was astronomical for a guy rebuilding a car in his home garage. It would be impossible to attempt something like this again, and you have to take your hat off to Ian for keeping it Tuscan Beige.

Dave Colledge’s Escort Estate

classic ford game changer dave colledge

Featured: December 2009

While Dave’s previous cars showed off his keen eye for detail, when he turned his attentions to building an all-out drag car for the quarter mile no-one was quite ready for what this car achieved. Power was taken care of by a 330 bhp, normally-aspirated Duratec but the really trick bits were found on the shell. The incredible focus to get the weight of the car down meant every single part was either replaced, redesigned or just lightened. It worked too — Dave ran a blistering 10.4 at Santa Pod. Mission accomplished.

Gary Tripp’s Cortina

classic ford game changer gary tripp

Featured: September 2007

We had seen modified examples of Mk2 Cortinas before this, but Gary’s was something else all together. For a start, there was the small matter of the two-door conversion seeing as it started out as a four-door, which had been performed to a flawless standard. Then there was hot rod influenced paint. As the idea was to create something usable you will find a 24-valve V6 neatly installed in the heavily modified engine bay to look like it was supposed to be there.

Colin Ginn’s Cortina Saxon

classic ford game changer colin ginn

Featured: January 2012

Based on concept car of 1962 (of which no trace is left), the Saxon Cortina was a prototype two-door convertible for the American market that never made it to production. Taking a rust-free saloon, Colin spent 1000s of hours, measuring, looking, fabricating and panel-beating the unique bodywork. The end result was a huge success, garnering worldwide acclaim. One of the most incredible cars we’ve featured.

Dave Bunn’s Anglia 105E

classic ford game changer dave burn

Featured: September 2009

Stare at Dave’s Anglia, and you’ll think it’s a well-modified example. Look hard enough and you’ll see that 105E outer shell merely clothes a spaceframe chassis. And a YB turbo. The front suspension is converted to wishbone, which makes for one massively tight road car that also sees track day use. The six-year build resulted in a flawless finish, the perfect road-hugging stance and a fully-trimmed interior that’s one of the nicest we’ve seen.

Ben Szanto’s Escort Estate

classic ford game changer ben szanto

Featured:August 2011

It’s hard to believe that Ben’s Estate was first featured some six years ago, such was the impact this Mk1 had when he first started turning up to shows with it. With a few notable exceptions, no-one had really flown the flag for Estates before, yet with it’s ridiculously low ride height and stark but ultra-clean appearance, suddenly many eyes were opened to the possibilities of the (much cheaper at the time) Estate variants. A later incarnation under Ben’s ownership featured a turbocharged S2000 transplant, but it’s the original version with bike carb-equipped Zetec and wire-tucked bay that we remember the best.

Keenan Smith’s Mk2 Cortina

classic ford game changers keenan smith

Featured: October 2015

On paper, California-based Keenan’s Mk2 may be classed as nothing that outlandish, but then few had attempted doing anything like this to a ’60s Cortina since the days of the super-saloons in the early ’70s. Bolt-on Group 5-style arches (to cover 8.5 inch wide split-rims), custom front splitter, and a Mazda/Ford 1600 16-valve motor with a home-brewed turbo conversion. He changed the classic Mk2’s boxy lines so much that the Cortina was often mistaken for a Datsun 510 and a Lada!

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This top 20 Classic Ford Game Changers feature first appeared in the September 2017 issue

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