Ford Escort (Europe)

This article is about the European Ford Escorts sold from 1968 to 2004. For the earlier UK Ford Escort and models sold as the "Ford Escort" elsewhere, see Ford Escort (disambiguation).
Ford Escort

Ford Escort RS2000 Mark I
Manufacturer Ford Europe
Production 1968–2004
Body and chassis
Class Small family car (C)
Related Ford Orion
Predecessor Ford Anglia (UK)
Successor Ford Laser (Australasia)
Ford Meteor (Australia)
Ford Focus

The Ford Escort is a small family car that was manufactured by Ford Europe from 1968 to 2004. The Ford Escort name was also applied to several different small cars produced in North America by Ford between 1981 and 2003.

In 2014, Ford revived the Escort name for a car based on the second-generation Ford Focus sold on the Chinese market.

Ford Escort 100E (1955–1961)

Ford Escort 100E

The first use of the Ford Escort name was for a reduced specification version of the Ford Squire, a 1950s estate car version of the British Ford Anglia 100E.

First generation (1968–1975)

First generation

1972 Ford Escort 1100 L Mark I 2 door saloon
Production 1968–1975
Assembly Halewood, England
Saarlouis, Germany
Cork, Ireland
Nazareth, Israel
Homebush, Australia
Seaview, New Zealand
Taipei, Taiwan (Ford Lio Ho, CKD)[1]
Genk, Belgium[2]
Body and chassis
Body style 2/4-door saloon
3-door estate
2-door van
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Engine 0.9 L Crossflow I4
1.1 L Crossflow I4
1.3 L Crossflow I4
1.6 L Crossflow I4
1.6 L Lotus-Ford Twin Cam I4
1.6 L Cosworth BDA I4
1.7 L Cosworth BDB I4
2.0 L Pinto TL20H I4
Wheelbase 94.5 in (2,400 mm)
Length 159.25 in (4,045 mm) (saloon)
160.8 in (4,084 mm) (estate)
Width 61.8 in (1,570 mm)
Height 58.5 in (1,486 mm)
Curb weight 1,690 lb (767 kg)

The Mark I Ford Escort[3] was introduced in the United Kingdom at the end of 1967, making its show debut at Brussels Motor Show in January 1968.[4] It replaced the successful, long-running Anglia. The car was presented in continental Europe as a product of Ford's European operation. Escort production commenced at the Halewood plant in England during the closing months of 1967, and for left hand drive markets during September 1968 at the Ford plant in Genk.[5] Initially the continental Escorts differed slightly from the UK built ones under the skin. The front suspension and steering gear were differently configured and the brakes were fitted with dual hydraulic circuits; also the wheels fitted on the Genk-built Escorts had wider rims.[6] At the beginning of 1970, continental European production transferred to a new plant on the edge of Saarlouis, West Germany.

The Escort was a commercial success in several parts of western Europe, but nowhere more than in the UK, where the national best seller of the 1960s, BMC's Austin/Morris 1100 was beginning to show its age while Ford's own Cortina had grown, both in dimensions and in price, beyond the market niche at which it had originally been pitched. In June 1974, six years into the car's UK introduction, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth Ford Escort, a milestone hitherto unmatched by any Ford model outside the US.[7] It was also stated that 60% of the two million Escorts had been built in Britain.[7][8] In West Germany cars were built at a slower rate of around 150,000 cars per year, slumping to 78,604 in 1974 which was the last year for the Escort Mark I.[9] Many of the German built Escorts were exported, notably to Benelux and Italy; from the West German domestic market perspective the car was cramped and uncomfortable when compared with the well-established and comparably priced Opel Kadett, and it was technically primitive when set against the successful imported Fiat 128 and Renault 12.[10] Subsequent generations of the Escort made up some of the ground foregone by the original model, but in Europe's largest auto-market the Escort sales volumes always came in well behind those of the General Motors Kadett and its Astra successor.

Just over two months after the launch of the saloon/sedan, Ford announced a three-door station wagon / estate version of their new Escort.

The Escort had conventional rear-wheel drive and a four-speed manual gearbox, or three-speed automatic transmission. The suspension consisted of MacPherson strut front suspension and a simple live axle mounted on leaf springs. The Escort was the first small Ford to use rack-and-pinion steering. The Mark I featured contemporary styling cues in tune with its time: a subtle Detroit-inspired "Coke bottle" waistline and the "dogbone" shaped front grille – arguably the car's main stylistic feature. Similar Coke bottle styling featured in the larger Cortina Mark III (also built in West Germany as the Taunus) launched in 1970.

Less than two years after launch, Ford offered a four-door version of the Escort.

Initially, the Escort was sold as a two-door saloon (with circular front headlights and rubber flooring on the "De Luxe" model). The "Super" model featured rectangular headlights, carpets, a cigar lighter and a water temperature gauge. A two-door estate was introduced at the end of March 1968 which, with the back seat folded down, provided a 40% increase in maximum load space over the old Anglia 105E estate, according to the manufacturer.[11] The estate featured the same engine options as the saloon, but it also included a larger, 7 12-inch-diameter (190 mm) clutch, stiffer rear springs and in most configurations slightly larger brake drums or discs than the saloon.[11] A panel van appeared in April 1968 and the 4-door saloon (a bodystyle the Anglia was never available in for UK market) in 1969.

Underneath the bonnet was the Kent Crossflow engine also used in the smallest capacity North American Ford Pinto. Diesel engines on small family cars were rare, and the Escort was no exception, initially featuring only petrol engines – in 1.1 L, and 1.3 L versions. A 940 cc engine was also available in some export markets such as Italy and France. This tiny engine remained popular in Italy, where it was carried over for the Escort Mark II, but in France it was discontinued during 1972.[12]

Roger Clark's 1972 RAC Rally -winning Escort RS1600

There was a 1300GT performance version, with a tuned 1.3 L Crossflow (OHV) engine with a Weber carburetor and uprated suspension. This version featured additional instrumentation with a tachometer, battery charge indicator, and oil pressure gauge. The same tuned 1.3 L engine was also used in a variation sold as the Escort Sport, that used the flared front wings from the AVO range of cars, but featured trim from the more basic models. Later, an "executive" version of the Escort was produced known as the "1300E". This featured the same 13" road wheels and flared wings of the Sport, but was trimmed in an upmarket, for that time, fashion with wood trim on the dashboard and door cappings.

