My good friend Matthew Harpantidis has owned some great cars over the years but one that really stands out for me is his 1975 Mk1 Ford Escort. I’ve always loved Escorts and the success they had in the World Rally Championship throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s. I still have fond memories of Matt’s car and all the time that we spent driving around Healesville in the early 2000’s. Matt still owns the Escort so it was a great opportunity to ask him about the history of the car and what’s planned for the future.
Matt’s interest in Ford Escorts developed when his cousin owned a Mk2 Escort in the mid 1990’s. Matt loved the two door models but settled on buying a four door Mk1 Escort in 1995. The car was a 1975 1300 XL with a four speed manual and was one of the last Mk1 Escort’s built. The car was bought privately in Bundoora for $1300 and originally painted in light blue. It also featured fog lights, a radio and bumper overriders.
Matt has fond memories of rebuilding the car for the first time. He swapped the engine to a 1.6 Litre early on and added twin 40mm webber carburettors. The rocker cover and extractors were also chrome dipped. Matt stated that at this point the car developed around 130 horsepower and redlined at 7,500rpm. This resulted in a great power to weight ratio considering the car weighed only around 800kg. A 50 Litre fuel tank and suspension was also fitted from a Mk2 Escort. Later upgrades included twin 45mm webbers and a five speed manual gearbox from a Ford Sierra. Scheel seats were also added as a nice interior touch.
In 1998 the car was painted in a Ford colour called Cobalt Blue. A larger 2 Litre motor was fitted for some extra grunt in 1999 and a motor rebuild took place in 2001. The car was fitted with front and rear sway bars and heavier and firmer panel van springs. At this time, the car was regularly driven around some great roads in Reefton and Mt.Slide where the light weight and nimbleness of the car shone through.
There have been some issues with the car however and the differential has been a weak point and been replaced on numerous occasions. The car is now 43 years old and as a result the window sills and rear quarter panels have some areas of rust. Matt also suggests that the car needs a full service with particular attention paid to the drum brakes.
Although the car has remained largely the same since the early 2000’s, Matt plans to get the rust issues fixed and return it to the original colour with original lights. Matt also wants to reupholster the seats and fit some Minilite wheels. Finally, he would also like to install a later model Duratec or Zetec engine.
The car is now only driven once a month however it’s great that this wonderful car is still in use. I hope that Matt has many more years of happy motoring with this great little car.
Thanks go to Matthew Harpantidis.