Supercharged Holden 253-powered 1974 Ford Escort Mark I – TUF253

Getting this Ford/Holden hybrid to MotorEx was a race against time for Shannon Heraud

Photographers: Chris Thorogood

This article on Shannon’s Escort was originally published in the August 2018 issue of Street Machine magazine

FIRST, let’s address the green elephant in the room; why is there a Holden two-tickety-three in this Ford product? There’s been plenty of discussion on the socials, so it’s best we get it out the way.

“I fell into 253s, really,” says Shannon Heraud, owner of this phat combo that drew big crowds at Meguiar’s MotorEx 2018. “When I first started skidding, I ran an NA 253 in my Torana, then I picked up another for basically nothing.”

An apprenticeship and a United Diesel Nissan blower later, Shannon was dropping burnouts with the best of them. “It always did well and people liked it,” he says of his trusty thongslapper, “so we just kept going with it.”

The Escort’s RS1600 guards were created for homologation purposes, allowing big rubber up under the Cosworth-powered RS1600 race special. The Mexico came later, named for the Escort’s win in the gruelling 1970 London-Mexico World Cup Rally. It lacked the guards and twin-cam engine, but picked up a cool stripe package. Shannon hasn’t exactly built a faithful replica of either version here, so why not have both?

Shannon was never tempted to just chuck an LS in it like so many of his burnout brethren – too obvious – though with his brother Brenton he does have an orange TA22 Celica running an LS. “It’s called SOLD OUT because I put an LS1 in it and sold out,” he laughs. “It’s got similar power to the 253, but it’s just not the same.”

The Escort is set up with coil-overs all ’round, because it won’t be a burnout rig forever. “We might use it for sprints or circuit racing one day,” Shannon says. “I’ve got an alloy-headed, 350hp ex-racing hydroplane 253 lying around; I might put that in there with a five-speed”

Actually, almost nothing on this Escort conforms to current burnout or street machining norms, and that’s just how Shannon likes it. “We wanted something totally different, built to our tastes while trying to keep the budget relatively tight,” he says.

Forging your own path seldom results in a cheap project, but Shannon and his partner Briana kept the build manageable by handling almost everything in-house. “The only time it left the factory was to go to Burke’s Bodyworks for some final body touches, then paint,” he says with justifiable pride. “All the other work was done in our factory.”

Shannon purchased the Escort before prices went stupid, so the incomplete shell was only $500. As soon as it was back at the workshop, he and Briana got stuck in, starting with the unique ‘bubble’ wheelarches. The pump and profile is pretty much as Ford intended for its RS1600 race special, with fibreglass replicas up front and metal repros in the rear, both dialled up from the UK. “You just weld them in and off you go,” says Shannon with a swoosh of his hand. He might be a mechanic by trade, but he’s pretty handy across the board, going so far as to buying a bender and having a bash at building the rollcage himself.

Shannon lowered the rack onto the crossmember to ensure space for the dry-sump lines and getting the engine sitting as low as possible. Cooling is paramount in a burnout car, yet the radiator is entirely contained behind the Escort’s dog-bone grille, with a couple of extra holes in the valance for good measure. Shannon’s attention to detail has seen him not only craft a sweet set of headers, but run them through custom channels in the chassis

Shannon also set up his own four-link, piecing the subframe together before fitting it to the gutted Esky. Stance and attitude is everything when it comes to a standout build and Shannon nailed it, but as soon as it was a roller, the project was shelved. “I had to rebuild my Torana, the original TUF253, then freshen up the driveline in my 1964 Pontiac Parisienne daily driver.”

It might be a little 253, but Shannon’s experience with Holden’s smallest is that it has adequate power balanced with exemplary reliability. “I’ll take it to 7000-7500rpm all day at 12lb,” he says. “It should see around 600hp when we start pushing it.” So far it’s seen 510hp at 6500 revs, on a run-in tune and only 8lb of boost

Fast-forward to April 2017 and Shannon felt the urge to kick off again, with the bold plan of getting the Escort to Summernats 2018. “I started mocking up the motor, which led to the sheet-metal work: recessing the firewall, then building a trans tunnel, rear-wheel tubs, exhaust channels and boot floor,” he explains, gesturing to the various custom parts. “Once I was happy, we got on to bodywork, getting the gaps right and the rest to a reasonable point. There was definitely a bit of trial and error; I pulled the mounts and re-welded them to get it all to fit just right.”

Access to a CNC milling machine can be very helpful. “It’s a large-scale mill,” says Shannon. “We normally work big, creating full-sized foam cars and some weird artworks for various companies.” He milled up the clamshell plenum chamber, LS1-compatible alternator bracket and the guard for the blower pulleys, amongst other things

Shannon himself painted inside and underneath in basic black, then had Leigh from Burke’s Bodyworks come in to do the engine bay and door jambs in retina-searing custom Lushious Lime. It was September and Summernats was looming, but suddenly the Canberra festival became the least of their worries. “We knew we’d have to pull our collective fingers out,” Shannon admits, “but then Dad got crook. He’d been battling cancer for nine years – and we were lucky to get that out of him.”

