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Ford Escorts

Ford Escorts Published: 18th Jul 2018 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford Escorts
Ford Escorts
Ford Escorts
Ford Escorts
Ford Escorts
Ford Escorts
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Why not own a...? Ford Escort

You may want a Ford Escort, and there’s no shortage of them around, but can you afford the one your heart truly desires? An explosion in values for any pre Mk3 model has seen even the common or garden versions, such as 1100 De Luxes and vans, streak beyond the reach of many budgets making this Anglia replacement far from the working class hero it was intended to be when launched half a century ago.

Post 1980 front-wheel drive ranges are imminently more attainable with some ‘good guns’ that make great modern alternative to a Mexico or RS2000 and, irrespective of model or year, all are easy to keep as you’d expect from the company that gave us the Model T.

Model choice

Lasting for 20 years, the Escort served generations of motorists and there’s a model to suit you out there. With the soaring values of the sporting versions you can’t easily dismiss the mainstream models anymore and some which are worth hunting down include the 1300 Sport (which has Mexico front wings and is very rare) the 1300 GT and the ‘luxury’ 1300E.

The Mk2 initially replaced the old Mexico and RS2000 with 1300 and 1600 Sports plus luxury Ghia models which are good left field bets and certainly cheaper; most folks dismissed the Mk2 Mexico with its Capri 1600GT engine and it was soon dropped by Ford in favour of an entry level RS2000 but one was the last NEC show, for sale at just under £30,000 so are now quite valued…

Two models worth noting was the Harrier and the 1600L/GL. The former, based upon 1600 Sport was devised for the Minder TV series as something flash for Terry to drive around; the producers went for Capris instead so Ford turned it into a special edition. The run out 1600s, while looking standard enough actually used the GT power plant.

When the Escort switched to front-wheel drive Ford abandoned the old go faster names for the XR label, starting with the 94bhp 1.6 XR3, which morphed into the fuel injected XR3i and, subsequently spawned the track biased RS1600i and RS Turbo. The booted Orion, in 16i form is effectively the XR3 saloon in all but name, plus cabriolets became very popular.

The line up was revised for 1986 (unofficially called ‘Mk4’ with optional affordable mechanical antilock brakes) before a major reskin which saw the XR label discarded for a while (due to rising insurance premiums) replaced by the tepid 1.6S. The XR3i made a return in time for the 1992 revise which included new Zetec 16 valve engines. It wasn’t the only resurrection; back came the Mexico and the 1600E (for the Orions) plus a GTi appeared although the changes were mostly cosmetic. A major revamp in 1995 saw the Escort at its most honed and the run-out Finesse and Ghia models were especially nice to drive and well specified.

If there’s is one unsung hero then it has to be the RS2000 which used a transversely mounted 150bhp 2-litre twin cam engine that was a pretty adept performer. The best came two years later in 1993 when the car became available in 4x4 guise. It’s not the same floorpan as found on the RS Cosworth yet offered Cossie grip and security, but at a fraction of the price.

Behind the wheel

Depending upon which wheels are being driven there’s two different characters. Pure and simple fun best describes rear-wheel drive Escorts where their rustic nature serves up thrills in the rawest form, doubly so in models blessed with decent power to kick the tail out.

Front-wheel drive invariably means more grip but understeer, even so these sporting Escorts are still enjoyable. There are so few unmodified cars around that you’d be hard pushed to find one, but even these are brisk enough for today’s cut and thrust with any tinkering.

That said, it’s Mexicos and biggerblock RSs that are the most coveted and deservedly so, with their razor sharp throttle responses, slick gearboxes and controllable, enjoyable if crude handling. Away from the B roads, on motorways you’ll wish you had ear plugs as the four-speed transmissions really make these engines sing; many are now fitted with a five-speed unit taken from the Sierra and it’s a worthy accepted mod.

For their time, the Mk3 was regarded as on of the best handlers – if not riders– round, and the XR3i on par with a Golf GTi albeit lost its way with the Mk5 of 1990 although quick revamps in 1992 (along with excellent Zetec engines) and a complete refresh for 1995 righted most of the wrongs and it is unfortunate that the best driving Escorts of the late 1990s are the least wanted for classic appeal.

RS1600 and Twin Cams excepted, out of the entire strain it’s the RS2000 that impresses the most. That old 100bhp Cortina engine may not be terribly refined, but it’s punchy and unstressed in the Escort body plus is easy to maintain and uprate. With a Sierra five-speed gearbox fitted, they are fine everyday cars – if they weren’t so valuable!

The original Mexico has a completely different character to the Mk2 version but the latter isn’t as half colourless compared to the RS2000 as you’ve been led to believe. In short, the rear-wheel drive range are the most entertaining while the FWD generation are more sophisticated but in common with all during the Escort’s 20 year run are easy driving cars that you feel right at home with meaning they make creditable learner cars – if you can afford the purchase price that is.