A higher performance version for rallies and racing was available, the Escort Twin Cam, built for Group 2 international rallying.[13] It had an engine with a Lotus-made eight-valve twin camshaft head fitted to the 1.5 L non-crossflow block, which had a bigger bore than usual to give a capacity of 1,557 cc. This engine had originally been developed for the Lotus Elan. Production of the Twin Cam, which was originally produced at Halewood, was phased out as the Cosworth-engined RS1600 (RS denoting Rallye Sport) production began. The most famous edition of the Twin Cam was raced on behalf of Ford by Alan Mann Racing in the British Saloon Car Championship in 1968 and 1969, sporting a full Formula 2 Ford FVC 16-valve engine producing over 200 hp. The Escort, driven by Australian driver Frank Gardner went on to comfortably win the 1968 championship.

The Mark I Escorts became successful as a rally car, and they eventually went on to become one of the most successful rally cars of all time.[14] The Ford works team was practically unbeatable in the late 1960s / early 1970s, and arguably the Escort's greatest victory was in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, co-driven by Finnish legend Hannu Mikkola and Swedish co-driver Gunnar Palm. This gave rise to the Escort Mexico (1598cc "crossflow"-engined) special edition road versions in honour of the rally car. Introduced in November 1970, 10,352 Mexico Mark I's were built.[15]

In addition to the Mexico, the RS1600 was developed with 1,601 cc Cosworth BDA which used a Crossflow block with a 16-valve Cosworth cylinder head, named for "Belt Drive A Series". Both the Mexico and RS1600 were built at Ford's Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO) facility located at the Aveley Plant in South Essex. As well as higher performance engines and sports suspension, these models featured strengthened bodyshells utilising seam welding in places of spot welding, making them more suitable for competition.

After updating the factory team cars with a larger 1701 cc Cosworth BDB engine in 1972 and then with fuel injected BDC, Ford also produced an RS2000 model as an alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 L Pinto (OHC) engine. This also clocked up some rally and racing victories; and pre-empted the hot hatch market as a desirable but affordable performance road car. Like the Mexico and RS1600, this car was produced at the Aveley plant.

The Escort was built in Germany and Britain, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand

Ford New Zealand's Seaview plant in Lower Hutt built 1.1 and 1.3-litre versions, initially as Deluxe (1.1) and Super (1.3) two-door sedans plus panel vans. The four-door sedan was added in 1970. Trim levels were revised after the 1972 UK facelift with just one run of 1.3XLs (with the GT instrument pack) before these were downgraded to 'L' trim. Base and L trims were offered to the end of the Mk I run. Some 1.6 Mexicos were imported in 1973–74 after the government temporarily freed up import licensing owing to a shortage of new cars. Estate versions were mostly imported.


Australian Ford Escort Deluxe 8 cwt van

The Mk I was produced by Ford Australia from 1970 to 1975 as a two- or four-door saloon and as a two-door panel van.[16] 1100 cc and 1300 cc engines were offered, as was the 1558 cc twin cam unit.,[16] the last only in the Escort Twin Cam model, which was renamed the Escort GT 1600 in late 1971.[17] Some 67,146 examples of the Mk I were built in Australia,[16] with local sourcing bringing the Australian content of the vehicles to 85 per cent.[18]


Assembly of the Mk I Escort was undertaken by Automotive Industries in Upper Nazareth, in conjunction with the local distributor, Israeli Automotive Corp. Assembly from UK-sourced kits started in April 1968. The last Mk I, a light green 1100cc two-door, was produced on 14 November 1975. A total of 14,905 units were assembled in Israel, including 105 Escort 400 vans.


The Mk I Escort was sold in Japan, imported from the United Kingdom by Kintetsu Motors and was available with the 1.3 L engine in GT trim, and was sold alongside the Ford Cortina and the Ford Capri. Sales were helped by the fact that this generation Escort complied with Japanese government dimension regulations concerning vehicle dimensions and engine displacement. Only the four-door saloon was offered, and this was the only generation available to Japanese buyers. The engine displacement contributed to a lower annual road tax obligation to Japanese buyers which helped sales.

Second generation (1974–1981)

Second generation

Ford Escort Mark II 4-Door Saloon
Production 1974–1981
Assembly Halewood, England
Saarlouis, Germany
Cork, Ireland
Homebush, Australia
Wiri, New Zealand
Amsterdam, Netherlands (1975–1978)
Silverton, Pretoria, South Africa
Body and chassis
Body style 2/4-door saloon
3-door estate
2-door van
Layout Front-engine, rear-wheel-drive
Wheelbase 94.5 in (2,400 mm)[19]
Length 156.5 in (3,975 mm) (saloon)[19]
163 in (4,140 mm) (estate)
Width 61.8 in (1,570 mm)
Height 55.65 in (1,414 mm)
Curb weight 1,940 lb (880 kg)

The squarer-styled Mark II[3] version appeared in January 1975. The first production models had rolled off the production lines on 2 December 1974.

Unlike the first Escort (which was developed by Ford of Britain), the second generation was developed jointly between the UK and Ford of Germany. Codenamed "Brenda" during its development, it used the same mechanical components as the Mark I. The 940 cc engine was still offered in Italy where the smaller engine attracted tax advantages, but in the other larger European markets in Europe it was unavailable. The estate and van versions used the same panelwork as the Mark I, but with the Mark II front end and interior. The car used a revised underbody, which had been introduced as a running change during the last six months production of the Mark I. Rear suspension still sat on leaf springs though some contemporaries such as the Hillman Avenger had moved on to coil springs. The car came in for criticism for its lack of oddments space, with a glove compartment only available on higher end models, and its stalk-mounted horn.[20]

The "L" and "GL" models (2-door, 4-door, estate) were in the mainstream private sector, the "Sport", "RS Mexico", and "RS2000" in the performance market, the "Ghia" (2-door, 4-door) for a hitherto untapped small car luxury market, and "base / Popular" models for the bottom end. Panel-van versions catered to the commercial sector. The 1.6 L (1598 cc/97 CID) engine in the 1975 1.6 Ghia produced 84 hp (63 kW) with 125 N·m (92 ft·lbf) torque and weighed 955 kg (2105 lb).

