Tuning Test

Broadspeed Escort G T

January was a rather black month for tuning establishments connected with making Fords go faster, because at the Racing Car Show the Dagenham company introduced a range of its own tuning kits for Ford Escorts, which were obviously of a very high standard and listed at a competitive price. The kits, designed under a joint exercise between the Ford Performance Centre at Boreham and the Midland tuning shop of Broadspeed who race a tremendously successful team of Escort GTs for Ford, are now on the market. A couple of weeks ago I was able to try an Escort GT with a stage a conversion, and took the car over to Ireland for the Formula 5000 race meeting at Mondello Park. The car performed the task in a manner which belied its small cubic capacity and was even called into action as a tow vehicle for one of the racing cars.

There are three performance packages offered by Ford for the Escort. The stage 1 kit retails for £50 and comprises a special Weber 26/27 downdraught carburetter, new inlet manifold, exhaust manifold and a large-bore silencer system. There is also a carburetter air intake filter-cum-silencer unit, a set of gaskets and fitting instructions. For this conversion Ford claim the Escort GT thus fitted will give 81.5 b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. and torque of 76.5 lb. ft. at 4,300 r.p.m. It seems the ideal conversion for a “rep.” to bolt on to his company Escort without anyone knowing.

The stage 2 conversion as fitted to the car we tested offers all the above plus a high-performance cylinder head—painted Broadspeed maroon—and retails at £95. This boosts the b.h.p. to 90.5 at 6,500 r.p.m., the torque to 83 lb. ft., and puts the Escort GT into the 100-m.p.h. category.

The final stage 3 conversion is more rorty still and includes everything in the stage 2 kit with the addition of a different camshaft. Ford say this hot camshaft does cause a lack of flexibility but the car would certainly become a competitive club rally machine, providing also that the chassis was brought up to the specification necessary for pounding along special stages.

There are various other bits with this stage 3 kit, including different carburetter jets, cam followers and so on. This kit ups the Escort GT engine to close on twin-cam standards, for it gives 98.5 b.h.p. at 6,500 r.p.m. with 86 lb. ft. torque at 4,500 r.p.m. and a claimed top speed of 112 m.p.h.

The kits are available for ordinary 1300 Escorts as well as the GT, so long as the owners of the non-GT models also fit a GT camshaft which is readily available over the counter at your friendly Ford dealer: he will probably keep you waiting three-quarters of an hour for the privilege. It is advisable to fit a high-pressure fuel pump with these conversions if any prolonged high-speed motoring is envisaged.

The car we tested had obviously lived a fairly hard life, but—as always—Alf Belsen’s men at the Ford press fleet centre in Isleworth had it nicely prepared for what turned out to be a somewhat arduous trip to Ireland. Externally the car is perfectly standard and only if you are fairly well switched-on would you realise anything was different under the bonnet. Noticeable, however, is the new and more curly exhaust system, the red-painted cylinder head, and a Broadspeed badge on the rocker cover.

The 1,300-c.c. Ford cross-flow engine is a fabulous little power unit which loves to be revved and is probably better in some respects than its larger 1,600-c.c. brother. Immediately one drives this car one has the feeling that the £95 engine modification is well worth the money. Thus mortified I set off hot foot up the M1, M45, A5, M6 and East Lancs. high road, the car rushing along well and making excellent time. Soon I was sailing out of Liverpool and early the following morning I drove off the boat, had the car sprayed with disinfectant in the process (we English are not very clean), and headed out to the circuit. However, I stopped first for breakfast at my hotel, only to find Mick Mooney’s Irish Racing Cars Team with two Brabham Formula Two cars, each on a trailer, but with only one tow car. With delight the team spotted a tow hitch on the back of the Escort and for the best part of the weekend the Escort became a racing transporter, a task which it performed well. When it didn’t have a huge great trailer on the back I was able to discover what a fast little machine it was on the twisting back roads of the Republic. The brakes are certainly well up to the task of stopping the car and everything else seems to function perfectly. Possibly if the full stage 3 kit was fitted it would then be time to start beefing up the brakes and the suspension and also the clutch.

The performance is considerably improved over standard and the car will just about make the 100-m.p.h. bracket if you can find a long stretch. It accelerates to 60 m.p.h. in 11.4 sec., compared with 14.8 sec. for the standard car and about 9.7 sec. for an Escort Twin Cam in standard trim. In fact the figures are only slightly inferior to those obtained on some of the Escorts which have been fitted with 1600 GT engines by various firms, retailing at considerably more than the £95 asking price for this kit.

Obviously one has to pay for this increased performance in fuel bills, although our Escort, despite being thrashed unmercifully, gave 24 miles to the gallon. The problem we found was that due to the increased performance the car had become undergeared. The engine regularly ran into the red section of the tachometer (over 6,500 r.p.m.), so a higher back axle ratio would be advisable. The only other minus mark concerns the increased noise, but one of the proprietary sound-deadeners would put an end to that.

So at only £95 this Ford tuning kit would appear a really worthwhile buy for the Escort GT owner who wants extra performance. The kits are available from the Ford Performance Centre at Boreham Airfield, Chelmsford, Essex. This is obviously only a start and in the future we look forward to Ford-produced tuning kits for other models.

A. R. M.