This is the latest entry in our series of "Europe's Finest" modified cars. Frankly, we could have called it "Scandanavia's Finest" just as easily since they all seem to be coming from the Nordic region, with the exception of this month's cover car from Belgium...
As we've said before, those long winter nights seem to provide the catalyst for some incredible engineering, and this month's subject is no exception.
The 1974 Mk1 Ford Escort 1300L you see here is entirely the work of 24 year-old toolmaker Fredrik Pettersson, who's from Jönköping, Sweden. Not only did he build a 522whp Audi 20v motor for the car, but he installed it, wired the stand-alone ECU, adapted an M3 transmission, created the suspension, built the rollcage, widened the fenders and even painted it himself. This is a truly astonishing accomplishment, especially considering it was his first major project.
Having assisted with some friend's projects, Fredrik decided it was time to build his own car "with lots of parts I made myself. My job as a prototype- and toolmaker meant I knew I could do it, and that my standards would be very high."
So he searched for a suitable base vehicle. "I was never particularly interested in Escorts, but I have a weakness for retro styling with modern drivetrains," he explained. "I wanted a small, light car with rear-wheel drive. So I looked at Opel Asconas, Kadetts and Ford Escorts - I would have preferred an Ascona but found the Escort and the body was in very good condition."
The European Ford Escort was an extremely popular vehicle, right up until it was replaced by the Focus in 1998. The Mk1 and Mk2 Escorts had a RWD layout, which proved successful in rallying. As a result, a great number of mechanical and body parts were available for these cars. However, Fredrik planned to fabricate most of the parts himself (as Fredrik Pettersson Motor Sport or FPMS), so he used little more than the Ford's bodyshell, even creating a new floorpan and relocating the firewall in the process.
Initial plans called for a 300hp Volvo turbo engine transplant, until Roger Fyhrlund persuaded him of the undoubted advantages of the five-cylinder Audi engine.
You may remember Roger from et 4/10; he built an Audi-engined Porsche 944 and the two shared a rented garage with some other friends at a farm outside Jönköping. It's well equipped and has most of the tools, welding gear, etc to build cars like these. Fred was also fortunate that his boss allowed him to use the machines at work.
"I paid almost [$2900] for the car. It was mustard yellow and had the original 57hp 1300cc motor as well as a four-speed manual tranny - It's got about ten-times that power now!" he laughed.
He paid $700 for a 7A five-cylinder motor from an Audi 90 and proceeded to prepare it for boost. Firstly, he installed 83mm JE pistons on H-profile rods, dropping the compression to 9.2:1. "I made the intake, exhaust manifold, fuel rail, oil pan, throttle housing and exhaust myself," Fred explained. "In fact, I built the engine with input from Roger - after building a number of 20v engines, he's an expert on the subject..."
After preparing the engine for boost, he added a Garrett GT37 turbocharger. "It's really intended for heavy trucks," he told us. "Truck turbos are cheaper but since they take less abuse on diesels, they aren't the same quality as car turbos."
Despite this, he runs it up to 2-bar (29psi) boost pressure through his own 3'' piping to a custom intercooler.
Building the engine was the easy part compared to wiring the VEMS v3.3 stand-alone engine management. Again, he did it himself with phone support from friend Jörgen, incorporating a broadband lambda sensor, 986cc Delphi injectors and a Bosch fuel pump.
Delighted when it fired first time, Fredrik took the Escort to Maxxtuning in Vrigstad where they tuned it to 450hp at the rear wheels (522hp at the crank) and 400 lb-ft - not bad in a car that weighs only 2000 lb.
"There's abundant power'" he confirmed. "Actually it's hysterical to have that much power. But as a driver I have a lot to learn before I can handle the Escort properly," he admitted.
Transmitting the power is an E36 BMW M3 gearbox - he removed its bellhousing and welded on an Audi piece, allowing it to bolt to the 7A motor. He then added a Sachs pressure plate and four-puck sintered clutch to give it some durability. At the rear sits a 27-spline Volvo 240 axle fitted with a 3.54:1 final drive.
For brakes, he again dipped into the abundant Volvo parts bin every Swede seems to have access to. He plucked out Volvo 240 calipers and rear rotors, plus some 740GLT front rotors, adding a bias valve to ensure the balance was safe.
Fredrik radically overhauled the Escort's suspension as well. He started by assembling custom coilovers using adjustable Gaz shocks with 400 lb front and 200 lb rear springs. He then fabricated front A-arms using 30mm stainless steel tube to support custom spindles and Volvo V70 hubs. He then introduced a Volvo 240 steering rack, lowering its gearing with a 2:1 Coleman steering quickener.
Finally, he raised and reinforced the front strut towers, adding his own strut brace, which was tied into the homemade eight-point rollcage for greater rigidity.
At the rear, he created vertical strut tower mounts and his own four-link axle set-up with panhard bar for better location.
With the Escort's rally roots, choosing fiberglass "bubble arches" to widen the fenders was an obvious move. "They were light and I thought it would be quicker than making them myself from steel. However, the quality really sucked, so I rebuilt them to meet my standards - it's truly amazing to see the crap that is sold," he lamented.
Other exterior mods included a carbon fiber hood "built by a friend". He also added bullet mirrors and Mk1 Golf headlights. He then removed the front bumper and drilled the front panel to get more air to the intercooler.
