Here’s your favourite affordable classic Ford project cars, with one or two surprises!
For: Plentiful and cheap
Against: ’80s grey interiors
Proof that late ’80s classic Fords are really starting to pick up, just nudging in at number 10 you voted for the humble Mk4. It may not have the cool factor of the older, rarer and pricier Mk3, but given the right treatment, the Mk4 Escort has loads of potential. The good thing is there’s plenty that’s already been done to these cars, and a wealth of bolt-on stuff just waiting for the spanners is still available off-the-shelf – suspension and brake upgrades are laughably easy. Think hard on doing something different and you’ve got yourself a cost-effective winner. We love them, and clearly so do you!
Against: Rust and neglect
In at number nine is the still largely-unloved Mk3 Fiesta with its distinctive late ’80s styling — big, plastic bumpers and all. They’ve still to cross over into classic status (though you could argue the RS Turbo, XR2i and RS1800 versions have), which means there are plenty about, and sadly, plenty which have been abused. On the plus side, they have loads of potential, and loads of cheap tuning and upgrade parts, too.
Mk1/Mk2 Escort Estate
For: Double cool points
Against: Hard to find
Modify one the right way, and the estate is arguably a cooler Escort than the two-door, but for a fraction of the price. They’re getting harder to find now, particularly solid ones, but the wagon version of the Mk1 and Mk2 is still an affordable option if you’re desperate to get into the Escort crowd, and of course, they accept all the usual tuning goodies.
For: Plenty of solid projects about
Against: Need loads of conversion work
You need to be quick to snap up a 100E, because they’re currently one of the more obvious choices for a project car. Dropping the sidevalve engine in favour of a Crossflow or Pinto is easy, but it does mean you need welding skills. The only other downside is the amount of modifying needed for the suspension since the standard cars came with drum-brake struts, a weird PCD and weak back axles. With almost as much potential as an Escort, drop one on the deck with banded steels, and you can’t go wrong.
For: look great when modified
Against: Very ’80s interiors
With Mk1s starting to get more expensive, it was only natural that budding Fiesta owners would start turning their attentions to the younger Mk2 versions. They look particularly good when given the retro treatment, parts and panel availabilty is still pretty good, and engine swaps are far easier compared to the Mk1, too. What’s not to like?
For: Very underrated
Against: Getting harder to find
The late Cortinas are hugely underrated. Apply the street machine treatment — smoothed out and whacked on the deck they rival a boxful of Magnums buried deep in the freezer. In contrast to their earlier, more expensive cousins, Mk5s don’t need much modifying to give them modern mechanics either, already being blessed with discs, rack-and-pinion steering and comfy double-wishbone suspension. We are surprised these cars haven’t caught on more. So here’s your chance to be one of the first and set a trend.
Mk2 Escort four-door
For: plenty for sale
Against: the usual Escort rot
Escorts are still the staple diet of the classic Ford scene, and four-door Mk2s are (just about) still affordable. The good thing is they’re an Escort, which means there are plenty of kits to add acres of cool waiting to be bolted on. In fact, if you find a solid enough car, the majority of conversion work can be performed without even firing up a welder. You’d need to search for one that’s solid, because they do rot. But patience never hurt anyone and if you scan carefully you’ll find one.
Sierra (non XR/RS)
For: great fun
Against: insurance can be expensive
Barging its way into the top three spot, the Sierra is perhaps the biggest surprise here, but then when you think about it, perhaps not. One of the last of Ford’s rear-wheel-drive models, they’re great fun to drive, there’s a whole host of tuning and engine transplant options, and parts, are easy to come by. Just avoid doing an XR or Cosworth replica, OK?
For: Lots for sale
Against: Panels are getting pricey
Made in the millions, Mk1 Fiestas are still cheap — if you stay away from the sporty ones. You can get a base model that’s sound, and they all have the same potential — the standard Crossflow’s legendary for power potential and if you’re handy, they can be easily converted to big Zetec power, too. Fiestas have a massive following, bordering on cult status. You have plenty of clubs and internet support to choose from and there’s not much that hasn’t already been done. This means you’ll probably get loads of encouragement, because there are loads of like-minded followers and helpers out there.
Mk3 Capri (four-cylinder)
For: Dead easy to modify
We’ve been plugging the untapped potential of the mighty Mk3 for years, and it seems you totally agree — voting the late, four-cylinder Capri as your number one affordable project car. The run-out model Lasers in 1600 format in particular can make a great base for a project car. They have plenty of tuning potential, with loads available too, they’re easy to lower and plenty of bolt-on handling kits are available thanks to being similar on the suspension front to the Mk2 Escort. And while you’re there, slot in a 24-valve Cosworth motor or even a V8. Capris are ace — so go get one!
This top 10 classic Ford project cars feature first appeared in the November 2014 issue
Click here for more top 10 guides