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Ford Escort Mk 3. Momentary love, lasting sympathy

In 1980 Ford presented the third generation of the hit Escort. In essence, the new Escort was a completely differently constructed car from its first and second generation predecessors. For its time it was also a fashionably designed model. In the spirit of the times, it took on hatchback shape, fairly sharp lines and front-wheel drive. The new Ford was named Car of the Year for 1981. Forty years ago. That's how long the Escort Mk3 has been around.

The Escort literally became a world car for Ford. Ford built the car in Germany, England and Spain. And it was built and sold in North America with a substantially different look and different technology, also as Escort and Mercury Lynx. In Brazil it was built with CHT engines based on Renault engines, and also sold. The Brazilian version was close to the European variants in appearance. In any case, the result of Project Erika was a hit. The new Escort became a much sought after Ford product. In Europe, Ford offered the Escort depending on equipment with various new OHC engines with hemispherical combustion chambers. These CVH engines had a displacement of 1.100 cc, 1.300 cc and 1.600 cc (rounded), there were three-door, five-door, station and delivery variants. Later came the Orion, a four-door sedan based on the Escort. A 1.6 diesel that matched the trend of that time did not lag behind either. Equipment variants included the Custom, the L, the popular and slightly later introduced Laser and Bravo versions (both based on the L), the GL and the Ghia. The 1.6 later got KE-Jetronic injection, the 1.1 CVH later became a low compression engine with 50 DIN-HP.

Fun package XR3

The fun package was called XR3. unlike, for example, the injected VW Golf GTI initially got the 1.6 engine in the XR3 with a double Weber register carburettor and a different camshaft. for model year 1983, Ford added an i to the XR3 designation. This is due to the application of Bosch injection. Incidentally, the 1600 RS was also available, a fine peppery version. And the RS Turbo was certainly not to be sneezed at, as was the Convertible version that also came later. Meanwhile, Ford also looked at whether it could mean something to the Mk3 in the upcoming Group B of the WRC rally, by coming out with an RS 1700 Turbo Prototype. The project got stuck at the pilot stage, eventually turning Ford into Group B with the RS200.


So the Escort three. I loved it and built the Escort myself during my early teens. That was the Revell version of the XR3, in scale 1 to 24. I only had it. My parents bought a real, brand new Escort in November 1982. The registration number JF-71-VP was almost an abbreviation of my father's name. It was an Escort Bravo with the old 1.1 OHV engine. Ford also supplied the 1.117 cc power source with an overhead camshaft, but the older Valencia OHV with 55 DIN-HP was more economical. The Escort 1.1 Bravo got at least (until 1984) this engine in the Netherlands, and was also equipped with the economy package. With a 3 + E gearbox, where the E position certainly had no short transmission. Two lights as an indication for economical driving were included as standard. Whoever ordered a Bravo version was pampered according to Japanese example. The buyer got moldings around the side windows, headrests with removable cushions, a radio with push buttons, strips on the sides for protection, a right wing mirror and a clock. Just to name a few standard amenities.


I was a fan of our Escort and washed the car thoroughly every two weeks so that the beautiful metallic Arctic Blue glowed in full glory. In my experience, the Escort was also nice and spacious, you could move freely in it. In any case, I liked to sit in our Ford, which I considered new for almost a year and a half. The Ford (now technically adapted from the factory chassis) was nice in my memory, but my father noticed a lack of spice. "With a headwind I might as well take the 2CV4 with me, the Escort isn't much faster." So it was. My parents were happy with the Ford, but said a 1.3 or even a 1.6 would have been the better choice. I didn't care then. Because our Ford was bought new and I thought it was very nice.

Remote function, diesel or gas required

My father got a new position 110 kilometers from home. He drove over the Afsluitdijk every day. Gasoline couldn't get out. We had the Escort only recently, but for economic reasons a diesel had to be installed quickly. Or a gas car. Moreover, my father still wanted a more powerful engine in the next car. It was clear that the Escort was going out, and I found that difficult, I liked it.

