The Ford Escort was a small family car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company from 1967 through 2003. Although it was originally a European model, the Escort badge has been applied to several different designs in North America over the years. The first use of the Ford Escort name was in the 1950s for an estate car version of the Ford Anglia 100E though this had few sales by comparison to the other members of the 100E family.
Ford Escort Mk I (1968-1975)
The Ford Escort was a British automobile launched at the end of 1967 as a replacement for the Anglia.
It had conventional rear wheel drive and a four-speed manual gearbox. The suspension consisted of a simple live axle mounted on leaf springs, but with rack-and-pinion steering. The Mk I featured contemporary styling cues in tune with its time - a subtle Detroit-inspired "Coke Bottle" waistline and the "dogbone" shaped front grille - arguably the car’s most famous stylistic feature. Initially, the Escort was sold as a 2-door saloon (with angular or circular front headlights) but a 3-door estate and a van were later available. In 1969 the 4-door saloon appeared.
Underneath the bonnet was the Kent Crossflow engine. Diesel engines on small family cars were very rare, so the Escort featured initially only petrol engines - in 1.1 L, and 1.3 L editions. A 950 cc engine was also available in some export markets, but few were ever sold.
There was a 1300GT (called ’Sport’ in some markets) performance version, with a tuned 1.3L Kent (ohv) engine sporting a Weber carburetor and updated suspension. There was also a higher performance for rallies and racing - the Escort Twin Cam, which featured a 1.6L engine with a Lotus made 8-valve twin camshaft head.
1975 Ford Escort Mk I
The Mk I Escorts became very successful as a rally car, and they eventually went on to become the most successful rally car of all time. The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late ’60s/early ’70s, and arguably the Escort’s greatest victory was in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally being driven by Finnish legend Hannu Mikkola. This gave rise to the famous Escort Mexico (1.6 ’Kent’) special edition road versions in honor of the rally car.
In addition to the Mexico, the RS1600 was developed which used a ’Kent’ engine block with a 16-valve Cosworth cylinder head. This engine was essentially a detuned Formula 3 engine designated BDA, for Belt Drive series A. Both the Mexico and RS1600 were built at Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) facility located at the Aveley Plant in South Essex. As well as higher performance engines and sports suspension, these models featured strengthened bodyshells making them an ideal model for rallying. Even today Mk I’s are still popular in the amateur rally scene. The BDA engine has a distinctive growling which can be heard for quite a distance when the vehicle is being driven hard, such as in competition.
Ford also produced a RS2000 model as a more "civilised" alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600 featuring a 2L ’Pinto’ (ohc) engine. This also clocked up some rally and racing victories; and pre-empted the hot hatch market as a desirable but affordable performance road car.
The Escort quickly became one of Britain’s most popular cars and was also a success on export markets (the car was built in Germany, Britain and several Commonwealth countries).
Ford Escort Mk II (1975-1980)
The square-edged Mk II version appeared in early 1975. The first production models of which rolled off the production lines 2nd December 1974.
Unlike the first Escort (which was solely a British effort), the second generation was developed along with Ford of Germany. Codenamed "Brenda" during its development, it used the same mechanicals as the Mk I, although the unpopular 950 cc engine was dropped. The station wagon and van versions used the same panel work as the Mk I, but with the Mk II front end and interior - giving the car a slight "identity crisis". The car used a revised underbody, which incidentally was introduced as a running change during the last six months of the Mk1’s life.
This car made a point, just with its four body styles, of competing in many different niches of the market, which rival manufacturers either had multiple models ranges, or simply none at all. "L" and "GL" models (2-door, 4-door, estate) were in the mainstream private sector, the "Sport", "Mexico", and "RS2000" in the performance market, the "Ghia" (2-door, 4-door) for an untapped small car luxury market, and "Base/Popular" models for the bottom end. Panel-van versions catered to the commercial sector.
During the second half of the 1970s, the Escort continued to prove hugely popular with buyers in Britain and other parts of Europe. A cosmetic update was given in 1978, with most models gaining the square headlights (previously exclusive to the GL and Ghia variants), some models gaining the Escort Sport wheels, and an upgrade in interior spec - the ’L’ in particular gaining a glove compartment and centre console. Underneath a wider front track was given.
Production, after an incredibly popular model run, ended in Britain in August 1980, other countries following soon after.
As with its predecessor, the Mk II had a successful rallying career. All models of the Mk I were carried over to the Mk II, though the Mexico had its engine changed to a 1.6 ohc ’Pinto’ instead of the ohv for the UK market. Other markets continued with the 1.6L ’Kent’ in the mk 2 and called it the ’Sport’ model. Also a new and potent model was released - the RS1800; a 1.8L version of the RS1600. It was essential - special created for racing, and surviving road versions are very rare and collectible today. There has been a longstanding debate regarding how the RS1800 was homologated for international motorsport, as Ford are rumored to have built only fifty or so road cars out of the four hundred required for homologation. The works rally cars were characterized by the large wheel arch extensions, these were to facilitate the fitment of larger wheels and tires and thus improving the road-holding and general handling of the cars.