A cosmetic update was given in 1978 (note that Australia received differing updates - see below), with L models gaining the square headlights (previously exclusive to the GL and Ghia variants) and there was an upgrade in interior and exterior specification for some models. Underneath a wider front track was given.

In 1979 and 1980 three special edition Escorts were launched: the Linnet, Harrier and Goldcrest.

Production ended in Britain in August 1980, other countries following soon after.



The Mk II Escort was assembled at Ford Australia's Homebush Plant, Sydney from March 1975 to 1980 in 2-door and 4-door sedan, and 2-door panel van forms – the estate versions were unavailable to the Australian market.

The sedan models were available in L, XL (later renamed GL) and Ghia forms, and a Sport pack option – similar to the 1300 and 1600 Sport models sold elsewhere. Unlike other markets – likely due to the estate's absence – the van was offered in a higher level of trim – a GL, and a Sport pack van was also available. Unusual fitments for the range not offered elsewhere on the Australian Escort included 'dog-dish' steel hubcaps, and high-backed front seats.

Australian 1979 Ford Escort RS2000 four-door form

The initial powerplants utilized in the Australian Escorts were Ford's 1.3 L and 1.6 L OHV Crossflow units, offered with either 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmissions. In 1977, to cope with Australian emission laws, in particular ADR27A, the 1.3L models were dropped and the Ford Cortina's 2.0L OHC Pinto engine (in a lower tune to European units) was introduced to the Escort range, available as an option on nearly all models. Codenamed internally by Ford Australia as "BC", the Australian Escort range's bodies were modified to fit the larger engine and a redesigned fuel-tank, which involved the placement of the fuel filler being behind the rear numberplate.

In 1978, Ford Australia standardised the use of the blue oval logo across the Escort model range. These Escort models are identified by the familiar blue Ford oval in the centre of the grille and on the bootlid. It also revamped the image of its 'leisure range' by introducing the Escort Sundowner panel van, positioning it as a youth-orientated lifestyle vehicle complete with bold body decorations and domed side windows, available in 1.6L and 2.0L forms. In 1979, Ford Australia gave the Escort an update, increasing basic equipment levels and standardising square headlights on L and GL models (previously only available on Escort Ghia). Chasing both youth and performance, Ford Australia introduced their take on the RS2000, which – complete with its slant-nose – was available in both two-door form and as a unique to Australia four-door, in a choice of five solid paint colours. These RS cars certainly looked the part, but were actually powered by the same 2.0-litre engine as the rest of the local Escort range, and available with a choice of manual or automatic transmission. A total of 2,400 Australian RS2000 cars were made.

While offered in many model forms, the Escort, like the Cortina, was not popular on the Australian market, largely due to expanding competition from Japanese imports and the established preference of Australian drivers for larger six-cylinder vehicles.

Australian Escort production ceased in late 1980, with 79,142 examples of the Mk II produced,[16] the range being replaced by FWD derivatives of the Mazda 323/Familia, namely the Ford Laser 3-door and 5-door hatchback and the Meteor 4-door sedan.

New Zealand

The Mk II Escort was introduced to New Zealand in early 1975, and was assembled at Ford's plant in Wiri, South Auckland. Unlike the Australian models, the New Zealand Escort range followed the specifications of the British models, aside from the use of metric instrumentation. All bodystyles were assembled, including the estate – which was previously (in Mk I guise) a built-up import from the United Kingdom.

A large choice of models were available in the NZ Escort range, consisting of 1.1 L (base), 1.3 L (L, GL, 1300 Sport, estate and van variants) and 1.6 L (Ghia, 1600 Sport) variants — the 1.1 being aimed at budget conscious buyers, the 1.3 L models were popular, and the 1.6 L – which appeared in New Zealand production in 1976 – being reserved for 1600 Sport and Ghia models. A three-speed automatic transmission was available as an option for most 1.3- and 1.6-litre models.

Unlike Australia, the Escort and Cortina ranges sold well and often topped the car monthly sales lists. An update was given for the range for 1979, which notably involved the addition of the Ghia model, the adoption of the GL's square headlights on the lower end models, Ford blue oval badging, and sport wheels on the L and GL. For 1980, all Ghia models gained standard alloy wheels.

The production of British-sourced and New Zealand-assembled Escorts ended in late 1980. Ford dealers offered large price reductions to shift their remaining Mk II Escort stock when the model was replaced in New Zealand by the Ford Laser in May 1981, which was a badge engineered Mazda 323, available in sedan and hatchback forms.[21]

Rest of the world


Assembly of the Mk II Escort commenced in August 1975. The Escort was a best-seller in the Israeli market, its best year being 1976, when a total of 3,801 units were assembled. The line-up included 1.1- and 1.3-liter versions. Most were of the four-door variety, and only 150 were built as a 2-door 1.1L. Assembly ended after 12,700 units, in April 1981. No Ford passenger car was since then assembled in Israel.

South Africa

Escort Mark II shells built in Halewood, England were assembled in Silverton, South Africa from late 1975 until 1980. When originally launched, the Escort Mark II was sold as the 1300 L or as the 1600 GL, with two- or four-door bodywork. Aside from colour-coded hubcaps, most of the equipment differences were only on the inside with the GL being considerably better equipped.[22] The GL also received square headlights, back-up lights, and body-side mouldings. The South African Escort received the 1.3-litre Kent engine with 42 kW (57 PS; 56 hp), while the 1.6 claimed 52 kW (71 PS; 70 hp).[20] Early in 1979 the 1600 sport was launched, featuring a two-door bodyshell, revised gear ratios and a sporty look, using the 1600 motor proving to become a highly popular vehicle to the present day.

