Welcome to this week’s first visit to The Carchive; the vintage car-brochure reference series which is EXCLUSIVE TO HOONIVERSE (because, frankly, where else would it go?).
Today we head back to the mid-70s for a look at a car which would be almost as common a sight on British roads as litter, potholes and pools of spilt oil. Some of which may have ironically dripped from the very car we’re talking about. We’ve already covered the MK1, let’s look at the the rehashed MKII Ford Escort.
“A Change For The Better”
Change, frankly, was modest. In fact, the rolling componentry of the car had been on the market for a little while already, underpinning the previous Escort. The MK2 used the same floor pressings and suspension as the MK1, including cart springs at the back. The engines were carried over, too, and even the bodywork was only “all new” on certain models; the van and estate car models were only new from the doors forward.
But the Escort was always meant to appear on the motorists menu as meat and veg, not haute cuisine. It was a basic car.
For basic people.
“The Escort has been Britain’s best-selling small car. And no wonder”
This was lazy marketing, pure and simple. The Ford Escort was a perfectly acceptable means of transport, nothing more, nothing much less.
The reason for its enduring popularity was most likely a combination of factors, including the vast number of Ford dealerships in operation (most medium-sized towns had one Ford dealership of some description) and auto-suggestion. When you’re surrounded by the bloody things so, if they’re so popular, they must be good, right? And, hey, Auntie Mabel has one.
The Ford Escort was THE family car of the 70’s, but not through any great talent on its part.
“Your first view of the inside of the new Escort is pretty impressive”
While the MK2 Escort didn’t exactly usher in a brave new world of advanced automotive styling, there had been some worthwhile improvements from a passenger’s perspective.
The restyling had brought with it more window area and, with it, better all round visibility. Lessons earlier learnt had given rise to better cabin ventilation and there was now much better sound deadening than an Escort had seen before. It was, generally, a far more pleasant place to be than the old car. It’s just a shame it lacked a little personality.
“The Escort GL starts adding luxury to comfort”
The expenditure of several additional quid would bring you halogen headlamps, reclining seats, fully trimmed doors without painted metal, as well as door armrests, a clock, a cigar lighter and a light in the luggage compartment.
Pure luxury! But if you were an oligarch and could be persuaded to part with even more money, you could upgrade to the top-line specification, which promised to be even more lavish and indulgent.
“The Escort Ghia, the Escort With Everything”
Not only did you get a black vinyl roof, tinted glass framed by black painted window trim, you also gained “Sports road wheels” which were basically ordinary steel ones with some black paint on them. They appeared on Escorts, Capris and Cortinas into the ’80s and did very well to fool anybody that they were getting something special.
There were some tangible comfort enhancements included, too; built-in head restraints, a soft-feel rim to the steering wheel and more generous sound insulation were all exclusive to the Ghia models, as well as the all important wood-veneer trim to the dashboard. To acknowledge the handsome pile of money you had parted with to entitle you to Ghia ownership, the crest of that Italian styling house was prominently displayed in numerous locations, their meaning being totally lost on a fair proportion of society.
The Ghia offered the two higher-output engines from the “Kent” stable, which were also available in the far more overtly sporting, er, Sport.
“Escort Sport, sport in name and sporty by nature.”
The Escort Sport was basically just an L with a bit of racy-looking trinketry draped over the top. An intricate tape-stripe with “1600 Sport”, or “1300” Sport if you only wanted your car to be “a bit” sporty, together with auxiliary driving lights, a rev-counter and a “sports” steering wheel with an evocative chequered flags motif.
As a statement of intent, to demonstrate to people that the Rally-bred RS models of the outgoing MK1 Escort hadn’t been forgotten, the Sport was a token gesture. It was only really a marketing and image special rather than a genuine sporting proposition, and 11.1 seconds to sixty from the 1600 wasn’t going to take much breath away. But soon would come the RS Mexico and RS2000 models, which this Brochure doesn’t go anywhere near.
It did discuss the Wagons, though
“Estates are made for working. But that’s no reason why they shouldn’t be comfortable family cars too”
Indeed not. Yet, for some reason Ford didn’t believe that folk in hope of practicality were deserving the same Ghia level of trim that saloon car buyers could have. Odd.
Escort Estate, in 1975, could only be had in 48hp 1100cc, or 57hp 1300 flavour. The 70hp “GT” version of this engine (That Sport or Ghia folk could enjoy) was denied, as was the 1600. So there was no performance longroof version. But a nation of odd-job men, decorators and wholesalers still lapped the simple, unfussy three-door estate car up.
This shape of Escort would continue into 1980, after when rear-wheel-drive would finally disappear from small fords once and for all. The MK3 Escort was necessarily a far more advanced, more modern proposal, and would remain in production for twice as long as the MK2.
(Disclaimer: Images are of original manufacturer publicity material, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford. A white, 1976 Escort 1.1 Popular was the first car I ever threw up in. I must have been about five years old at the time. Sorry Mrs Hegarty)