“Can we make a model of your car?”

Imagine being asked that question by Scalextric! It happened to Andy Pipe back in 2019… and two years later, Scalextric models of his magnificent Ford Escort Mk1 are being added to collections and raced on slot car tracks around the world. I love it when slot car manufacturers pay tribute to the unsung heroes of grass-roots motorsport, producing 1:32 scale examples of the diverse and exciting machinery they race. I also reckon the Escort is the sharpest model in the 2021 Scalextric catalogue… Andy kindly chatted to me about his beloved Escort, the Modified Ford Series and how the Scalextric model came about. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a fascinating story.

Don’t forget you can buy your own Scalextric model of Andy’s car here: https://www.jadlamracingmodels.com/scalextric-slot-car-c4237-ford-escort-mk1-andy-pipe-racing/

Amazingly, Andy has been racing this Escort since 1992. As he told me “To coin a popular phrase, it’s Trigger’s Broom” – the same car, but most of it has changed. Growing up in East London, Andy bought a black RS2000 straight after he passed his driving test – the following week he had a prang and wrote it off. It has always been Escorts for Andy, so it was inevitable he’d end up racing one. He’d found a few Mk1 shells which turned out to be useless, but a stroke of luck hooked him up with the car that would be his pride and joy for the next thirty years. I’ll let Andy tell the story…

“My dad was driving past a scrapyard in Walthamstow one day and there was a Mk1 Escort just dumped outside. My dad went into the scrapyard and said to the bloke “do you want to sell that car?” Back then Escorts were two a penny and the bloke said “To be honest mate, two kids have just dumped it off and wanted to scrap it, but because they didn’t have the log books, I couldn’t take it.” So he said to my dad “If you come back tonight and take the car – and if I come in tomorrow and the car’s gone, I don’t give a monkey’s…”. So we went back that night and trailered it away – and that’s how I got it.”

The Escort was a bog-standard 1100cc production model, but was destined to become Andy’s race car. All the main structural components remain as manufactured by Ford. But a lot else has changed. Andy told me how the original racing version was built…

“I got friendly with another bloke called Ray Donner, who at the time was building race cars – and he built the car for me. The original engine and gearbox when I first started racing was a 1600 Crossflow, which was out of Ray’s road car. He built it over a year or so and he asked me what colour I wanted it – I said “black”. So, he painted it yellow – because there weren’t many yellow Escort race cars out there at the time.”

“1992 was my first season. I’d never done racing before – and I was absolutely crap at it. At the end of ‘92, a mate of mine was racing in the Falken Tyres Championship and had a chance of winning it. We decided to help him and put Ray Donner – who’d been racing in karts since he was a nipper – in my Escort. On that eventful day, Ray put it on its roof… He repaired it and repainted it and then over the years I got a little bit better, but then money ran out and my zest for racing sort of ran out as well.”

Andy put the Escort up for sale to pay the deposit on a house. It didn’t sell – the £5,000 asking price was conveniently too high to find a buyer. Things settled down in Andy’s life, he rediscovered his appetite for racing and started developing the car again. He got involved in an online community – Turbosport – where he met a group of like-minded enthusiasts…

“We upped the engine from 1600 to 1800, put fuel injection on it and then a fabricator I know who’s done a fair bit of work on the car – Gary Martin – he put something on the Turbosport forum to say I needed bigger wheels and tyres to go faster. This is the days before crowdfunding, but all the people on Turbosport clubbed together £1,000 to allow me to bubble arch it so I could use wider wheels and slicks.”

When Andy says “we”, he’s indicating that the Escort is very much part of the family. The car lives in a normal garage at the side of his dad’s house. Andy’s brother and sister help pay for the running costs and his stepson – now 26 – has become Andy’s trusted chief mechanic. None of them work in the motor trade, but they know what they’re doing.

“The Saturday before every race, I go down there and check the car over, check every nut and bolt, all the fluids and make sure it’s ready for the next weekend. My dad’s always tinkering on it because he’s retired. I’ll go down and it’s “oh, I’ve done this, I’ve done that…” – so he’s permanently in the garage.

“We’ve talked about selling it a couple of times, but it’s never going to happen now – it’s my legacy. My stepson Alex – the car’s going to him and then when he has kids, it’s going to them… if it’s still in one piece!”