1976 Ford Escort Mark II 2-Door Saloon 
1979 Ford Escort Mark II 4-Door Saloon 
1978 Ford Escort RS2000 Mark II 
Ford Escort Mark II Estate 
1980 Ford Escort Mark II Van 


A Mark II rally car at a stage rally time control, displaying the extended wheel arches

As with its predecessor, the Mark II had a successful rallying career. All models of the Mark I were carried over to the Mark II, though the Mexico gained the RS badge and had its engine changed to a 1.6 L OHC Pinto instead of the OHV. A "Sport" model was also produced using the 1.6 L Crossflow. A new model was released, the RS1800, which had a fuel injected 1790 cc Cosworth BDE engine. It was essentially a special created for rallying.

The works rally cars were highly specialised machines. Bodyshells were heavily strengthened. They were characterised by the wide wheelarch extensions (pictured right), and often by the fitment of four large spotlights for night stages. The Cosworth BDE engine was replaced with 2.0 L BDG and gave up to 250 bhp (186 kW; 253 PS) with Cosworth-made aluminium block by 1979. It was complemented by a strengthened transmission, five-speed straight-cut ZF gearbox, five-linked suspension and more minor modifications.

Ford Escort RS1800 driven at the Race Retro 2008 by Alan Watkins

The Mark II Escort continued its predecessor's run on the RAC Rally, winning every year from 1975 to 1979 and racing in a variety of other events around the world. In the 1979 season of the World Rally Championship, Björn Waldegård took the drivers' title, Hannu Mikkola was runner-up and Ari Vatanen finished the year in fifth place, all driving Escort RS1800s.

These drivers' successes throughout the year gave Ford the manufacturers' title, the only time the company had achieved this until the 2006 season, when Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen won the title for Ford in Ford Focus RS WRC 06. Vatanen won the drivers' title in 1981, again at the wheel of an RS1800. This victory came despite the arrival on the WRC scene of the venerable four-wheel drive Audi Quattro. Ford placed in the top three in the manufacturers' championship for the sixth year in a row.

Mark II Ford Escort RS2000 taking part in a road rally

The 2.0 L RS2000 version, with its distinctively slanted polyurethane nose, and featuring the Pinto engine from the Cortina, was announced in the UK in March 1975[23] and introduced in Germany in August 1975,[24] being reportedly produced in both countries.[23] It provided a claimed 110 bhp[24] and a top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h). For acceleration to 100 km/h (62.5 mph) a time of just 8.9 seconds[24] was claimed by the manufacturers. The 2.0 L engine was also easily retro-fitted into the Mark I, along with the Ford Sierra's five-speed gearbox, for rallying and other sports.

World Rally Championship - round victories

No. Event Season Driver Co-driver Car
1 24th Lombard RAC Rally 1975 Timo Mäkinen Henry Liddon Ford Escort RS1800
2 25th Lombard RAC Rally 1976 Roger Clark Stuart Pegg Ford Escort RS1800
3 25th Safari Rally 1977 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
4 24th Acropolis Rally 1977 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
5 27th 1000 Lakes Rally 1977 Kyösti Hämäläinen Martti Tiukkanen Ford Escort RS1800
6 26th Lombard RAC Rally 1977 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
7 13th Arctic Rally 1978 Ari Vatanen David Richards Ford Escort RS1800
8 28th International Swedish Rally 1978 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
9 19th Esso-Lombard Scottish Rally 1978 Hannu Mikkola Arne Hertz Ford Escort RS1800
10 9th Motogard Rally of New Zealand 1978 Russell Brookes Peter Bryant Ford Escort RS1800
11 27th Lombard RAC Rally 1978 Hannu Mikkola Arne Hertz Ford Escort RS1800
12 13º Rallye de Portugal Vinho do Porto 1979 Hannu Mikkola Arne Hertz Ford Escort RS1800
13 26th Acropolis Rally 1979 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
14 10th Motogard Rally of New Zealand 1979 Hannu Mikkola Arne Hertz Ford Escort RS1800
15 7ème Critérium Molson du Québec 1979 Björn Waldegård Hans Thorszelius Ford Escort RS1800
16 28th Lombard RAC Rally 1979 Hannu Mikkola Arne Hertz Ford Escort RS1800
17 27th Acropolis Rally 1980 Ari Vatanen David Richards Ford Escort RS1800
18 28th Acropolis Rally 1981 Ari Vatanen David Richards Ford Escort RS1800
19 3º Marlboro Rallye do Brasil 1981 Ari Vatanen David Richards Ford Escort RS1800
20 31st 1000 Lakes Rally 1981 Ari Vatanen David Richards Ford Escort RS1800

Third generation (1980–1986)

Third generation
Production 1980–1986
Assembly Halewood, England
Almussafes, Spain[25]
Saarlouis, Germany[26]
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Designer Uwe Bahnsen
Patrick Le Quément
Body and chassis
Body style 3/5-door hatchback
3/5-door estate
2-door cabriolet
3-door van
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Platform Ford CE14 platform
Related Ford Orion Mark I
Engine 1.1 L Valencia I4
1.1 L CVH I4
1.3 L CHT inline-four engine
1.3 L CVH I4
1.6 L CHT inline-four engine
1.6 L CVH I4
1.6 L CVH Turbo I4
1.6 L LT diesel I4
Transmission 4-speed BC4 manual
5-speed BC5 manual
3-speed ATX automatic
Wheelbase 2,393 mm (94.2 in)[27]
Length Hatchback: 3,907 mm (153.8 in)[27]
Estate: 4,033 mm (158.8 in)[27]
Width 1,640 mm (64.6 in)[27]
Height 1,400 mm (55.1 in)[27]
Ford Escort Mark III rear view
Ford Escort Mark III 5-door hatchback
Ford Escort Mark III 3-door estate

Codenamed "Erika", the third generation Escort was launched in September 1980. The car, Ford Europe's second front-wheel drive, was originally meant to be called the "Ford Erika", but ended up retaining the Escort name. Some say this was due to British consumers reluctance to let go of the "Escort" badge (as the first two generations of Escort had been among Britain's most popular cars, with the Mk II being Britain's best selling car in 1976), and some say that the Germans were concerned with the song Erika, which was a famous battlemarch of the German armed forces during World War II.[28] The North American Escort introduced at this time was a distantly related derivative. Sales in the United Kingdom increased, and by 1982 it had overtaken the ageing Cortina as the nation's best-selling car, beginning an eight-year run as Britain's best selling car.

