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Chris Ciballi has chosen a different road to bolt-in power for his Mk2 Fiesta — one that involves diesel. Now this oil burner’s leaving everything in its wake, including the smoke.

We’ve all got a soft spot for a particular model in the classic Ford canon, but even those with a penchant for say, a Mk2 Granada, might deviate and try a different model from time to time. Not Chris Ciballi though. Since the early 2000s his classic Ford of choice has been the once-humble Mk2 Fiesta, and it’s fair to say he’s owned a few of them  —even if they haven’t all survived in his ownership.

“I’ve had six Mk2s now,” Chris reveals. “I got my first back in 2001 after my Mk4 Escort got written off. I wanted something smaller and lighter that I could transfer all the good bits from the Mk4 into and the Mk2 Fiesta seemed ideal. Plus it was cheap which was an added incentive. That one sadly got written off too, then the one that replaced it ended up getting sold on as I needed the money at the time. My third Mk2 I still own but is an ongoing project — I took it off the road to repair some rust and it’s still waiting to be repaired — while the fourth got written off, too.”

“This one though, is my fifth Mk2 and though it started off as a daily driver, I got a works van not long after and so I could go a bit further with the mods, which is probably one of the reasons I still have it.”

‘A bit further’ involved Chris removing the original 1100 Valencia engine and dropping an 1800 turbo diesel from a 1999 Mk2 Mondeo in its place instead, and when we say dropping in, it really was almost that simple.

Before we get into that though, we need to find out why he went for the oil burner — after all, it’s not really a sexy engine, is it, Chris? “No, but I wanted to try something different. Plus it has more power than a standard Mk2 XR2, and even with the short gearing it currently has, it still gives more than 50 mpg.”

diesel mk2 fiesta

Good start

Fortunately, the Fiesta Chris started with was a cracking base to make the conversion a lot easier.

“It was an early 1.1L in Sunburst Red sat on a set of pepperpots,” he recalls. “It was a really good shell.”

With a suitable TD engine sourced, Chris set about fitting it to the Fiesta, using as many bolt-in parts as possible. “It’s a tight fit, but it just sits between the chassis rails,” he reveals. “I used a Mk3 Fiesta diesel engine mount, and the engine bolts right up to the BC gearbox, along with the flywheel and clutch from a normally-aspirated Mk3 Fiesta diesel. There’s just one wire to sort for the inhibitor switch, and no wiring for the fuel pump, as it’s a manual one that sits on the side of the engine.” 

“I wanted the conversion to look as factory as possible but with the standard radiator in place there was no room to run an intercooler. Instead I’ve used the smaller rad from a Saxo VTS mounted to one side of the front panel, with a Fiesta RS Turbo intercooler taking up the other half.”

These aren’t the only mods, as right from the outset Chris never planned to run the engine in standard tune. He’s fitted a Bosch fuel pump, modifying it to allow to push more fuel in so the engine will rev harder. And there’s another reason for that uprated fuel pump — the turbo. “It’s from an Impreza Turbo and sits on a custom manifold, along with a modified downpipe.”

The result is a bit of a torque monster. “It will cruise along in fifth gear at 30 mph, and if you put your foot down, it just picks up the wheels and goes,” he grins. 

diesel mk2 fiesta

Speaking of the wheels, these are the second things Chris gets asked most about after the engine, and they are pretty rare PLS Hockenheim three-piece split-rims, bought from German Fiesta nut, Stephan Müller, and measuring 7×13 at the front and 7.5×13 inches at the rear. With 175/50s fitted, there’s little rubbing either, despite the serious drop in ride height, which comes courtesy of Chris’ spares stash from his previous builds. “The front’s based around a pair of Corsa C coil-overs which cost me £50,” he reveals. “They bolt straight on once you’ve elongated one of the mounting holes in the top mounts. The front tie-bars have been machined to give some extra castor, and I’ve fitted adjustable TCAs, too.”

At the rear you’ll find an adjustable Panhard rod (essential for repositioning the rear beam when severely lowering a Mk2), and some -75 mm springs courtesy of Outlaw Motorsport — we said it was low!

Smoke signals

The Sunburst Red paint was in fine fettle so Chris left it alone, but the 1.1 graphics have been carefully removed and some ‘Diseasal’ ones made up and fitted in place. “People see it belching out smoke and they think they’ll catch something off it,” he chuckles.

diesel mk2 fiesta

Then there’s the über-cool rear window louvres. “I got those off Mike Johnson. I wasn’t sure about them at first, but they’ve grown on me.” The exterior has been deliberately kept clean and simple to enhance the sleeper effect, and the same goes for the interior, too — a set of lowback Popular seats, aftermarket steering wheel and boost gauge mounted in the fresh air vent, and that’s all Chris wants and needs. 

But there’s always more to do though. “The brakes have never been great, so I’ve got a bias pedal box to fit, and the gearing’s so short — especially with those tyres — so I’ve picked up a 3.3:1 diff from a late Fiesta diesel to fit at some point. Then I’d like to get Zak Williamson at Power Engineering to make up a proper manifold and system for it to release some more power.”

diesel mk2 fiesta

Number six

We mentioned at the start of this feature that Chris is now on his sixth Mk2. So with this red one being the fifth, what’s the new one? “It’s one of Zak’s old cars — the Zetec turbo’d one known as the Fiestaturd. Not that I’ve got any time to do anything to it right now as there’s a baby on the way!” 

We’re sorry, Chris, but Ford never built a four-door Mk2… 

Words Simon Woolley

Photos Jordan Butters

See more photos and get the full spec on Chris’ turbo diesel Mk2 Fiesta in the May issue.

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