Ford’s legendary rally racer, the Escort, turns 50

Take a trip down memory lane and enjoy a montage of vintage film

There are only a handful of cars that have reached legendary status thanks to their participation in rally racing, but perhaps chief among them is the Ford Escort.

And 2018 marked the nameplate’s 50th anniversary as the original made its debut in 1968. Immediately, the car found success in motorsport and clinched numerous championship wins. In the FIA-sanctioned World Rally Championship, the Escort claimed victory in 20 rounds from 1975 through 1981 with the second-generation car.

The first-gen car was no stranger to success, either, and made a name for itself in the late 1960s and early 1970s with big wins at the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally.

The Ford Escort, a car that dominated rallies in Europe, will turn 50 this year. | Screenshot

The Ford Escort, a car that dominated rallies in Europe, will turn 50 this year. | Screenshot

Like so many of Ford’s greatest cars, Americans were kept from the party. Indeed, we received the Escort in 1981, but largely in name only. Although the U.S. and European cars were meant to share many components, they were drastically different.

Ford dropped the Escort in the U.S. in 2003 to make way for the Focus. The car held on for one more model year in Europe but met its date with destiny in 2004.

The final Escort to wear the famed “RS” badge was produced in 1996.

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Perhaps underappreciated in the U.S., we’ve still seen our fair share of action from the car. Most recently, the Fast and Furious series placed the late Paul Walker in an Escort for “Fast and Furious 6.” But, in Europe, the car remains a legend, noted for its motorsport lineage from the first and second-generation cars.

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  • James McIntire
    January 10, 2019, 7:30 AM

    It truly is a shame Ford not to share this version of the Escort with Americans. From everything I’ve read on this car it was a fantastic competition car. The Escort we got in 1981 to replace the outgoing Pinto was a FWD econo-hatch but eventually became a decent enough car with the Escort GT in late 80’s. Dad had a 1988 Escort GT briefly in the 90’s that had been wrecked and rebuilt, but not very well. It was quick for the time but had a lot of torque steer. A fun beater, but could be quite a handful.

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