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Anyone with a rally car knows that a quick fix invariably turns into a lengthy process where often nothing seems to go right, and so was the case with our Ford Escort. As explained in Part 1 of our story, large holes in the floor of the car had been discovered after hitting a couple of big rocks in a rallysprint, so the decision was made to fix them properly, rather than rushing the job. With that in mind, the interior of the car was stripped back to bare bones, and I commandeered good mate, Ged Blum, to do his stuff with an angle grinder, a few sheets of steel, and a welder. A few sweaty hours followed as Ged did his stuff, cutting and grinding and nearly setting my my father in-law’s back paddock on fire and burning down the adjacent neighbourhood! (Note to the kids reading: don’t grind outside on a hot summer day!)

Cutting and welding were all part of the job of resurrecting the Escort's floorpan.

Before long the floor of the car was looking flat and solid once more, and with a quick spray of anti-rust paint, it was ready for another coat of yellow. Our thoughts of getting the car back on the road had taken another step back, however. The rear main oil seal on the engine had been leaking very slightly over recent times, and now seemed like the ideal time to get that fixed – and a weeping seal on the gearbox.

All minor holes in the floor were repaired after 41 years of life.

So, while we were going, we whipped out the engine and mechanic Steve Roman set to it. It’s funny, though, how a job can escalate the more you delve into it. “While we’re this far advanced, why don’t we give the body work a spruce up and give the old girl a coat of jam,” we pondered. Little did we know, but this was the beginning of the next 12 months, when the car sat – often for long periods – waiting for others to finish the next phase of our project.

We took the chance to repair some engine oil leaks while the project continued.

Nevertheless, for now it was our turn, and we began the long and onerous task of removing the car’s signwriting, some of which was vinyl, some of which was paint. It seems that nothing sticks like vinyl wrap that’s been on a rally car for 20 years. Heat guns, hair dryers, Stanley knives, paint strippers – we tried them all. Many hours later we were back to what we thought was close to a blank canvas, before the car was shipped to a young guy in our local car club who had done a bit of body and paint work on his own car. We knew this wasn’t going to give us a panel shop finish, but we were keen to give him a go, thinking that a decent job might then lead him to further work with other rally cars in the area.

Matt Whitten gets to work stripping the body of vinyl wrap.

Years of gravel roads and stone blasting takes its toll on a body shell.

Months later, and with our own deadlines creeping up again, we were forced to collect the car again. It was far from finished, and as it turned out, not even close, but at this stage we were struggling to see light at the end of the tunnel. The interior of the car had been painted, but the outside was still largely untouched. Some body work had been done and parts of it were in undercoat, but there was still lots to be done. With the car loaded on to the trailer once more, we then took it upon ourselves to finish the job as best as our unskilled hands could, before getting it ready for the next phase of ‘Project Escort’. That was to involve wrapping, unwrapping, prepping and painting – but that can wait until Part 3.

Read Part 1 here:

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