• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Don’t call the MST Mk2 an escort

Greg Pajo

Of all the cultural disconnections between the British and the Americans, perhaps none is more fundamental than the Ford Escort.

To most Americans, Escort is reminiscent of a sad, turquoise-painted bag of an economy car from the ’80s and’ 90s that, even when dressed in GT, was as spicy as a bowl of cream of wheat.

But for Britons and more mundane American enthusiasts, the first two generations of Ford Escorts, the rear-drive versions made between 1967 and 1980, formed a place of so many dreams of slippery, gravel-filled rally cars.

This story originally appeared in Road & Track volume 7.


The list of iconic legal racing cars is filled with beautiful and exotic ones, such as the Ferrari 250 GTO and the Aston Martin DB4 GT. Yet this humble Ford of the European market should also be on the list.

The regular Escort was a utility grade transport, produced by the millions to build standards similar to those American Ford buyers were familiar with at the time. But it was also the basis for a succession of rally stars, who enjoyed enormous success at the time and a popularity which, coupled with the ubiquity of Base Escort, means that many are still competing. today. That’s why, more than 40 years after Ford made the last Mk2 Escort, a British motorsport parts supplier called MST put it back into limited production.

not a mk2 escort
Functionally, the MST is a time machine, a whole new escort from the glory of past rallies.

Greg Pajo

It is not a restoration or a restoration. According to the British bureaucracy, this is a brand new car, a blue collar equivalent to the grandiose “continuation” models produced by Jaguar, Bentley and Aston Martin.

Getting to this point was what MST boss Carwyn Ellis described as a “connection decision.” The son of a farmer and amateur rally competitor from the LlÅ·n Peninsula, where Welsh is the mother tongue of most people, Ellis founded his company to supply parts to other racers. Realizing that he had virtually all of Escort’s parts in his warehouse, Ellis decided to combine them into new cars. The plan is to offer rally and road versions of the Mk1 and Mk2 (they are based on an identical floor).

The company’s test car is this mid-range Mk2. As a prototype, it is not built according to standard MST promises for customers’ cars. Up close, the paint finish isn’t perfect and some of the spaces between the panels aren’t as tight as Ellis would like. But it still looks like what it is: a whole new escort. Well almost. Since the company does not own the rights to the name, which Ford still uses in the Chinese market, it is officially the MST Mk2.

not a mk2 escort
Heaven is really just a rally car and a winding country road, isn’t it?

Greg Pajo

This has received almost all of the modifications commonly applied to Rally Escorts since the 1970s. It sits on widened fenders, described by rally fans as the look of Group 4, according to FIA technical regulations which were scrapped in 1983. At the rear, it has an improved drive axle held in place by four substantial trailing longitudinal links and a Watt link rather than the pair of leaf springs that Ford used for road cars. Behind the small (but decent) 13-inch Minilite wheels are AP Racing brakes with adjustable front-to-rear bias. A motorsport-grade aluminum fuel tank fills most of the trunk, except for a cutout to accommodate two spare wheels for more difficult rallies.

The cabin includes a roll bar, bucket seats and a microfiber steering wheel with one of these “straight” stripes to help keep track of the orientation of the front wheels. A new instrument panel features a simple tachometer that condenses anything below 4,000 rpm into a single segment.

Even more has changed mechanically. Early Mk2 rally cars ran on a BDA twin camshaft four cylinder developed by Cosworth, but these are both very expensive and unable to meet modern emissions standards. The MST tester uses a US-spec 2.5-liter four-cylinder Ford Duratec with individual throttle bodies and a custom ECU to produce 200 hp. The engine sends torque through a six-speed manual gearbox from a Mazda Miata. The low power output is offset by the fact that the trimless Escort weighs just over 2,100 pounds.

not a mk2 escort
Heart of the Beast: MST shoves 2.5L Duratec under the hood of its Mk2

Greg Pajo

The engine is loud and hoarse. He doesn’t have the whine of a BDA, but he does seem muscular enough when worked hard and clearly enjoys the exercise. The prototype had a limiter set at 7,200 RPM, but Ellis says the engine can safely switch to 8,000 RPM after an ECU tuning. Gear ratios are tightly stacked and a quick-change gear selector has heavy action but, once mastered, it’s easy to switch between them. Performance is quick rather than 2021: MST estimates the Mk2 would be capable of 0-60mph in six seconds and a top speed of around 130mph.

Buyers can choose their suspension based on how they intend to use the car. This test car features asphalt settings, making it too low and too stiff for the gravel thrown forestry action that made its rally predecessors famous. MST claims it would take less than an hour to trade it in for the dirt specs. On the road, the springs are soft enough to cause noticeable body roll in tight corners, but Bilstein motorsport-grade shocks keep the car’s modest mass under tight control.

not a mk2 escort
This Mk2 was fitted with golden 13-inch Minilite wheels, a throwback to classic Escort rally cars.

Greg Pajo

Against the expectations born of YouTube rally videos, the Mk2 is not a lateral monster, certainly not on dry pavement. The grip of the small diameter Kumho tires is enormous, and while the engine has the torque to turn the handling balance around in a fun way in lower gears, at higher speeds there is a lot more. of adhesion than of slip potential. MST has equipped the steering with 12-volt assistance; it fades above parking speeds. The geometry of the front suspension has a lot of toe-in, making the car eager to turn in slower corners, but requiring a lot of small steering actions to stay on course when cruising. The brakes bite hard, but the competition pads make them noisy with gentle use. It is not a soft-use car.

Without carpet or sound insulation, the MST Mk2 is loud and noisy. Hitting a reflective road stud looks like a gunshot. Despite the modest power output, a lot of heat reaches the interior through the firewall and transmission tunnel. The weak ventilation fan is terrible from the ’70s. Staying cool means rolling the windows down, although the prototype’s cranks hit the roll cage door bars. MST is working on an electrical conversion.

not a mk2 escort
Custom touches like a 10,000 RPM tachometer separate this Mk2 from your garden variety Escort.

Greg Pajo

not a mk2 escort
It’s all business here, but the Mk2 has a way to elevate simplicity.

Greg Pajo

Ellis says this car is in Stage 2. Buyers will be able to select a more road-oriented Stage 1 or a more competition-focused Stage 3. They will also be able to specify an engine from the specialist manufacturer Millington developing up to 370 hp and working better with a modern sequential gearbox. Being handcrafted to order means none are cheap, as even the cheapest car will cost £ 75,000 – just over $ 100,000 at current exchange rates. Still, the company has already sold its first year of production.

Ellis says it is possible to order a car with an original shell, probably from Scandinavia. These will require a lot more structural work and won’t be cheaper, but will be officially old enough to come to the United States under the 25-year exemption.

Whichever way you look at it, this is a high class escort.

not a mk2 escort
At around 2,100 pounds and with 200 hp, this MST can still cut it in a straight line-

Greg Pajo

2022 MST Mk2
$ 115,000 (as tested)
2.5 liters I-4
200 hp at 7000 rpm
200 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
6-speed manual
2116 pounds

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