At a time when the 'world car' concept was becoming
highly fashionable, the Ford Escort entered the fray
in 1968 as the replacement to the aging, but always
popular, Ford Anglia.
Over the years it underwent
several styling revisions, and right through the
1970’s it remained one of the most popular
The first major styling revision occurred
in 1975, giving the car a crisp lean flowing style
that was well in proportion and arguably a cut above
the small car offerings emanating from Japan.
interior was always functional, but was somewhat
Spartan in comparison to the Japanese cars – but
on the plus side the seats were extremely comfortable
even on very long drives.
Apart from the wonderful
and exciting RS models, the Ghia was the top of the
bunch, and at least this model could match it with
the Japanese in the features list department.
were naturally better quality coverings and carpet
and such extras as a digital clock (set on the opposite
of the dash to the driver), a cassette player, and
special Ghia badging.
The Australian Escort was a
concoction of parts sourced both locally, along with
parts imported from France and of course Britain.
By the late 1970’s
and early 1980’s the Escort had matured to
a point where it was almost suffering from an identity
In its showroom-floor guise it was a car
that presented as the perfect weekday commuter, alternatively
it made for the ideal second car, but while undoubtedly
adept at fulfilling either role this was selling
the Escort seriously short.
Over the years of production
the Escort emerged as a tried, proven, and immensely
successful competition car, especially on the world
rally circuit. Looking at the Escort's sporting career,
it is hard to find anything notable that this delightful
car had not won.
Owners soon discovered that it could
be driven mild or wild, but either way its ability
to please was something that was becoming increasingly
rare as the austere 80’s approached. Even in
the early 1980’s, when the Escort
could be considered a little past its use-by date,
the base model 1.6 liter version provided a surprisingly
brisk drive – all the more surprising given
the Escort was still fitted with a somewhat old-fashioned
overhead valve engine. The 1.6 unit produced a healthy
46 kW of power, it then driving through a very slick
and sporty four-speed manual gear-box.
extra zing could opt for the sporty 2.0 liter Kent
version – a
popular choice that had the Escort fighting well
above its station when departing the traffic lights,
leaving a bemused look on many drivers of larger
Combined with the Escort's better-than-average
power was handling to match, making the little Escort
quite a lot of fun to drive. It was adept at zipping
in and out of city traffic as nimbly as any of the
competitive Japanese cars, and even offered just
a little extra oomph when out on the open road. ,
but it has that little extra on the open.
As the Escort
had replaced the Anglia, so the Laser would replace
the Escort. Some of the magic was lost, the Escort
had always looked and felt like a big car made smaller,
by comparison the Laser only ever looked small, and
used no styling cues from the larger model Ford’s.
Worse still, the Laser was front wheel drive – and
soon there would be no small cars to retain the rear
wheel drive set-up.