An attractive new body shape constructed around practically the same old mechanical components is the essence of Ford’s new Escort range, which goes on sale in Britain on March 19th. If this comes as a disappointment for chose anticipating an all independently-sprung model of completely new design, Ford are expecting that simplicity and economy are the right combinations for the hard times said to be facing us. What they have succeeded in doing is providing more space, greater window area, more comfort, wider model range and, so they claim, quieter, smoother running.
The nineteen cars making up the “everyday” range all use the cross-flow five bearing, in-line four-cylinder Kent engine as before, in sizes upwards from 1,098 c.c., through 1,297 c.c. to 1,598 c.c. The 1,598-c.c. Mexico is no more, but its 84b.h.p. Weber-carburetted CT engine lives on in a 1600 Sport and a luxurious Ghia derivative to join the other top-of-range Ghia models on Ford’s list. Both are available with two or four doors. Otherwise-identical Ghias and Sports are available with 70-b.h.p. 1300 GT engines, though the 1300 Sport comes in two-door form only. The rest of the range is comprised of the basic 1100, the 1100 L, the 1300 L and the 1300 GL. All except the 1100 L are available in estate car guise as well as two- or four-door saloon specification, and the basic-model estate can be ordered with a 1300 engine.
All the GT-engined versions-1300 and 1600—have Weber carburetters, slightly hotter camshafts and tubular exhaust manifolds, just as before. Ford carburetters and cast manifolds are fitted to the 48-b.h.p. 1100 and 57-b.h.p. 1300.
Before enthusiasts start screaming “Where are the performance Escorts?”, we’d better say that they will not be disappointed. Ford sprang a surprise at the launch of the new Escort at the Dorchester Hotel when they showed a fully rally-prepared development of a new RS 1800 production car. While the works rally cars will have 2-litre BDA engines as before, this production road car uses a bored-out RS 1600 BDA engine: increasing the bore to 86.8 mm. from 81 mm, has raised the capacity of the old 1,601-c.c. 16-valve, twin overhead camshaft, all-aluminium engine to 1,840 c.c. The power-output goes up from 115 b.h.p. DIN at 6,500 r.p.m. to 125 b.h.p. DIN at the same revolutions, in spite of replacing the twin 40-mm. Dellorto carburetters with a single twin-choke down draught Weber, ostensibly for reasons of economy. As did the old RS 1600, the RS 1800 has a strengthened version of the standard Escort shell. Cloth-trimmed bucket seats are fitted as standard.
A new RS 2000 will appear later in the year with a modified 2-litre, overhead camshaft Pinto engine and streamlined front bodywork.
There are no mechanical changes at all to the push-rod engines of the “everyday” range. The 1100’s clutch is raised in size from 6.5 in. to 7.5 in. to match the rest of the range, that wonderful, single-rail shift gearbox is unchanged, and Ford’s C3 automatic gearbox becomes an option on the 1300 and 1600 models in place of the Borg-Warner unit.
In the suspension department Ford engineers have concentrated on removing much of the harshness of the ride. This has been achieved by softening the spring rates (the rear leaf springs are wider, but have three leaves instead of four). Lost roll-stiffness has been replaced by fitting a rear anti-roll bar, which is designed to reduce tramp too, using vertical instead of inclined rear dampers and increasing the front anti-roll bar’s diameter. The MacPherson front struts have more progressive bump stops. No changes have been made to the rack-and-pinion steering. Stiffer springs are fitted to the ½ in.-lower Sport model.
The 1100s continue to use drum brakes (disc brakes are optional), the front ones being increased in width by ¼ in. Mexico-sized front discs, calipers and pads are fitted to 1300 and 1600 models, and all models now have self-adjusting rear brakes. Servos are standard on the Sports and Ghias.
By modern standards the superseded, sevenyear-old Escort shell had fairly poor visibility. Slimmer pillars and a lower waistline have increased the window area in the squarer-styled new car by 23%. Other basic body improvements include a 10% larger boot and 2 in. more leg-room in the rear. In an effort to reduce the noise, vibration and harshness from which the Escort has always suffered, the rear engine mounting and exhaust mountings have been changed, there have been detail changes to the suspension to fight the intrusion of road noise, and much greater use has been made of sound-deadening materials, particularly in the Ghia.
By current standards the old Escort’s interior had become somewhat crude. Now the seats are much more sensibly padded for improved comfort, the Design Award-winning Cortina Mk. III instrument cluster is included in the redesigned facia, and at last Ford have fitted steering-column switches for lights/ washers/wipers, again borrowed from the Cortina. There is a new heating and ventilation system, including eye-ball vents and improved extraction.
As always with Ford cars an almost endless permutation of trim and detail specifications is available. At the top of the list the Ghia parallels its Ghia Capri and Granada brothers in having thickly-padded, cloth-trimmed seats, headrests (standard on the Sport too), cloth door trims, a wood veneer facia, tinted glass all round, door-to-door, shag-pile carpeting, lacquered metallic paintwork and a vinyl roof.
Although we have already driven briefly a number of pre-production versions of the new Escort, we must respect an embargo on driving impressions until March 19th. Similarly, prices will not be available until nearer that date. On the basis that Ford are not likely to price themselves out of the market, even though the luxury Ghia is likely to be over £2,000, this presentable, if conventional, revised Escort ought to keep Ford well ahead in the British Best Sellers List.—C.R.