Crossflow Turbo Part 1 // Car History

Ford Escort Mk1
My 1974 Ford Escort Mk1 1.3 XL – Christmas day 2007.

Brief history

It gives me great pleasure when someone asks what car I drive, as my pride and joy happens to be a 1974 Ford Escort Mk1 in Daytona yellow.
I have owned the “Yellow Peril” since 2006. It was won at auction off eBay back when I was 16 from a nice chap in Birmingham. My dad was excited when he found out I wanted an old Ford as my first car, as he himself has been into them all his life. At least that was the case until he saw how expensive RWD Escorts had become over the years. That was the case at least until he saw how expensive RWD Escorts had become over the years. My mom, well she simply just wasn’t too keen on having another ‘banger’ on the drive.

As with most classic cars, when filling up at petrol stations you usually turn a few heads. More often than not you get chatting with the folk who come over to admire the car. These conversations 99% of the time go one of two ways. Either that; back in the day they themselves learn to drive in a Mk1 Escort (followed by a lot of reminiscing), or that there was once a time when you could go to any scrapyard and buy Mk1/Mk2 Escorts up for a penny a piece. If only RWD Escort owners of the late 80’s and 90’s knew how much of a cash cow their ‘old runarounds’ would become today, that they sure would of taken better care of them and held onto them for much longer than they did. That said, perhaps for future investments we should all be going out today and buying old Sierras and Mk1 Focus’s.

Ford Escort Mk1
Upgrades all complete, ready for the new year.

First car

It was my mom who first found the Escort listed on eBay. Back in late 2006, early one saturday morning I was suddenly awoken to the sound of my mobile ringing. I’d only managed to get in a few hours before and having crashed on my mates bedroom floor, I was still hungover as hell from a big night out. After scrambling round trying to find the phone, I answered, it was my mom. She had found a newly listed Mk1 on eBay that was local and that it looked in good condition. Me being me I just couldn’t wait to get home to arrange a viewing, that was until I found out the car was yellow.. After getting back home and reading the listing for myself, I reluctantly agreed to go view the car anyway as it was the only ‘complete’ Mk1 we had seen listed in a while that was within my price range.

So far, the Mk1 has steered me through college, undergrad uni, postgrad, and now even has accompanied me down to London for full time employment, Huzzah!.. cough’.. studentLoan.. crippling debt.. splutter.. In addition it has seen me through; numerous girlfriends, countless camping trips, too many late-night KFC runs, several relocations, and recently even had the honour of being a wedding car for a best mate.

It’s my first car and to this day still the daily driver (I’m now 25).

Ford Escort Mk1
How the bodywork looked in 2008, the same as when we first bought the car.

Initial upgrades

Upon purchase, the car was a stock 74′ 1.3 XL Automatic. It was in reasonable condition for its age and it drove well considering it was an old automatic, however it wasn’t long before my dad and I had future plans for the car circulating between us. My dad Barry is an ‘old school’ mechanic, he’s been in the trade over 40+ years and runs a garage back home in the west midlands. Back in 2006 the insurance for a young male driver who had recently passed their test was starting to get expensive. Luckily, this helped to narrow our focus on the upgrades that would only improve the overall reliability and practicality of the car without increasing it’s performance too much, which in turn helped control the spending and stopped us from facing a hefty insurance premium.

Ford Escort Mk1
Original Dunlop D1’s were a period addition.

The top item on our to-do list was to drop the automatic transmission and convert it to a manual. A suitable Type 2 four speed was sourced as the replacement box, along all the necessary bits to bolt on; manual pedal box, flywheel, clutch, clutch cable and ring gear (to fit pre-engaged starter type).

Ford Escort Mk1
Untouched stock interior.

Second on our list was to improve the brakes as the drum brakes were still used for both front and rear braking. The original front suspension struts were replaced with a set of Mk2 Escort struts; along with Gaz inserts, M16 callipers with solid discs. In addition, we also focused on adding features that you would typically find on any normal modern car. Christmas holiday 2007 mainly consisted of installing a remote central locking and alarm kit purchased from eBay. This was followed with adding a Sony head unit, front door speakers, rear parcel shelf 6×9’s and a 6 unit CD changer in the boot. January 2008, the car was taxed, MOT’d, insured and on the road!

Ford Escort Mk1
Took some rubbing to get that shine.
Ford Escort Mk1
Completely stock 1.3 Crossflow HC (high compression).
Ford Escort Mk1
Aesthetically, the car was left unchanged since purchase.

Crossflow Turbo // Budget booster preface


It’s a great feeling when ideas finally become reality. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of overseeing ideas that had been rattling around in my head for many years, come to final fruition. Back in 2009 was when the first ideas first began to circulate in my mind. I was in my first year of university when one day a friend who I’d met in Computer Science lectures introduces me to the concept of an open-source engine management system. That was when I was first found out about the MegaSquirt ECU. Apart from having a confusing product name, the MegaSquirt ECU truly is a mighty piece of kit. It wasn’t until 2011 that I actually got around to building one. Yeah it took me a while.. but sometimes these things do, and for something as complicated as soldering together your own ECU, a little patience isn’t going to hurt anyone. The only thing is, back then, little did I know that the ‘simple’ plan of converting my car to run EFI would lead me down the road to dabbling in the darks arts of forced induction, as well as unexpectedly discover the pain and suffering felt when a full body restoration is undertaken.

Ford Mk1 Escort Turbo
A true homebuilt hero

This multipart blog series is to document in great detail my story of retrofitting the MegaSquirt ECU into a crossflow’d Ford Mk1 Escort, tacked on with the many unplanned detours experienced along the way. That said, I don’t intend to write a step by step ‘installation guide’ for MegaSquirt. A lot of the engine work was completed years ago and I can’t recall all the exact steps taken. The issues tackled in this blog series aren’t easy ones, that’s why its taken me so long to do! Automotive manufactures during the 80’s/90’s faced the same issues, the only difference being they had whole teams of engineers and wads of cash to get the job done. So don’t expect anything other than a long ride.

MegaSquirt ECU
Built not bought

Depending on your background and areas of expertise, you may find some areas of the build easier to follow than others. For those of you know your bolts better than yours bytes, and know your way round a set of spanners you should be fine. However it would be beneficial to know a little about engine principles, automotive electronics and engine component design. For those who are a little more geeky and technical minded, I will also cover putting together the ECU and making it past your first firmware burn. Having a little knowledge on computer engineering and familiarity with CLI’s wouldn’t go amiss here.

I will do my best to try and write a new post every week or so, but work is always busy. Thankfully for you readers, the hard part of building the car is already done and I just need to find time to do a huge mind dump and get everything wrote down. Ideally each post will be focused primarily on one topic, however due to the lengthy time-span of the build some crosstalk is bound to happen, as well as reasons for design change decisions.

For those who a little more impatient and just want to see the end result, a summarised story of the build was recently featured in Septembers (2014) issue of Classic Ford magazine here in the UK.

Mk1 Escort Turbo
The car made it to the front cover!

On a final note, I hope you enjoy reading about my car build as much as I did putting it all together.

Your (constructive) comments and questions are of course most welcome.
Either leave me a comment, fire an email, or send a tweet @bytesandbolts.