FORD-OF-BRITAIN has long held an enviable lead in home-sales. For example, their placing for last August was first, with 52,414 cars sold, against BL’s second place with 16,965 fewer sales, the successful Ford models breaking up into 20,821 Cortinas, 13,390 Fiestas and 10,981 Escorts sold that month — these are official SMM & T figures. Of course, not all these Fords were made here — Fiestas came in from Spain and others came from Germany. That the once so popular Escort ebbed in the V-registration race, dropping behind the Fiesta, can be attributed to the ageing of the old rear-drive model. Ford has now put this right with the introduction last month of the FWD New Escort.
The New Escort is a significant addition to the growing number of small Euroboxes made to one basic technical pattern, for Ford has gone over to the transverse-engine, front-drive package pioneered, for practical purposes, 21 years ago by the Issigonis Mini-Minor, Ford having had very good experience of this layout, and a good reception, with their Fiesta. There are three New Escort body styles, three-door hatchback, five-door hatchback, and Estate-car. There is the option of three engine sizes, 1,100 c.c., 1,300 c.c. and 1,600 c.c. The economy 1,100 c.c. power pack is a development of the push-rod o.h.v. Fiesta’s smallest unit, but the larger engines in the New Escorts or Erikas are the brand-new Ford CVH design, incorporating hemispherical combustion-chambers, the classic racing-car arrangement, with the valve heads tangential to the hemi-surface but with the valve stems canted-over at a compound angle to the cylinder axis, using a 45 deg. included valve-angle on a plane turned through 7 deg. to the transverse section through the cylinder — if I make myself clear! Anyway, Ford call this their “Compound Valve-angle Hemispherical chamber” engine, the ingenious design of which obviates using twin-overhead-camshafts, each valve being operated by its own cam through an angled rocker pivoting on a stud fulcrum. The cylinder head is of aluminium and compression-ratios ranging from 8.5 to 1 to 9.5 to 1 are used. The engine will sustain 6,000 r.p.m., with short-term runs of 7,000 r.p.m. The stiff iron cylinder block and crankcase encompass a five-bearing crankshaft. Auxiliary drives are mostly of the positive type, the o.h. camshaft is driven by a toothed-belt, and the more powerful versions of the CVH engines use breaker-less ignition. Power outputs of these New Escorts range from 55 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,700 r.p.m. from the 1,100 c.c. push-rod o.h.v. Valencia model, through 69 (DIN) b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. from the 1,300 c.c. CVH engine and 79 (DIN) b.h.p. at 5,800 r.p.m. from the 1,600 c.c. CVH power unit, to 96 (DIN) b.h.p. at 6,000 r.p.m. from the high-performance twin-choke Weber-fed 1600 CVH design.
Ford claim reduced drag, lower noise levels, larger disc front brakes than on any other small family car, and Police-tested door and boot locks. All models have four-wheel independent suspension, by MacPherson struts in front, a new system of coil-spring and transverse pivoting arms at the back, and all use rack-and-pinion steering. New seats, sophisticated heating and ventilation, and much improved detail design, extending to a foolproof fuel-filler, easy-to-replace electrical fuses, improved electrical connections, and instruments electronically stabilised for accurate read-outs, are among the claims made by Ford for the New Escort. Cost of ownership is said to have been substantially reduced by lower servicing times and costs; the New Escort, they say, needs less than two hours’ attention on average every 11,000 miles. Much improved aerodynamics should reduce petrol consumption and help to keep the windows clean. Smaller than the old Escort, there is more interior space in the New Escort, as expected of an Issigonis layout. The luxury Escort Ghia be available and the up-model GL, Ghia and sporting XR3 New Escorts will have such top-car items of equipment as microprocessor monitors of oil, coolant and screen-washer levels and brake-pad condition, electrically-operated windows, a sliding and tilting sun-roof, stereo sound systems, power-operated radio aerial, and central door-locking, thus putting the New Escort above its station, as it were — a luxury small-car for thrifty-minded, fuel-conservationist Executives.
The New Escort of most appeal to MOTOR SPORT readers will presumably be the 3-door XR3, with the 96 b.h.p. version of the 80 x 79.5 mm. (1,596 c.c.) overhead-camshaft engine. It has cast light-alloy wheels, 185/60 HR14 tyres, ventilated front-brakes, discs, and a drag-coefficient with tailgate spoiler, deeper front airdam, etc., of only 0.375, the top speed is given as 113 m.p.h., with acceleration in keeping.
With their New Escorts The Ford Motor Company looks well-placed to maintain its substantial lead in the UK sales-race. It has already announced some notably-competitive prices for the completely-new Escort range — 1000 three-door Hatchback, £3,374; 1300 five-door Hatchback, £4,361; 1600GL five-door Hatchback, £4,518; 1600 Ghia five-door Hatchback, £5,033. I somehow sense that these Ford New Escorts will be very good cars indeed. They are the outcome of five years’ development work involving 5,000 Ford engineers, scientists, technicians and planners. The New Escort will be built at Halewood, near Liverpool, like the previous generations of Escorts, and at Saarlouis in Germany, while component assemblies will come from Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and N. Ireland, with a sister car being built in N. America.
When I asked for a pre-release test of this important new Ford model I was refused, but was offered a brief sampling of the New Escorts last month. I preferred to forgo the short drives but hope that MOTOR SPORT will be able to publish full road-impressions, preferably of one of the quicker New Escort models, very shortly.