The trouble with tuning an engine for more speed is the possibility that it will prove unreliable at some later date and though many of the tuning firms are very competent a tuned engine, because it is more highly stressed, is more likely to fail. A way round this drawback is the fitting of a larger capacity engine and, of course, Vauxhall with their Viva GT and Ventora models are strong disciples of this plan.
When the Escort was announced we were somewhat surprised to find that the most powerful engine available—apart from the 1,600-c.c. twin-cam unit—was the 1,300-c.c. cross-flow in GT form. This engine shares the same size block as the 1,600 c.c. version in the Cortina so it is hardly surprising that it took people a very short time to find out how an Escort went with the larger variant. Ford, however, have not yet got round to marketing a 1600 pushrod version of the Escort, so quite a few tuning firms are doing the job for them and finding a good market. One of the best established and better known of these firms is Allard’s from Putney
The specification includes rather more than simply dropping in the new engine, so Allard’s call the car the Escortina 1600GT. The 92 b.h.p. 1,600-c.c, engine replaces the 72 b.h.p. 1300GT, the suspension is lowered both front and rear and Allard traction master anti-tramp reds-are fitted to the back axle. Externally the car is fitted with a new grille with cut-outs for two spot lights and front wheel splash shields. A nice leather-covered steering wheel completes the specification. The normal new Escort GT is fitted with a 4.1 differential as standard, but some people may prefer the 3.77 and this can be supplied for an extra £20.
Rather than convert already well-used cars, Allard prefer to alter brand-new cars so that the 1,300-c.c, engines which are removed can be disposed of more easily; this obviously brings down the cost. The price of an Escortina in the trim described is £973 complete, including purchase tax, and Allard’s also offer the car with just the engine but without the other equipment at £936. The extra £37 seems well worth while.
We were able to try Alan Allard’s own personal Escortina GT for a few days and this was an almost new car with little over 2,000 miles on the clock, looking delightful in Ford’s new shade of metallic green. In fact, it was not quite standard as Alan has replaced the usual carburetter with the Weber 28/36 DCD, which was standard wear on the faithful old Mk. I Cortina GTs.
Having previously driven an Escort Twin Cam, I expected the performance of the Allard to be just a little milder. In fact, it was considerably more subdued and certainly did not hold the road nearly so well. This is probably because the car retains the GT’s standard 12 in. x 4½J wheels while the Escort twin-cam has 13 in. diameter wheels with a 5½J rim. The latter might be a worthwhile addition, although one would also have to employ a panel beater to modify the wheel arches. Both the Escort TC and GT come with radial tyres, of course.
The car performed perfectly during the period of our short test apart from mysteriously cutting out completely for a couple of seconds on the Motorway. Naturally it is rather noisy, particularly with respect to carburetter roar for the small pancake air filter does very little to deaden the sound. Felt padding would certainly cure the problem.
This is the perfect Q car, having no outward sign of the conversion apart from the lowering—which, few people would notice—and a little 1600GT badge on the boot which mystified quite a few other Escort owners I overtook.
A brake booster comes as standard on the Escort GT, so absolutely no attention is needed in that department as the brakes are well up to coping with the extra power. The engine pulled right round to the redlined figure of 6,500 r.p.m. in top gear during our Motorway travels, at which point there was still a little to come. The speedometer was hopelessly slow, but this is just under 100 m.p.h. genuine and at this speed the car was remarkably stable, certainly more so than the Twin Cam version. As the engine will rev into the red in top gear the 3.77 back axle would probably be worthwhile and costs no extra if specified when the car is ordered, although the delivery date might not be so prompt.
It was a pity that we did not have the car for a little longer so that performance figures, an accurate petrol consumption check and so forth could be made. Nevertheless, we had it long enough to see that it is a good proposition for the sporting driver and offers itself as a rival to the latest Cortina GT. Basically the choice is the same as between a Lotus Cortina and an Escort Twin Cam. The Cortina offers more comfort and the Escort a little more speed and manoeuvrability.—A. R. M.