Daddy of all the

Escorts

Ford Escort

THERE is no doubt that Ford had the right formula for saloons in the late 1960s.

The Cortina was in its second generation and all was looking rosy. However, the smaller Anglia saloon was hopelessly outdated and a replacement had to be found.

Planning for a new small saloon began in 1964 and a number of Ford bosses I have spoken to over the years did not anticipate the enormity of the success of the new car - the Escort.

But the reality of the situation was that in those days Ford could do no wrong and the Escort just drove to global stardom with hardly any gimmickry to help it along.

Interestingly Ford was reluctant to go the whole hog of modern ideas such as front-wheel-drive and fluid suspension and stuck to the proven formula of the then conventional front-engine and rear-wheel-drive.

New factories were built on Merseyside and Saarlouis, Germany and very soon production was in full swing. The line started to roll at Halewood in 1967, and by announcement day in early 1968, 11,300 had been made - two-door saloons at first.

Nearly 500 cars were turned out every day and the factory put Merseyside on the global car production map.

Much has been written about later sporty versions of the Escort, but it was the very first 1100 de luxe that was the real daddy of them all.

Here was a humble family car powered by a four-cylinder 1,098cc 48bhp engine which could provide 79mph performance with 60mph coming up in 22 seconds. With rear leaf springs, it appeared rather old fashioned at first.

But time dictated that Ford had this car bang on right at first attempt. It was priced very reasonably at £635 and caught the imagination of the British car buying public and the name stayed through different and highly modernised versions until 2004 - an amazing achievement for a model line.

The Escort was a commercial success in several parts of western Europe, but nowhere more than in the UK.

The timing of its launch was nothing short of brilliant. The national best seller of the 1960s, the BMC 1100 was ready for the history books and many buyers were tired of its suspension system which had to be pumped up at regular intervals.

Many, who were also fed up with the 1100's front-wheel-drive system wanted to go back to the old formula and Escort was there with a red carpet to welcome them to the Ford experience.

So much so, that in June 1974, six years into the car's UK introduction, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth Ford Escort, a milestone hitherto unmatched by any Ford model outside the US.

Just over two months after the launch of the saloon, Ford announced a three-door station estate and a van version was introduced.

With a subtle coke-bottle styling and a dog and bone grille shape, the car's styling had the ‘wow' factor for Brit drivers and Ford fans still go misty-eyed when speaking of it.

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