Northampton Graffiti

In the ‘dare to be different’ stakes, you can’t get more different than ‘totally unique,’ especially when you end up with an unmistakable classic that’s still daily-driver practical. Never mind American Graffiti; here’s…
Words: Dave Smith, photography: Darren Skidmore

There’s definitely an ‘estate car’ theme running through this issue, and there’s only one thing to say – estates are now, officially, cool. Many of them already were, but it’s now official. It’s been embossed with the Street Machine Seal of Cool. It’s especially true of something like this little fella, because in the Fifties, most estate cars were expensive coachbuilt conversions of big saloons; this 100E owes more to the van than the saloon, and was about as luxuriously equipped as an outside lavatory.

These early family-carrying load-luggers were pretty popular. You had the Squire, based on the Prefect, which was slightly less spartan and even had some stick-on wood trim on the flanks in some cases, then you had the Escort, which was based on the Anglia and took a Ryanair approach – “You’ve got a seat, what more do you want?”
This characterful conveyance here is an Escort of 1957 vintage, and belongs to Martin ‘Jacko’ Jackson from Northampton. You can argue amongst yourselves about whether it deserves to be in the Rat Pack section of the mag; I’ve only put it here because its finish is so far away from the £20,000 lacquered perfection paint job category. Well, who wants to follow the herd? That just leaves you staring at cows’ arses all day.

“I’ve had loads of rods and customs over the years, and I’ve always loved 100Es,” says Jacko. Back in 2010 I had a Moggy Minor which got written off on the way to Ipswich. The insurance paid out on it, and then this came up for sale. I found it through Julian at Pop Parts Plus. It wasn’t that expensive, drivable, although not on the road, and had a solid floor, so I thought it’d be worth a punt. Someone had brush painted it at some point, with some really thick, sticky paint that took months to scrape off. Underneath, though, the body wasn’t too bad at all. The gutters around the rear of the body had rotted and come away, but Pete sorted it out. Pete’s the welder and mechanic of our little group of mates, and helped me out with anything I got stuck on. He still does!

“So, I’d stripped it right down to bare metal and was going to build it up really nice, but my mate said ‘Just get it on the road, drive it and enjoy it,’ so I just stuck a load of grey primer on it. Pete and I put a 2.0 Pinto together and dropped that in, but it ran for 15 minutes then seized solid. It seems I’d installed the oil pick-up pipe the wrong way round… We hauled it out and dropped in a 1.6 Pinto that we’d had kicking around, just to see what’d happen, and because we had a show to go to in Kings Lynn that weekend. That was three or four years ago; it’s been in there ever since!

“I got it graffitied purely because I couldn’t decide what colour I wanted it to be. Someone suggested graffiti, and I know a graffiti artist, so I asked and he suggested a local guy called Janno. I looked him up, and he came around, took a look and said he’d love to do it. I said it must have ‘100E’ on it somewhere, but otherwise he had free rein. I’d already masked it up, so I watched him start the job, then I went to work; I didn’t see the result until I got home! He charged me £400, which is cheap for a paint job, and I went over it with clearcoat.

“The body is all entirely as it left the factory, apart from those gutter repairs and a bit of the boot floor where I’ve relocated the battery. Inside are two leather buckets, I don’t know what they came from, possibly an MG. Pete lowered the seats by taking a section out of the frame – I’m a tall guy, and now my shoulders are level with the bottom of the window frame. It has a 105E back axle and Escort front struts and disc brakes, and it’s been lowered about three inches all round, at least. The exhaust used to bottom out over bumps, but I didn’t want to raise the car so I raised the exhaust instead. The wheels are banded 7.5” steels at the rear, and stock 4.5” steels at the front. It passed its last MoT needing just a couple of tyres. I always take it for an MoT, even though it doesn’t need one – if my son wants to take the car out, I’d like to know he’s coming back.

“It’s a driver. With just me in and no load, it handles like a go-kart. It’s lovely, but it’s rarely empty – it’s usually loaded with people and camping gear, going to shows. It gets a bit wallowy with a load on, but the old rear shockers have had it; I have a pair of adjustables to go on the back. The front and rear suspension will be coming out over winter for a rebuild, purely because there’s negative camber on one of the front wheels and it’s annoying me; I want to find out why! Also, on the way back from Old Warden this year, the 1.6 shat a core plug – I got to the top of my street before it packed up. I have a 2.0 in there now that drives, but it’s tired – the original 2.0 that I seized has been rebuilt with a hot cam, twin-40s and so on.

“It never got done the way I wanted it to be done, but I’m having way too much fun with it as it is. It caused quite a stir on the Ford 100E sites – some love it, some absolutely hate it! Now I don’t know whether to paint it properly, in burnt orange and black with some American four-spoke wheels I have, or perhaps get Janno back and let him have another go, just to see what comes out of his imagination. Or maybe just carry on using it? In a year or two, it might be nice and shiny, but I’m having way too much fun with it at the moment. If it gets me to a car show, parked up with a beer in my hand, then that’s what it’s all about…”

1957 Ford 100E Escort

  • Stock body
  • Ford 2.0 Pinto OHC engine (1.6 in photos)
  • Ford Type 9 five-speed transmission
  • Ford 105E Anglia rear axle
  • 7.5” banded steel rear wheels
  • Ford Escort front struts and disc brakes
  • Ford Anglia van electric wipers
  • Bucket seats, unknown source

Thanks to: “Thanks to Pete Graham, who does a lot of the work I can’t do. You need mates like Pete.”