The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : 40 Years of the Ford Escort Harrier The 2019 Insurance Classic Motor Show : 40 Years of the Ford Escort Harrier
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40 Years of the Ford Escort Harrier

A Ford Escort Harrier poster advert

Towards the end of the Escort Mk. II’s run, Ford introduced a spate of limited-edition versions. There was the Linnet, the Goldcrest and the Huntsman Estate; the last-named much appealed to my younger self with its list of extras that included ‘Halogen Driving Lights’ and ‘Tailgate Wash/Wipe’.

But the special Escort that most captured the public’s imagination was the Harrier, due in part to a memorable publicity campaign. Anyone seeing this advertisement in the commercial break for Mr & Mrs - and hearing Edward “Think Bike!” Judd ask ‘wouldn't you like to take off in a Harrier?’ - would naturally make their way to their nearest Ford dealership -

The Harrier was introduced in December 1979 as a celebration of an Escort winning the Lombard RAC Rally for the eighth successive year, as well as capturing the Team Prize, the Ladies’ Prize and the Group I Category for standard production cars.

In essence, it was a 1600 Sport equipped with RS alloy wheels and boot spoiler, spot lamps, bronze tinted glass, a push-button LW/MW radio, Recaro seats trimmed in black “Beta Cloth” and a remote-control door mirror.

Your colour choices were restricted to Diamond White or, for an additional £35.83, Strato Silver; both finishes were augmented by ‘3 tone Blue body stripes’. If you were feeling especially affluent, you could also order a radio with FM and, a sign of how distant 1979 now seems, inertia reel rear seat belts.

 A portrait poster of the Harrier

At £4,330 the Harrier cost £345 more than the Sport, but it was both well-appointed and possessed a genuine appeal to the driver who preferred RWD to the likes of the Golf GTi and who also did not want to incur the cost of an RS2000.

Production ceased in spring 1980 after just 1,500 examples, 1,000 in white and 500 in silver. Ford intended the Harrier to maintain the Escort Mk. II’s profile in the months before the debut of the front-wheel-drive Mk III in September 1980, and indeed many enthusiasts regarded it as an instant classic.

The top speed was a more than respectable 100 mph with 0–60mph in 10.3 seconds and the Harrier’s many devotees praise its power/weight ratio, its verve and its genuine presence. Today it is one of the most highly regarded second-generation Escorts.

And on 29th October 1979, a Harrier (or at least a Harrier look-a-like) appeared in the opening credits of a new Euston Films comedy-drama -

The creators of Minder envisaged that Terry McCann using the Escort as his regular on-screen transport, but this idea was abandoned in favour of the Ford Capri 2.0S Mk. II. The reason was that Arthur Daley would never issue his long-suffering bodyguard with the keys to a desirable and recent-model car. Even if an Escort Harrier would have been perfect for evading Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Rycott…

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