Family cars are among the most popular vehicles because they can accommodate four or more people. Various classic family cars have been made over the years, and a British favourite is the Ford Escort. Compact, reliable and stylish, the Ford Escort became a national best seller in the 1960s. It was a commercial success all over Europe, and we’re looking into the history of the Ford Escort.
The Escort had been introduced as a replacement for the long-running Ford Anglia. The car debuted at the 1968 Brussels Motor Show and came with a conventional rear-wheel drive system. It became the first small Ford to use rack-and-pinion steering and came with a subtle ‘coke bottle’ waistline and ‘dogbone’ shaped front grille. This grille was perhaps its most recognisable feature.
The car’s design made it popular with the public. It was small and agile, but also had a spacious interior. It started off as a two-door saloon and expanded into an estate version. With the back seat folded up, interior space increased to 40%. Compared to other cars the Escort was very affordable and this made it sell well. By 1974, two million Ford Escorts had been produced, with 60% built in Britain.
As well as being a successful commercial car, the Escort proved to be formidable on the track. The most notable example occurred at the 1970 London-Mexico World Cup Rally, with champion driver Hannu Mikkola’s Escort coming in first place. Other Escorts finished in third, fifth, sixth and eighth. This led to the famous ‘Escort Mexico’ advert.
In 1975, the second generation Ford Escort was introduced. The Mark II differed from the original in that it was developed jointly between the UK and Germany. It came with a revised underbody, but retained most of the Mark I’s components.
Like the original, the Mark II did well on the race course. A new model called the RS1800 was introduced and came with a 1790 cc Cosworth BDE engine. Developed specifically for rally racing, the RS1800 had an innovative design. It featured a versatile all wheel drive system and durable bodyshell.
The Mark II won various RAC Rally races, winning every year from 1975 to 1979. The 1979 World Rally Championship was won by Bjorn Waldegard and Mikkola came in second place.
The Ford Escort was undoubtedly one of the most popular family cars of all time. Did you ever own one? We’d love to see pictures and you can post them on our Inside Classics Facebook page.