After messing around with my Legacy and pushing it as far as my insurance company would let me, I decided I needed a new project.


During my days a Car Hack (aka an ‘Automotive Journalist’), one particular project stuck in my mind. A garage who were successful enough to have their own rally team had purchased a MkII Escort. Full Mexico rally spec, panhard rod and Gaz shocks - nothing out of the ordinary. What was different, however, was the powerplant. Rather than the usual Pinto spec boat anchor of an engine, in the sizeable engine bay sat a 13b rotary from an RX7 FC.


Rotary Powered Mk2 Ford Escort

ABOVE: I think this was the car I did a feature piece on...I mean I partied a lot during those years but you'd think I'd remember.



I remember being quite surprised by the fact there was next to nothing else in there alongside the tiny lump. Sitting low down in the bay, there were a handful of wires connected up to an Omex or a Megasquirt setup (I can’t remember). The stock manifold and intake ports had been discarded, and instead two fat steel pipes connected two massive throttle bodies to a peripheral port setup – ports directly through the wall of the engine housing rather than the smaller regular side entry ports.



The car idled like shit. At low revs it was borderline undriveable, but once it hit 4000rpm it took off like a missile. It dyno’d at around 270-280 bhp, completely naturally aspirated and running stock 99 RON pump fuel. I was hooked.


The team (whose name still eludes me) were astounded at the advantages it gave them in rallying. Having that smaller displacement allowed them to compete with other 1300 rally cars – only with about 100bhp more. Similarly the lighter front end and lower centre of gravity significantly reduced understeer, allowing the driver to keep the front end on point whilst sliding round tighter corners.


Since then, I’ve always wanted something rotary powered. I know they’re a technological dead end until a suitable indestructible material has been invented to make those devil apex tips and housing coatings out of, but I don’t care. I never wanted this project to be about practicality. I wanted this project to be about making a balls-to-the-wall B-road missile, something which would embarrass a Scooby in a straight line and upset a Boxster on the country drive to the hairdressers we both worked at.


For years I’ve perused eBay looking at cripplingly expensive RX-7s, something I still hope to own before combustion engines are eventually outlawed or they’re all even bigger rustbuckets than they already are. But that’s a different story. As I’ve become more involved with the RX7’s shorter, scrappier younger brother (that's the MX5 FYI), it makes perfect sense, both in its sleeper potential (very few MX5s are particularly quick in a straight line), but more importantly the chassis and driveline make it a perfect match.


I know it’s been done, I know there are cheaper ways to make an MX5 go just as fast, but for now the plan is:

-          13b Naturally Aspirated

-          Bridge ported + polished

-          Independent Throttle Bodies

-          MS2 or MS3, depending on the bank

-          Probably a custom manifold setup

-          Custom Exhaust 

Watch this space. 

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