Some notes on the Ford Escort Popular
Motor Sport may not be the place, in some people’s opinion, in which to discourse at any length about the more utilitarian cars, at the expense of space devoted to things like Ferraris, Maseratis, Lamborghinis, Loti, and the like. But, never having been blessed with the wealth of this World, I long ago formed the opinion that there is sport to be had in almost all cars, big, medium or small, fast or slow; even, they tell me, in a parked limousine with the blinds drawn, if in the right company. So may I be forgiven for writing a few notes about a Ford Popular, 1970s style, that has served me rather well in recent months ? There is no need to describe this lowest form of Ford-life in detail, because in essentials it is basically the New Escort, of which the 1.1-litre version was discussed in these pages last September, pared down for low price and fuel economy. It can hold 70 m.p.h. on a Motorway, I thought more quietly than the more expensive 1.1 model. But its economytune is revealed by the need for full-choke for
cold starts arid for some time, on and off, thereafter and by a fiat-spot in the carburation, although the Popular is an instant commencer. It also has to be rowed along with the excellent gearbox if one intends to keep up with the traffic. Nor could I get Ford’s claimed 47 m.p.g. In fact, consumption of 4-star varied from 34.5 to 37.2 m.p.g., sufficient for some 300 miles. The normal 1.1-litre Escort did better. However, where this Ford Popular based on the race-developed Escort concept gains over mini-motors is in plenty of interior space, full luggage accommodation, comfortable seats, and the appearance of a full-size small family car. [thought the light from the Lucas headlamps excellent on beam and dip, the heater, its controls sensibly illuminated when the car’s lamps are on, pours out warmth, so that the absence of rear-window demisting is seldom serious, facia air-vents are provided, and the cross-ply Goodyear Super Cushion 600 x 12 G8 Goodyear tyres gave enough grip for the performance, even on wet roads. People may remark on the lack of trim and embellishments, and occasionally the lack of reversing lamps is inconvenient, the sparse interior stowage a nuisance. But the doors lock well and possess good handles, the simple push-rod 4I-b.h.p. engine can be held at 5,800 r.p.m. or taken to 6,100 r.p.m. on occasion, and when I looked at the accessible dip-stick after 1,730 miles the sump-level was still above the low mark; a pint of Castrol GTX brought it to slightly over-full, which is acceptable lubricant economy. Ford have gone to three stalk-controls, which is fine if you don’t inadvertently leave the sidelamps on, which awkward placing of the lower (r.h.) stalk encourages.
If the car stood out on a wet night water came in past the metal beading at the base of the nIs door, and collected in a puddle on the floor of the front-passenger compartment, and the protective rubber caps came off the suspension uprights within the luggage boot. Otherwise, this staunch and thrifty Ford gave no anxieties in 2,000 miles and I grew to like its honest austerity. Indeed, having employed it for commuting at the time of the Motor Show, I had no compunction about using it as a tender car on the Veteran Car Run, when I was driven back to North London in it (11 hours from Brighton, on a Sunday afternoon) and afterwards used it for the 190-mile night-run home. Altogether, this Ford Popular is excellent for what it is intended to do and must be welcomed by thrifty families and fleet managers, at its highly competitive price of £1,349, or £1,449 in Popular-Plus two-door form (a Fordor Popular-Plus is offered at £1,515. And now, apologies to those readers who cannot abide these dreary little fuel-saving cars.—W.B.