The 1.6 L (1598 cc/97 in³) engine was equipped on the 1975 Ghia and it generated 84 hp (63 kW) with 125 N·m (92 ft·lbf) torque and weighed 955 kg (2105 lb). For rally use, this can be compared to the 1974 Toyota Corolla which output 75 hp (56 kW) and weighed 948 kg (2090 lb).
The 2.0 L RS2000 version, which featured the Pinto engine from the Cortina, was available with a top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h). The 2.0 L engine was also easily retro-fitted into the Mk I, and this became a popular modification, along with the Ford Sierra’s 5-speed gearbox, for rallying and other sports, especially given the Pinto’s tunability.
The RS2000 was more distinctive, having a slanting plastic nose housing four round headlamps.
Australia and New Zealand
Ford Australia also built Mk II Escorts. The majority of Escorts (regular and performance models) came with 1.6 OHV Kent and Cortina’s 2.0L Pinto engine (in a lower tune than European units, due to Australia emission laws). The bodyshells were 2-door, 4-door and van, the wagon models being unavailable to the Australian market. The slant-nose RS2000 was sold as a regular production model 1979-1980, in 2-door and - unique to Australia - 4-door variants. The Escort, like the Cortina, was never popular on the Australian market, due to the competing Japanese imports. It was an underrated car throughout its production life.
In New Zealand, MKII Escorts were built from CKD kits at the Ford plant in Petone. Unlike Australia, Escorts and Cortinas always topped the monthly sales lists, and all body styles including the wagon were sold. Based on the British models (aside from using metric speedometers), the cars were sold in 1.1 (base), 1.3 (L, GL, 1300 Sport, estate and van variants) and 1.6 (Ghia, 1600 Sport) variants - the 1.3 being the most common.
The Escort was replaced in the Australian and New Zealand markets by the Ford Laser in 1980 which were locally built Mazda 323s with different panels.
Codenamed "Erika", the third generation Escort was launched in September 1980. The code name alluded to the leader of the product planning team, Erick A. Reickert. The North American Escort introduced at this time was a derivative. The two vehicles were intended to share component designs, but separate engineering organizations and government regulations made this impractical.
The Mk III was intended to be a hi-tech, high-efficiency design which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf, and indeed the car was launched with the advertising tagline "Simple is Efficient". The Mk III was a radical departure from the two previous models, the biggest changes being the adoption of front wheel drive, and the new hatchback body, which introduced trademark styling cues which would be later seen in the forthcoming Sierra and Scorpio, most notably the "Aeroback" rear end - the "sawn off" bootlid stump which was proved to reduce the car’s drag coefficient. Also new were the overhead camshaft CVH engines in 1.3 L and 1.6 L formats, with the Valencia engine from the Fiesta powering the 1.1 L derivative. The suspension was fully independent all around, departing from the archaic leaf spring arrangement found on its predecessors. The Escort Mk III was voted European Car of the Year in 1981. From launch, the car was available in Base (Popular), L, GL, Ghia and XR3 trim.
However, the car attracted criticism from the motoring press at launch due to how its suspension was set up - with positive camber on the front wheels and negative camber at the rear, giving rise to the Mk III’s infamous "knock-kneed" stance. Although this gave the car acceptable handling on perfectly smooth roads, once the car was tested on bumpy British roads the effects of this decision was obvious and the Mk III soon had a reputation for a harsh, unforgiving ride, with questionable handling. The shock absorber specification was to blame also, and it was not until 1983 that the suspension gremlins were finally ironed out. A three-speed automatic transmission was available on the 1.6 engine within a couple of years of the car’s launch. From mid-1982, a 5-speed manual gearbox was introduced across the range. This was now standard on the 1.6L versions and could be specified as an option on most 1.3L engines.
In order to compete with Volkswagen’s Golf GTI, a hot hatch version of the Mk III was created from the outset - the XR3. Initially this featured a tuned version of the 1.6 L CVH engine fitted with a Weber carburetor, updated suspension and numerous cosmetic alterations. Despite the initial lack of a 5-speed transmission and the absence of fuel injection, the XR3 instantly caught the public’s imagination and became a cult car which was beloved of "boy racers" in the 1980s. Fuel injection finally arrived in 1983 (creating the XR3i), along with the racetrack-influenced RS1600i. The final performance update arrived in the form of the turbocharged RS Turbo model in 1985.