Unlike the Mark II, which had essentially been a reskin of the original 1968 platform, the Mark III[3] was a completely new "wheels-up" design, and was conceived as a hi-tech, high-efficiency vehicle which would compete with the Volkswagen Golf – considered at the time the class benchmark, and indeed the car was launched with the advertising tagline "Simple is Efficient". The Mark III was a departure from the two previous models, the biggest changes being the adoption of front-wheel drive, and the new hatchback body. It was Ford Europe's second front-wheel drive model launch, the first being the smaller Fiesta in 1976, while the hatchback bodystyle had debuted in the company's range in 1974 on the second generation Capri.

The car used Ford's contemporary design language of the period with the black louvred radiator grille and straked rear lamp clusters, as well as introducing the aerodynamic "bustle-back" bootlid stump (trademarked by Ford as Aeroback) which would be further developed in the forthcoming Sierra and Scorpio; the stump was proven to reduce the car's aerodynamic drag co-efficient significantly, which was a class leading 0.37 at launch.

Also new were the overhead camshaft CVH engines in 1.3 L and 1.6 L formats, with the older Ford Kent-based "Valencia" engine from the Fiesta powering the 1.1 L derivative, although there was a short-lived 1.1 version of the CVH engine sold in certain markets before it was discontinued in 1982. The suspension was fully independent all around, departing from the archaic leaf spring arrangement found on its predecessors. The Escort Mark III was voted European Car of the Year in 1981, fighting off stiff competition from Italy's Fiat Panda and British Leylands Austin Metro.[29]

From launch, the car was available in base (Popular), L, GL, Ghia and XR3 trim. From mid-1982, a five-speed manual gearbox was introduced across the range. This was now standard on the 1.6 L versions and could be specified as an option on most 1.3 L engines. A selection of features were available, either as standard fitment or optional extras depending on model, including a tilt-and-slide sunroof, central locking, and electric windows. All models except for base and L were fitted with a check-light system for low fuel, low oil, low coolant, low screenwash, and worn out brake pads. Power steering was not available on European Escorts although it was available on the US Escort. For the 1983 model year, the Ford ATX three-speed automatic transmission (developed primarily for the US version) was available on the 1.6 L engine within a couple of years of the car's launch.

However, the car attracted criticism from the motoring press at launch due to its suspension, with positive camber on the front wheels and negative camber at the rear, giving rise to the Mark III's infamous "knock-kneed" stance. The Mark III soon had a reputation for a harsh, unforgiving ride. In 1983 the revised suspension mounts from the Escort-based Orion and the larger Sierra steering rack were introduced as running changes for the 1984 model year.

Another engine, introduced in August 1983, was the 1.6 L diesel engine. Developed in Dagenham, it was remarkably economical for its time, and still is to this day, managing over 70 mpg. It was available on the L and GL models. However, the performance was not so impressive, with only 54 bhp (40 kW; 55 PS) and a top speed of barely 90 mph (140 km/h).

The Escort estate was initially only available with three doors, but a five-door version was introduced in 1983. In that year, a saloon version of the Escort, the Orion, was launched. It used the same mechanicals as the hatchback, but had a more upmarket image and was not available with the smaller 1.1 L engine. It was also directed at buyers of the earlier Cortina, which had ceased production in 1982, with its Sierra successor not available as a saloon at the time.

The Mk III model (1980–1986), was the most common type of car on British roads in December 1989, with almost 1,500,000 examples registered.[30]

A convertible version, made by coachbuilder Karmann appeared the same year as the five-door estate (1983). It was the first drop-top car produced by Ford Europe since the Corsair of the 1960s. The Escort Cabriolet was initially available in both XR3i and Ghia specification, but the Ghia variant was later dropped.

Sporting models

Ford Escort RS 1600i

To compete with Volkswagen's Golf GTI, a hot hatch version of the Mark III was developed – the XR3. Initially this featured a tuned version of the 1.6 L CVH engine fitted with a twin-choke Weber carburettor, uprated suspension and numerous cosmetic alterations. It lacked a five-speed transmission and fuel injection. Fuel injection finally arrived in October 1982 (creating the XR3i), eight months behind the limited edition (8,659 examples), racetrack-influenced RS 1600i. The Cologne-developed RS received a more powerful engine with 115 PS (85 kW), thanks to computerized ignition and a modified head as well as the fuel injection.

The final performance update arrived in the form of the turbocharged 132 PS (97 kW) RS Turbo model in October 1984.[31] The RS Turbo was somewhat of a disappointment; it had been delayed several times and when it went on sale in early 1985 the chassis came in for severe criticism.[32] The RS Turbo Series 1 was only marketed in a few European nations as production was limited to 5,000 examples, all in white. They were well equipped, with the alloy wheels from the limited production RS 1600i, Recaro seats, and a limited slip differential.[32] One car only was finished in black; it was built especially for Lady Diana.[33] The Series 2 RS Turbo continued after the 1986 facelift.

RS 1700T

Ford Escort RS 1700T on show in Paris

The Ford Escort RS 1700T was a prototype RWD car designed by Ford Motor Company in 1980 to compete in Group B rallying. Prototypes were based on the Mk III Escort and featured a Cosworth developed 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produced over 300 bhp (224 kW) maximum power. Also a prototype with a 2.4 litre Hart engine (derived from a Formula Two unit) was tested in 1982.

Persistent problems during the vehicle's development prompted Ford to drop plans for its production and instead begin work on an all-wheel-drive model to beat the Audi Quattro, designed and built from scratch, resulting in the famous RS200.

