Whilst Ford’s rallying history can be traced back to before the Escort, with cars such as the Anglia and Lotus Cortina, 1968 is the important year as far as blue oval rally fans are concerned, as this year saw the launch of the Mark I Escort. The Escort redefined rallying, dominating from its launch through to its replacement by the Mark II in 1975.
The Mark II Escort resulted in a ‘the King is dead long live the King’ situation, as the 1800cc RS1800 picked up the reins left behind by the Mark I. The first win for the Mark II came on the 1975 RAC rally, with an Escort also winning the event the following year for a fifth time. The Escort’s wins in the British Rally Championship were of even greater dominance as it secured 1st place in the championship for 8 consecutive years between 1971 and 1978.
1979 witnessed the Escort dominate the World Rally Championship, taking the Constructors and Drivers titles with wins on the Portuguese, Acropolis, New Zealand, Canadian and UK rounds, the UK for the eight time in succession.
As Ford switched development to the new front wheel drive Escort, which would culminate in the aborted RS1700T project, Ari Vatanen entered a privateer Mark II Escort rally team in the 1980 and 1981 World Rally Championships and took the driver’s title in 1981, a feat not achieved before or since.
Engine : four-cylinder, in-line, longitudinally mounted in front, twin overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, 250 bhp, 2,000cc
Induction : two Weber 40 DCOE carburettors
Body : unitary steel construction two-door sports coupé
Transmission : five speed ZF gearbox mounted behind engine and driving rear wheels via a propeller shaft.