Friday February 2, 2018
One of my favourite automotive brochures of the 1960s features a very disgruntled looking Hugh Futcher (Carry On support actor, panicking Sapper in Quatermass & The Pit and more recently the star of a Specsavers ad) aboard a pedal car. However, Ford has the solution as ‘The Small Car is No Longer’ and after taking the wheel of a new Escort, Hugh is doubtless all smiles. The not overly subtle message to motorists of 50 years ago was then for the price of a Mini or a Hillman Imp; you too could own a substantially larger car. Of course, there were certain sacrifices to be made regarding equipment on the cheaper models, but with a car as good as the Escort this was no sacrifice.
The successor to the 105E was designed in the UK but was intended as the second pan-European Ford; the Transit was the first in 1965. It was originally intended to be badged as an Anglia until Cologne noted that this name was then associated in Germany with US Airforce bomber bases during the Second World War. The solution was to revive the Escort name which had been previously used on the bottom of range 100E estate car that were made between 1955 and 1961.
One of the many notable aspects of the new Ford was its styling; the ‘Coke Bottle’ lines were fashionable but low-key, which was in marked contrast to the 105E’s mobile jukebox appearance. When Vauxhall launched their extremely good-looking Viva HB in 1966, this made the Anglia look as contemporary as a gang of 30-year-old Teddy Boys at a Rolling Stones concert and so the Escort’s lines were a model of restraint. The engine choices were 1.1 and 1.3 litres, virtually mirroring the best-selling BLMC ADO16, there was rack and pinion steering – a first on a lightweight Ford – and the option of front disc brakes.
The Escort was sold in an elaborate hierarchy of models from the Standard, which brought new dimensions to the term ‘Spartan’ and the De Luxe, to the ultra-hip Super (rectangular headlamps and cigar lighter). The GT, with its tuned engine and extra instrumentation, was the ideal Ford for all press-on-drivers who dreamed of being the next Graham Hill - and then there was the Twin-Cam. As the story goes, when Ford’s motor sport engineer Bill Meade witnessed an Escort prototype being taken through its paces in 1967 he responded with the memorable phrase ‘Blimey, one of those things would go like hell with a Twin Cam in it!’.
The result combined a strengthened 1300GT bodyshell with the famous DOHC 1,558cc engine and victories in the Acropolis and Circuit of Ireland to name but a few rallies. Of course, you were less likely to encounter the Twin Cam in your high street than a more mundane but still worthy 1300 Super, but the value of the image it bestowed on the Escort cannot be underestimated. Further publicity was gained when a select group of De Luxes guest starred in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, an achievement celebrated by Patrick “Voice Over King” Allen - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8BFoYSQ9YU.
By the time the Mk. II succeeded the Mk. I in 1975, Ford had sold over two million examples around the world. Seven years earlier, Autocar stated that the Escort ‘will soon become a force to reckon with in the small car market’ - and how right they were. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHCSLxw6K1s