Ford's long serving rear-wheel-drive
Escort was due for replacement both here in Australia
and in Europe.
Through various model updates and styling
changes the Escort was able to stay in service far longer
than its mechanical specifications suggested it should,
although the smallest of the Ford’s always had
a huge allegiance of fans, and we are sure many will
take us to task on making this claim.
Ford their corporate “World
Car” plan for a new front-wheel-drive vehicle was
a little less coherent than much of the opposition.
the European market, Ford chose the European designed
Erika/Escort, while Ford Asia/Pacific (including Australia)
decided on a little badge re-engineering, the all new
Laser being derived from the Mazda 323.
To further complicate
matters, the Australian Laser was initially powered by
the Mazda engines, however these were replaced in mid 1982
with the European designed but Australian-built
The American market got the European variant,
albeit with a styling revamp and marketed under the Escort/Lynx
Mechanically, the Laser in its initial form
was identical to the 323. A transversely mounted 1.3
or 1.5 liter engine drove the front wheels through either
a standard four speed manual transmission or optional
five speed manual or three-speed automatic.
323 had already garnered a stellar reputation for its
road-holding, and so the Laser too benefited from four-wheel
independent strut suspension that was tuned for precise
road-holding while still affording ride and comfort levels
superior to just about any other short wheelbase vehicles
then on the market.
Ford initially started out offering
the 1.3 liter car in three and five-door hatchback configurations
mated to either a four-speed manual or three-speed auto
transmission. The larger engines were offered with the
same body configurations but with the added five-speed
gearbox option for the up-market “Ghia” model.
Replacing the Escort RS2000
always going to be a big ask, but
there was a need for a Laser to at least try to carry
forward with the tradition. Based loosely on the sporty
three-door European SR3 model, the Laser Sport offered
improved seating, complete instrumentation, revised rear
quarter glass styling, a revised suspension setting,
alloy road wheels and wider radial tires. Unfortunately
nothing was done to the engine.
Ford were naturally unsure
of the market's acceptance of a vehicle that would be
so obviously “non-Ford”.
'To help disguise its origins, the Laser received a completely
new front-end styling, glass treatment, and interior
and exterior paintwork. Assembled at Ford's Homebush
plant from knock-down kits imported from Japan, it didn’t
need to worry, the Laser quickly finding favor with those
loyal to the blue oval but wanting a small economical
4 cylinder car.
And while Mazda
, under the quota system,
were able to import only 12,000 units, Ford at the same
time were able to manufacture and market up to 30,000
each year. It’s success was assured.