Matters of moment, December 1970



The new Ford Mexico

Seven days ago another new Ford came on the market—the Escort Mexico. Motor Sport believes that participation in competition motoring improves ordinary cars and we are pleased when properly developed models are named after well-known circuits or contests. Consequently, we welcome Ford of Britain’s latest new model, which is not an ordinary car at all but a potent 98-b.h.p. Escort, made by Ford Advanced Vehicle Operations at Aveley at the rate of about a dozen-a-week and sold through Ford’s 66 Rallye Sport Dealers.

The Mexico is based on the Escort RS 1600 bodyshell and suspension but is powered by an 80-bore (actually 80.98 mm.) push-rod-o.h.v. engine, the well-proved 1600 GT power unit (see Page 1314). It thus has a cross-flow, bowl-in-piston head and five-bearing crankshaft like the Ford Escorts which finished 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th and took the Team Prize in the London-Mexico World Cup Rally. It differs from these rally cars in being of 1,600 c.c. instead of 1,850 c.c., having wet, not dry-sump, lubrication, no overdrive (it pulls a 3.7 back axle), has a steel and glass instead of an aluminium and Perspex body, and 5-1/2-in. instead of 6-in, rims, but it does have the 9.6-in. front brake discs of the World Cup cars. And the Mexico sells for £1,150 4s., inclusive of p.t. and delivery charges in this country. Whereas, even if exact World Cup replicas were available, they wouldn’t be sold for that sort of price. Moreover, to supplement a red, white or maize finish you can order your Mexico in World Cup livery.

We drove the Mexico on a wet FVRDE Chobham test track and were driven round it by Roger Clark and Gunnar Palm. The way these Dunlop and Goodyear-tyred Mexicos hung on through The Snake was highly commendable. So here is an excellent instant-competition car which is also a fast road car, quieter and more practical than the expensive RS 1600. One can almost forgive it retention of the Escort’s fumbly lamps’ and wipers’ switches!

The significant thing is that Ford is so alert to competition cars at a time when British Leyland has virtually turned its back on competition activities, although it makes open sports cars, which Ford does not. This is very satisfactory, if not exactly opportune in a country whose Minister of Transport regards 70 m.p.h. (a speed first officially achieved by a motor car in 1899, and which virtually every production model can comfortably exceed) as quite quick enough in 1970! One wonders whom John Peyton is protecting from whom? Once upon a time, if a Conservative government had lifted a speed-limit it could have been accused of encouraging the rich men in their expensive toys to harm the poor pedestrian (or, at best, cycling) workers. Today, every class of the community likes cars and factory car-parks are an essential part of the Industrial Machine. So Mr. Peyton would be better advised to try reducing road accidents by encouraging better driving, instead of curbing initiative, lulling the inexperienced into a false sense of safe-70s, with his retention of a Motorway speed-limit which smacks of wishful-thinking vote-saving.

That less money may be spent on roads in an endeavour to pull Britain out of the financial mire is part of the penalty this country is paying for over-spending, strikes and winning two World Wars. What does a few million a year buy, anyway, in terms of roads? A dozen miles of new Motorway or some such. But had successive Chancellors not raided the “Road Fund” there would be money to spare for road schemes instead of which these vital National networks may have to be cut back and once again the car owner has the feeling he always pays.

Which he certainly does, with this new 1d. or 2d. increase on a gallon of petrol, which will ultimately raise everyone’s cost of living. With a brand-new government doing what it can to help Industry, the greedy Oil Barons have acted unfairly in so promptly raising the price of fuel. This time motorists will no doubt take steps to save rather than spend an extra 1d. a gallon, by retarding the ignition so that a grade lower fuel can be used, by driving more carefully to get increased m.p.g.. and so on. We confess we are now running the Editorial Rover 2000TC on four-star, although its makers say it should be fed five-star, perhaps to humour its Heron head. It seems to run satisfactorily on a rather cheaper grade, of most brands except Murco, on which it pinked and ran-on fit to snap its crank—but this four-star was supplied from one of those multi-delivery pumps, which we have never really trusted.

If the petrol companies priced their products more competitively, instead of all selling at identical charges, following slavishly any price increases, they could afford to dispense with artificial sales stimulants; when you have collected all Shell’s historic-car medals and when Boxing Day brings to an end Total’s clever free-Christmas card promotion, remember that Amoco prefer to supply you with clean petrol, in lieu of gimmicks. . . .

Jack Brabham

We feel sure all our readers will wish Jack Brabham happiness in his retirement from GP racing—although retiring from F1 racing, the grand old man says he intends to concentrate on Indianapolis-type American racing. Brabham’s victory in the S. African GP was his 14th in a World Championship race. He started his racing career 23 years ago, won the World Drivers’ Championship in 1959, 1960 and 1966, and is the only driver to have thrice been awarded the GMW’s title of Driver of the Year. Engineer as well as competitor, the modest Australian came to the forefront of his profession, in which he retains active business interests, calmly, without fireworks, determinedly but completely without conceit or ballyhoo. He now returns with his wife and family to his native land, but retains businesses here, and the good wishes of all of us accompany him. It is expected that the Brabham GP team will still be active, next season, and our guess is that Brabham-the-Constructor and entrant, as distinct from Brabham-the-Driver, will never be far away.