What to pay

Escort prices of late have gone crazy and there’s no getting away from it. It’s not simply the hallowed RS and Twin Cams variants either where 50 grand is now a reference point; at the NEC Classic Motor Show auction a barely run in RS2000 made £97,875!

Ford frenzy has filtered down the ranges and now ordinary repmobiles are selling for five figures, such as Sherwood Restorations’ 1300L Estate (17,000 miles from new mind) at £14,995 – small wonder Ford theft and fakes is on the rise.

Genuine AVO Mk1s start with BF18 numbers although some wore a BB49 code. With Mk2s, genuine Mexicos and RS2000s wear a GCAT chassis number (with GATR in the type box). RS1800s should be coded BBAT on very early models or GCAT with an additional GATR headed code; contact the fine RS owners’ club for best advice here.

Not that front-wheel drive RS Escorts are particularly cheap by comparison, witness an RS Turbo which sold at the aforementioned NEC auction at almost £45,000. You don’t need to pay such lofty prices although you need to bank on around £10,000 for something nice with potential and original, the last point which is what is going to matter the most in years to come with so many tuned or customised cars around. With prices all over the place, you’d do well to spend some time beforehand on the PC checking out the various vendors and forums but the majority of folk know what their cars are now worth…

Making one better

Ford’s Escort was one of the most popular cars to tune and improve when contemporary and even now new tweaks and ideas are still surfacing – see legends Burton Power’s website for example. What they lack in sophistication they compensate with good old fashioned conventionality which is why all performance Escorts, be they 1300 or 2-litre powered, leave enormous scope for further improving by specialists and owners, even if it’s just electronic ignition or a performance air filter fitted (and it’s so nice to see a standard ‘saucepan’ still in place-ed) very few cars are totally original.

A five-speed gearbox isn’t a luxury these days and you’ll find many Mexicos and RS models duly converted using Sierra components. There’s shed loads of tuning gear for the old ‘Kent’ ohv engine although if you want in excess of 100bhp then the Pinto engine is a better starting point. A cheap and effective alternative is to use a Mondeo Zetec engine which can be picked up for pennies. In 2-litre 136bhp guise, it kicks out more than an RS1600 ever did and nut and bolt fitting kits are available. The engine even mates up to a standard gearbox.

Maintenance matters

The rising popularity of Escorts, along with any rear-wheel drive Fords to be fair, have seen an industry evolve in supplying replacement parts including complete shells although genuine original ‘Type 49’ shells are a licence to print money.

Mechanically, the interchangeability of components with other Ford’s ranges across the decades means that there’s little problems in this respect and rear-wheel drive Fords are meant to be fixed at home with general service items still available over the counter.

Front-wheel drive Escorts aren’t quite so simple but as they have been around for almost 40 years they hold few vices. They rust as bad as their ancestors but panels are also available. Magnum Classic Ford Panels (01706 359666) and Ex-Pressed Steel Panels can help ( Genuine RS parts and trim are becoming rare finds and, as such, worth their weight in gold if you wish to regain that showroom look.

In conclusion

You can’t beat any Escort for simple fun and frolics but, sadly, soaring prices mean the desirable models are no longer the working class wheels they once were – unless you’ve already got one, that is! However, there are some very good value post 1980 ranges that do the job just as well we feel.

Buying tips


Totally original cars are very rare as some form of tuning and altering has been carried out for road or competition work. Homespun Mexico and RS2000s are widespread and while they don’t command the value of an official car are perfectly okay – at the right price.


Spot a 49 shell. Look for strengthening gussets at suspension mounts (top and bottom plates), flared front wings, inner wing reinforcements, doubleskinned chassis rails, additional rear axle location arms, reinforced spring hangers etc.

Second-hand shells change hands for as much as £10,000 or so and new ones up to £20K if you find one! Now every part you need to make a 49 are made but will never be worth as much.

Other pointers include a special bulkhead rear seam. On RS1600s, there is a welded bulkhead bracket for the throttle. Prior to Nov ’73 the battery was located in the boot.

Rust is a major worry beneath the window level so look everywhere paying close attention to the floors, A and B posts, inner wings, side rails, axle location points, bulkheads (where battery resides on FWD cars) etc.


Starting with the Kent engine, these are faithful units that are easy to spot wear on in the form of smoking, fuming and undue noises. Parts supply is good but not exceptional. Once the Pinto kicked its habit of eating camshafts it proved to be durable although the usual checks should be carried out and watch for worn carbs. Is it the right engine as it could well be that a Cortina or Sierra unit has been fitted?

CVH engines known for crankcase fuming, smoking and gummed up tappets; VV carb was always unreliable and probably replaced by now by a worthy Weber alternative. Zetecs are quite durable and cheap to obtain.

Running gear

Suspensions just needs routine checks for worn bushes, shot shockers, listing and so on. There’s a good chance that it’s been uprated and wearing poly bushing already so check.

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