Buyer’s guide Ford Escort Mk2. Buyer’s guide to Ford’s rear-drive all-rounder. Increasing rarity has made the once-ubiquitous Escort a highly sought-after classic, says Malcolm McKay. Photography Tony Baker.
It seems only a few years ago that Mk2 Escorts were two-a-penny. No more! Rust and low values have taken a heavy toll, while rallying associations – and family memories – have made desirability soar and prices climb exponentially as demand outstripped supply. Now Mk2s are being imported to the UK from dry climates, most models in top condition can command £10,000, the best RS2000s are three times that and pukka RS1800s are anything from £60-100k.
Though appearing little-changed from its predecessor, ‘Brenda’ showed advancements on almost all fronts, with greater glass area, more space inside, better seating, ride and handling, plus improved heating, ventilation and instruments. Despite concerns at launch that the Mk2 was pricey compared to rivals (unusual for Ford), within a year it was Britain’s best-selling car.
Ford offered a vast range of models and engine sizes – 1100 (Popular, Popular Plus, L, Estate), 1300 (Pop, Pop Plus, L, GL, Sport, Ghia, Estate, L Estate, GL Estate), 1600 (Sport, Ghia), Mexico, RS2000 and RS1800. All had lively five-bearing Crossflow engines. The superrare RS1800 featured an 1835cc Cosworth BDA with single Weber, although works rally cars ran twin Webers and later fuel-injection on a 2-litre block giving 250bhp. A five-speed ZF gearbox and ZF limited-slip differential put the power down. In 1979, it gave Ford the Manufacturers’ title in the World Rally Championship, also winning drivers’ titles from 1975 to 1979 and 1981. RS1800 production ended in 1977, and all laterregistered cars were built up from parts.
The ‘everyman’ performance model, the RS2000, featured a distinctive slope-nose (with different bonnet and front wings) and boasted 110bhp from its overhead-cam Pinto engine, good for 0-60mph in 8.9 secs and a 110mph top speed. If you couldn’t stretch to that, the Mexico had 95bhp or there was the 84bhp 1600 Sport, still capable of 0-60mph in 11.1 secs and 98mph.
RS1800s and Mexicos are commonly faked. There are now probably more non-original cars than factory – of both models, in fact – so check spec and provenance very carefully when buying. There’s nothing wrong with a well-executed copy, provided the price reflects that.
Rust is the main problem with these Fords: all panels were welded and few were painted inside. Restoring a rotten one is a huge challenge so, unless you love cutting and welding, find a good one – which these days is likely to be an import.
What to look for
A Mk2 Escort is still a perfectly competent everyday car and even the 1100 will keep up with city traffic if you use the revs – and all the motors love to be worked. Refinement is not its strongest suit, but the engine should feel smooth and willing – gutsy in performance models – with no excessive rattles or bangs. Service history – or evidence that the engine has been cared for – makes all the difference, because the Pinto in particular will sludge up and wear out its camshaft if oil and filter changes are neglected. Its cambelt should be changed every 30,000 miles or five years. Ford carbs are troublesome when worn, but Weber conversions are readily available.
Cooling systems were more than adequate when new, but too many people think that a radiator is fine if it doesn’t leak. In practice, they silt up and lose efficiency – so look for signs of overheating and budget for a recore if evident. RSs and Mexicos tended to understeer on the limit, thanks to rear radius arms without an antiroll bar. Other models were more inclined to oversteer if driven hard, thanks to a rear anti-roll bar doubling as axle location. All, though, were fine-handling cars, so if you find one that isn’t, check the suspension bushes and dampers – also for any signs of crash damage.
Many cars have been modified over the years. Beware of bodge jobs with larger engines shoehorned in but without the correct gearbox, propshaft, axle, suspension etc to cope with the extra performance. Lowering was popular for a time, but put more strain on suspension mountings and caused damage to vulnerable panels.
“I’ve owned more than 60 Mk2s since I was 17,” admits Morgan. “Most were daily drivers, but now they’re just a toy – too valuable to use every day. I have a South African-import 1600 Sport. It’s rust-free and has a heavy-duty shell with extra strengthening in the front inner wings and the underpan. It’s amazing how people’s perceptions of the cars have changed over the years. Now prices are going up, all the parts that you couldn’t get are being remanufactured – it’s a massive industry and some specialists are doing really good restorations. You can get almost all of the panels, except the roof – some come over from Australia. Escorts are just so much fun to drive – I used to modify them a lot, but now I intend to keep mine standard.”
