Gordon Murray’s Cosworth Powered MK1 Escort Built by Retropower
Nestled behind an unassuming hedgerow just outside of Leicester, lives a workshop home to some of the most impressive restoration work in the UK.
Following the unveiling of the T50, the spotlight has very much been on GM for the last week or so, and for good reason too.
But that got me thinking, there’s no way that Murray drives a McLaren F1 to the shops, and since the prices starting approaching £20m, at all anymore - so what lives in his garage and what gets the most use?
For a man ultra-focused on weight, design and the feel of a “motorcar”, there are some obvious choices waiting in the driveway. A Lotus Elan here, a Hillman Imp there, the usual sort of thing - but there was one car in the collection that drew me in more than the others - a Cosworth powered MK1 Escort built by the guys at Retropower.
Built by Retropower
Owned by brothers Nat and Cal Seviour, Retropower isn’t your typical custom shop - it’s a whole other world of custom fabrication, design and engineering, transforming post-sell-by-date classics into true works of art.
Gordon Murray and some of the Retropower team with the Escort in question (Source: Retropower)
In the past, they’ve turned their very capable hands to everything from Opel Manta’s to Alfa Romeo Junior’s, but there’s one build that stands above the rest in terms of both client profile and end result - the Murray MK1 Escort.
Luckily for me, and for everyone else who loves meticulous attention to detail, engineering, fabrication and fast Ford’s, the team did a cracking job with the creation of a 16 episode strong YouTube series running through the build.
It’s in the hours of video content that normal folks like me can see the sheer amount of time and effort that goes into building a classic car to this unrivalled level of quality.
First impressions of the Murray MK1
On the surface, the car looks just like a regular MK1 Escort put together in a shed by a fella with the most organised Snap-On toolkit you’ve ever seen.
Gordon Murray peering into the heart of the beast with a smile (Source: Retropower)
Gordon himself wanted the car to be subtle to look at, to hint at something special in the package of almost standard Twin Cam. Start breaking it down and there’s a whole lot more than originally meets the eye, it’s like picking up James and the Giant Peach only to find the pages of Da Vinci Code hiding inside.
What you get in return is that iconic MK1 silhouette, only dressed for dinner to meet it’s girlfriends parents. There’s a carbon fibre bonnet and boot lid and, if you take a look at the back, a pair of slots offering the tiniest of hot-rodding details.
Naturally, there’s more metalwork completed on the car than the average mind could begin to comprehend, but you’d never be able to tell. It’s subtle, it’s elegant and it sits just right on a set of gorgeous chrome hubcaps.
But aside from the impeccable bodywork and decadent design, it’s the details beneath the body panels and the engineering offered that keeps the Retropower boys in business.
Poking your head underneath
It should go without saying that the underside of the Escort is just as impressive as when the car’s the right way up.
The immaculate underside showing off custom suspension among other clever bits of kit (Source: Retropower)
The levels that Retropower go to to create a truly special driving experience are incredible and, in this case in particular, involved custom Nitron coilovers developed for the car itself, AP four-pot brakes and custom bushings. There’s a Frankenstein of parts that meet the rest of the family with Mk1 Focus RS CV joints, Mk1 Mondeo hubs and Land Rover Freelander uprights and bearings. It’s an eclectic mix for sure, but it’s one that undoubtedly works.
I can’t imagine showing off your suspension design to the Grandfather of the damper is anything short of terrifying, but the goal of a perfect balance between comfort and handling poise is one that has well and truly been met.
If it’s good enough for Gordon, it’s surely good enough for anyone!
Those three magic words - Powered by Cosworth
Powering an old fast Ford can come from one place and one place only and, thanks to Murray’s close connections, Cosworth were more than happy to oblige.
A one-off Cosworth 2.3 Duratec compelte with a set of ITBs for a special kind of feel (Source: Retropower)
A completely one-off, personalised 2.3 Duratec mated to a six-speed box from an MX5, of all things, was beautifully finished and fitted into the subtle shell. With power poking around the 250bhp mark, there’s more than enough on tap for the lightweight driving experience, especially with the focus on road driving.
Throw in a set of ITBs and you’ve got a recipe boasting razor-sharp throttle response and bags of character - it’s an unbeatable setup that I’m truly jealous of.
What’s it like to sit in?
Making our way into the interior of the 70’s icon and Ford nerds will immediately notice some subtle and some not-so-subtle alterations to the cabin.
Custom gauges fitted to the newly fabricated dashboard (Source: Retropower)
First of all, it’s the seats - namely the lack of the rear ones. Murray is a tall guy, around 6’4” and the size of the Escort just isn’t all that roomy, especially when there’s a rear bench designed to haul children around in the back. So, to allow for them long legs to slot comfortably against the pedals, a dedicated luggage section was fabricated in replacement of rear passengers.
Once you’ve stopped yourself from gawking at the rear seating solution, a restored focus towards the business-end of the interior shows off a custom fabricated dashboard and bespoke anodised aluminium panels to compliment the gauges. A quad set of aircon vents sourced from an Audi A3 keeps the Escort comfortable in all weather and a thin-rimmed Momo steering wheel is used to pilot the car.
I’m a firm believer that only the most special cars have an interior that you just want to spend time in and I can’t think of a better place to sit than in Gordon Murray’s Escort - if he miraculously lets me, of course.
For a guy like Gordon to entrust an independent restoration company to build a fully bespoke classic from the ground up is always going to be a story worth telling.
Celebrating 50 years of the DFV and Gordon Murray's first win in the Brabham (Source: Retropower)
The fact that the guys at Retropower did such an incredible job is a testament to their craft and the care that each member of the team puts into every build. There’s a lot more expecting to be rolling out of the doors of Retropower in the coming weeks, months and years, and I for one am incredibly excited to see the progress on the builds.
They really a company, and by extension offer the cars, that truly showcase the best of Britain.