He’s been without a set of Ford keys for a while, but Simon Holmes is now back in the game, and back in the Mk2 Fiesta, too — only with a twist.
So, after some time away, I’ve rejoined the Classic Ford Project Cars fleet. My weapon of choice this time is an old favourite of mine; the Mk2 Fiesta. I have a real soft spot for these as my first project was a Zetec turbo-powered XR2 I built over 10 years ago. Since then, I’ve dabbled in various other Fiesta projects, a couple of which ran in here some time ago.
But although I’ve been messing with plenty of different cars since, a few months ago I decided it was time I had another Mk2 in my life, which came about for a couple of reasons. First of all, was my good mate, Clarke’s mental Mk2 Fiesta drag car that runs 9s; you may have seen it at Santa Pod. I’ve been helping him with the car for years and eventually found it rubbed off to the point I had an itch to own another. This was further fuelled when, as fate would have it, my very first XR2 came up for sale again, after being in storage for many years! However, after a viewing I realised it wasn’t quite how I remembered it, but then another Mk2 came up for sale and it was ideal.
It was an ex-Fast Ford feature car that used to run a 400+ bhp Zetec turbo and MTX ’box. Although the running gear was long gone and it was now just a rolling shell, the car was still fitted with a few tasty parts, such as coil-overs, adjustable arms, a flocked dash and carbon door cards, among other things. Best of all it was cheap, solid and ripe for another engine conversion.
But this time I didn’t want a regular CVH or Zetec under the bonnet, having well and truly ticked those boxes years ago. I wanted to do something altogether different and began weighing up a few options. The main contenders were a VAG 1.8T, a Saab B204 turbo or a B18 Honda VTEC.
After considering each carefully, the 1.8-litre, 16-valve twin-cam VTEC engine made the most sense. Why? Firstly, they are powerful and rev happy, making around 170-180 bhp out of the box with a redline approaching 8500 rpm. Next, they are notoriously strong, so future potential and the option to add boost later is easy thanks to a huge range of parts and there’s no need to upgrade the internals until you approach 400 bhp or so.
Best of all is that the S9B gearboxes they come with are fitted with an LSD as standard! After years of experience I wouldn’t have a fast road car without one. And all of that Honda goodness cost less than £900, complete with mounts, driveshafts, ECU and wiring, which is cheaper than any 1.8T, Saab or Zetec with the same spec — talk about bang for buck!
So I did a little more research, took some measurements, worked out it should fit in-between the Fiesta chassis rails and clear the bonnet without too much hassle and sourced a complete engine locally. As it so happened, at the same time I also bought a new set of wheels, as the steels it came with didn’t do much for me and these much tastier 14 inch Revolutions were a bargain that instantly transformed the look of the car.
All that’s left to do now is fit the new engine and that’s where Clarke comes in again. He’s a good fabricator and welder and was chuffed to hear that I had bought another Mk2. He was even more chuffed when I told him I was going for Honda VTEC power and still chuffed when I asked him to fit the engine, so more on that next time!
The choice of engine might seem like blasphemy to a few of you, but I’m looking to build a Fiesta unlike my past projects and this route simply made the most sense.
I want a fast, fun and well-set up road car and although I love straight-line performance, I want this car to drive nicely, stop well and be reliable above anything else. So I’ll get it running in NA form to start with and in the future I’ll add a turbo. Then I’ll perhaps concentrate on the drag racing aspect, but for now I’m going to get the car up and running to a good, solid standard. Watch this space, as it needs to be done for the Classic Ford Show!
This article first appeared in the June issue of Classic Ford