This astonishing 600bhp Ford Escort ‘Mexorcist’ will be a ten-second car | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Advertisement feature
Shell V-Power: Fuelling your passions
Friday 2nd June

This astonishing 600bhp Ford Escort ‘Mexorcist’ will be a ten-second car

TG gets a front-row seat to the orangiest show in town: a modified Hot Wheels Ford

Published: 27 Feb 2023

If every individual part of a Mk II Ford Escort Mexico has been replaced over the course of two decades, is it still a Mk II Ford Escort Mexico?

This notion of identity over time is a conundrum that has confounded civilisations stretching back to the ancient Greeks who stumbled over the idea in the first instance. Though, we sincerely doubt King Theseus ever had to deliberate whether six hundred horsepower of Cosworth fury wrapped up in a nitro-orange lump of iconic British metal could still legitimately be called an ‘Escort’.

Advertisement - Page continues below

Would have made his journey to Delos that much quicker, mind.

Photography: Katie Potts

And much like the fabled King’s journey, we must move slowly through one man’s near 30-year odyssey of tinkering, changing, and slowly shifting the identity of his very own family heirloom into an Instagram-famous showpiece. Step forward, the Ford Escort ‘Mexorcist’, the fevered work of one Andy Devine with help from his buddy Colin.

Advertisement - Page continues below

“A lot of people will just see a car as a way to get from A to B,” Andy says pragmatically. “They don’t care what the badge is. Others love classic cars and feel they should look exactly as they did when they came out of the factory. Believe me,” he says with a wry smile, pointing at the Mexorcist, “I’ve seen the hate for this."

“And then there’s me, who just thinks, ‘well, I'm never selling it, so why don’t I make it exactly what I want?’”

Indeed, after nearly three decades in his custody, the Escort’s going nowhere. “I've owned the car some 29 years now,” he says. “It becomes part of your family in effect.” He bought it when he was just 21 and right out of the, well, ‘box’ it was already a restoration project.

“I bought it off a friend who had taken it all apart and repainted the shell,” he says, “and so I just bought a shell and boxes and boxes of bits.” He rebuilt it from scratch and later fitted a classic 2.1 Pinto engine in it. “That was great fun,” he says of its first incarnation. “I used it like that for many years... and then of course, kids come.”

This member of the family was parked in favour of newer arrivals, and only saw the light of day once every summer. It flirted with danger when Andy’s partner suggested selling it to clear out some garage space, and so the decision to really get stuck in came just over a decade ago.

I'm never selling it, so why don’t I make it exactly what I want?

“I thought I really need to do something with this.”

As with all great modern projects, it began with a healthy doom-scroll through Instagram which, he admits, played a big part in shaping the final spec. "There's a guy – who’s now a friend – who I follow, and all he posts are Seventies Group 2 racers, be it BMW or Ford or all sorts. They’re all the hillclimb monsters or the Group 5 Touring cars of the time that really sparked my interest. I saw a picture of a Group 2 car on his page and thought, ‘if I can do something like that, for the road, that would be absolutely insane.”

Top Gear

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

Once the floodgates opened, more motorsport series began leaking through. The ‘Cosworth days of touring cars’ influenced the side exit exhaust. NASCAR leant its famous window side nettings. Heck even Ken Block’s RS200 and the work of California’s Singer found their way onto the mood board. “There are all sorts of cues from all sorts of different eras of motorsport, eras of cars. I’m quite easily influenced by friends,” he says.

One of whom found himself perched on a ladder hovering over the top of the at this stage unmodified Mexico with a power saw, waiting on Andy’s instruction. Fresh from being acid dipped, the Escort’s bare shell had returned and Andy was ready to begin the transformation. “Just as well these aren’t worth that much,” he remembers Colin saying wryly... before chopping the roof off.

