Nissan Powered Mark 2 Escort is a Monster

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Fitted with a Nissan SR20 engine, this isn’t a Ford that will satisfy our purist readers but everyone will appreciate the love and attention that has gone into this stunning 10-year project which has resulted in a 410bhp monster of an Escort!

Owned by Banbridge’s Matthew Bell, this high-powered machine is an impressive piece of kit and for Escort fan Matthew, it is the realisation of a dream…

“I’ve always been a big fan of Escorts,” Bell told Pacenotes. “I remember my father taking me to the Circuit of Ireland when I was 10-years-old and since then, I always fancied an Escort.”

“A few years later, when I was 16, the two of us spotted one on eBay. It was just a standard 1300 Popular, which was taxed and MOT’d. We won the auction, picked it up in Sheffield and drove it home.”

That was back in 2005 and 16-year-old Matthew got straight to work. He had just started serving his time as a metal worker and proceeded to start stripping the car in preparation for its final build.

Escort SR20 image

“I spent the next 10 years building it,” Matthew admitted. “It was quite a slow process but the thing that took the most time was gathering the money up! I did most of the hard work myself but it also has the genius of my uncle, Adrian Bell, in the background. He helped with the wiring, built the current full-race engine and he mapped the car.”

He added: “I didn’t plan to build it into the spec that it is now but plans changed as time went on. I wanted a decent amount of power and initially I was thinking about having a Cossie engine. But my uncle Adrian is a GTR specialist and we came up with the idea of having a Nissan SR20 engine.”

The Escort initially had a standard SR20 engine but later Matthew opted to build a full race engine.

“The engine was built to Adrian’s specification and it has never given any bother, which is unheard of. He is very, very knowledgeable. He has built around 10 cars with more than 1000bhp. He’s a good man to have in the family and we get on well. If he advises you to do something with the car, you do it!”

The engine is mated to a GT3071r turbo and with an F-CON engine management system, it has an impressive 410bhp with 375lb ft of torque.

“It’s class!” Matthew enthused. “It handles the power so well!”

Rear of Escort SR20

The car’s specification gradually became “a bit more mad”, in Matthew’s words, over the years. It has full Group 4 suspension as well as Brembo 4-pot calipers on the front and Escort Cosworth calipers on the rear. The differential was built by Mark Smyth Motorsport, who also helped with the suspension, and the wide arches help with the clearance for the 15×9″ Minilite wheels.

“The only weak link in it at the moment is the Nissan Silvia gearbox,” Matthew admits. “I’d like to get a Samsonas sequential but I’m not sure that will be suitable for going on a scenic drive! I was speaking to Michael White at OMA who has a really powerful Subaru Legacy – he told me to think long and hard before I go down that route. And I don’t have anti-lag or launch control so that’s something worth thinking about too.”

Complete with a plethora of competition parts that include a ceramic competition clutch, harnesses, upright handbrake and even a Safety Devices welded-in roll cage, you would be forgiven for thinking that this is a state-of-the-art rally car. However, it has never been used in competition. At least, not yet…

“I haven’t done any competition or track days in it but I was thinking about trying some sprints,” Matthew revealed. “I’ve mainly used it at shows and going on drives. The car just won an award at Dubshed in Lisburn. I’d like to use it on race circuits but if I start that, it will be difficult to keep it in a show-worthy condition.”

“But I did build it to use it so we’ll see,” he added. “Maybe this year I’ll get a bit of time to do a sprint. It would need to be dry though… if it’s wet, 410bhp, rear-wheel-drive and no traction control would make it very difficult to handle!”

This is a serious piece of kit and we’d love to see it in action. Just take a closer look at the photographs and the full spec-list to appreciate the time, effort and money that has gone into this impressive build.

Escort SR20 engine



  • Full bare metal respray by Stephen Herron (exterior, interior and underside)
  • Fully seam-welded shell
  • Safety Devices weld-in roll cage
  • 15″ wheel tubs
  • 4 link boxes and turrets
  • Watts linkage brackets
  • Enlarged transmission and diff tunnel Inc. exhaust tunnel
  • Full shell strengthening kit
  • New wings, front panel, slam panel
  • 15″ tarmac Monte Carlo alloy arches and grp4 spoiler
  • RS1800 works boot spoiler


