A Cossie YB powering the front wheels! That’s not right! Surely! But why not? Yes, undoubtedly there will be those who disapprove, but when you sit down and actually think about it everything makes perfect sense. What’s the alternative? A tappety old CVH that was out of date when it was new? Or a Zetec Turbo – an engine that was never designed to be turbocharged in the first place?

Of course, both of those engines can be made to be incredible powerplants – equally as powerful, if not more so, than a tuned YB. But they do somewhat lack the kudos that a YB brings. There’s something special about lifting the bonnet and seeing the word ‘Cosworth’ stamped on top of your engine.

But why go to all this trouble in a van? Well we’ll have to ask the man who built it answer that one – enter Wayne Muscat. “It runs in the family, I guess. My dad had a Mk3 Escort van when I was younger, and I’ve always like the Mk5s” explains Wayne. When Wayne turned 18, and as soon as he got his license, he went out and bought this one.

Living in Malta meant finding an Escort van was a slightly more challenging task than it would be over here in the UK, but it also meant he got a better base for what he had planned too. This van, for example, was pin-straight, completely rot-free, and in overall fantastic condition – how many ex-BT vans in the UK can boast that? Not many.

Originally Wayne planned nothing more than dropping the ride height, bolting on a decent a set of wheels, and adding a turbo to the asthmatic 1.8-litre diesel motor. But when he realised just how clean the van was, the plans soon changed. “At first I was going to fit an RS Turbo engine, but before I started with that conversion I thought about the idea of fitting a Cossie YB. I thought the RS Turbo engine was a little bit too old, has little horsepower, and is still quite expensive. So I decided the Cosworth engine would be better.”

Wayne knew it could be done, as a mate of his was already driving around in a FWD, YB-powered Escort Mk5. So the search for a Cossie motor began. “I bought all the engine parts from here in Malta, but the block came from the UK,” remembers Wayne, “then I built the engine myself from all the parts.”

Then it was a case of getting it all to fit and work in the Mk5 Escort engine bay. Things are tight – take a look at how close the inlet plenum is to the slam panel – but it does all just about squeeze in without any real modification. A custom engine mount is used to support the front end of the engine, while the other end is simply bolted up to an MTX75 transmission. This coupled with Mk5 RS2000 hubs and driveshafts means the whole thing slots together quite neatly. A custom intercooler is also tucked in front of the radiator to ensure the YB is fed with refreshingly cool air – although the pipework needed to connect it all did take some figuring out.

Wayne then turned his attention to the brakes and suspension. Fitting a 250bhp YB under the bonnet may provide plenty of fun and games, but asking standard springs and dampers and the tiny original 1.8 van brakes to keep everything in check was kind of like asking Bernard Matthews to look after your turkey – a bit stupid! So a full set of Gaz coilovers sort the ride height and sufficiently stiffen things up to keep the van facing the way it’s supposed to, and a pair of front stoppers from the Mk5 RS2000 coupled with grooved discs and Green Stuff pads reign it back in again when you stamp on the middle pedal.

With the van now sorted as far as the mechanicals were concerned, Wayne wanted to do something about the way it looked. There’s no point in having just done all that hard work for passers by to think the van is nothing more than a humble load-lugger. So, Wayne set about beefing up the looks of his van. Each panel was checked to ensure its straightness, and the whole car rubbed down and primed ready for it’s new top coat. A full Illusion bodykit, including front bumper, grille, sideskirts, and rear bumper was soon added to give the once standard van and healthy dose of aggression. A genuine Escort Cosworth bonnet complete with vents was the final cosmetic addition before the whole van could be given its new paintjob. And what colour – well it had to be a genuine Escort Cosworth colour to complement the  styling upgrades, so Wayne opted for his favourite of all EsCos colours, Ash Black.

With several coats of Ash Black giving a deep glossy sheen, Wayne offered up numerous sets of wheels to see which ones worked best with the new paintwork. They say the old ‘uns are the best ‘uns, and that certainly rang true here, as after lots of alternatives Wayne kept finding himself drawn to the 17inch diamond-cut RS seven-spokes. “They stand out against the paintwork perfectly,” he grins. With the exterior makeover complete, and nobody able to confuse his show-stopping Cossie’d Escort van with a builder’s daily hack, Wayne could turn his attention to the interior.

Being a van, there’s significantly less interior than that of a car, but that hasn’t meant it’s escaped Wayne’s attention. A pair of supportive aftermarket buckets replace the stock seats, while an Escort Cosworth banana pod has been cleverly grafted to the original van dashboard to house the volt meter, oil pressure gauge, and boost gauge that will be familiar to Escort Cosworth owners. In the back, a simple carpet retrim replaces the old wooden panelling, and a pair of 6x9s powered by a small amp supply the tunes.

The interior refit marked the completion of this van’s transformation from dirty old hauler to rapid show stunner. Wayne uses the van to attend shows and events, but don’t think it’s pampered  – it gets used hard! So much so that Wayne has already become acclimatised to the 250bhp the Stage 1-spec YB is pumping out, he is already looking at a set of grey injectors and a suitable chip to take the power well over the 350bhp mark!

And that’s the beauty of fitting the Cossie motor in the first place – there are so many performance parts available, you just bolt them on, whack in a suitable chip, and the power goes up! And people say fitting the YB was a bad, yeah right.


Tech Spec

1993cc Standard Escort Cosworth ‘YBT’ engine, Garrett T34 turbo, P8 ECU, standard injectors, modified exhaust system including custom downpipe, custom front-mount intercooler, custom intercooler pipework, Stage 1 chip, aftermarket fuel pump.

250bhp (est)
250 lb.ft (est)

MTX75 gearbox, uprated clutch and Cosworth flywheel, Mk5 Escort RS2000 front hubs and driveshafts

Gaz coilovers all round, polybushes throughout

Front: Mk5 Escort RS2000 front calipers with EBC grooved discs and Green Stuff uprated pads
Rears: Standard Escort van rear drums

Wheels and Tyres:
Diamond-cut 17inch RS 7-spokes, with 205/40×17 Toyo tyres

Aftermarket bucket seats, modified Escort van dashboard to include Escort Cosworth banana pod, A-pillar mounted shift light, Escort Cosworth steering wheel

Full respray in Ash Black, Escort Cosworth bonnet with vents, Escort Cosworth headlamps, Illusion bodykit including Cosworth-style front and rear bumpers, front grille, and sideskirts

My brother Warren Ian, Luke and George, Joe (Ginger), and my girlfriend Angelle for all their help and support


This feature first appeared in the December 2013 issue.

Can’t get to the shops? You can have the issue delivered direct to you door! 

For the very best deals subscribe & save! 

Or get the next 3x issues for just Ј9.99! (no strings attached offer!)