You would’ve had to have been living under an especially large, especially dense slab of rock to have been unaware of our latest project, a Mk1 Escort for the one and only Gordon Murray. Y’know, the genius engineer behind the Brabham ‘Fan Car,’ the McLaren MP4/4 and a little known supercar called the McLaren F1. We’ve been documenting the steady evolution of the build via a series of YouTube videos (all of which you can watch on our website, here) and have been blown away by both the interest and the support for the project, so thanks once again.
Anyway, this week has seen the Murray Mk1 take a small but significant journey, moving from the paint and metalwork side of Retropower to the assembly hall. It’s a clear sign that while plenty remains to be done before the Escort is ready to hand back to Gordon, it is at least well on the way to being a running, viable car once more. We therefore thought it opportune to take a look back at some of the key stages of the build to date.
It’s now that we can begin assembling, collecting and finalising the litany of specialist components which help this car stand out from all other Escorts, including bespoke Nitron uprights, brake setup, and perhaps most importantly of all, its Cosworth built Duratec. The latter will be built to the eponymous Northamptonshire legend’s own spec, with forged pistons and steel rods, and most impressively of all, the one-off, Murray specific plaque shown here. We can think of no finer way of Cosworth showing how much they appreciate all that Gordon has done for their company and the wider industry in which they operate. An icon? If anything that’s selling Gordon’s achievements short.
Engine and owner aside, the most notable single element of this particular Escort is its Independent Rear Suspension layout, and also among its most discussed features. Those of you who’ve watched the video series will already know that Gordon originally wanted to retain Ford’s live axle to preserve the fundamental handling traits of the Twin Cam Escort. This is all well and good, but this will be a dedicated road car and one used on a regular basis, throughout the year and across the UK’s pockmarked, pothole strewn road network, neither of which is ideal when ‘pressing on’ in a car with beam out back.
We, or rather Nat, have opted to devise a custom IRS setup instead, one inspired by Gordon’s own feedback and his admiration for the ‘Chapman strut’ type arrangement found at the back of the Lotus Elan E2. It’s a design not a million miles removed from the conventional MacPherson strut that’s largely become automotive industry standard over the course of the last 50 or so years, and one we feel will preserve much of the original Twin Cam’s character.
The interior is another complex aspect of this build, mainly as Gordon has requested any number of detailed alterations and personal touches. The most obvious example of this is the one-off dash, one distinct from the original by the sections of steel added at its lower edge and also its modified central binnacle. This was done for a variety of reasons, some practical, some merely aesthetic; we were keen to arrange the dials and heater controls in a more ergonomically efficient manner, an area commented upon by Gordon himself in the consultation phase preceding this project.
There was also a practical reason for making such sweeping alterations to one of the Escort’s standout interior features, one linked to Gordon’s height. His frame ensures that Gordon’s natural seating position is a fair old way from the wheel, somewhere South of the B-pillar, and seeing as we were never going to risk compromising this, we were instead forced to extend the steering column. Disguising this extension is that bit simpler with the extended dash.
Paint & Prep
Custom metalwork aside, it’s the paint and paint preparation process that’s accounted for much of the time spent on the Murray Mk1 up to this point, one begun by baking, then media blasting and etch priming. The shell was then media blasted yet again, then immediately zinc metal sprayed, epoxy primed and fully seam sealed. Other, subsequent stages have included an application of spray surfacer, and for the underbody, a coat of Raptor, tinted to match the eventual exterior colour.
The Escort’s shell has since been flattered back using an ever increasing grade of grit, culminating in an 800 grit sand post-epoxy prime. We were then cleared to apply the finishing touch, the addition of the car’s final coat of Ermine White. Now we’re clear to begin bolting parts back onto the shell.