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Roger Clark's 1968 Coupe des Alpes Rally works Escort AVX 574G

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#1 tomtom

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Posted 17 May 2009 - 11:48

I have just joined this web forum site having read a small entry in another thread and after many months of searching on this subject I arrive at the point – it’s a start at least.

My enquiry relates to the 1968 Coupe des Alpes 'Works' Ford Escort AVX574G - Can anyone help ? As I said, I was searching the web to see if there was any mention of the car that appeared on ebay last year and in doing this I came across a forum that made note of it. I saw the car in the early hours of the morning that it appeared on ebay and emailed the seller. I also thought that it could be a hoax, but after receiving an email reply and later calling the lady that was selling it, I felt that it was genuine and so I travelled there to see the car in person. For me the car was not the only interesting thing here – but the engines, particularly the FVA were and still are of great interest to me. I don’t think that it would be a pity to separate the car from the FVA engine, because the normal twin-cam would still be the better companion to that car – in my mind.

When I arrived to Helsinki I took a train to a place near lapeenranta and there I was met by a lady (in her early 30’s I’d say), with her boyfriend who took me to the garaged area near a block of communistic looking apartments and despite my nerves and scepticism and despite the old metal door nearly knocking my teeth out as it broke away from its runners, there before me was the car. I think that the cars photo in the advert had been worked on with some image editing programme, because on 1st sight it was clear that the car was not so good as it appeared – and not how the main photo led me to believe! The panels were not at all clean and there were many dents and rusty patches showing through the white paint. As for the location of the photo – it’s difficult to tell and I didn’t want to push her too hard on that subject without taking this opportunity to view the car. When I did later ask her about this, she said that the photos where taken with her phone and not so good quality and that she had a friend clean up the photo for her to make it more presentable in an advert.…..hmmm…. I think that in reality that she didn’t have many other photos of the car and the reason why I never received any more photos, was because it would have been a nightmare for anyone to have gone through the process of “tarting up” all the every other photos that she claimed to have in order for them to look like the one in front of the red wood house in some idyllic country setting ! Enough said…. She also wasn’t happy for me to take photos. Anyway – I didn’t want to embarrass her, it was freezing there and I was glad that they had agreed to meet me in reality. From what I can gather she was getting a boat crossing back to Estonia the next morning, so I was just in time for this viewing.

Well, I was still not sure about this car and had a good look around it. And without wanting to sound too disparaging, these were my findings:

The good news was that the chassis plate was most definitely genuine and appeared exactly as it did in the photo on ebay and the number was the same as recorded on the original old log book that she was in possession of. I can’t remember all the detail there, but the book was definitely original and without any joints in the pages and the date stamps were all as one would expect. So, this much was promising.
Continuing my examination of the engine bay, the engine that was installed was a slightly tired looking FVA Cosworth (the most important part for me) but I couldn’t see too well what the gearbox was – I wish I’d taken extra batteries with my torch! we live and learn !! The remainder of the car was pretty much as described and after about 10 minutes of rooting through boxes and crawling around the car I really did feel like I was in an Aladdin’s cave. This was not a car that could have been fabricated or dreamt up – and without being disrespectful, these were certainly not the people who would have had the aptitude or ability to have done this. However - what was disappointing about the car was the condition of the bodywork and structure of the shell in general. In the description it was claimed that the car was all steel, but they failed to mention that the bodywork was plastered with body filler and glass fibre sections. I guess, to their defence they might not have been aware of this and the young lady who the car actually belonged to would not have know what her Father had done to it in the past. (Incidentally, she gave me some very interesting information about how her Father acquired the car and this tallied with the documents they had for it – but I won’t submit this to this forum just yet.) Inside the car was evidence of filler in the floors and the sills and other horrors…. and in reality it was very obvious that the car had been subjected to damp and not dry storage and that the shell was pretty smashed about on the underside. I actually don’t remember seeing a car that had so much body filler applied to it…. Also the roof skin had lost its tension.

The boot space was however largely as described, but not mentioning that the boot floor was like a vintage colander! However the fuel tank appeared good and the rest of the items that were described were present except that the fuel pumps had been bypassed and there was a rather ugly tube plumbed in that linked to a more modern fuel pump situated under the bonnet. The interior was pretty much as I imagined, all the various pipes, oil, fuel, electrical, brakes etc ran inside the car to the engine bay (not sure if that was an original feature or a later modification) The gauges were all present but not as gleaming as I had imagined from the description. Seats were bucket type but not original and my guess from the mid to late 70’s. The consol holding the navigators equipment was not as I thought it would have been (as on the later rally cars) and looked more amateur in construction, though probably functional. All the instruments were connected correctly including the Halda ‘s which was driven by the L/H front wheel, the cable clearly visible.

The engine would not start – the battery was new, but simply wouldn’t turn the engine fast enough and none of us had any jump leads. It did however turn freely and without any horrible noises and indeed it fired a couple of times but it was just not going to light up for me. Pity – but what the heck I thought, the FVA engine that was complete and not seized was enough for me – whatever the condition of the reast of the car. I was not there more that an hour and slightly pressured with time due to another person from Finland arriving to view the car, but I think there was another English guy who went to view it – and this is where I want some help. I made a very respectful offer for the car and even waved a bundle of cash in euros as a deposit, but they thought it better to let the auction run to the end. On my return train journey to Helsinki, I discovered via a text message from my girlfrind, that the ebay listing for the car had ended and my heart frankly sank to the deepest pit. I called the lady who I have met with and she was unaware of it – but I didn’t believe her. I was convinced that the following viewers (possible the guy from the UK) had struck a deal and that she had ended the auction.

I contacted ebay and paypal to try to get some information. They were unable to offer much help, save for saying that in the interest of safety they had temporarily suspended that account. Then I was again in contact with the seller who said that the checks on her ebay ID and on the car had been successful and that her account was again active but the terrible news for me was to learn that she had “due to the actions of ebay” decided to sell the car to a UK buyer. She had promised to forward my number onto the person who bought it and said that she had offered the same to a company called ( vegantune) also in the UK. I have yet to get in contact with this company to see if they have had the info yet, but I have not had anything back from her myself.

It’s highly frustrating to have made such an effort and then for this situation to have arisen. I hope that there can be some feedback here from anyone who can glean any more info about who the buyer was. Maybe if it’s only the car with the twin cam engine that he wants, then the FVA engine could still be available? Its not easy to find such and engine and one that was totally complete and turning, but also there were other useful spares etc. I’d even be interested in the whole project if the buyer should change his mind about the project…..who knows what the financial crisis can do to the most avid enthusiasts…..

Look forward to any feedback.