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He’s been knee-deep in other projects recently, but Ade’s already planning his next build based around this LHD Dutch Mk3 Escort. 

Owned since the year 2000, and the second car in my motoring history, this left-hand-drive, Dutch Mk3 Escort has annoyingly seen more time off the road than on it. Back at the turn of the century it was bought as the replacement for my disintegrating first car — also a Mk3 Escort. It was a bargain mint shell from Amsterdam, which I then registered in the UK. 

dutch mk3 escort

The standard 1100cc plodder quickly made way for an XR3 transplant with various bits robbed from my first Mk3, and a blast was had in my refreshingly mint yet ‘wrong way round’ Escort. One year later great intentions (and a terminally smoky CVH) meant the left-hooker came off the road and slowly became ‘the eternal project’.

A rough donor Series 1 RS Turbo was bought for a bargain £400, and I set out on the ambitious plan of transplanting the full running gear into my shell. Failed attempts involving outside help and head scratching over the likes of extending right-hand-drive looms to suit the export shell didn’t really go to plan.

Shake and crack

The last straw in this attempt at rescuing the left-hooker from years of neglect was a hasty shakedown run around the block when I thought everything was good. This involved blasting along full throttle while unaware that the actuator was jammed shut creating unlimited boost, leading the engine to literally ‘rest in pieces’.

A lengthy period of moss-collecting on my parents’ drive followed by being a glorified shelving unit in my council lock-up pretty much was the gist of the next fews year of Mk3 Escort ownership for me. In 2006 I started contributing to both Classic Ford and Fast Ford magazines, and meeting people who were seriously enthusiastic about similar old Fords reignited my interest in the car. One man in particular was Simon Smail, who had just started up his own tuning business, Sitech Racing, specialising in big-power Fords. After spending a day around him and his ultimate-spec Zetec RS Turbo, I knew my car had to have some of his know-how injected.

A well-specced 2-litre ZVH was the powerplant of choice. Why ZVH you say? Well for starters I love the idea of still having what essentially looks like an original engine under the bonnet. The Zetec heads do flow beautifully, but their delicate style of construction generally doesn’t lend themselves as well to the extreme heat generated when running big power. An issue that the solid lump of alloy that is the CVH head doesn’t suffer from! Hanging off the ZVH will be an AET Turbos-specced GT28, along with other tasty bits of spec such an Airtec cooler, Newman cam, standalone management and much more all working together to make at least 300 bhp. Suspension-wise, I’ve got a delicious set of Gaz Gold coil-overs which will make it both handle round the Nürburgring, and look epic parked outside Tesco.

A looker

Looks-wise I’ve changed my mind so many times over the 12 years of ownership! For so long I was set on the idea of RS1600i looks, and even bought the spoilers and full interior. But in recent years I’ve been brought back to my old favourite, the one I always desired as a teenager — the XR3i.

A respray in the car’s original Rosso Red with standard Mk3 XR3i looks and seriously slammed on some pretty wheels is the plan now. But what wheels? I have a set of Borbet As, but as much as I adore them I’m not sure if they’re right for the car. Now I’m leaning towards something timeless like a set of BBS RSs with stretched rubber crammed into the arches. I want the car be full of the original ’80s Ford XR charm that I know and love, plus also able to mix it with brutal track cars on the best circuits, and then park up and be the tarted-up BBS show queen when it’s that kind of weekend! ‘Having one’s cake and eating it’ comes to mind, and that’s probably why this project has become eternal… 

dutch mk3 escort

Cap it off

Many years ago I bought my Capri as a daily while this car turned into a project, and almost 10 years later history is sort of repeating itself in a twisted way. As soon as my other projects are up and running, the Escort will be full steam ahead on its way to finally becoming the car I have always meant it to be. I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait!

Words and Photos Adrian Brannan

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