So how did the all-yellow Escort become the stylish black, gold and cream creation that Scalextric have copied?

“I was doing a championship called the Quaife Modified Saloons, which was predominantly South East based. In my class – and I was in the lowest class – I was always the bridesmaid, never the bride. A good friend of mine, Graham Bahr said “I’ve got an offer you can’t refuse – I’m going to build you a Pinto engine. It’s going to be all-singing, all-dancing and all it’s going to cost you is the parts”.

“I couldn’t go wrong with that, so he built me the engine that’s in the car now – a 2.3 Pinto with a seven-speed sequential gearbox, fuel injection, dry sumps. We did really well with that, winning our class – and then back in November 2016, I was racing at Brands Hatch and we were on the support bill with the big racing trucks. It was slightly damp and they put all diesel and stuff on the floor. I’ve come out of a bend, put the power down too quickly, spun it and wiped off two or three of the corners of the car.

“Ray Donner, who originally built the car, he re-panelled the car for me. Because I’m an electrician, I do wiring on his cars and he does work for me – and all we do is charge for materials. Ray did everything – and I wanted it back painted yellow. Bear in mind this is the bloke who built the car for me all those years ago, he decides to paint it black – what I asked to do all those years ago. That’s the car you see now. I’m over the moon with it.”

When the brand new Modified Ford Series started to be planned, Andy was one of the first people to be contacted. However, his car wasn’t quite ready for the first few events. He took the nearly-finished Escort along to the 2019 Ford Power Live show at Brands Hatch and was standing next to it when something strange happened…

“Some bloke came up to me and said “Hello, I’m Simon from Scalextric – do you mind if we do a model of your car?” and I was like “what part of asking me that question don’t you understand?”. Of course I didn’t mind! And that was it. I didn’t think any more of it and then about six months later he got in contact with me asking for photos and I thought “he’s deadly serious now”. That’s basically how it came about – there was nothing from me, it was all from Simon.”

Andy had a Scalextric set when he was growing up – the banked figure-of-eight with the Walter Wolf cars – and made regular trips with his dad to a local toy shop to add track and other bits. Many years later, Andy bought his stepson the Richard Burns / Colin McRae rally set which saw plenty of use. So naturally, it was pretty exciting to have his Escort turned into a Scalextric car…

“To be honest, I am over the moon with it all. Being into cars and stuff, it’s an honour to have your car immortalised for ever and a day. I understand it’s a good seller. I joined a group on Facebook and I saw people posting pictures up of the car and saying “got this delivered today… got this delivered today” – so I took a little picture of my one sitting on the bonnet of the car with “Yeah, I got mine today – and I’ve got the real thing too!”.

It was brilliant to chat to Andy and find out more about the history of the car. A big thanks to him for letting us share the pictures – some of which are from a thread on the Turbosport site. Thanks also to Rafal Biniszewski (https://www.facebook.com/biniszewskiphoto) who took the dozens of fabulous photographs at Mallory Park and Donington earlier this year – and to Paul Nevill, who runs the Scalextric-sponsored Ford Modified Series.

Andy took his Escort Mk1 on a 600-mile round trip to race at Anglesey last Sunday. You can catch up with the coverage on the BRSCC TV YouTube Channel. Tragically, the Escort came away with a suspected cracked engine block. If that’s confirmed, it could keep Andy out of action when the series travels to Cadwell Park next weekend. Hopefully, he’ll be back for Silverstone and Oulton Park in August, Brands Hatch in September and Snetterton in October. Why not get along?

Don’t forget you can buy your own Scalextric model of Andy’s car here: https://www.jadlamracingmodels.com/scalextric-slot-car-c4237-ford-escort-mk1-andy-pipe-racing/

The Scalextric Escort will be getting a full Jadlam review next week. And I’ll be looking more at the Modified Ford Series here on the blog in a couple of weeks’ time, including setting up a race format for Scalextric ARC Pro and ARC Air.

By Andy Player

Andy has been a big Scalextric fan from a very early age. He now runs the Worthing HO Racing club, is on the editorial team of SlotRacer Online and is a regular contributor to Slot Car Magazine.

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