Guy ‘Guido’ Allen

WE’VE BEEN a little slow to get on to this, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because the hoopla of the local classic car scene is wrapped up in big family eights and sixes. We love them.

But here’s an observation: when our workshop bloke and all-round nutter Morley bought a two-litre ‘Esky’ a few years ago, and brought it to a car show, people were all over it like a rash. Not because it was a minter – it wasn’t – but they loved it.

Part of it is cultural. We forget how many people started their driving careers in an Escort, and how many more lusted after them. And there’s the motor racing history, which is huge. Particularly rallying. Dial ‘Ford Escort rally’ into a search engine, and you’ll be treated to decades of nutters caning these cars to within an inch of their lives.

My best-remembered proponent of the Escort will be someone you’ll never have heard of. It was back in the early 1980s and I worked with a bloke called Avery Spackman – instantly nicknamed Budgie – who had bought a 2.0-litre Mk2. New. He drove the wheels off the damned thing and it was often a test of nerve just to hang on in the passenger seat and see how things would turn out.

Surprisingly, we all lived.

At the time I was amused, but didn’t quite get it. Decades later, after watching Morley’s adventures, and meeting a host of like-minded Escort nutters, I now do. Maybe.

It brought back decades-old flashes of borrowing a Mk1 1600 manual and having a ball with the thing.

For me, the turning point was the Sunday morning before we put this magazine to bed. Meeting Gareth and Peter, both serial offenders, highlighted how much fun they were having.

Yes, they put serious effort and sometimes money into the cars. But they had this refreshing attitude that it’s another Escort – you can have more than one, apparently – and you get better at it after you’ve owned a string of them.

For them, it wasn’t about building up one pristine treasure that they had to fiercely protect with their lives.

It was more loose. Build up a good car, hang on to that, then build another, using the lessons from the first. Then a third. That way, you have at least a couple you’re prepared to take out for a run and enjoy.

None of them need cost a fortune – you’re not trapped in that Aussie classic mindset that says you can’t risk a squillion dollar investment.

Quite the opposite. Gareth and Peter were both fresh back from a challenging 2000km club rally which had some ‘war’ stories. Such as the night they pulled off and replaced the head of a participant’s car, and had it running better.

Just at the moment, I have my hands full with a new project car that will take six months or more to get right.

But when I get that sorted, I can see an Esky in my future…