Back To The 80s: Ford Escort MkIII

Fri 2nd Aug 2019

When we think of the classic eras of motoring we might cast our mind back to stylish cars of the 1950s, the muscle cars of the 1960s or the super cars of the 1970s. What might not spring to mind however is the motors which were produced in the 1980s - an era which certainly favoured practicality over power, style and sophistication.

But the cars of today owe much to 80s, it was a decade which brought us turbochargers, multi-valve engines and hot hatchbacks, an era of the people-carrier and the rise of the SUV. Digital displays and electronic gadgetry, were the norm as designers pushed the boundaries of of what was capable in a production vehicle.

So let's celebrate the 80s, a period of huge change across Britain as a whole, and one which had incredible landmarks in the motor industry.

Ford Escort MkIII
‘Simple Is Efficient’ was the advertising tagline for a car which after being launched in September 1980 would go on to dominate the decade in terms of sales and critical acclaim.

Following on from the Fiesta, which was launched in 1976, the third generation Escort was the second Ford model to adopt a front wheel drive system, but was also markedly different from its predecessor in that it employed a new hatchback body, similar to that of the Ford Capri, and it also came with the trademark ‘Aeroback’ rear end, which may have looked a little stumpy and perhaps ‘sawn-off’ but helped reduce the car’s drag coefficient.

Created by Ford’s legendary designer, Uwe Bahnsen, the new Escort was developed under the codename ‘Erika’ named after Erick A. Reickert, who was the US product planner for Ford (though some have suggested the name was simply that of a Ford Manager’s PA). It was initially planned that the new car would replace the Escort and be named the Ford Erika, though worries about losing the famous Escort badge in the UK, combined with German fears that it would be linked with the song Erika, which was a battlemarch song for the Germans in WWII, ensured the Escort name survived.

With a completely new ‘wheels-up’ design, the MkIII was completely different to anything the market had seen before and was a worthy challenger to the Volkswagen Golf and Honda Civic, after winning the European Car of the Year in 1982 the Escort would enjoy an eight-year stint as the best selling car in Britain, overtaking Ford stablemate, the Cortina.

As well as design innovations, the engine also received a revamp with overhead camshaft CVH engines. The car was available in a range of trims, including the Popular, L, GL, Ghia and XR3, larger families could enjoy the four door Orion, whilst those boy-racers of the 1980s would not be seen without the famed XR3i.

Manufacturer: Ford
Assembly: Halewood, England
Designer: Uwe Bahnsen
Did You Know?: Ford produced a series of RS Tubo Escorts, including the RS 1600i, a limited run of 5,000 which were all produced in white, apart from one finished in black, especially for Lady Diana.