Ford-of-Britain’s latest sporting version of the Escort
Ford in Britain are not only prominent with their more successful ventures into rallying and saloon-car racing but through their Advanced Vehicles Operation department at Aveley in Essex they put into their production specialist models the lessons AVO have assimilated from this competition activity and testing on their own high-speed circuit at Boreham.
A case in point are the popular Escort Mexico and the even more energetic RS1600. Regular readers of Motor Sport will know that I regard the Mexico, which has got itself in the news by a series of circuit races for its species, as an admirable “fun-car” – quick, highly-controllable, reliable, economical and with a very nice gear-change, but noisy, and lively on its springs. The formula is the strengthened RS body shell, rally seats, and a 98 (SAE)-b.h.p. edition of the push-rod Escort 1600 engine. Very effective, and the seats and strong body shell saved me from serious injury in a rather nasty accident.
The next Escort development was the much more exciting RS1600, with twin-cam, sixteen-valve BDA power unit in much the same shell. Developing 120 (DIN) b.h.p. in “showroom” form, it had a most impressive amount of urge but was expensive and lacked some of the assurance of reliability one associates with a well-tried simple engine.
The latest Escort RS2000 lies between these two parameters. It follows the “many litres in light cars make for light work” theory, by having the 2-litre Pinto engine, pulling a 3.54 top gear, in the rally-developed RS body shell. The four-cylinder Pinto engine was designed originally for the American Ford compact car but is so effective, as an up-to-date single-over-camshaft eight-valve power unit developing at least 100 (DIN) b.h.p. when used in Cortinas, that it makes an admirable pack for the smaller RS2000. It is likely to be developed in light-alloy form to give some 220 b.h.p. in the works rally Fords before the year is out. . . .
In its production guise this RS2000 has been so well received that 2,000 are to be supplied for the German market before r.h.d. versions are sold here, which should be by October. The Pinto engine with its cogged-belt-drive to the o.h. camshaft is given a sump baffle and central oil-pump pick-up before being installed in the Escort, as owners are expected to rally and race it, unlike Pinto commuters across the Atlantic. To adapt the maid-of-all-work Escort to its new power pack, which is heavier, naturally, than a Mexico engine, the front suspension is given Capri front springs of 30% greater rate. At the back, conversely, after a big bump-stop had been fitted above the differential casing as a roll-reducing expedient superior to using ordinary outboard bump-stops, it was possible to reduce the camber of the leaf suspension, and employ softer dampers. This means even better control in spite of an acceptably softer ride.
Add to this an altered steering layout to make the RS2000 run straight in side winds and better braking performance under heavy and continuous applications and you see that the RS2000 is not just a bigger-engined Mexico. It is a new car in its own right, with all the fun-aspects of a Mexico but with a nicer way of delivering them. The gearbox is a Cortina unit, modified to give rather closer ratios and shorter lever movements.
That is an outline of the very smart RS2000 which I took over while the dependable and very likeable Consul 3000GT was being serviced–its only blot on an impeccable reliability record having been loss of the o/s winkers and a fuel gauge reading a permanent zero. (The latter is a worthwhile defect if you lend the car to friends, because they assume you have run it dry or that it has been “milked” and put some in!–but it is a source of worry if you are going onto a Motorway with no idea how much is in the tank.)
Reverting to the RS2000, I took it onto the M4, going westwards, soon after I had got into it. All would have been fast-going, had I not passed an ambulance which was travelling in the middle lane at rather less than 70 m.p.h. with its headlamps ablaze. Not wishing to be dazzled, I reached up to dip the mirror and it fell onto the floor. Why didn’t I pull away instead? Because this Ford, in its white livery with broad blue “speed stripes”, is the kind of car which instinctively draws the gaze of any parked policeman; also, the speedometer was in k.p.h. and not being quick at mental arithmetic I was still calculating how far I dare let the needle rise without incurring an endorsement. As this car is very safe at well over the legal speed, I was reminded, as if I ever forget, what a farce the 70 thing is. But swivelling round in the tight-fitting bucket seat in this l.h.d. car to see whether it was safe to pull into the pass-lane when I came up with much slower vehicles was not the most enjoyable way of driving a conspicuous “racer” along the M4. Arrived home, a blow with a hammer got the mirror back and on ordinary roads there is not a bad view in the external l.h. mirror.
I did not have an opportunity to check the RS2000’s potent performance but it has a maximum speed which a certain manufacturer at the opposite end of the motoring spectrum to Ford would no doubt describe as “adequate”! Shall we say 40 m.p.h. or thereabouts above what is legal? Acceleration is more important and AVO claim 0-60 m.p.h. in nine seconds. Once in top gear you can cruise this big-engined Escort at 18.7 m.p.h. per 1,000 r.p.m., which is effortless running. The feel is very much that of the Mexico, crisp, sure and enjoyable, although the softer suspension is noticeable when setting the RS up for fast corners. The seats are to be changed on the British model but I found the driving position reasonably comfortable, with its steeply-inclined, too-high cushion, high squabs, which recline, and headrest. The instrumentation is neat, although the small dials for fuel-level, heat, charge and oil-pressure tended to be masked by the thick rim of the small racing-type steering wheel, at my driving stance. The tachometer has its red sector from 6,500-7,000 r.p.m. and, to qualify an earlier remark, the speedometer has m.p.h. calibrations, but these are very small and there is no “70” digit. Press-buttons are casually scattered about on and under the facia but operate a brake-fluid tester and hazard lamps, as well as the usual services. The l.h. stalk controls winkers, horn and lamp flashers. The wiper-blade arms have aerofoils. The gear-change is fully up to Escort standards and the hand-brake well located, but the clutch is sudden, as on the Mexico.
Equipment includes laminated Triplex screen, a pair of QI Cibie headlamps, reversing lamps, Triplex heated back window, etc., and for those who dislike conspicuous cars there will be a choice of six different finishes. The test car had Dunlop SP68 tubeless radials. A full tank took me more than 200 miles without the gauge needle getting quite into the low-level zone. There are screenwashers operated by foot, sill internal locks for the two doors, etc. The exterior button on the driver’s door tended to stick in.
Altogether, this RS2000 is in the best tradition of the small sporting Fords and AVO will no doubt receive the same enthusiastic response for it here, as in Germany. It is ideal for those who have to forgo the luxury of a real, openable sports two-seater but who crave good handling, instant response and a sporting image from their family transport. The Escorts which should interest readers of Motor Sport are thus:
The Escort Sport. Push-rod 1,298-c.c. engine: £1,032.
The Escort Mexico. Push-rod 1,598-c.c. engine: price to be announced.
The Escort RS2000. Single o.h.c. 2,000-c.c. engine: (to be announced)
The Escort RS1600. Twin-cam 16-valve 1,601-c.c. engine: £1,701.