Introducing The Escort
January 3rd: The British United B.A.C. 1-11 arrived at Rabat at about 4 p.m., having made a refuelling stop at Bordeaux-Merignac, where Mirage 4 bombers were on manoeuvres. In keeping with the splendid mid-December dinner at the London Hilton, the 70-odd members of the party were to stay at the Rabat Hilton. Transport to the hotel was an uncivilised old 'bus that rattled and shook its way up the hills. At that evening's cocktail party everyone laughed when Walter Hayes said we were to get a call at 6.30 a.m. the following day; trouble was, he wasn't joking, and it was a motley bunch of journalists which shuffled into breakfast on Thursday morning.
January 4th: There was a scramble for the GTs, then the 1300s with the 1100s bringing up the rear. There was a police escort out of Rabat and then we were on our own. For the volume of traffic, the Moroccan roads are some of the best we have seen, even if a little uneven in places. The Escorts were soon spreading out and speeding towards Casablanca—only to turn inland to Settat, and then back to the Barbary Coast to lunch at Safi, overlooking a bright blue Atlantic. After lunch there was a short run inland to the overnight stop at Marrakesh, with the High Atlas ever looming in the background. The weather was spring-like and we arrived almost at sunset, a beautiful sight, with the walls of the city glowing gold. There was more Ford wining and dining in the evening but most people turned in early for another dawn start.
January 5th: There was ice on the windscreen in the morning, but we were on the road by 7.30. It was a long run of over 380 miles, at first in the fertile, orange-growing foothills of the Atlas, and finally into the mountains. We climbed to 4,800 ft., well into the snow-line where there was hardly any vegetation. The people seemed even poorer, living in hovels made of mud, or reeds or beaten-out tin cans. Transport was almost non-existent, and it was only too common to see natives walking or standing, miles from anywhere. What were they doing? Where were they going? It was a shattering thought that such poverty exists so close to Europe. Despite the natives' fearsome and bedraggled appearance, they seemed a happy race, free from cares. In particular the children had an infectious happiness and were terribly excited at the sight of the line of Escorts. An indifferent lunch was taken at Meknes and then back to Rabat, this time in the one Twin-Cam present—naturally a far better car. In the evening there was what was termed a "grand banquet," which included a string of belly dancers.
January 6th: Time for a brief tour of Rabat and pack to the waiting 1-11; from the sun of Morocco to the rain and sleet of Surrey.
We were able to try three models, a 1300 Super, a GT and the Twin-Cam. Naturally it was the Twin-Cam that we were most anxious to try and on the long, open roads between Meknes and Rabat it was certainly very pleasant. The car accelerated briskly up to an easy indicated 110 m.p.h., although in braking from that speed the car lost some of its stability. With its lowered suspension and wider wheels, it had a much happier feel when cornering. Like the present Twin-Cam and GT Cortinas, the Escort has the same interior even down to the plastic steering wheel, an odd thing in these days of leather-gaitered wheels. The Escort Twin-Cam will apparently sell for about the same price as the Cortina, but as it weighs about 2 cwt. less it would appear that the Cortina's racing days are finished. The GT was quite pleasant but did not have a very noticeably superior performance to the Super. Whereas the Twin-Cam would cruise in comparative silence at 80 m.p.h. the 1300 and GT were beginning to sound hard-worked and reluctant to more acceleration.
We covered a route of over 700 miles, almost always at high speed, yet hardly any trouble was reported throughout. One car was found to have an inoperative clutch one morning and three others had their gear levers come out. However, Ford did not seem to think this problem very worrying and no doubt the fault had been rectified when the cars came on to the market mid-way through January. We look forward to commenting further on the Escort Twin-Cam when we have completed a full road test.
For those who thought the whole trip an expensive public relations exercise, Ford's Barrie Gill gave a simple answer: It cost the company no more than it would to place two full page advertisements in a national newspaper.—R. F.