CLASSIC BUY: Ford Escort Mk2 (1975-1981)
It’s a solid entry-level classic with parts readily available…
In the August 1975 issue of CAR, we included the “new” (which it wasn’t quite) Escort in a new-model feature and also published our first road test of a 1300 L. The full range at the time included that engine variant in both two- and four-door bodies, plus a 1600 GL and 1600 GL AT. The latter two had four doors with the exception of the 1600 Sport (introduced in 1979), which boasted the two-door body shell.
Comparing the new Escort with the outgoing Mk1, the glass area had increased in size by 23 percent. This gave the impression of a larger car, although the overall length remained the same and there were only small increases in width and height. The rectangular headlamps of some of the Mk1 models switched to square items on the Mk2. Noise levels were reduced thanks to redesigned suspension, engine mountings and transmission. With a reprofiling of the fuel tank, luggage space was improved to 360 litres despite the spare wheel mounted upright on the left side of the bay.
The 1300 engine was a basic ohv crossflow with a single-choke Ford carburettor. This produced 41 kW, while the larger 1600 was the same engine so successfully used in the Cortina GT as well as other Ford models. With freer-breathing, twin-choke Weber (32DGAV) and a higher lift camshaft, it offered a healthier 62 kW. This dropped the 0-100 km/h sprint time from 18,1 to 13,4 seconds. Interestingly, the 1600 used just five percent more fuel than the smaller derivative.
As with most Fords of the time, the four-speed gearboxes were slick thanks to the rear-wheel-drive architecture having the transmission sited directly below the gearlever. The automatic transmission was a Ford-built three-speeder. In 1980, Steyns Ford developed a turbocharged 1600 Sport producing 97 kW and we will showcase this at a later stage with the RS2000.
Following extensive testing before its release in South Africa, local concerns of rough roads and heat were addressed. The engine’s cooling capacity was increased and the suspension beefed up using MacPherson struts and four-blade leaf springs. Unassisted rack-and-pinion steering plus brake discs up front and drums at the rear completed the setup.
Which one to get
The one everyone wants is the 1600 Sport (pronounced “one-six-double-oh”). It had the looks and the racy decals, and transformed a rather plain car.
What to watch out for
One of the great benefits of these Fords and their Kent engines is inexpensive parts. Whether you need components to perform an engine overhaul or simply require a headlamp, you shouldn’t struggle to find parts. Rust appears to be less of a problem than on other cars of a similar vintage.
Availability and prices
Because this was a bestseller, there are plenty of Mk2s around. Most are in some stage of modification or “project” status, but there are a sufficient number of original cars offered for sale from time to time. Look inland for rust-free examples. Prices are generally reasonable.
The 1600 Sport was a major hit with the public when it was released in 1979. Apart from the return to classic round lighting with additional bumper-mounted spotlights, it had firmer suspension, an upgraded gearshift action, a free-flow exhaust, sports seating, a three-spoke steering wheel and pin-stripe decals. The acceleration to 100 km/h improved once more, to 13,1 seconds.
Sales figures of Escort Mk2s were around 2 000 to 4 000 a year, but the 1600 Sport was such a hit it sold double the volume of the GL in 1979. In ‘79 and ’80, the Escort held fourth place in the sales charts behind the Volkswagen Golf, Mazda 323 and Ford Cortina.