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The Ford Escort was a compact car manufactured by the Ford Motor Company from 1967 through 2003. Although it was originally a European model, the Escort badge has been applied to several different designs in North America over the years.
The square-edged Mk II version of the Escort appeared in Europe in early 1975. The first production models of which rolled off the production lines 2nd December 1974. Unlike the first Escort (which was solely a British effort), the second generation was developed along with Ford of Germany. Codenamed "Brenda" during its development, it used the same mechanicals as the Mk I, although the unpopular 950 cc engine was dropped. The station wagon and van versions used the same panelwork as the Mk I, but with the Mk II front end and interior - giving the car a slight "identity crisis". The car used a revised underbody, which incidentially was introduced as a running change during the last six months of the Mk1's life.
This car made a point, just with its four bodystyles, of competing in many different niches of the market, which rival manufacturers either had multiple models ranges, or simply none at all. "L" and "GL" models (2-door, 4-door, estate) were in the mainstream private sector, the "Sport", "Mexico", and "RS2000" in the performance market, the "Ghia" (2-door, 4-door) for an untapped small car luxury market, and "Base/Popular" models for the bottom end. Panel-van versions catered to the commercial sector.
As with its predecessor, the Mk II had a successful rallying career. All models of the Mk I were carried over to the Mk II, though the Mexico had its engine changed to a 1.6 ohc 'Pinto' instead of the ohv for the UK market. Other markets continued with the 1.6L 'Kent' in the mk 2 and called it the 'Sport' model. Also a new and potent model was released - the RS1800; a 1.8L version of the RS1600. It was essentially a special created for racing, and surviving road versions are very rare and collectible today. There has been a longstanding debate regarding how the RS1800 was homologated for international motorsport, as Ford are rumoured to have built only fifty or so road cars out of the four hundred required for homologation.
The 1.6 L (1598 cc/97 in³) 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). For rally use, this can be compared to the 1974 Toyota Corolla which output 75 hp (56 kW) and weighed 948 kg (2090 lb).
The 2.0 L RS2000 version, which featured the Pinto engine from the Cortina, was available with a top speed of 110 mph (177 km/h). The 2.0 L engine was also easily retro-fitted into the Mk I, and this became a popular modification, along with the Ford Sierra's 5-speed gearbox, for rallying and other sports, especially given the Pinto's tunability.
The RS2000 was more distinctive, having a slanting plastic nose housing four round headlamps.
During the second half of the 1970s, the Escort continued to prove hugely popular with buyers in Britain and other parts of Europe. A cosmetic update was given in 1978, with most models gaining the square headlights (previously exclusive to the GL and Ghia variants), some models gaining the Escort Sport wheels, and an upgrade in interior spec - the 'L' in particular gaining a glovebox and centre console. Underneath a wider front track was given.
Production, after an incredibly popular model run, ended in Britain in August 1980, other countries following soon after.
Codenamed "Erika", the third generation Escort was launched in September 1980. The code name alluded to the leader of the product planning team, Erick A. Reickert. The North American Escort introduced at this time was a derivative, and was introduced in 1981. The two vehicles were intended to share component designs, but separate engineering organizations and government regulations made this impractical (althought the North American version was advertised as a "world car"). The North American version was launched as a 2-door hatchback and as a 4-door station wagon, with the 4-door hatchback following a year later. It had considerably more chrome than the model sold elsewhere, and although the basic silhouette was the same, it was almost completely different from the European version, apart from the Ford CVH engine. There was a 1.6 L engine, 4 or 5-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmissions. A 1.3 L engine was designed and prototyped but did not see production due to lack of power. Also, in 1983 and 1984, there was the option of the turbocharged 1.6L 4-cylinder rated at 120 horsepower and matching torque, not too bad for the day (the Mustang GT was only rated at 175, and in a much heavier package).
In 1991, a new American Escort debuted sharing mechanicals with the Mazda 323. This car was a truer "world car", being much more similar in different world markets than it's predicessor. It carried on with shared Mazda internals until it's successor - the Ford Focus - replaced it (in 1998 in Europe and 2000 in North America).