  • 1998cc Nissan SR20det 16 valve
  • Custom alloy sump
  • Balanced crank shaft
  • Lightweight competition clutches fly wheel
  • 5 puck ceramic competition clutch
  • ARP bolts and studs throughout
  • JE Forged pistons
  • Carrello forged rods
  • ACL bearings
  • Steel linered block
  • Port and polished head
  • Brian Crower titanium valves and springs
  • HKS stage 2 cams and Vernier adjustable pulleys
  • Tomei rocker stoppers
  • Honda k20 coil packs x4
  • Synapse custom tubular top mount manifold
  • Garret gt30 ball bearing turbo with tial v-band exhaust housing
  • 44mm tail external waste gate with custom stainless screamer pipe
  • Custom 304 stainless steel 3 inch v- band exhaust system
  • Light weight billet aluminium pulleys
  • Sard 800cc injectors
  • Custom fuel rail
  • GReddy intake manifold
  • Billet aluminium 60mm throttle body
  • Custom aluminium inter cooler pipe work
  • Adel Wiggins pipe joiners
  • Airtec intercooler and radiator with electric fans
  • Torques UK billet aluminium hose connectors and braided fuel lines


  • 5 speed Nissan Silvia manual gearbox
  • Autobahn 88 quick shift kit
  • Polyurethane gearbox mount
  • Custom single piece prop shaft
  • 57″ fully floating Grp4 atlas axle
  • Gripper LSD, Quaife half shafts


  • AP racing disks
  • Brembo 4-pot calipers
  • Escort Cosworth rear calipers
  • Hel performance braided hoses throughout
  • Montgomery Motorsport bias pedal box


  • Bilstein Grp4 front coilovers, 2.25″ springs, tarmac inserts
  • Rix engineering tension strut kit
  • In situ adjustable track control arms
  • 2 turn bronze bushed quick rack
  • Grp4 alloy hubs and bearings
  • Adjustable alloy top mounts
  • Bitstein Grp4 rear coilovers
  • Rix engineering rose jointed 4 link bars
  • Rix engineering watts linkage kit
  • Rix engineering anti roll bar

 Wheels and tyres

  • 15×9 Minilite graphite grey alloys x2
  • 15×8 Minilite graphite grey alloys x2
  • Toyo Proxes R888 tyres

Escort SR20 front seats


  • Cibie Super Oscar spotlamps x4 with alloy brackets
  • New h4 halogen headlamps
  • RS steel quarter bumpers
  • Grp4 tarmac mudflaps and brackets
  • Carbon fibre arch protectors
  • Kevlar splash shields


  • Flocked dash
  • Stack digital instruments
  • Montgomery Motorsport switch panel
  • Carbon fibre foot trays
  • Grp4 fabrication vertical handbrake
  • OMP steering wheel and boss
  • Electric power steering kit
  • TRS 6 point harnesses
  • Sparco Evo2 seats and alloy rails
  • Lifeline 2000 fire extinguisher kit (plumbed in)
  • Lifeline 1.75Litre handheld extinguisher
  • Carbon fibre door and quarter trims
  • Aircraft grade custom made wiring loom
  • Grp4 MSA approved battery storage box
  • Ralloy fuel tank and braces
  • Zircotec heat shield material throughout shell

About Author

Graham is a professional photographer and motoring writer with over 15 varied years of coverage from manufacturer press launches to international motorsport and rally events throughout the world. Graham is a full member of the Guild of Motoring Writers. See more at

RMS Forum Comments

NickR85 09:52 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Woodcutter 10:09 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Is this the car that was at one of the local indoor shows last year? Can't remember which one, possibly Dubshed or one of the ILB shows. Looks great. Chap I know has the SR20 engine in his AE86, absolute weapon!
David.S 10:18 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Any videos? Awesome build and result.
Eager 10:22 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Sr20 is a fantastic engine. Can’t wait to have something running one again
Stebo 10:55 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
I'd be good mates with Mathew. His mk2 is unreal. No expense spared, and many years of long hard hours worked, both at his car and working for others to gather up the funds for parts. If it needs it, it gets it - no expense spared. The driving sensation is unlike anything. The noise and the way it explodes you up the road is second only to the handling set up. The first time he took me for a run I thought he was trying to kill us the rate he threw it into the first corner, but the mk2 handles everything he could throw at it. Such a capable car. There couldn't be too many road-legal cars that would get up a twisty country road at the rate this thing does! It has completely ruined my comprehension of what a fast car is - many hours were spent contemplating westfields, atoms, etc. in an effort to recreate the feeling you get during a run in this motor!! @Graham did he take you for a run in it? Having been in some hot machinery I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how it compares?
Stu Beck 16:10 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Woodcutter 16:17 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
| Ruined.
How is it ruined? Would you rather have it as a standard 1300 Popular? :joy:
Stu Beck 16:27 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
| How is it ruined? Would you rather have it as a standard 1300 Popular? :joy:
Nope. Should be ford powered. That’s as bad as cheating on your girlfriend.
not2bright 16:48 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
Ford use volvo, pda engines etc and have badged mazda's as Ford so your point is?
Stu Beck 17:27 | Tue 24 Jul, 2018 | Report
| Ford use volvo, pda engines etc and have badged mazda's as Ford so your point is?
Your user name says it all. Lol

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