“I rebuilt the motor from scratch, with machine work done by John Sidney.” Shannon says. “It was fairly fresh when I pulled it down; I had only done about 40 or 50 skids. We over-bored it 30thou, but it still runs a factory crank and stock-length rods.” Shannon wasn’t tempted to give the engine a sneaky stroke, instead choosing to hide the EFI, with the barrel valve in the blower hat replaced by an LS1 throttle position sensor

Shannon’s dad Peter had been a major source of advice and inspiration over the years and such a devastating blow could have derailed the whole project, but it just made the team more determined. With MotorEx 2018 marked as the new deadline, the Escort shifted to Burke’s Bodyworks, with Dale Ward applying the finishing touches to the shell before Leigh completed the dazzling duco. “We wanted a nice, bright 70s colour,” Shannon says of the intense green. “We’ve already got a red Torana, a blue Pontiac, an orange Celica and a beige LC, so we needed something else.”

The team fitted the custom carpet, boot panelling, RS1600-style dash and the Auto Meter gauges, while the door trims, dash top and headlining were made by Jim at Terry’s Motor Trimming

Dale returned after the paint to mask up the black Escort Mexico-style rally stripes. Leigh then painted the stripes and clear-coated the shell. “It returned to our workshop with no plumbing or interior,” Shannon says. “By morning, it was a complete car.”

The mad thrash wasn’t just Shannon and Briana; Briana’s dad Rod wired it up while a succession of mates filtered through to help out. Even so, as recently as the day before MotorEx the car looked like it might not make it. Leigh still had the bonnet, boot and front valance, but getting snowed under at work meant he could only rock up in the evening to fit them. A sanding and a buff later, the Escort was ready to roll. Almost.

“I was going to leave the bumpers off, but it really needed something up front,” says Shannon. “I was still fabbing up the brackets that morning when the towie arrived.” The fella was good enough to wait around, and by lunchtime the Escort was on its way to MotorEx.

Shannon, Briana and crew set out to create something completely unique in looks, attitude and driveline, but never thought they’d attract this much attention. With the crowd several people deep at MotorEx, they’ve learned that when you set a Holden cat amongst the Ford pigeons, people are going to stop and stare.

6/11/1952 – 02/12/2017

When Shannon speaks about his late father, it’s pretty obvious where he gets his mechanical nous and attention to detail from.

When Heraud started his career as a draughtsman, working for British Aerospace and Government Aircraft Factories, before starting up a succession of design-related and automotive CAD engineering businesses. Meanwhile, he helped raise three boys and kept a healthy interest motor racing, hooning around the likes of Calder, Winton and Sandown in a succession of rotary Mazdas, then a Farrell Clubman, pictured above.

In the early 2000s, Peter prototyped his own computer-controlled CNC milling machine with a view to selling them to the big dogs like GM and Ford. Instead, he kept it, using the machine himself and subcontracting back to the companies he’d originally intended to sell to. Shannon and his brother Brenton still work for the company.

“Mum and Dad have always been around cars; whenever they went racing, the whole family went,” Shannon says. But what about the burnouts? “Dad loved it. It wasn’t his thing, but he loved the fact we were getting out there and enjoying it.”

Even mum Chris is into it, having been for a few skids herself. “She’s bought Brenton’s burnout LX hatch and we’re putting it back on the road for her,” Shannon explains.

“She’s more of a hoon than we are!”

Together, Shannon and Briana have created Australia’s wildest Escort. “She was my right-hand-man, made me keep working and kept me motivated,” Shannon says. “She’s not afraid to get in there”


Paint: Custom-mix Lushious Lime

Type: Holden
Capacity: 253ci
Intake: Custom CNC-machined plenum on a tunnel-ram base with Enderle bug-catcher throttlebody
Induction: 4/71 supercharger
ECU: Autronic SM4 system
Injectors: Bosch high-flow XR6 Turbo x10
Heads: Hand-ported HQ Holden
Pistons: JE Forged
Crank: Standard 253
Rods: Scat H-beam
Cam: Clive Cams custom-grind
Pushrods: 5/16in Crow
Lifters: Solid flat-tappet
Valve springs: Dual oversized
Valves: Stainless Ferrea
Oil pump: Four-stage Barnes dry sump
Ignition: Autronic 500R with modified Bosch distributor
Fuel pump: Holley Black lift pump and two Bosch 044 pressure pumps with an AI 3L surge tank
Exhaust: Custom-built 17/8in headers running 4-into-1 to 3.5in collector and twin 3in system

’Box: Transbraked ATS Powerglide
Converter: TCE 4500rpm stall
Diff: 9in, 3.5:1 Strange full-spool centre with custom 31-spline axles

Brakes: DBA 290mm slotted discs and twin-piston AU Falcon PBR calipers (f), DBA 280mm slotted discs and standard VS Commodore calipers (r)
Springs: Custom-length Ford Capri MacPherson struts with Eibach coil-over springs (f), Viking double-adjustable coil-overs (r)
Shocks: Koni double-adjustable (f), Viking double-adjustable coil-overs (r)
Steering: Escort rack with custom column
Tailshaft: GJ Drivelines 3in heavy-duty tube with Strange 1350 ends

Rims: Performance Superlites; 15×8 (f), 15×10 (r)
Rubber: Linglong ‘Hoosier’ 235/50 R15 (f), Hoosier Quick Time Pro 325/50 R15 (r)