1977 Ford Escort - Our Shed

By: Nick Lenthall, Photography by: Guy Allen

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Nick didn't try to be a trend setter with his Escort van projct, but it seems that's what's happened

When I decided to sell my rock-concert tour programs at auction some years ago, I was hoping to pick up a few extra shekels to put in the bank, but the bonus education I got from the auctioneer might have been the real benefit. Considering that the Beatles were probably the biggest band in the history of the English-speaking world and as John Lennon pointed out, arguably ‘more popular than Jesus Christ’, I was surprised when advised that Led Zeppelin would net double the dollars, while the quirky but comparatively obscure Frank Zappa might make even more . His reasoning was simple…

ford-escort-4.jpgThe rally-car front treatment works a treat

You see everyone kept their Beatles memorabilia, they knew they were the next big thing, thus your tour program from 1964 can be replaced in a heartbeat whereas Led Zep was considered a here-today, gone-tomorrow outfit, notwithstanding their rock and roll prowess.

| Read next: 1978 Ford Escort Sundowner review

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And there my friends is the secret to this appreciating asset, the Ford Escort Mk II blind van. We all threw them away when they were worthless, rusting, slow and outsized by Falcon vans, or the mighty, ultra-cool Sandman.

ford-escort-interior-2.jpgThe generic 70s Dagenham/Cologne interior

So when I purchased my van on eBay in 2011 I was an unknowing pioneer of the coming of age of the Escort van. An impulse-buy you might think, but actually far from it. I had wanted a blind van for some time. The key point there is ‘blind’. No side-windows for me – it had to be just the way it came from the factory.

ford-escort-interior.jpgCockpit details are the right stuff

The excuse for the van purchase was already having a Mk II tarmac-rally car. The van could be the service crew car, I thought. How very Ford works team that would look, and it was the same colour as the rally car. Well almost. Noddy (as he is affectionately known) is Ford Pine n Lime or code-P, whereas the pure yellow tint of the rally car might be called Egg Yolk.

ford-escort-engine-bay-2.jpgThe original Kent motor now sports a twin-choke Weber

In August 2011 I had just been made redundant from my job, following the sale of the dealership I managed in the Barossa Valley. This was totally unexpected and mortally wounding so what better therapy is there than to take a month off and get on the tools in your local paint and panel shop to turn your rough and ready new acquisition into the team service crew van? As luck would have it, I was able to work with a group of loveable lunatics in Neil, Ash and Dave from Dave Adler spraypainting in nearby Gawler. I enjoyed every moment of my induction to paint and panel in their mentoring environment. Escort vans vary in condition from not bad to not even worth a look. Where a sedan or coupe might suffer the not- unusual rust in the doors or floor, vans can display the added affliction of rust in the roof gutters making them beyond redemption for even the most die-hard restorers. Fortunately, mine was a walk in the park compared to most.

ford-escort-engine-bay.jpgTwin DCOEs on the Pinto and strut-tower brace look tough

There was a dent in the right-hand rear and rust in both doors. The right hand was fixable, but I searched high and low for a left-hand door to provide a simple solution to the rot. Used body panels for Escorts are becoming increasingly hard to find and for a van you will struggle, other than an odd number of rear doors for sale on social media. Mk II vans are a hybrid product of a manufacturer making the old new with the absolute smallest tooling cost.

ford-escort-wheel.jpgIt’s hard not to love Minilites

A Mk II van is Mk 1 From the plenum panel back. The bonnet is the same as a Mk II coupe or sedan, as is the front panel and radiator support, but the front guards are an entity unto themselves. They are neither Mk 1 nor Mk II. The rear end of the guard fits the Mk 1 plenum and door while the front edge has to mate up with the Mk II front panel and grille. But here’s the kicker: So, you think this is a modified Mk II guard, well maybe not. Where a Mk II front guard widens at the crease line, the Mk I- guard narrows and so does the Mk II van. So as far as I can tell, Ford built a new model van with the addition of one new panel. Pretty thrifty, eh?

ford-escort-2.jpgFlared guards and bonnet pins look purposeful

Grille and headlights were swapped from square to round to match the tarmac car and a pair of the original Ford Rally Pack driving lights was fitted. Bumpers had to be black of course and I cut the front bar into sections and made my own bumperettes. The internal cargo barrier was all my own work as you won’t find these at your local retailer. Minilite-style wheels were fitted to match the look of the rally car and I even fitted some black race-style seats. Yes, we all had a good laugh about the race seats in the van. The original 1600 crossflow still remains, albeit with a little extra zip via a 32/36 Weber and extractors. The front springs were replaced with 40 mm lower King springs and I fitted 50mm lowering blocks to the rear, and there you have it. The banner on both sides was to reflect the RS style banners of the 70s. The ‘Old Skool’ garage logo on the sides promoted my used vehicle operation in the Barossa Valley – a one-man show dedicated to the sale of old and interesting cars.The van had become my run-around parts pick-up vehicle.

ford-escort-headlight.jpgBlack bumperette detail adds to the appeal

The signage remains although the business is long gone. Today Noddy is a regular participant in RS owners club days (he’s even picked up a few trophies) as well as annual burger meets and Sunday morning Cars and Coffee events.

nick-lenthal.jpgA man, his van and his shed – all good

I bought my van for the joy of driving and it’s delivered that in spades. It was never an investment but if current trends prevail it looks like the rock auctioneer was right. Buy the one that everyone is throwing away and maybe its day will come.

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