Still likeable

The search for a replacement took a long time. And then my mother joined in the story. We came across an impeccable Golf C Diesel (1.6) from 1981 at Huitema in Emmeloord. I believe my mother drove the Golf for five minutes. Her "Koos, I know enough”Was the start of a five-year covenant. The Golf in other words, a quality, totally impeccable car, and really one of the best cars my parents had. I also became a fan of that, but I was sad because of the goodbye to the Escort. My parents' Ford hadn't been with us for one and a half. It did yield something. Because I've always had a soft spot for the generation three Ford Escort, which was eventually built until 1986.



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  1. Bought a Ford Escort 87 on gas in 1,3 with one child wanted it, but with a second it became too small, also hung a rut hut, but that caused nuisance on the road in the form of 70 km in the third, so that was only on the back roads and not on the highway. That made us decide to switch to a Toyota Corolla 1.6 16v and this was satisfactory also on the highway you came with the traffic with ease a 14% slope in the second and that with 55 km p / you. Escort nice car but also very sensitive to rust.

  2. Started with a 1989 XR3i (the mk4, is in fact partly a facelifted mk3)
    And after about 6 years bought a RS Turbo S2 from 1990
    I still have, for 17 years or so.
    That is really a fun package on wheels.
    Lighter as a Golf GTI, it weighs less than a ton, and even then Ford knew how to make a nice chassis

  3. my first car was nen MK2 nen 1300cc underpowered 44 hp but a beautiful blue color, thought it was a nice car after that I had many forden granada sierra XR 4 nen cossworth sierra nen sierra 20 GLSi, nen escort MK3 RS 1600i always liked to drive ford !

  4. Souvenir, souvenir… .. my first new car was an Escort1.1 in 1983, it was indeed impossible to burn and was replaced two years later by an Orion 1.3.
    Followed an Escort 1.6 and then a 1.
    8 diesel, then no more Ford.

  5. Many people do not know that the Escort MK3 / 4 was produced in Brazil and Argentina until 1992 by the joint Ford-VW factory Autolatina. The MK4 was similar in appearance to ours, but continued to drive with the MK3 suspension. As an option, the MK4 was available with a 1.8 Volkswagen engine, optionally on petrol or alcohol. These Escorts could be supplied with options that were not available for us to order, such as air conditioning and power steering. There was also a two-door with a trunk available under the name Verona, a kind of Orion. That car was also for sale under VW label with the type name Apollo and was just a bit more luxurious. And Karmann also had a branch in Brazil that made the MK3 / 4Cabrio until 1992.
    The MK4 was also made in Venezuela, but with a much larger engine because gasoline there at the time cost 10 cents per liter.

  6. Nice article. It brings me back to my second car ever. A real sunburst red XR3 from 1982 with the same aluminum wheels as in the photo of this article. I bought the butcher's cart in the neighboring village. My father (I was 20 at the time and still living with my parents) came home with this idea, but did not know that it was such a powerhouse. I beamed quietly, bought the car and drove it for four years. My first car was a Ford Escort MK2 with a 1100cc in the front. That was a hell of a difference. I vividly remember my first overtaking maneuver. I had to hurry to swerve to the left or I just drove in the back of the vehicle in front.
    I had a lot of fun with this XR3. Including a few nice trips to Spain and Czechoslovakia (then one country) with my then love.
    The nice feeling thick small steering wheel, the tight hard handling, the tough look, the good sitting position in the bucket seats .. It sticks. Now you don't see them often anymore, but every time I come across one, I can't just pass it by. Really cool baking. And they had quite a bit of power too. The fun at the pump was a little less fun. A sporty driving style made the needle plunge to the red. But I forgave him because you got tons of driving pleasure instead.

  7. When this Mk3 was introduced in the fall of 1980 it was very modern. The principal of my old elementary school was a good friend of my dad and as an automatic driver he recommended a test drive in a 1.6GL with that beautiful bronze-tinted glass. Indeed, a huge step forward in terms of drive compared to the GS Club that my dad was riding at the time. Unfortunately quite stiff and that smooth soft suspension was also absent. A pity because I thought those Escorts were very nice, more beautiful than the facelift from 1986 and certainly more beautiful than the last version from 1990. By the way, the USA Escort was fundamentally different from the European one, just like the later Contour compared to the Mondeo….

    • Dear Ruud. Yes, the USA version was certainly different, that's right. Nice: we also went from a GS to an Escort at home. Was a hip car then, with its Keilform. Only a small 200 cc too little, but as Bravo spicy in the stuff.

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