Escort Mk II with top technology inside

The red Escort you see in the pictures is not just an ordinary sports car. Besides Colin McRae tearing up English gravel tracks with this car, Ford has hidden excellent engineering beneath the surface. The Ford Escort Mk II was built by DJM, a company specializing in complete servicing and preparation of competition cars.

Colin always admired how these Escorts flew across British gravel roads in the 80s: 'The Mk II is the rally car of all time. When my father started rallying, these were the type of rear-wheel drive cars that were at the top level of the sport. I remember watching in the forests and they always sounded the best and looked the most spectacular – sideways. Ever since then, they have stuck in my mind'.

In 2002, Colin contacted Dave Plant of DJM Race Prep based in Newark to have one such Ford built. 'In late 2002 we were asked by colleague and friend Gordon Birtwistle of Proflex UK Ltd. if we could convert a Mk II Escort into independent rear suspension instead of the conventional live axle, for a rather special customer, this being the late great Colin McRae and of course, we were only too pleased to take up the challenge. The donor car was supplied to us in early 2003 and after numerous telephone conversations with Colin, the project commenced. The original specification was to be an ultra-long wheel travel, gravel rally car. With fully independent front and rear suspension to our own design and using our own aluminium uprights, finished off with a T45 roll cage to support the modifications.'

Colin first saw his Escort Mk II in April 2003. He was, however, enchanted by the sporty Ford KA, in which DJM installed a complete 4WD system. At that point, Colin entrusted Dave with full authority over the Escort's construction. 'It became apparent to him that we were a ‘one-stop shop’ and were able to bring WRC attributes to any vehicle. This led to us doing more work than was initially intended and it was decided on that day that the project was now to be a turn-key rally car designed to be as lightweight, compliant and agile as we could make it.'

The Escort Mk II is powered by a 2.5-liter 'Diamond' gasoline four-cylinder engine from Millington, equipped with a 16-valve head and electronic fuel injection. DJM strived to position it as centrally as possible in the car. A custom-made sequential gearbox from DJM was mounted behind the engine. The engine's wonderful sound and the atmospheric unit's effortless breathing are ensured by a cleverly designed, custom exhaust system. The entire body is reinforced with a T45 protective cage. The Ford features detachable front fenders and extremely lightweight body panels. Adjustable Proflex shock absorbers with external reservoirs are installed on independent suspension on both axles. Rear-wheel Cossack Group A shock absorbers from the Escort Cosworth are used. A limited-slip differential is located between the rear wheels. The powerful 330 horses are tamed by an Alcon brake system with struts and discs.

Ultra-lightweight materials are also used in the interior. Carbon fiber is used for the dashboard, door panels, footrests, the gear lever of the sequential gearbox, and the hydraulic handbrake lever. DJM created a unique instrument panel, and Recaro ergonomic seats and Sabelt safety belts are a must. A fuel tank is located in place of the rear seats. The Escort's weight was reduced to 930 kilograms. Colin's Escort Mk II comes with the RAC 2005 specification. The car was prepared to the highest standards. As of today, ONM 804V is in excellent condition, and the engine runs fantastically. However, it's not ready for competitive racing. The homologation of seats, belts, fire extinguishers, and other safety components has expired long ago. New discs and pads are fitted to the front axle, and the clutch master cylinder and main brake cylinders, which have degraded over the years, have been replaced. Just like the Subaru Legacy RS, Ian Gwynne from BGM Sport inspected the car and evaluated its condition. If you're interested in the Escort Mk II, you can contact him to arrange a viewing. Dealers estimate the value of this rare car at up to 175,000 €.

Text: Mateo
Photo: Iconic Auctioneers (Silverstone Auctions)

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