∙Fully restored ∙Outstanding body with new bubble arches ∙All-new interior ∙2.0-litre Pinto – excellent runner
The Mk1 Ford Escort is a car that’s become a genuine cult hero. The archetypal everyman performance car, with countless wins on the world’s rally stages and a whole fevered subculture growing around the RS sub-brand, it’s easy to forget that this was first and foremost a utilitarian proposition. At launch in 1967, the Escort wasn’t conceived as a flame-spitting competition machine, but a family car, a commuter, a workhorse. As a direct replacement for the 105E Anglia, this was designed to be an affordable and practical means of transporting folk from A to B as frugally as possible – launch models included the bare-bones Standard, the slightly-less-spartan De Luxe, and the Super; 1970 saw the spec levels expanding into the L, XL and, crucially, the Mexico and RS1600 – road-going manifestations of Ford’s growing motorsport successes with the Escort. The model was rising in stature as a performance machine, with 1973’s RS2000 really sealing the deal, and the legacy today is one of speed and agility: sure, there are plenty of people who remember the lowly-spec four-door De Luxe and what-have-you as the functional transport of their childhood, but it’s the memories of race and rally prowess that are really pushing the market for rear-drive Escorts today. These are machines that have always enjoyed a strong aftermarket for competition-derived upgrades and enhancements, and there’s a massive scene around restoring, modifying and enjoying these iconic automobiles. And the example we have here is a rare thing indeed: a solid and complete car, recently restored and ready to go – it’s got the competition aesthetic, and so much potential.
You’ll have spotted the unusual registration number - that is in fact a Cypriot registration, the owner of this Escort splitting his time between Cyprus and the UK. He’s a serial classic car owner and enthusiast, with the current stable featuring a Cobra, a Corvette, a Mustang and an Alfa Giulia Super. The story behind this Escort is an interesting one: a 1972 car, it was originally a 1300 and in the past it’s been prepared and used as a race car. When the current owner got hold of it, it was largely solid with hardly any rust (the benefit of living in a warm and dry climate – not something you can often say of UK Escorts!); he set about a full body restoration, which included the fitment of the AVO-style fibreglass bubble arches, eradication of all corrosion, plus a respray in a charmingly unusual colour. A rebuilt 2.0-litre Pinto was installed, and everything mechanically refreshed to get it all tip-top. Recently finished, the Escort was shipped over to the UK at the end of 2020. However, with a number of other classics demanding his attention, the owner has decided to sell the Escort so that he can thin out the fleet and concentrate on just a few cars in the collection.
The Escort is still wearing its Cypriot registration having never been registered in the UK. Included in the paperwork file is the car’s Cyprus registration title, along with shipping documents from when it was brought to the UK in December 2020. (Registering an imported car is a fairly uncomplicated process – the gov.uk site has step-by-step instructions on how to inform HMRC and the DVLA, and because of its age this car should be exempt from vehicle approval tests. Once registered, it will most likely be issued a period-correct 1972 registration number.) In addition to this there’s a wealth of knowledge available from the friendly owner, who knows the car inside-out having restored it himself and every element of the car can be gleaned – cam specs, paint codes, everything.
The cabin of the Escort is in outstanding condition throughout, with every element having been addressed during the restoration. The carpets and headlining are new and in excellent condition with beautiful fitment. The front seats are new period-style high-back buckets (which are quite narrow, but very supportive) in superb condition, which tilt forward to allow access to a pristine rear bench. The act of restoring an Escort can be an exercise in parts-hunting and detective work – for example, the air vents in this car’s dash panel were £100 for the pair; it was another £100 for the rubber seals around the front quarter lights – so it’s reassuring to note that everything is in place here. The arrangement of dials is particularly noteworthy too: sporting Escorts received a six-dial dash, so we can see that this 1300 has had an upgrade to higher-spec clocks, and the fact that this dial cluster features a 110 mph speedo and 7k rev counter tells us that this unit came from an Escort Sport or GT. In addition, further gauges for water temp, oil pressure and a clock are frenched into the dash panel, and the eagle-eyed will spot that these are Alfa Romeo gauges. Inside the boot, we find it to be pleasingly solid and fresh beneath the new carpet; the battery is mounted in the boot (a motorsport trick for superior weight distribution) and everything’s just as dry and tidy as you’d hope. The engine bay is similarly good – no concerns about strut tops or inner wings here, everything’s totally solid.
Much like with the interior, putting together the body of an Escort can be a fraught endeavour in terms of tracking down panels and so on, so it’s good to know that this car has enjoyed a thorough and high-quality restoration. Every panel is good, every bit of trim is present. The fitment of the fibreglass arches is spot-on with no cracking or seams, and we were unable to find any obvious corrosion. The paintwork is superb throughout, with no evidence of stone-chips, scratches, scuffs or scrapes anywhere. The window glass is all good and fitted with new seals, and all of the correct light lenses are present along with a pair of stylish yellow spotlights on the nose; one of the tail light clusters is damaged, but these are very cheap to replace and aftermarket specialists like Burton Power have them on the shelf. A subtle front spoiler has been tastefully smoothed in, and the car wears a very unusual set of ProCast 15” alloy wheels (an Australian firm), the inside barrels painted to match the body, and they’re shod with new 225/50 Nankang Toursport tyres. The Mexico decals are a fun tongue-in-cheek touch, and the bank of cooling ports in the front panel is a very cool detail that neatly complements the matte black dogbone grille. The car also looks to be solid underneath; the crossmember has evidently taken a bit of punishment as it’s looking a bit battered, but again this is a part that’s easy and inexpensive to source.
Hot Escorts are meant to be fun, and this one very much is – with plenty of poke and no weight over the back end, it’s a rapid little mover with a playful nature, and it makes an outstanding noise too. The car behaved impeccably on our test, happily firing up straight away from cold and from hot, idling evenly, pulling strongly through the revs, and maintaining all the right temperatures and pressures. What’s interesting with this spec is that it’s really a blank canvas – there’s a colossal aftermarket for these cars and every enthusiast has a clear idea of what parts they’d want to swap in. This car is essentially all original 1300-spec underneath, with a 2.0-litre Pinto under the bonnet. The engine was fully rebuilt before installation, and fitted with an uprated fast-road cam and larger-bore exhaust system but kept otherwise stock – you can see that it’s running a single twin-choke Weber carb, so more power is just a twin carb swap away! The engine has only done around 1,000 miles since the rebuild and it’s running very sweetly. The standard 4-speed gearbox has been replaced by a superior Type 9 5-speed, and in terms of differential and rear axle setup it's all stock 1300, as is the suspension and braking. Original-spec, but replaced with new parts, so the front discs/calipers and rear drums are all working perfectly, the bushes are all new and so are the shocks, and we can see that the rear leaf springs are joined by lowering blocks.
There are two ways to view this car. The first is to see it as a fully complete Escort that’s ready to go – it’s had a full restoration, everything’s either been replaced or refreshed, it drives like a dream, and it’s ready for you to jump in and have some adventures. The other way is to see it as a blank canvas – the old classic car maxim is to always start your project with the best possible base, and Mk1 Escort bases don’t get a lot better than this; the body is excellent, the interior is all new and complete, and if you’re into suspension upgrades or bigger brakes or a chunkier diff, that’s all readily available stuff that’s easy to swap in. The classic Ford world is your oyster. But whichever way you slice it, this is an honest, complete Mk1 in outstanding condition throughout, just begging to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and thrown down your local country lanes.
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