One to buy £11,795
Year of manufacture 1980
Recorded mileage 39,674km
Vendor MSC, Andover, Hants
For + Rot free; low mileage
Against – Colour, tiny hole in seat fabric
Paint superb; black bib and sills standard in South Africa. Cabin and trim are excellent, reflecting the low mileage. Leak-free Kent has fluids the right colour, to correct level.
One of MSC’s many recent imports from South Africa, this 1600 Sport has no paperwork to speak of, but has a rot-free shell. It’s never been welded and, though there’s lots of sealant underneath, the floors and chassis rails are solid and straight, with Waxoyl in evidence. The inner wings, front chassis rails and sills are perfect, as are the door shuts and spare wheel well. It’s been painted at some point in its original colour, and the finish is holding up well. The tyres are decently treaded Toyos on unscuffed aftermarket alloys with an older Firestone S211 on the narrow steel spare.
Inside, it’s similarly smart. As well as a blackfinished front bib spoiler and sills, South African cars got satin-black door tops, which haven’t worn through. The vinyl on the door cards and side trims is all fine, and there’s a decent headlining with a couple of stains that might clean out. The seat base velour is good – save one tiny wear hole at the front on the driver’s side – and there are no cracks in the plastic dashboard trims or top.
The Kent motor is clean, tidy and leak-free. It starts easily and quietly and is a lively performer. There’s no oil gauge to fret over, and it doesn’t get hot. The car still has its four-speed gearbox, so it’s quite a busy cruise, but you can feel the eagerness of the chassis below you and there are no clunks or rattles from the suspension. The nice, firm brakes pull up straight. It will be sold UK-registered, with a V5C and a new MoT.
If you wanted to make a killing on Mk2 Escorts, you should have filled a barn 10 years ago. Unspoilt, original UK-market cars are now rare and expensive, but fine examples are being imported so there is a good selection of models out there. Buy wisely and you can enjoy a small, fun, rear-drive car with great back-up for years to come: just don’t buy a rusty one.
|• Practical and entertaining to drive
• Low running costs; parts availability
• Values climbing strongly
• Specialist support increasing
|• Poorly protected against rust
• All-welded construction expensive to restore, so budget for that if you fancy a project
• Many have been modified – some poorly
1974 Dec Mk2 production starts
1975 Jan New Ford Escort 2dr/4dr/Estate/van on sale: 1100, 1300, 1600 engines and numerous trim specs up to Ghia with square headlights
1975 Mar RS1800 launched with Cosworth BDA twin-cam, based on Halewood 1600 Sport
1975 Oct Slant-nosed RS2000 launched
1976 Jan Mexico (1.6-litre Pinto) added
1977 Suspension revised with offset top front mounts, revised dampers, single-leaf rear springs. Sept RS1800 dropped (109 built inc 20 Customs)
1978 RS Mexico dropped (c2900 built); RS2000 Custom added. All except Ghia get black grille
1979 Limited-edition Capital (1000, London-only, Pop Plus, metallic pink or lilac), Harrier (1.6 Sport, 1000 white, 500 silver, RS seats/alloys/spoiler), Goldcrest (1.3/1.6L 4dr, brown with chocolate trim or gold with tan), Linnet (Pop Plus 1.3, bright colours), Huntsman (Estate, red or brown)
1980 Oct Mk2 replaced by front-drive Mk3
|Car||Ford Escort Mk2
|Engine||front-mounted, all-iron Crossflow ohv 1098/1298/1598cc or ohc 1593/1993cc or all-alloy dohc 16-valve 1834cc four, with single Ford or twin-choke Weber carburettor;|
|Max power (DIN)||48bhp @ 5500rpm-115bhp @ 6000rpm|
|Max torque (DIN)||54lb ft @ 3000rpm-120lb ft @ 4000rpm|
|Transmission||four-speed manual or three-speed automatic (1.3/1.6), driving rear wheels|
front MacPherson struts, transverse links, anti-roll bar
rear live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopics plus anti-tramp/roll bar (or radius arms on Mexico/RS2000/RS1800)
|Steering||rack and pinion, 3 ½ turns lock-to-lock|
|Brakes||discs front, drums rear, servo on 1.6 and above (optional on others)|
|Length||13ft ½ in-13ft 7in (3975-4140mm)|
|Width||5ft ½ in (1537mm)|
|Height||4ft 7 ½ in (1410mm)|
|Wheelbase||7ft 10 ½ in (2400mm)|
|Power to weight|
|Price new||£1416-3201 (1976)|
£140, for a Londoner, 30, full no-claims and clean licence on a 1978 RS as a garaged second car, value £25k, 5000 ltd miles. Lancaster (01480 484848)
Launched in 1972 as a luxury 1854cc saloon, then the RS-baiting 16V Sprint, in ’76 the Dolomite gained 1300 and 1500 engine options. Survival rates are good, but rot can be terminal. Sold/no built 1972-’80/204,003 Mpg 20-35 0-60mph 17.5-8.4 secs Top speed 84-113mph Price new £2070-3283 (’76) Now £500-8000+
VAUXHALL VIVA HC
GM’s compact family car was larger than its rivals. Sporty Firenza and Magnum variants widened the range. Rust and parts supply have decimated survivors, but good ones can be found. Sold/no built 1970-’79/640,863 Mpg 19-35 0-60mph 20.6-8.5 secs Top speed 78-117mph Price new £1577-2509 (’76) Now £750-7500+
Optional alloys (standard on RS2000 Custom from 1978) give perfect finishing touch to the definitive 1970s sports saloon.