Commercial models

The two-door Escort Van arrived in the marketplace in February 1981, a slightly delayed introduction caused by large remaining stocks of the Mark II Escort Van.[34] The Van has twin rear doors and unusual small side windows behind the front doors, necessary to provide more over-the-shoulder visibility which would otherwise be limited by the use of the short front doors from the five-door Escort.[34] Derived from the van was a pickup version of the Escort, the Bantam, which was produced in South Africa.[35]

Latin America

The Escort entered production in Brazil in July 1983. It was equipped with the Renault-based Ford CHT engine, of either 1341 of 1555 cc. Both sizes were also available in alcohol-fuelled versions with marginally more power.[36] This model was exported to Sweden, Finland, and to Norway from 1983 until 1986, where it replaced the low priced German-built Escort L. The car had a bad reputation in Scandinavia, with severe rust problems and issues with the wet liners of the Renault-designed engine. The engine was also designed to run on petrol containing some ethanol (15-20%), leading to troubles when using straight petrol.[37] To better deal with the tropical heat, the Brazilian three-door Escort received swing-out rear windows, unlike their European counterparts. The Brazilian Escort LX was also available in Switzerland, only with the larger engine option.[38]

In Brazil there was also a more powerful version called the XR-3, only available to run on alcohol. Three or five-door hatchback bodywork was available, although Brazil later also received a two-door saloon known as the Ford Verona/Volkswagen Apollo. The Verona has bodywork which is completely different from that of the Orion.

South Africa

The Escort was also available in South Africa, as hatchback only, from March 1981, with the 1.3 and 1.6 litre engines. The South African Escorts differ only slightly from European ones, as a result of local parts content regulations.[39] The XR3 was also sold, known simply as the Ford XR3, rather than the Ford Escort XR3.[40]

Fourth generation (1986–1992)

Fourth generation
Production 1986–1992
Assembly Halewood, England
Almussafes, Spain[25]
Saarlouis, Germany[26]
General Pacheco, Argentina
Valencia, Carabobo, Venezuela
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Body and chassis
Body style 3/5-door hatchback
3/5-door estate
2-door cabriolet
3-door van
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Platform Ford Erika platform
Related Ford Orion Mark II
Engine 1.0 L CHT I4
1.1 L Valencia I4
1.1 L HCS I4
1.3 L Valencia I4
1.3 L HCS I4
1.4 L CVH I4
1.6 L CHT I4
1.6 L CVH I4
1.6 L CVH Turbo I4
1.8 L VW EA827 I4
1.6 L LT diesel I4
1.8 L Lynx diesel I4
Transmission 4-speed BC4 manual
5-speed BC5 manual
3-speed ATX automatic
CVT CTX automatic
Wheelbase 2,400 mm (94.5 in)[41]
Length Hatchback: 4,022 mm (158.3 in)[41]
Estate: 4,080 mm (160.6 in)[41]
Width 1,640 mm (64.6 in)[41]
Height 1,385 mm (54.5 in)[41]

The fourth version of the Ford Escort was launched in March 1986, with only a small number of changes. Codenamed within Ford as "Erika–86", it was instantly recognisable as an updated version of the previous model, with a smooth style nose and the "straked" rear lamp clusters smoothed over, internally the car had a revised dashboard and other smaller changes. Optional new features included a mechanical anti‐lock braking system (standard on RS Turbo models), a fuel computer on fuel-injected models, and a heated windshield. However, the check-light system for low fuel, low oil, low coolant, low screenwash, and worn out brake pads was no longer fitted to any model. Air conditioning was not available on cars sold in Europe although it was an option on cars sold in Argentina and Brazil.

These changes were welcome at a time when the Escort was faced with a host of new competitors; General Motors had brought out a new version of the Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra 18 months earlier, shortly after Volkswagen had introduced the Mk II Golf and British Leyland had launched the Austin Maestro, while the British-built Peugeot 309 had gone on sale just weeks before the updated Escort. All-new competitors from Fiat and Renault were just two years away.

In 1987, an LX trim designation was introduced, situated between the L and GL models.

As well as an all-new interior, a new 1.4 L derivative of the CVH engine was introduced, as well as numerous suspension tweaks to address the long-standing criticisms of the Escort's handling and ride quality, although these had limited success.

In 1988, the diesel engine was enlarged to 1.8 L, whilst the entry level 1.1 L and 1.3 L models were updated with the redesigned HCS version of the Kent/Valencia family introduced for the Mk III Fiesta. For the same year, a Ford developed electronic fuel injection system replaced the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system in the XR3i and Orion Ghia injection models, and a central point fuel injection system replaced the carburettor on models with the 1.4 L engine.

Ford Escort Mark IV rear view
1987 Ford Escort XR3i Mark IV
1986 Ford Escort Mark IV cabriolet

Ford gave the Escort‐based Orion saloon a similar makeover. Carried over from the previous range was the 3-speed automatic which was ultimately replaced late in the production run with a variant of the CTX stepless gearbox as first used in the Fiesta a couple of years earlier. A luxurious Orion 1600E with leather seats, fuel injection, alloy wheels, and a Ghia trim was produced during 1989 and 1990. A total of 1,600 were made, with 1,000 of these having leather trim. The Orion range was also broadened to include a more basic "L" trim for the first time.

Escorts for European markets continued to be assembled at Halewood, near Liverpool, and at the West German factory of Saarlouis. Sales were strong through the decade, and during the later 1980s Escort production also commenced at the Ford plant originally established for Fiesta production in Valencia. European production finished in 1990.

At this time, the Escort was dropped in South Africa and replaced by the Laser and Meteor.[42] However, the Escort‐based Bantam pick-up remained in production, facelifted, and was also sold as a Mazda Rustler.[35]


For the Brazilian Escorts, the 1.8 L and 2.0 L engines were made by Volkswagen (VW) as part of the AutoLatina agreement, where Ford CHT engines were used in Volkswagen cars and vice versa. The 1.0 L and 1.6 L were all Ford CHT motors. All Escorts made after 1993 were fuel-injected, excepting the Hobby models. Additionally, the Mark IV[3] model was made until 1992 on all versions, except the Hobby which was made until 1996.

In 1993, the Escort Hobby trim was introduced in Brazil, using a 1.0 L 50 hp (37 kW) engine. This was a small-bore version derived from the CHT 1.3 L used in the Brazilian Mk III. This engine was unique to Brazil, whereas the 1.1 L engine was smallest available in most markets. The 1.0 was less powerful, but fuel efficient. Brazil has a special tax break for cars with engines of less than one litre, making this a closely contested segment.