Another engine introduced around the same time was the 1.6L Diesel engine. Developed in Dagenham, it was remarkably economical for its time, managing over 70 miles per Gallon. It was available on the L and GL models. However, the performance was not so impressive, with only 54Bhp and a top speed of barely 90 mph.
The Escort estate was initially only available with three doors, but a five-door version was eventually introduced in 1983. In that year, a saloon version of the Escort, the Orion, was launched. It used the same mechanicals as the hatchback, but had a more up-market image and was not available with the rather underpowered 1.1 L engine. The Orion name would continue in use through until 1993, when it was dropped and the Orion simply called "Escort".
A convertible version, courtesy of coachbuilder Karmann appeared in the same year, significant as it was the first drop-top car produced by Ford Europe since the Corsair of the ’60s. The Escort Cabriolet was initially available in both XR3i and Ghia specification, but the Ghia variant was dropped after a couple of years.
A pickup version of the Escort, the Bantam, was produced in South Africa, while Brazil had a two-door sedan known as the Verona.
Ford Escort Mk4. (III Erika-86/) (1986-1990)
The Escort received another facelift in early 1986. Codenamed within Ford as Erika–86, and sometimes referred to as the "Mk IV" (although it was not officially the fourth generation), it was instantly recognizable as an updated version of the previous model, with a smooth Scorpio style nose and the "stroked" rear lamp clusters smoothed over. New features included an optional mechanical anti‐lock braking system (standard on RS Turbo models) and the option of a heated windshield – features which were at the time unheard of on a car of this size and price. The trim designations were carried over from the pre-facelift car.
Trim designations for the Escort Mk 4
Popular: 1.1l or 1.3l
L: 1.3l, 1.4l and 1.6l
GL: 1.4l or 1.6l petrol engine or the 1.6l diesel engine
Ghia: 1.4l or 1.6l
Cabriolet: 1.6 CVH carburetor engine or fuel injected 1.6 CVH engine
XR3i: fuel injected 1.6 CVH engine
RS Turbo: 1.6 CVH engine whit Turbo
As well as an all-new interior, a new 1.4 L derivative of the CVH engine was introduced, as well as numerous suspension tweaks to address the long standing criticisms of the Escort’s handling and ride quality, although these had limited success. A new LX version was introduced in 1987 in order to bridge the gap between the L and GL models. In 1989, the diesel engine was enlarged to 1.8 L, and the poorly‐performing 1.1 L version was finally dropped from the range.
The Orion was also proving popular with the motoring public, and Ford also gave the Escort‐based saloon a similar makeover. Carried over from the previous range was the 3–speed automatic which was ultimately replaced late in the production run with a variant of the CTX step less gearbox as first used in the Fiesta a couple of years earlier.
At this time, the Escort was dropped in South Africa and replaced by the Laser and Meteor, although the Escort‐based Bantam pickup remained in production, facelifted, and also sold as a Mazda Rustler.
This Escort continued production until 1995 in some foreign markets, especially Latin America.
The fifth generation Escort platform (and Mk 2 Orion saloon) arrived in September 1990 with an all-new bodyshell and a simplified torsion beam rear suspension (instead of the Mk III’s fully independent layout). Initially the 1.3 L, 1.4 L and 1.6 L CVH petrol and 1.8 L diesel units were carried over from the old model, and were starting to show their age in terms of refinement especially compared to Rover’s state of the art K-Series engine launched in 1989.
Despite being the most eagerly awaited model for year the Escort and Orion ranges were subjected to a surprising amount of criticism from the media and motoring public alike. Its down-market interior design, bland looks and disappointing handling were the main reasons for this bad press. Some owners were also disappointed by the levels of quality. Despite this, the Escort remained hugely popular with buyers, coming second in the British car sales charts in 1990 and 1991 before topping the charts in 1992. The Orion was less popular, failing to feature in the Top 10 best selling cars in Britain after 1990.
Matters improved in 1991 when the all new Zetec 16-valve engines were launched bringing improved drivability, while also marking the return of the XR3i which was available with 2 versions of the 1.8 litre Zetec engine. The 150 hp (112 kW) RS2000 also appeared in 1991 with a 16v version of the Sierra’s I4 2.0 litre engine and also improved ride and handling meaning a Mk.5 Escort finally delivered on the road. Specification, however, were also higher than before. The Escort was now available with items such as power steering, electric windows, central locking, electronic antilock brakes and even air conditioning.
