The Mk2 Escort; the mere mention of the name conjures up images of throttle-steered, side-to-corner rally cars.
There’s a good reason for this reputation: the Mk2 Escort (and its Mk1 predecessor) dominated rallying during the model’s production era, and continues to do so in historic and modern events. Along with this came enthusiasts, who usually followed certain style and performance cues with their escorts. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, a little updating never hurts.
Enter Wayne Arrowsmith, the owner of this Mk2 Escort Mexico. I met Wayne and his car a few months ago at the Castle Combe circuit during Rallyday 2022 (more on that soon).
Like the Mk1 Escort Mexico, the Mk2 Mexico was a special edition model that offered a number of performance upgrades over the regular Escort. At the heart of the Mk2 Mexico was a 1600cc Ford Pinto engine developing 95 bhp.
By the way, the name “Mexico” comes from the Escort’s success in the London-Mexico World Cup rally in 1970 – an epic 16,000 mile (25,700 km) journey through Europe and America from South. The event started at Wembley Stadium, where England won their first football world championship in the 1966 FIFA World Cup, and ended in Mexico City a few days before the start of the FIFA World Cup. football world of 1970. The winners of the rally? Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm, in Escort of course.
Wayne’s Escort Mexico is one of approximately 2,500 cars produced and, to the unsuspecting eye at least, looks relatively standard. It’s only when you take a closer look that all the special details begin to reveal themselves.
The car itself has an interesting history. Wayne grew up in a rallying family, spending most weekends in rural Wales watching his father compete in his own Mk2 Escort. This meant that from an early age the seed was planted and Wayne’s aspiration to own an escort never wavered. The dream of ownership finally came to fruition in 2006, when the Mk2 Mexico was purchased not far from where it was originally sold in Bournemouth.
In Wayne’s possession, the car saw limited road miles before being taken off the road for a thorough rebuild – a rebuild that ended up spanning 13 years. Wayne’s dedication is impressive, with rare new parts and new components collected and installed during this time.
The exterior remains largely original; original Group 4 Revolution 4-spoke wheels (Group 4 variants had a square rim edge, making them stronger for competition) and Toyo Proxes R888R semi-slick tires maintain the contact patch with the road , with AP Racing Tarmac calipers front and rear, plus a secondary pair of Wilwood handbrake calipers in the rear.
Suspension features Gartrac machined uprights with Bilstein inserts up front and a 4-link arrangement suspended from tower-mounted Bilsteins with Watts linkage replacing the stock leaf spring setup in the rear.
The interior is quite sparse in terms of amenities, but again the attention to detail is superb. Recaro Profi SPG seats with Sabelt harnesses and a Safety Devices historic rally specification 6-point roll cage are the most obvious changes. These, along with an integrated fire suppression system, made the car eligible for historic rallies, and Wayne’s Escort currently holds an RAC logbook for competition.
While the Mexico retains its original steering wheel and dashboard, a Gartrac adjustable crankset has been installed. All essential switches sit on a small panel in the center of the dash and feed into a new motorsport-grade wiring harness.
Zenith Motor Sport’s sunstrip is a nod to Wayne’s dad’s car and the company where most of its parts come from. Zenith Motor Sport is still in business today, and when Wayne visited recently to inquire about a solar strip, they dug up and found an old one in storage for him. It’s the one now proudly displayed on the car, and another neat touch.
Under the hood is a completely reworked, dry-sump 2.1-liter Ford Pinto engine that includes aftermarket pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft, as well as a custom camshaft. The high-performance four-pot breathes through two 48mm Dellorto carburetors and exits through a 2.5-inch Tony Law exhaust system with custom flat oval piping for extra clearance under the car.
The dry sump tank and alloy fuel tank reside in the trunk, with AN fittings and braided lines throughout. All of that equates to around 202 hp and 167 lb-ft of torque.
Wayne managed to carefully distinguish between updating the car to modern standards where necessary, while retaining the original Mexican ethos. When your intention is to own a car for life, the pressure to rush and risk making a mistake is instantly lifted; some of us also enjoy the process as much as the end result. And when a car like this is the end result, it’s hard to argue with.