Escort was, from 1968 until 1999, consistently the most popular car in Britain
. It was a four / five-seater family car, originally a saloon and later on a hatchback (although a saloon version was produced as the 'Orion
'). The Escort
was launched as the replacement for the Ford Anglia
, and was in turn replaced by the Ford Focus
in 1998, although the latter co-existed with the Escort for a year.
There were four distinct version of the Escort - the first two (1968-1980) were very similar, conventional saloons (albeit rear-wheel drive, and thus perfect for doing doughnuts in the local car park), the third (1980-1990, with a facelift in 1985) introduced front-wheel drive and was an angular hatchback, the fourth (1990-1999) was a crashingly dull, amorphous blob which lagged way behind the competition (notably its constant arch-enemy, the Vauxhall Astra) until extensive upgrades and refinements in the early-90s gave it parity.
Although the road-going Escort was generally extremely dull (but 'solid'; the Escort had a certain proletariat charm - it was cheap, it worked, it was respectable enough and parts were cheap), the first two Escort models had a parallel career as the most successful rally cars in the world, ever, dominating the rally scene throughout the 1970s. By the 80s, the Ford Sierra became Ford's main competition car, with go-faster roadgoing versions of the Escort moving to the forefront (usually with RS in the name, often painted gold). Most notorious was the XR3i, a car built with Essex in mind. Almost always white, the XR3i came close to being the ultimate mid-80s boy racer car. It wasn't particularly fast, or any good, and compared to a Volkswagen Gold GTi it was lamentable. But it was cheap. And it had an 'X' in the name, something of which the Golf could not boast.
But there was a genuinely ferocious Escort. From 1992 to 1996, the Ford Escort Cosworth RS - the 'Cossie' - ruled its roost. A four-wheel-drive, turbocharged Escort with a massive spoiler mounted at the top of its hatchback, it became the ultimate Escort derivation for car enthusiasts and getaway drivers alike. Not quite as notorious as the Ford Sierra Cosworth, the Escort Cosworth was killed off by EU noise regulations, crippling insurance bills and the unsavory attention it attracted from joyriders and tea leaves. Nowadays the same people own Subaru Impreza Turbos, although the Cosworth still has cachet.
Rather like the Ford Cortina, the Escort is likely to become quite rare in the years to come, as it is not the kind of car that people preserve. Escorts are driven until the cost of repairs outweighs the value of the car, at which point they are abandoned. Neither the Mk1 nor Mk2 versions are seen on the roads anymore, rust having claimed most; the Mk3 must have been made of tougher steel, as it is still quite common, and popular as a 'first car' for people who want something bigger than a supermini.