1974 FORD ESCORT 1300L

Stephen Nightingale quickly formed a connection with a Tropicana Green Mk1 that will serve as his daughter’s daily-driver.

How did you acquire this car?
It ended up being given to me by a mate I’d done quite a few jobs for. After driving it back from the South Island, he thought its days were numbered. When I first saw it, I lifted up the hood and, sure enough, it was dripping oil everywhere. I cleaned the motor up and it turned out that an $8 part stopped the leaks. So I got it back on the road, gave it a spruce-up, and my older son ended up getting his licence in the car. He drove it for 5 or 6 years before moving overseas. 

What prompted you to keep it? 
It was getting tired again but my Dad had a big shed at Whangaparaoa so I thought I’d let it sit there for some time. Because my daughter was very keen on the car, I thought I should give it a bit of a birthday. I spent 2017 pulling it to bits and found that, rust-wise, it was a pretty good car apart from the front guards. Originals are about $900 each. The cheaper Chinese ones take a bit of massaging but they do fit, and the fit and finish of the cars from new was pretty average anyway. I stripped it back and repainted it in its original factory colours. The most money I put into it – over $4000 – went on the motor. It’s a numbers-matching unit rebuilt by a guy in Onehunga. 

You’d better give us a rundown of the engine work... 
The block was in good nick. They pulled it out, bored it out 30 over, whacked in new pistons, put in a GT cam, big Weber carb, got the head all done, new valve springs and seals, new water pump, fuel pump and oil pump, proper polished Ford intake manifold and extractors, and fitted electronic ignition so there’s no points any more. 

How do you now rate the condition, out of 10?
It’s a solid 8 out of 10. Good enough for me to happily drive it all day, every day.

Your longest trip in the car to date?
A friend and I just romped down to Leadfoot [from Auckland to Hahei] and back. It got heaps of attention down there. The way they’re geared, I thought, mate, it’s gonna do it hard, but that thing sat on a hundred kays an hour and could have done it all day up and down the Kopu Hikuais and all the way through to our place at Cooks Beach. It was comfortable, too. Had to have the windows wound down in the heat, but it’s got plenty of legroom in the front and the seats have been resprung, refoamed and reupholstered.

Any plans to do do more work on the car?
I’m giving it to my daughter as her first car with the instructions to drive the wheels off it and just enjoy it. I thought, man, that car needs Minilites but I think I’ll hold off on those until she’s got the hang of parking it.

Did you notice any quirks with the car while working on it?
The factory booster on the front brakes is clearly an afterthought. It’s stuck there and prevents you getting to anything else. And the steering columns are known to go crooked. The column comes out at an ever-so-slight angle, which is the weirdest thing.

Any fond memories of Mk1 Escorts from your youth?
I like the history of the Mk1, the rally cars and the race cars. My mother had a Mk1 two-door that she bought off her mother’s best friend. But it was an 1100 and terribly slow. That car was duck-egg blue with a white roof and red interior. I had just finished freshening it up when it was stolen from outside her house and never seen again.

What was the first Ford you owned?
A 1970 Mk2 Cortina that I bought from the foreman of John W Andrew in Royal Oak, in 1981. His family were the only owners of that car and I kept it for 15 years, and drove it everywhere.

What other special cars do you own?
A 1946 Ford Coupe and a ’65 Mustang GT.

What was the first car you ever drove and where did you drive it?
My father’s Morrie Thou work van, when I was 12 years old, at his mother’s Stanmore Bay bach. When I was good enough, Dad let me drive it to the dairy to buy the cigarettes.

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FORD ESCORT Mk1 1300L

YEARS PRODUCED 1968-75

ENGINE 1298cc 4-cyl (now 1330cc)

POWER 47.5kW (57bhp, ex-factory)

TORQUE 98Nm@2500rpm

TRANSMISSION 4-spd manual

DRIVETRAIN rear-wheel drive

WEIGHT 805kg

LENGTH 3.98m

WHEELS 13-inch steel (Mk2 style)

COLOUR Tropicana Green metallic

UPHOLSTERY Tan vinyl

OWNERS Stephen/ Kate, Auckland

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