The Ford Escort is one of those cars with a long and recognizable history, both in Sri Lanka as well as overseas. Many would fondly remember the car themselves, or their dad reminiscing about it at some point. Did you know that the Escort tag was first applied as a lesser equipped variant of the Ford Squire estate, which was mechanically based on the Ford Anglia? This was produced in the UK between 1955 and 1961. Thereafter the Escort tag was given a break until used again on a new model in 1968. This Escort is considered the proper “first generation”, as it was a stand-alone model with a choice of saloon (two or four door), estate or two-door van. It was built in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Japan, too! A different “Escort” was produced for the North American market. Since 2013, Ford has been producing and selling an Escort in China for the domestic market, built on a previous-generation Focus platform.
The second generation Escort was introduced in 1974 and carried on till 1981. This generation was jointly developed between Ford UK and Ford Germany in Cologne. It was codenamed “Brenda” and carried over a lot from the first generation, including the base 940cc engine that was targeted at Italian markets, where higher displacements were taxed heavily (Ferrari did 2.0 litre V8-engined models for the same reason). The rear axle was still leaf-sprung. There were the ‘L’ and ‘GL’ models for the mainstream market, while the ‘Mexico’, ‘Sport’ and ‘RS’ were for the performance market. The hottest version at the time was the RS2000, which featured the 2.0L 110bhp ‘Pinto’ engine and did the 0-100km/h dash in 8.9 seconds. This was no doubt helped by the Escort’s rally pedigree with at least twenty wins worldwide in different categories. Rally-spec Escorts packed highly tuned 2.0L engines and could exceed 250bhp – and this was in the Seventies! Works rally Escorts carried the innovation of a silicon fluid-coupled centre differential that provided automatic torque vectoring – an advanced feature that is done on many mid to high end modern cars today, albeit electronically! The second generation was also the last generation of Escort to feature a longitudinally mounted engine and rear wheel drive – the third generation onwards embraced the front-transverse, front-wheel-drive movement.
Here we have a glorious second-generation (Mark II) Escort 1.3GL, with the Crossflow 1300cc engine. It’s red paintwork glinting in the afternoon sun, the car is owned by Mohan Perera of Kegalle (who also owns the Ford Capri we featured in the September issue). This Escort is fastidiously maintained and given a good workout as well. The period-correct “AA” badge is present and correct, and the car sits nicely on dished “Minilite” style alloys with decent profile tyres, harking back to the era when arch-kissing wheel rims and rubber band tyres were non-existent. On the inside, a relatively modern cassette radio and second tachometer on the dash the only additions. Under the hood, the Crossflow motor sits in the middle below the Simota air cleaner, and free of the numerous cables and pipery that modern cars are burdened with for their multitude of “mod-cons”.
This is raw, pure motoring at its peak. If the car doesn’t need it to move along a public road, it doesn’t have it. Mohan and his son are avid Ford fans. “Fords give me a special feeling” was what Mohan replied with when we asked him why he loved the brand so much for the Capri article, a statement that extends towards his Escort as well.