There were no trims with a high-power engine in Brazil. The most powerful Escort was the Escort XR3 Formula 1991, which had 105 PS (77 kW). The on-board computer was not available in Brazil.

Fifth generation (1990–1997)

Fifth generation
Production 1990–1997
Assembly Halewood, England
Almussafes, Spain[25]
Saarlouis, Germany[26]
Istanbul, Turkey (Ford Otosan)[43]
São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil
Body and chassis
Body style 3/5-door hatchback
4-door saloon
5-door estate
2-door cabriolet
3-door van
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Related Ford Orion Mark III
Engine 1.3 L HCS I4
1.4 L CVH I4
1.6 L CVH I4
1.6 L Zetec I4
1.8 L Zetec I4
2.0 L I4 DOHC I4
2.0 L VW AP I4
2.0 L Cosworth YBT I4
1.8 L Endura-D diesel I4
1.8 L Endura-D turbodiesel I4
Transmission 4-speed BC4 manual
5-speed BC5 manual
5-speed MTX-75 manual
3-speed ATX automatic
CVT CTX automatic
Wheelbase 2,525 mm (99.4 in)[44]
Length Hatchback: 4,036 mm (158.9 in)[44]
Sedan: 4,268 mm (168.0 in)[45]
Wagon: 4,268 mm (168.0 in)[44]
Width 1,692 mm (66.6 in)[44]
Height 1,395 mm (54.9 in)[44]
Curb weight 900–1,070 kg (1,984–2,359 lb)[44]
Rear view of a pre-facelift Ford Escort Mark V 5-door hatchback

The Escort Mark V[3] platform (and Mark III Orion saloon) arrived in September 1990 with an all-new bodyshell and a simplified torsion beam rear suspension (instead of the Mark III's fully independent layout). Initially the 1.3 L HCS, 1.4 L and 1.6 L CVH petrol and 1.8 L diesel units were carried over from the old model. This model however was poorly received by the motoring press, and was panned by journalists for its mediocre driving dynamics and unremarkable styling. The engines which had been carried over from the previous generation largely unmodified were also heavily criticised for their poor refinement.

In early 1992, an all new Zetec 16-valve engine was launched bringing improved driveability, while also marking the return of the XR3i which was available with two versions of the 1.8 L Zetec engine. The 150 PS (110 kW) RS2000 also appeared in the autumn of 1991 with a 16v version of the Sierra's I4 2.0 L engine and also improved ride and handling meaning that this version of the Escort finally delivered on the road. Specifications, however, were also higher than before. The Escort was now available with items such as power steering, electric windows, central locking, electronic antilock brakes, and air conditioning. Some of these options were even available on some of the entry-level models.

Early 1992 saw the launch of the Escort RS Cosworth. Intended to replace the Sierra Sapphire RS Cosworth (which finished production shortly afterwards) as Ford's stalwart rally challenger as well as a competitor to supercars with private buyers, it used the turbocharged 2.0 L Cosworth 16-valve engine, generated some 227 PS (167 kW) and was capable of 150 mph. As well as having four-wheel drive, its most memorable feature was its extremely large "whale-tail" tailgate spoiler.

The 2,500 road-going examples sold (required for homologation purposes) were made, but demand for the car was so high that Ford kept producing them. Later models (1995 up) have a smaller turbo than the homologation versions and came with the whale-tail spoiler as an option. The Escort Cosworth ceased production in 1996, but it has already achieved classic status and has a huge following. However, the car wasn't mechanically an Escort, being based on the four-wheel drive Sierra floorpan and mechanicals, including its longitudinally mounted engine, and was merely clothed in body panels to resemble a Mark V.

The fifth generation Escort was launched in South America in 1992, being manufactured in Brazil and Argentina by Autolatina, a joint-venture between Volkswagen and Ford. This resulted with the top of the line Escort XR3i being equipped with a VW AP 2.0 L engine generating 115 PS (85 kW). This generation also spawned two VW-branded cars with the same mechanics (but different body styles and interiors) called Pointer (five-door hatchback) and Logus, a two-door saloon.

The XR3i was discontinued at the beginning of 1994.



Front view of a post facelift Ford Escort Mark V 5-door hatchback
Rear view of a post facelift Ford Escort Mark V 5-door hatchback

Stung by the criticism of the original Mark V (which was still hugely popular despite motoring press criticism of its styling, ride and handling), Ford facelifted the Escort and Orion in September 1992, giving the revised cars a new grille, bonnet and, in the Escort hatchback's case, a new rear end. A new 1.6 L 16-valve 90 bhp (66 kW) Zetec engine was introduced, replacing the previous CVH. Fuel injection was now standard on all petrol models, and Ford introduced a four-wheel-drive variant of the RS2000, offering much improved handling over its front-wheel-drive cousins. A first for the Escort also saw the introduction of all disc brakes on all four wheels as standard on all RS2000 and XR3i models.

Also new for 1993 were 1.3 L and 1.4 L CFi petrol engines and 1.8 L diesel engines.

In September 1993, the Orion name was dropped, with the saloon taking on the Escort badge. The XR3i was discontinued a few months later.

The crash structure was also improved, featuring side impact bars, improved crumple zones, seat-belt pretensioners and airbags.

