Petrol Head Paradise

Friday, 16 September 2011
For classic Ford enthusiasts Marc and Lee Lawrence, Freemasonry is the driving force behind this father and son rally team, as Adrian Foster discovers

There is a growing trend for Freemasons to combine their hobbies and social interests with fund-raising and recruitment for their lodges. With the increasing popularity of so-called ‘hobby lodges’, father and son Freemasons, Marc and Lee Lawrence, share a passion for the Ford Escort Mk1 that has taken them across the US for a good cause.

The story begins in Ickleford, Hertfordshire, in the early 1990s, before son Lee was even old enough to drive. A logistics manager at missile manufacturer MBDA, Marc had always wanted a classic Ford Escort and one day found a very basic Mk2 at auction. In that moment a father and son rally team was born.

Marc’s enthusiasm was contagious and Lee, now an IT analyst at MBDA, was well and truly bitten by the Ford bug. He recalls how he acquired his beloved Mk1 Ford Escort: ‘It started life as an ex-police Panda car bodyshell that was used for training body repair students at Hitchin College. With Dad’s help, we knocked out the dents and got it ready for the road. I worked on it every evening.’

The discussion shifts to their relationship. ‘To be brought up in such a petrol-head’s paradise is worth its weight in gold. He’s quite simply one of my best friends,’ says Lee. The downside was living with car parts stored in wardrobes and the living room.’

So how do you blend Ford Escorts and Freemasonry? ‘Our rallying is used to raise money for charity. Like Freemasonry, in belonging to an auto club you find a fellowship that comes out of that shared interest. I joined Dacre Lodge in 1996 at a time when all my friends were Freemasons,’ Marc explains. ‘I spoke to a friend in the Craft, he knocked, and the door was opened to me. I was a founder member of the Anglo-Danish Prince Hamlet Lodge.’

For the rally events the two take part in, Lee points to the discipline needed. ‘It’s a bit like performing in a lodge, where everybody has a role to play,’ he says.

So has Marc considered setting up a lodge for Escort owners? ‘I think it’s a great idea to combine both interests into one. But I don’t think it would work so well for Escort owners because, let’s face it, we’re all boy racers, aren’t we.’

Charity Road trip of a Lifetime across America in Vintage Ford Style
Marc and Lee’s trip to America in 2005 was a memorable adventure. Using Lee’s blue Escort, the two drove from Baltimore on the east coast, through New York City, up to Niagara Falls, and then west along Route 66 to St Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. The last stage of the journey took them through Death Valley, California, in sweltering temperatures of well over 100ºF, up to San Francisco, and then back down to Los Angeles.

‘America is a country of contrasts,’ recalls Lee. ‘While cruising along the classic Route 66 we took in Bakersfield for their annual Hot Rod festival, a real Mecca for petrol-heads. While there we had a problem with the alternator on one of the cars and a kind-hearted local Escort owner insisted on taking us back to his house to find a spare one that would fit our car.

‘We found a quaint little place called Hackberry, in Arizona,’ he continues, ‘which was completely unspoilt with just a handful of shops and houses, old diners, cars that had seen better days, and vintage petrol pumps. It looked just like it must have done in the 1950s.’

Nose First
Another anecdote concerned ‘Cadillac Ranch’. As the story went, an eccentric Texan millionaire would buy a Cadillac and when he tired of it would have it buried nose first on his land. However, the truth is the Cadillac Ranch was a planned endeavour by a group who acquired the Cadillacs in order to represent the golden age of American automobiles. Lee got into the driver’s seat of one of these cars for a photo and his father wryly commented, ‘That’s another car you’ve driven into the ground.’

The drive of more than 5,600 miles took them through 13 US states and nearly three weeks to complete. The trip raised £7,500, which was used to purchase equipment and services for people suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.

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