Killing umpteen birds with one stone, Ford recently announced that its AVO division is to sell an Escort Mexico to complement the recently inaugurated production of Escort BDAs at AVO’s South Ockendon plant. Both the BDA or RS 1600 as Ford prefer it) and the Mexico will also be available with three further stages of engine tune. The basic RS 1600 is to the same specification as before, the new Mexico being designed to offer the enthusiast the Cosworth Escort’s running gear with the substitution of the up-rated 1,600-c.c. GT cross-flow engine as used in the Cortina. The Mexico’s price has been fixed at £1,150 4s. This means that an enthusiast buying an Escort now has four choices—the 82-b.h.p. cross-flow 1300 GT, the Mexico boasting 98 b.h.p.. the faithful 118-b.h.p. Twin-Cam, or the expensive RS 1600 with an advantage of two horsepower more than the Twin-Cam version. Once AVO gets into full swing there will be tuning parts for BDAs and Mexicos, whilst the 1300 GT can also he improved by the fitting of the necessary Broadspeed parts, so only the Twin-Cam is out in the cold so far as Ford tuning goes, though there are plenty of specialists who will oblige in this direction.
To clarify the situation further, one can see that the Mexico, Twin-Cam and RS 1600 Escorts are all the same, apart from their engines. This is the relevant point so far as the Mexico is concerned, for it means that all the specialist transplants involving the insertion of a 1600 GT engine into a 1300 GT Escort are outdated because the Mexico has better brakes, handling and gearbox. It might still be a valid operation on a secondhand car, but firms like LuMo, Allard, Super Speed and so on will have to look elsewhere for a gap in the Ford line-up: in fact most of these companies already have other fish to fry anyway.
We were able to try the Mexico in tuned and untuned form at Boreharn Airfield recently. Also available for some laps of the completely resurfaced former racing circuit were a pair of RS 1600s, one a production vehicle and the second featuring an engine specially rebuilt by F2 expert Brian Hart which was claimed to yield 20 b.h.p. more than the standard 16-valve unit.
Although we were given a price for the standard Mexico, retail charges for the tuning equipment could not be announced simultaneously because production arrangements had not been finalised.
We first ventured onto the track in a standard RS 1600, not the Motor Sport vehicle we hasten to add, but it seemed identical to “our’s” in respect of its track performance. On the fastest stretches at Boreham it managed between 105 and 110 m.p.h. and the acceleration appeared to match our previously published 0-60-m.p.h. times in the nine-second bracket. The Hart-modified BDA was altogether a better car for road use, being quieter, more flexible and faster than the production model. Top speed at Boreham was an indicated 115 m.p.h., with a discernible increase in accelerative ability to match. The standard ignition cut-out and suspension were retained, which caused some comment from members of AVO’s hierarchy who were present to see that their latest toys suffered no abuse. We formed the impression that they would like to improve the suspension of any Escort with a power output exceeding that of a standard RS 1600, but to a large extent they are controlled by economics, for the RS 1600 is already an expensive little device.
We spent some 10 laps or so conducting the production version of the Mexico and formed the impression that it would probably be of considerable appeal to those enthusiasts who used to buy the Mk. 1 and 2 Cortina GT. For a man who has a young family, or simply needs to carry more baggage than a sports car can hold, the Mexico is an excellent combination which should give reliable service with a sporting flair. The speedometer indicated a maximum of just under 100 m.p.h., which would indicate to me that Ford’s performance claims of a true 100 plus top speed, and acceleration from a standstill to 60 m.p.h. in less than 11 seconds, are entirely feasible.
The modified Mexico with a pair of twin-choke Weber carburetters and a modified cylinder head running a 10.5-to-1 compression ratio offered nearly the same performance as a production Twin-Cam. Power output was quoted as 109 b.h.p. DIN, and this was enough to push the speedometer needle just past the 100-m.p.h. mark on the Boreham straights. We had a little difficulty with the throttle not closing quickly enough and because of this explored the Escort’s road-holding reserves rather more fully than usual. Goodyear radial tyres were fitted, and while they howled as the Escort was pointed towards a rather later apex than we had been using, they still hung on until the car emerged unscathed on the other side. A colleague spun the same car during the day, but as he was clipping some gravel chippings and trying to sort out the throttle simultaneously his rotation was inevitable anyway!—J. W.