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Ford XR3

Ford XR3 Published: 30th May 2017 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Ford XR3
Ford XR3
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Why should i buy one?

Who doesn’t love a fast Ford and with prices for RWD Escorts rocketing to silly levels, it’s left to the Mk3 to provide cheaper thrills – albeit not for much longer if recent auction reports are future indicators! The front-wheel drive Escorts have a different character to the previous hot ones, which many may prefer.

What can i get?

There’s essentially a choice of three generations of hatchbacks and convertibles – four if you want to count the booted Orion that now you see so little of.

The original XR3 was the chief Golf GTi rival in its day, more so when it gained fuel injection and five-speed transmissions by 1983, by which time the motorsport-biased RS1600i joined the ranks boasting slightly more power (115bhp), closer gearing and a fully rejigged chassis. Sadly, not as good as the package sounded on the road as it was more for the track, but the RS badge now means they are hot property, as are the 132bhp RS Turbos which replaced it.

A revise for ’86 saw a restyled snout with the RS Turbo, in particular, sporting a less boy racer look, while the XR3i became more palatial as well as a result of some 30 percent of buyers purchasing this hottest of hatches on its look alone.

When the reskinned Mk5 came out in ’90 there was no XR3i but this was quickly reintroduced due to new Escort’s lukewarm reception. With this relaunch came a bit of a forgotten RS; the new RS2000. Now packing 150bhp of 2-litre Scorpio power, this was supplemented by a 4x4 off-shoot – that’s right, a half-hearted RS Cosworth that is cheap as chips by comparison! Orion was never badged as an ‘XR’ even though it was virtually the same machine albeit saloonshaped. What it did have, however, was a limited run 1600E that wasn’t a patch on the real thing – ditto the new Escort Mexico in the showrooms around the same time.

What are they like to drive?

As we eluded to earlier, FWD Escorts sport a different character to the old school ones but the fun is much the same and grip levels certainly higher, although these Fords lack the finesse and fluency that make the VW (and Peugeot’s 205 GTi for that matter) so special. Initially, the XR3 came in for a lot of stick due to jittery ride and it’s something Ford didn’t put right until ’83 cars although many have been altered by owners over the decades.

Only the injected models can be called remotely fast – the real thrills come from Ford’s SVE-developed Mk1RS Turbo. Of the later XR3is, the advent of the zesty Zetec 16-valve engines turned things around but even though the newer engine is more refined than the rather coarse CVH unit, later Escorts still lack that certain something of the original XR3s, the exception being the underrated RS2000.

What are they like to live with?

Rust and wrecks are the chief worries so vet carefully. As it’s a Ford, parts supply has always been reasonable (apart from trim) and it’s improving all the time now that they have gained true classic status; try GS Escorts for starters. And gained they have with a (12,000 miles) RS Turbo recently selling at auction at over £30,000!

Happily, saner prices, for what was once ‘blue collar’ transport, are around but, unless you opt for a Mk5 derivative, you won’t get much for under £6000.

We reckon

With prices going only one way for the RWD ravers, front driven Escorts may be the only viable option but that’s okay because the XR3 family is a welcoming and entertaining bunch that you should like.


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