New Kid on the Block: The Ford Escort in the 60s & 70s
“The small car that isn’t”, “the successor”, “the new kid on the block”.
The opening chapter of the Ford Escort story really starts with the closing eulogy of the Ford Anglia.
The Anglia had ruled Britain’s roads for, well, an awful long time. And with its popularity, American looks and (on the latest model) reversed angle rear window it was already an icon. Even amongst those who don’t really care for car culture, a recognisable one.
How was Ford going to replace such a commercially successful, everyday hero?
With another one, of course.
The Escort officially arrived in 1968 and didn’t exactly break any barriers in terms of styling or technology. Although the original ‘coke bottle styling’ and clever production cost savings meant that it was an instant hit with drivers that liked it’s honest good looks and affordable price tag.
In a move perfectly executed by its creators the Escort filled an Anglia shaped hole. But importantly it helped bring the company out of their tiring 50s image and straight into late 60s/70s Britain. Which was a changing landscape in every sense.
During the course of its first decade in production the MK1 and subsequent MK2 Escorts were used as family cars, police cars, work vans, race cars and rally cars. Amongst other things.
It’s prowess and stature in motorsport was tastefully transposed into the production models such as the Mexico and RS2000. Considering its practicalities and everyday economy, the Escorts balance and performance put it on a different level when comparing it to similar cars on the market at the time and of course, its predecessor. It was a true driver’s car but perhaps for the first time in the UK, it was an affordable drivers cars.
The Escort badge went on to survive well into the 90s and with each iteration there was a new wave of owners and admirers tapping into its charm.
However it is perhaps the Escort of the 70s that will be most fondly remembered, for the time being, amongst Ford and classic car fans. Before the overhaul of the model in the 1980s with its hatchback form and front wheel drive ushered in yet another generation of Escort fans.
Many cars are made, owned and remembered. But very few remain an important part of so many people’s collective memories of a time that has now gone, but will forever be cherished.
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