Sports seats and wheel enhance the driving experience.
RS2000 handles well, with a touch of understeer that can easily be dialled out. Note signature ‘fishnet’ headrests on Recaro seats.
WHAT TO PAY RESTO/AVERAGE/SHOW
1.1/1.3 4dr (2dr) £500 (1200)/3k (4)/10k (12)
1600 Sport £2000/7500/15,000
Mexico, Harrier £4000/12,500/20,000
Front wing/RS2000 £95/£225
RS front strut (recon) £65
Full floor £342
Water pump 1.1/1.3 £40
Brake master cylinder £55
Sporting Escort OC 01388 662217;
www.seoc.co.uk RS OC 08702 406215;
Factory-Original Sporting Mk2 Escorts
Williamson & Clay, Herridge Ford Escort
RS1800 Robson, Veloce Restoration Manual
Ford Escort & Cortina MkI & II Henson, Haynes
Retro Ford 01323 351259
GS Escorts 0151422 8333
Escort Agency 01834 860929
Burton 020 8518 9136
OldPartStore 07586 362186
Motorsport-Tools.com 01758 357000
Speed Shack 01895 449066
Gartrac 01428 682263
Escort-Tec 07733 280190
Magnum 01706 359666
Cleveland 01642 219200
Classic Trim 01268 415166
Ramsport 01745 890470
1 Bonnet, front panel, valance, crossmember under radiator
2 Outer wings around lights, top rear corner, wheelarch.
3 Inner front wings, esp strut tops, bonnet hinge mounts.
4 Main chassis rails, suspension mounts.
5 Bulkhead, particularly heater plenum chamber.
6 Door posts, screen pillars.
7 Sills, floorpan.
9 Rear spring hangers (both ends), boot floor.
10 Valances, bootlid, arches
Ford’s oversquare Crossflow Kent (ohv) and Pinto (ohc) engines were free-revving and durable given basic maintenance. Regular cambelt changes are vital on Pintos; check service history and for excessive oil leaks/breathing. Listen for untoward noises, too. Rebuild costs are relatively low: £3000 for an RS2000 unit. Sierra Type 9 five-speed ’box, as here, is a popular mod giving more relaxed cruising; standard gearbox is slick and durable. Bordeaux auto isn’t bad, either. All but base-model 1100s had front discs. If discs were fitted, 13in wheels were needed instead of 12in, along with a servo to reduce pedal effort. Simple and effective, Mk2 suspension is cheap to repair and spares are off the- shelf. Check for play in the steering rack as well as in suspension bushes. The original RS2000 carburettor was a downdraught twin-choke 32/36 Weber, but most have been upgraded to twin 45DCOEs – as on this original UK car. Radius arms locate rear axle on Mexico and RSs; lesser models used combined anti-tramp/anti-roll bar. Axles last well if kept topped up, but beware leaks. Ten years ago a worn interior was a big problem, now all RS2000 trim is readily available (£4100 for kit). Most models can be accurately retrimmed, at a price.
Ford revived Popular name for detuned 1975 poverty model.
Ari Vatanen/David Richards won 1981 Acropolis in RS1800.