M3-POWERED FORD ESCORT MK2: ESCORT EVOLUTION

The project started 15 years ago, but by constantly adding new ideas and improved spec, Sebastian Sundfors saw his Ford Escort Mk2 evolve into a custom-bodied, composite-skinned, BMW M3-powered track beast.

Feature from Fast Ford. Words: Jamie King. Photos: Jape Tiitenen

The story of Sebastian Sundfors’s epic Escort starts way back in the early 2000s, when he was still at school and used to walk past this Mk2 sitting unloved in the back yard of a house in his hometown in Finland.

“I’d always seen it from a distance, and even as a school kid I knew I wanted something like that one day,” says Sebastian.

M3-powered Ford Escort Mk2

That day came in 2006, when Sebastian was just 17. “The plan was to build a winter car to use on ice tracks and, of course, the road. I bought it in the middle of winter and it looked to be in good condition; almost standard but with an uprated 1.6-litre Crossflow and painted in metallic blue,” Sebastian recalls.

But as you’d expect for a car that had endured several harsh Finnish winters outside, the deeper Sebastian dug, the more he found. He says, “The floor had rusted badly from the inside, not from outside. I think this was because the sunroof was leaking – and probably had leaked for last ten years.”

With the car stripped back to a bare shell ready for a fresh respray, Sebastian realised the whole floor needed replacing. It was at this point he had his first change of plans.

M3-powered Ford Escort Mk2

“While I was replacing the floor a friend of mine bought a rally Escort, and that was definitely something I wanted,” he says. “So, I started to build it with roll cage, Group A wide arches, new body panels, and a 2.0-litre Pinto with SK Racing carbs. The rear axle was swapped to a Volvo 1031 with four-link and Panhard rod, while the front end was fitted with fully adjustable tarmac racing shocks – it was almost a complete rally car.”

As we’ve alluded to, the plans then changed again, and again… And again. Sebastian summarises, “I started to lower the car, bought a Nissan SR20 turbo engine, and wanted to build a track car. At that point, I cut out all the panels out and started to build my own bodykit – the car almost became a spaceframe at that point.

M3-powered Ford Escort Mk2

“Later I found a 2.5-litre BMW M3 Evo engine at a great price. Originally, this engine was meant for another project (E30 M3 replica) and I ‘accidentally’ tested it in the Escort’s frame… The engine was a perfect fit and more unusual than the BDA or YB swap, so that made my mind up.”

After the initial burst, the Escort project stood still for around seven of the 15 years Sebastian has owned it; he was studying between 2009 and 2013, and then embarked on a house build between 2015 and 2017.

“It was actually just as we’d started on the house build that the M3 engine came up for sale. The Escort had been put on hold while we worked on the house, but I couldn’t get the idea of the M3 engine out of my head, so I had to borrow money from my wife’s wedding savings to buy it… And the wedding was put back,” laughs Sebastian.

As you’ve probably already worked out, Sebastian is a serial tinkerer, and without a deadline to meet, this Escort probably wouldn’t have ever been finished. Luckily though, when a friend booked a stand space at the Elmia Custom Performance Show in Sweden in 2018, a date was set.

That’s when the project really kick-started, and Sebastian called in his brothers and friends to help get the car finished in time.

“The problem was, we decided we couldn’t take the car to a show like that in its current spec – all the ideas were at least five years old, and I had many different thoughts on how things could be improved. So, the front end was cut off at the bulkhead, the four-link bars at the rear were all chopped out, and I started modifying the bodywork once again too,” explains Sebastian.

M3-powered Ford Escort Mk2

Sebastian had to effectively build the car from scratch again, to a higher standard than ever before, and do it all in just five months. That meant asking everyone he could to help. Brothers Benjamin and Emanuel were the main source of assistance, but all chipped in where they could; Sebastian’s wife Cecilia hand-made all the textiles on the interior, good friend Mikael Öster took care of all the composite work, and even Sebastian’s one-year-old son Milton spent most evenings and weekends in the garage while everyone worked on the Escort.

Sebastian also used technology to help where possible, making full use of the latest 3D printing systems from BBT Motorsport. “The air filter housing, remote reservoir brackets for the coilovers, the steering wheel button surround, and various brackets throughout the car are all made from PA-CF (carbon-filled polyamide),” Sebastian explains.