1992 saw the launch of the Escort RS Cosworth, and a 5th generation Escort that was genuinely considered excellent. Intended to replace the Sapphire RS Cosworth as Ford’s stalwart rally challenger, it used a turbocharged version of the 2.0 L Cosworth 16-valve engine, generated some 227 hp (167 kW) and was capable of 225 km/h (140 mph), as well as having four-wheel drive. Its most memorable feature was its outrageous "whale-tail" tailgate spoiler. The Cosworth ceased production in 1996 but the 2,500 road-going examples sold (required for homologation purposes) have already achieved classic status. However, the car wasn’t really an Escort at all, being based from a Sierra floor pan and mechanicals, including its longitudinally mounted engine, and was merely clothed in body panels to look (supposedly) like a standard Mk 5.
1.4 CFi (1393 cc) CVH 52 kW
1.4 EFi (1393 cc) CVH 55 kW
1.4 G (1393 cc) CVH 54 kW
1.6 EFi (1597 cc) CVH 79 kW
1.6 G/H (1597 cc) CVH 66 kW
1.6 EFi (1598 cc) Zetec 66 kW
1.8 EFi (1796 cc) Zetec 77/85/96 kW
1.8 D (1753 cc) Endura D 44 kW
1.8 TD (1753 cc) Endura D 66 kW
2.0 EFi (1998 cc) Zetec 110 kW
2.0 (1993 cc) Cosworth YBT 167 kW
Ford Escort Mk5 Facelift / Mk5b (MK6)(1993-1995)
Stung by the criticism of the original Mk.5, Ford facelifted the Escort and Orion in October 1992, giving the revised cars a new grille, bonnet and, in the Escort hatch’s case, a new rear end. A new 1.6L 16-valve 90 bhp Zetec engine was introduced, replacing the previous CVH. Fuel injection was now standard on all petrol models and Ford introduced a 4x4 variant of the RS2000, offering much improved handling over its front wheel drive cousins. A first for the Escort also saw the introduction of all 4 wheel disc brakes as standard on all RS2000 models.
In 1993, the Orion name was quietly dropped, the saloon taking on the Escort badge. The crash structure was also improved, featuring side impact bars, improved crumple zones and later on, airbags. These revisions made the Escort and Orion much better cars and they were competitive against rivals, if still not the best in class.
The Facelifted Mk5 Escort is sometimes referred to in error as the Mk6, with the Mk6 in turn wrongly being called the Mk7 - which never existed. UK based enthusiasts generally agree that the model be referred to as the Mk5b.
The Escort was thoroughly revised in January 1995 after the launch of the highly acclaimed Mondeo in 1993. Although the same basic design continued, this version had new front lights, bonnet, front wings, front and rear bumpers, wing mirrors and door handles. The interior of both cars was hugely revised too, featuring an all new dashboard arrangement with the quality being of competitive quality.
Dynamically, the handling and ride were also much improved with revised suspension set up from that on the previous Mk5/5b models. However, the car was now five years old and most of its rivals were either new or to be imminently replaced. The RS2000 models ceased production in June 1996. These were the last Escorts ever to wear the famous RS badge. A new Ghia X model was introduced around 1996. This included Air Conditioning and a 6 CD multichanger as standard. Although the equipment of the Ghia below it was reduced, it was now more affordable.
The last ’standard’ model to be introduced in 1997 was the GTI - the only GTi badge Ford to ever be sold in Europe. This used the same existing 115ps 1.8 Zetec-e engine found in other cars in the range, but included a bodykit borrowed from the now cancelled RS2000 model, part-leather seats plus the standard fitment of ABS.
In 1998, Ford announced an all-new car, the Focus, which was launched as a replacement for the 32 year old Escort, although the Escort would continue to be produced, as a move to give Fords loyal Escort buyers time to get used to the Focus (at that time) cutting edge design.
With the arrival of the Focus, the Escort range was overhauled offering ’Flight’ and ’Finesse’ run out editions. The 1.3 L, 1.4 L and 1.8 L petrol engines, and the three-door hatchback and four-door saloon bodystyles, were dropped (except in mainland Europe, New Zealand, South Africa and South America) and the only versions remaining were the 1.6 L petrol and 1.8 L diesel. Prices were made more competitive and this managed to keep European Escort sales going until the last one rolled off the Halewood assembly line at the end of 2000.
The van variant kept going until 2002 when the new Transit Connect model was introduced.
1.3 CFi (1299 cc) HCS 44 kW
1.3 CFi/H (1299 cc) HCS 44 kW
1.3 EFi (1299 cc) HCS 37/44 kW
1.4 CFi (1393 cc) CVH 52 kW
1.4 EFi (1393 cc) CVH 55 kW
1.6 EFi (1598 cc) Zetec 66 kW
1.6 G (1598 cc) CVH 66 kW
1.8 D (1753 cc) Endura D 44 kW
1.8 DT (1753 cc) Endura D 55/66 kW
1.8 EFi (1796 cc) Zetec 85/96 kW
2.0 EFi (1998 cc) Zetec 110 kW