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.
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).
1975 Ford Escort Mk1
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.