"I did all the paint prep myself and even painted the car - it was the first time I tried it and the trickiest part was the interior with all the rollcage bars," Fredrik told us.
"I built a makeshift paint booth from wood beams and tarpaulins in my parents garage. It worked great, but eventually my mother had enough of smelling solvents so gave me a few days to finish or leave home!
"The Escort was Mustard yellow when I bought it. I originally wanted to paint it dark blue until I saw a Volvo 240 at a show. It was painted Nissan Skyline R33 Gunmetal grey. On the spot I decided to paint the car the same color."
Continuing the rally theme, Fredrik opted for 17x7'' magnesium wheels from TecnoMagnesio. "White wheels give the car a retro-race flair, in my opinion," he told us. "Unfortunately, the wrong wheel dimensions in combination with incorrectly designed front suspension meant I needed 60mm front spacers. However, I've since made my own spindles and cured the problem."
He chose 225/45 R17 Continental tires, which are great for the street but he's looking for something stickier for the track.
Inside, it's an interesting mix of retro and motorsport. For example, Fred installed the DIY cage as well as Cobra seats and Sandtlers harnesses. He also fabricated the aluminum console, which houses the major switches and digital display for exhaust temp, etc. He even fabricated the pedal box, shifter mechanisms and aluminum floor plates. However, these are contrasted by the mechanical oil and boost pressure gauges in the original instrument panel, and the flames he embossed into the door panels and trunk floor: "It's the hot rodder in me!" Fredrik laughed.
Future plans call for a DigiDash 2 Lite datalogger as well as a new turbo. "A better turbo would give me a broader power span. At present, it has the famous 'ketchup effect' where there's annoying lag before the boost builds up, and then all the power is there," he explained.
Having taken 18 months to build the car, he's almost destroyed it twice. "The worst moment was at Mantorp Park when I cooked the brakes at the end of the straight. I almost finished in an angry farmer's field at 125mph, but I avoided it by shifting into lower gears and drifted through the turn. Another time I was on a rural road and came around a corner to find three sheep stood in the middle," Fred laughed.
If he can keep it in one piece long enough, he hopes to enter his Escort 20v in both track days and shows, and it certainly seems to have the quality to do well in both disciplines.
1974 Ford Escort 1.3
Owner: Frederik Pettersson
Location: Jönköpin, Sweden
Engine: 2.34-liter Audi 20v 7A i-5 with H-profile rods, 83mm JE pistons, 9.2:1 compression ratio, ARP bolts, Audi RS2 steel head gasket, 7A cams, billet steel lower cam gear, Garrett GT37 turbo, 2-bar 50mm wastegate, 40mm dump valve, '04 Volvo V70 electronic boost controller, front-mount intercooler with 3'' aluminum pressure pipe, Samco hoses, Lintec Redline air filter, custom exhaust manifold, 3.5'' downpipe, 3'' stainless steel exhaust system and muffler, custom intake manifold, 3'' throttle-body and housing, VEMS v3.3 engine management, broadband lambda, Delphi 986cc injectors, Aeromotive FPR, Bosch 044 fuel pump, 12.5mm fuel lines, custom fuel rail, 3B coil, '88 Volvo 740 radiator with electric fan, Setrab 30-row oil cooler, custom oil filter housing without thermostat, custom 7.5-liter oil pan, crankcase breather, firewall moved 350mm back
Drivetrain: '97 E36 BMW M3 five-speed ZF transmission, four-blade sintered clutch with Sachs 707 pressure plate, Audi 7A single-mass flywheel, Volvo 240 driveshaft and axle, raised and widened trans tunnel, Eaton Truetrac diff brake, 3.54:1 final drive
Brakes: Volvo 240 four-piston front and two-piston rear calipers with 287mm '88 Volvo 740GLT grooved front and Volvo 240 rear rotors, Performance Friction pads, braided steel lines, brake bias adjuster
Suspension: custom coilovers using adjustable Gaz shocks with 400 lb front and 200 lb rear springs, custom 30mm-tube front A-arms, custom spindles with '06 Volvo V70 hubs, '86 Volvo 240 steering rack with Coleman 2:1 ratio, '88 Volvo 740 steering column, raised and reinforced front strut towers with custom strut bar tied to rollcage, '88 Volvo 240 27-spline axle, vertical rear strut tower mounts, custom four-link axle with panhard bar, custom eight-point rollcage
Wheels & Tires: 17x7'' TecnoMagnesio magnesium Champion wheels with 225/45 R17 ContiSportContact3 tires
Exterior: fiberglass fender flares, carbon fiber hood, bullet mirrors, front bumper removed, front panel drilled, Mk1 VW Golf headlights, clear front signals, white rear signals, Lexan side windows, painted Nissan Skyline R33 Gunmetal grey
Interior: Cobra Monaco seats, 3'' Sandtler six-point harnesses, rear seat removed, OMP Corsica steering wheel, mechanical oil- and boost pressure gauges, custom pedal assembly, shifter, shifter mount, hydraulic handbrake and aluminum control box, custom floorpan, embossed flames on door panels and trunk floor, battery in trunk
Thanks: Prototal AB, Servtech, Hydroscand, CP Service, VEMS-Jörgen, Nissafors, Roger Fyhrlund, Hallenborg, Brunnegård