The only original parts of the shell are the A-, B- and C-pillars and the front section of the floor – the rest of the car is effectively semi-space-framed (with geometry settings based on Nissan’s S-platform) with a carbon roof and fibreglass panels (the front end is a removable one-piece item, and the rear shell is also moulded in one piece), incorporating Sebastian’s self-designed super-wide arches.

Up front, the BMW S14 engine is no slouch as stock: in the E30 BMW M3 Evo it kicked out a respectable 235bhp and 177lb.ft, which are impressive numbers for naturally-aspirated four-banger. But Sebastian’s benefits from a few race-spec upgrades, such as Schrick cams, modified throttles from an M5, Motec ECU, and dry sump system. All of which means a screaming 300bhp and 236lb.ft when Sebastian stands on the loud pedal.

Then it was time to decide on the final colour. Sebastian remembers, “We initially wanted to paint it Nardo Grey, but we couldn’t find a matching shade for the parts to be powder-coated in such a short window before the show.” The colour Sebastian settled on was RAL 7037, and the car was painted two weeks before the show – and there were still loads more custom parts made afterwards.

“But it made it to Elmia… Just. It wasn’t technically ‘finished’ but it looked complete and went down well. I don’t think we’d have ever got it finished if we didn’t sign up for the show,” smiles Sebastian.

But don’t think that because it made the show it means an end to Sebastian’s tinkering.

“There’s a few things I’d like to redo to get it perfect,” he says, “I’m not entirely happy with the panel gaps because we were in a hurry to get the car painted – plus it is a race car. But I will still update it. I’d also like to move the engine back about 200mm to get it closer to the centre of the car – current weight distribution is about 50/50, but I’d like to see all the weight within the front and rear axles for optimum performance.”

The Escort might even be for sale – but you’ll need to be quick, because Sebastian will soon have other ideas, and this Escort might be on its way to another state of evolution.

Tech Spec: M3-Powered Ford Escort Mk2

Engine:

2467cc BMW S14B25 EVO3 four-cylinder, Köhler Racing dry sump with custom oil pan and tank, Schrick camshafts, Wössner pistons, custom throttles (modified M5 S38B38), DTM carbon inlet manifold, 3D-printed air filter housing, stainless steel custom four-into-two exhaust system with twin Yoshimura silencers,  Mishimoto rear-mounted radiators,  Nuke Performance competition fuel cell, Motec M84 ECU, Motec PDM 15 (controls all electrics, fuel pumps, wipers, lights, fan, water pump and starter), AIM dash (Motec PDM and ECU is linked via CAN-Bus) with all functions controlled from steering wheel

Power:

300bhp at 7400rpm, 236lb.ft

Transmission:

BMW/ZF S5D five-speed dog ’box from GearMotive, Tenaci twin-plate clutch and custom flywheel, Volvo 1031 rear axle (from 740) with Eaton Truetrac limited-slip diff

Suspension:

Custom space frame front with Nissan S-platform geometry settings, custom rear space frame (housing rear axle, radiator, oil tank, breather tanks, Watts linkage, fuel tank, and electric water pump), custom KW competition-spec two-way coilovers with external reservoirs, adjustable custom anti-roll bars (front and rear)

Brakes:

Front: custom K-Sport brake kit comprising 286mm discs and six-pot callipers; rear: custom K-Sport brake kit comprising 286mm discs and four-pot callipers (286mm discs used to work with 15in wheels)

Wheels & Tyres:

Set one: Compomotive CX split-rims, 11x15in with ET0 (front) and 13x15in with ET-50 (rear), with 10.7/21.5-15in (front) and 12.5/23.5-15in (rear) slick tyres. Set two: Japan Racing JR26 alloys, 10x17in with ET0 and Hankook 245/35R17 tyres (all round)

Exterior:

Heavily modified Mk2 Escort shell with custom tubular front and rear subframes, carbon fibre roof, bonnet and rear spoiler, one-piece fibreglass front end, one-piece fibreglass rear end, fibreglass doors, custom wide arches, custom-made hardened glass, chassis/frames powder-coated and body panels sprayed in matching RAL 7037 grey

Interior:

Fully stripped, full roll cage, Sparco Pro 2000 bucket seat, six-point harnesses, Momo steering wheel, aluminium interior panels (floor and door panels), removable transmission tunnel, removable rear firewall, custom pedal box, custom adjustable steering column, custom button surround for steering wheel, AIM MXP Strada dash display, billet GearMotive shifter, billet handbrake

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