Monday 8 February 2016
The Ford Escort is a small family car that was manufactured by Ford Europe from 1968 to 2004. The Ford Escort name was also applied to several different small cars produced in North America by Ford between 1981 and 2003. In 2014, Ford revived the Escort name for a car based on the second-generation Ford Focus sold on the Chinese market.
Codenamed "Erika", the third generation Escort was launched in September 1980. The car, Ford Europe's second front-wheel drive, was originally meant to be called the "Ford Erika", but ended up retaining the Escort name. Some say this was due to British consumers reluctance to let go of the "Escort" badge (as the first two generations of Escort had been among Britain's most popular cars, with the MK2 being Britain's best selling car in 1976), and some say that the Germans were concerned with the song Erika, which was a famous battlemarch of the German armed forces during World War II. The North American Escort introduced at this time was a derivative. Sales in the United Kingdom increased, and by 1982 it had overtaken the ageing Cortina as the nation's best-selling car, beginning an eight-year run as Britain's best selling car.
Unlike the Mark II, which had essentially been a reskin of the original 1968 platform, the Mark III was a completely new "wheels-up" design, and was conceived as a hi-tech, high-efficiency vehicle which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf – considered at the time the class benchmark, and indeed the car was launched with the advertising tagline "Simple is Efficient". The Mark III was a departure from the two previous models, the biggest changes being the adoption of front-wheel drive, and the new hatchback body. The car used Ford's contemporary design language of the period with the black louvred radiator grille and straked rear lamp clusters, as well as introducing the aerodynamic "bustle-back" bootlid stump (trademarked by Ford as Aeroback) which would be further developed in the forthcoming Sierra and Scorpio; the stump was proven to reduce the car's aerodynamic drag co-efficient significantly, which was a class leading 0.37 at launch.
Also new were the overhead camshaft CVH engines in 1.3 L and 1.6 L formats, with the older Ford Kent-based "Valencia" engine from the Fiesta powering the 1.1 L derivative, although there was a short-lived 1.1 version of the CVH engine sold in certain markets before it was discontinued in 1982. The suspension was fully independent all around, departing from the archaic leaf spring arrangement found on its predecessors. The Escort Mark III was voted European Car of the Year in 1981, fighting off stiff competition from Italy's Fiat Panda and British Leylands Austin Metro.
From launch, the car was available in base (Popular), L, GL, Ghia and XR3 trim. From mid-1982, a five-speed manual gearbox was introduced across the range. This was now standard on the 1.6 L versions and could be specified as an option on most 1.3 L engines. A selection of features were available, either as standard fitment or optional extras depending on model, including a tilt-and-slide sunroof, central locking, and electric windows. All models except for base and L were fitted with a check-light system for low fuel, low oil, low coolant, low screenwash, and worn out brake pads. Power steering was not available on European Escorts although it was available on the US Escort. For the 1983 model year, the Ford ATX three-speed automatic transmission (developed primarily for the US version) was available on the 1.6 L engine within a couple of years of the car's launch.
However, the car attracted criticism from the motoring press at launch due to its suspension, with positive camber on the front wheels and negative camber at the rear, giving rise to the Mark III's infamous "knock-kneed" stance. The Mark III soon had a reputation for a harsh, unforgiving ride. In 1983 the revised suspension mounts from the Escort-based Orion and the larger Sierra steering rack were introduced as running changes for the 1984 model year.
Another engine, introduced in August 1983, was the 1.6 L diesel engine. Developed in Dagenham, it was remarkably economical for its time, and still is to this day, managing over 70 mpg. It was available on the L and GL models. However, the performance was not so impressive, with only 54 bhp (40 kW; 55 PS) and a top speed of barely 90 mph (140 km/h).
The Escort estate was initially only available with three doors, but a five-door version was 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 upmarket image and was not available with the smaller 1.1 L engine. It was also directed at buyers of the earlier Cortina, which had ceased production in 1982, with its Sierra successor not available as a saloon at the time.
The MK3 model (1980–1986), was the most common type of car on British roads in December 1989, with almost 1,500,000 examples registered.
A convertible version, made by coachbuilder Karmann appeared the same year as the five-door estate (1983). It was the first drop-top car produced by Ford Europe since the Corsair of the 1960s. The Escort Cabriolet was initially available in both XR3i and Ghia specification, but the Ghia variant was later dropped.
- engine: 4 cylinders
- capacity: 1296 cc
- horsepower: 69 HP
- gearbox: 5+1
- top speed: 157 km/h