Sixth generation (1995–2004)

Sixth generation
Production 1995–2004
Assembly Halewood, England
Saarlouis, Germany
Istanbul, Turkey (Ford Otosan)[46]
Obchuk, Belarus (Ford Union)
General Pacheco, Argentina[26]
Body and chassis
Body style 3/5-door hatchback
4-door saloon
5-door estate
3-door van
2-door convertible
Layout Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Engine 1.3 L Endura-E I4
1.4 L CVH-PTE I4
1.6 L Zetec I4
1.8 L Zetec I4
2.0 L I4 DOHC I4
1.8 L Endura D diesel I4
1.8 L Endura D turbodiesel I4
1.8 L Endura D TDDi I4
Transmission 5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Wheelbase 2,525 mm (99.4 in)[47]
Length Hatchback: 4,136 mm (162.8 in)[47]
Sedan: 4,293 mm (169.0 in)[47]
Wagon: 4,300 mm (169.3 in)[47]
Width 1,691 mm (66.6 in)[47]
Height 1,398 mm (55.0 in)[47]
Curb weight 989–1,140 kg (2,180–2,513 lb)[47]
Rear view
1997 Ford Escort LX TD Estate

The Ford Escort[3] was revised in January 1995, although it was still based on the previous model. This version had new front lights, bonnet, front wings, front and rear bumpers, wing mirrors, door handles and 4 different front radiator grilles (slats, honeycomb, circles and chrome). The interior of the car was hugely revised too following heavy criticism of the original 1990 car which featured low quality plastics for its interior mouldings - the car now featured an all new dashboard arrangement of competitive quality. However, the underlying car was now five years old and most of its rivals were either new or to be imminently replaced.

The two entry level engines were revised – the 1.3 L received the latest version of the Kent/Valencia family – the Endura-E from the recently launched Mk IV Fiesta and Ka, whilst the 1.4L CVH was replaced by the updated CVH-PTE unit. There were no changes to either the venerable 1.8 diesel or the 1.6/1.8 Zetec units at the top end of the range. The improved iB5 version of the venerable BC-series transmission was also later introduced as a running change.

Dynamically, the handling and ride were also much improved with revised suspension set up from that on the previous Mark V models. The sporty "Si" model had slightly stiffer suspension than the LX and Ghia variants, although the Si was otherwise the same as the LX with some additional standard, mainly cosmetic, enhancements such as front and rear spoilers (which were also available as options on the LX), sports seats and white-faced dashboard instruments.

1996 Ford Escort RS2000. The last Escort to wear the famous RS badge.
Ford Escort Van (1995-2003)

The RS2000 models ceased production in June 1996, and were the last Escorts ever to wear the famous RS badge. The RS badge did not resurface until the Focus RS arrived in 2002. A new Ghia X model was introduced around 1996, which included air conditioning and a 6 CD autochanger as standard. Although the equipment of the Ghia below it was reduced, it was now more affordable.

The last "standard" model to be introduced in 1997 was the GTi — the only GTi-badged Ford to ever be sold in Europe. This used the same existing 115 PS (85 kW) 1.8 L Zetec-E engine found in other cars in the range, but included a body kit borrowed from the now cancelled RS2000 model, part-leather seats plus the standard fitment of ABS. The GTi was available in 3- and 5-door hatchback and estate bodystyles.[48]

In 1998, Ford announced an all-new car, the Focus, which replaced the Escort and superseded the "Escort" name that had been in use for 30 years. The Escort range was cut down to just "Flight" and "Finesse" editions, and sold for a further two years in parallel with the Focus. All engines except the 1.6 L petrol and 1.8 L turbo diesel were dropped, as were the three-door hatchback, four-door saloon and cabriolet bodystyles (except in mainland Europe, New Zealand, South Africa and South America).

The Flight cost £10,380 and offered electric front windows, a three-speed fan and a cassette player. For an additional £1,000 the Finesse added alloy wheels, air conditioning, a CD player, fog lamps and metallic paint. The more competitive prices managed to keep European Escort sales going until the last one rolled off the Halewood assembly line in July 2000, making it the last Ford car to be assembled there. The plant was transferred to Jaguar that year for the new X-Type saloon, and following the later merger with Land Rover and the sale of the plant to Tata, Ford now only has a small presence at Halewood - retaining the transmission works at the site.

The van variant remained in production in a facility located behind the now Jaguar plant at Halewood until 2003 when the new Transit Connect model was introduced. The Escort hatchback and estate were produced in Argentina until 2004, having been sold alongside its successor (the Focus) during the final stages of production. Escort-based light vans had been offered since 1968, although the market sector, always larger in the UK than in continental Europe, dated back beyond the 1950s when successive Ford Anglias had been available with a van variant. After the demise of the Escort, Ford would be represented in this niche by the Turkish assembled Ford Transit Connect.

In Chile, to avoid confusion with the US-market Escort which was being sold alongside it, this generation was sold as the "EuroEscort" for several years.

New Zealand

While this generation was not sold in Australia at any point, it was however sold in New Zealand imported fully built up from the UK between 1996 and 1998 in all bodystyles including the van, replacing the Ford Laser. The hatch and saloon were discontinued in 1999 due to unfavourable exchange rates - also the reason why the Laser was re-introduced, and the Focus was not introduced to the New Zealand market until 2003. The Escort estate and van continued on sale on the local market until 1999 until stock from the UK dried up, the estate having reasonable success due to the lack of a replacement Laser wagon following the end of local production of the outdated 1980s KE Laser wagon in 1996. 1.6 or 1.8-litre petrol and the diesel 1.8 were available.


ModelModelyearEngineDisplacementPower / rpm.Torque / rpm.Top Speedfuel system
1.3 CFi/H Endura-E1995-98OHV 8V inline-four1299 cc60 hp / 5000101 Nm / 2500153 km/h petrol,
fuel injection
1.4 CFi CVH-PTE1995-98SOHC 8V inline-four1391 cc75 hp / 5500106 Nm / 2750169 km/h
1.6 EFi Zetec1995-00DOHC 16V inline-four1597 cc90 hp / 5500134 Nm / 3000177 km/h
1.8 EFI Zetec1996-981796 cc116 hp / 5750160 Nm / 4500196 km/h
1.8 EFI ZETEC 1996-98 1796 cc 130 hp / 5750 160nm / 4500 200 km/h
RS2000 I4 DOHC19961988 cc150 hp / 6000190 Nm / 4500210 km/h
1.8 D Endura D1995-98SOHC 8V inline-four 1753 cc60 hp / 4800110 Nm / 2500152 km/hdiesel
1.8 TD Endura D1995-9869 hp / 4500135 Nm / 2500163 km/h turbodiesel
1.8 TDi Endura D1995-0090 hp / 4500180 Nm / 2000−2500172 km/h


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