In its place came a special carbon fibre replacement and a weight loss regime. Aluminium door skins “which weigh next to nothing” replaced the Mexico’s original doors. The front and rear ends were tubbed, and the tunnel and boot floor were cut out and lifted to make space for a frame that holds a number of airlift – yes, it has an airlift - ancillaries. There’s a full welded roll cage and Grp2 Zakspeed arches hiding full coilovers. An electronics engineer by trade, Andy ripped out all of the Escort’s original wiring and replaced every single cable... himself.

“I’ll have a complicated idea,” he says of his process, “and I need to go about making sure it doesn’t look complicated.”

That attention to cleanliness was put to its ultimate test when it came to the powertrain. “The Cosworth YB engine in itself is naturally very, very messy. You had an oil pipe running over the top. Pipes everywhere...”

He opens the bonnet and points. “Look at mine. Clean as hell.” He smiles, but it’s immediately replaced by a frown. “That takes a lot of time to do.”

Ford Escort Mexico MkII Mexorcist Top Gear 2023

After sourcing a standard Cossie unit from Wales, Andy’s initial feeling was to just build a ‘fast’ car, have a bit of fun, leave it at that. But one afternoon running at Santa Pod in this guise, the engine went... wrong. At which point, he thought ‘let’s pull the whole lot out and do it properly’, and promptly handed it over to Julian Godfrey Engineering.

Deep breath: it returned with a WRC-spec 9:1 compression ratio, longer rods, WRC-spec pistons, a special dry sump, and bespoke inlet and exhaust manifolds built by Godfrey. To this heart come a pair of Borg Warner twin-scroll turbos, 1000cc injectors, a really special carbon fibre inlet plenum, the entire charge cooling system from a BMW M5 (the modern V8 turbo cars, of course), and a DWB throttle body hidden inside the wing.

The resulting thump of horsepower that works its way through a six-speed sequential paddle-shift ‘box and rear diff was, as Andy laughs, a ‘happy accident’. “It doesn’t need anywhere near that amount of power, because even though it’s sat on 10in [centrelock] wheels with huge tyres, it’s never really going to be able to put that amount of power down.

“But I wanted to be sure I was going to have enough power to do my ten second run.”

Record-scratch: what’s that now?

A chuckle. “It only has to do ten seconds once. That’s good enough.”

I wanted to be sure I was going to have enough power to do my ten second run

That’s right, a drag-strip ready MkII Mexico capable of a ten-second quarter-mile is what qualifies as ‘good enough’. And just so we’re all on the same page, that ‘happy accident’ amounts to 600bhp on full race fuel (550bhp on 99 octane) in something weighing around 900kg. Indeed the weight – as Andy’s been keen to stress – became an obsession.

The original dashboard for example, was completely binned and in its place came a specially made carbon fibre replacement. And by specially made, we mean ‘3D-printed it at work during lockdown’.

In fact the work printer was in constant use. The light surrounds, indicators, grille and side mirror mounts (hosting Scooby WRC carbon fibre mirrors, no less) were all 3D printed. By Andy. At work. He says he’s done so many bespoke, custom-fit 3D parts he can’t fully remember all of them. “The great thing about 3D printing is you can print it quickly. You can trial it, check it’s right, and then do it again. It’s an iterative process.”

A sometimes gruelling process, no doubt. “About halfway through the build there were an awful lot of people who said ‘you’ve ruined a classic car’, and it wears on you a little bit. And you question yourself – have I ruined a classic car?

“Then I remember, no, no I don’t think I have.”

He notes that in the world of modifying MkI and MkII Escorts, there exists an unwritten but well-known ‘strict rule book’. “Lower it. RS alloys. Mini lights, maybe some fogs, half a roll cage. If you do that, you can’t go too far wrong.

“And I think that I went so far away from the rule book it went all the way around, and people eventually told me ‘I see what you’re doing now’.”

Andy’s Escort then, isn’t a 600bhp thought experiment nor a heretical affront to preserving an icon of the British motoring landscape. After all, constitution is not identity. “This is my car,” Andy says. “I’ve not built this for Johnny up the road, I've built this for me.”

More from Top Gear

See more on Ford

Promoted Content

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5