Those with long memories will recall that the Escort badge first appeared on a Ford Prefect ‘estate car’ in the late 1950s. The adventurously-styled Anglia replaced the Prefect in 1959 and it, in turn, was replaced in 1968 by the new Escort, a new standard in the small car market. Launched at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1968 as a two-door saloon with the slogan, “The Ford Escorts, the small cars that aren’t”, the cheap and cheerful Escort wasn’t avant-garde in any way – its conservative and somewhat bland styling clothed a fairly conventional pushrod four-cylinder engine delivering its modest power through a four-speed gearbox to a rear differential/solid axle suspended on leaf springs. At the front were Ford’s famous MacPherson struts, while rack and pinion steering was a first for Ford. Braking was drums all round on the 1100 and 1300, with front discs for the 1300GT.

Conservative the Escort may have been, but there was something about this perky little car, with its ‘dog bone’ grille and headlight treatment and its driving dynamics, that won people’s hearts and epitomised the old cliché about the whole being more than the sum of its parts. The Escort was a balanced package that provided a particularly rewarding driving experience, and its looks quickly morphed from bland to attractive in the eyes of many beholders. And it didn’t matter whether it was the bottom-of-the-range 1100, a 1300 De Luxe or 1300GT, the Escort was a thoroughly enjoyable car to drive. Price was another appealing feature of the lesser models.

Ford had more than five years’ experience of producing performance versions of its family cars by then, with GT versions of the Anglia, Consul Capri, Corsair and Cortina, and it knew the formula worked. An Escort GT was part of the range from the beginning, and shortly afterwards came a wagon, a van and later, a four-door saloon.

Twin Cams and More Valves

The special models with big engines were a whole different and much more exciting ball game, but have always been mostly out of reach for Ms/Mr Average. The much-loved Twin Cam – featuring a Lotus-designed twin-overhead-camshaft cylinder head on a 1500cc Cortina block enlarged to 1558cc – wasn’t part of the original plan, and the 1300GT was projected to be the only performance Escort.

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