Friday 28 September 2012
The Mark I Escorts became very successful as a rally car, and they eventually went on to become one of the most successful rally cars of all time. The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late 1960s / early 1970s, 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 L "Kent"-engined) special edition road versions in honour 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 A Series. 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 good for rallying.
Ford also produced an RS2000 model as a more "civilised" alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 L 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. Like the Mexico and RS1600, this car was produced at the Aveley plant.
The Escort quickly outsold the conceptually similar Vauxhall Viva HB launched two years earlier. In the larger European markets it tended to be outsold by the Opel Kadett, its General Motors rival. The car was built in Germany and Britain, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.
Ford New Zealand's Seaview plant in Lower Hutt built 1.1 and 1.3-litre versions, initially as Deluxe (1.1) and Super (1.3) two-door sedans plus panel vans. The four-door sedan was added in 1970. Trim levels were revised after the 1972 UK facelift with just one run of 1.3XLs (with the GT instrument pack) before these were downgraded to 'L' trim. Base and L trims were offered to the end of the MK1 run. Some 1.6 Mexicos were imported in 1973-4 after the government temporarily freed up import licensing due to a shortage of new cars. Estate versions were mostly imported.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1558 cc
- horsepower: 140 HP
- gearbox: 4+1
- top speed: 180 km/h