Ford Escort Mark I (1968–1975)
Ford Escort RS2000 Mexico
The Mark I Ford Escort was introduced in the United Kingdom at
the end of 1967, making its show debut at Brussels Motor Show in
It replaced the successful long running Anglia. The car was
presented in continental Europe as a product of Ford's European
operation. Escort production commenced at Halewood in England during
the closing months of 1967, and for left hand drive markets during
the autumn/fall of 1968 at the Ford plant in Genk.
Ford Escort Mk.1 V8 Rally Car
Initially the continental Escorts differed slightly
from the UK built ones under the skin. The front
suspension and steering gear were differently configured
and the brakes were fitted with divided hydraulic
circuits; also the wheels fitted on the Genk-built
Escorts had wider rims.
At the beginning of 1970, continental European
production transferred to a new plant on the edge of
Saarlouis, West Germany. The MkI was also built in
Israel between 1969 - 1975.
The Escort was a commercial success in many parts of western
Europe, but nowhere more than in the UK, where the national best
seller of the 1960s, BMC's Austin/Morris 1100 was beginning to show
its age while Ford's own Cortina had grown, both in dimension and in
price, beyond the market niche at which it had originally been
pitched. In June 1974, less than six years after the car's UK
introduction, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth
Ford Escort, a milestone hitherto unmatched by any Ford model
outside the USA.
It was also stated that 60% of the two million Escorts had been
built in Britain.
The Escort had conventional rear wheel drive and a four-speed
manual gearbox, or 3 speed automatic transmission. The suspension
consisted of a simple live axle mounted on leaf springs, but with
rack-and-pinion steering. The Mark I featured contemporary styling
cues in tune with its time: a subtle Detroit-inspired "Coke bottle"
waistline and the "dogbone" shaped front grille — arguably the car's
most famous stylistic feature. Similar styling featured in the
larger Cortina Mark III (also built in West Germany as the Taunus)
that was launched in 1970.
Initially, the Escort was sold as a 2-door saloon (with circular
front headlights and rubber flooring) on the "De Luxe" model. The
"Super" model featured rectangular headlamps, carpets, a cigar
lighter and a water temperature gauge. A 3-door estate was
introduced at the end of March 1968 which, with the back seat folded
down, provided an impressive 40% increase in maximum load space over
the old Anglia 105E estate, according to the manufacturer.
The estate featured the same engine options as the saloon, but it
also included a larger 7½ inch diameter clutch, stiffer rear springs
and in most configurations slightly larger brake drums or discs than
A panel van appeared in April 1968 and the 4-door saloon in 1969.
Underneath the bonnet was the Kent Crossflow engine. Diesel
engines on small family cars were very rare, so the Escort featured
initially only petrol engines — in 1.1 L, and 1.3 L versions. A 940
cc engine was also available in some export markets, but few were
There was a 1300GT performance version, with a tuned 1.3 L Kent (OHV)
engine sporting a Weber carburetor and uprated suspension. This
version also featured additional instrumentation with a tachometer,
battery charge indicator and oil pressure gauge. The same tuned
1.3 L engine was also used in a variation sold as the Escort Sport,
that used the flared front wings from the AVO range of cars, but
featured trim from the more basic models. Later on a further
"executive" version of the Escort was produced known as the 1300E.
This featured the same 13" road wheels and flared wings of the
Sport, but was trimmed in an upmarket, for that time, fashion with
wood trim on the dashboard and door cappings.
There was, in the early days of the Escort, a higher performance
for rallies and racing — the Escort Twin Cam, which featured an
engine with a Lotus-made 8-valve twin camshaft head fitted to the
1.5 L non-crossflow block, which had a bigger bore than usual to
give a capacity of 1558 cc. Production of the Twin Cam, which was
originally produced at Halewood, was phased out as the RS1600 was
Ford Escort Mk.1
The Mark I Escorts became very successful as a rally car, and
they eventually went on to become one of the most successful rally
cars of all time.
The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late 1960s /
early 1970s, and arguably the Escort's greatest victory was in the
1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally being driven by Finnish legend
Hannu Mikkola. This gave rise to the famous Escort Mexico (1.6 L
"Kent" engined) special edition road versions in honour of the rally
In addition to the Mexico, the RS1600 was developed which used a
Kent engine block with a 16-valve Cosworth cylinder head. This
engine was essentially a detuned Formula 3 engine designated BDA,
for Belt Drive A Series. Both the Mexico and
RS1600 were built at Ford's Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO)
facility located at the Aveley Plant in South Essex. As well as
higher performance engines and sports suspension, these models
featured strengthened bodyshells, making them an ideal model for
rallying. Even today Mark I Escorts are still popular in the amateur
rally scene. The BDA engine has a distinctive growling which can be
heard for quite a distance when the vehicle is being driven hard,
such as in competition.
Ford also produced an RS2000 model as a more "civilised"
alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 L
Pinto (OHC) engine. This also clocked up some rally and racing
victories; and pre-empted the hot hatch market as a desirable but
affordable performance road car. Like the Mexico and RS1600, this
car was produced at the Aveley plant.
The Escort quickly became one of Britain's most popular cars,
comfortably outselling the conceptually similar Vauxhall Viva HB
launched two years earlier. It was also a success on export markets,
though in the larger European markets it tended to be outsold by the
Opel Kadett, its General Motors rival. The car was built in Germany,
Britain and in Commonwealth countries such as Australia and New
The Mk I was produced by Ford Australia from 1970 to 1975 in 2
door sedan, 4 door sedan and 2 door panel van body styles.
1100 cc and 1300 cc engines were offered, as was the 1558 cc twin
The latter was offered only in the Escort Twin Cam model, which was
renamed to Escort GT 1,600 in (40,640 mm) late 1971.
67,146 examples of the Mk I were built in Australia
with local sourcing bringing the Australian content of the vehicles
First generation Ford Escort Estate
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