Sunday, July 26, 2009
Ranting Stan's Sunday Drive: Ford Escort Mexico
Following Hannu Mikkola's victory in the 1970 London-Mexico rally, Ford decided to cash in by releasing the Escort Mexico. Usually identified by wide body and roof stripes and four spot lights clustered between the short corner bumpers the Escort Mexico was an ideal choice for the shy, retiring type.
That modest, unassuming exterior belied the fact that underneath it all was a rather tame mid-sized family car. With just 86bhp from the 1600cc engine the Mexico struggled to a top speed of about 100mph and reached 60 in a respectable rather than pulse racing 10.5 seconds - hardly any better than the average family car of the time.
However, it wasn't the outright performance that made the Mexico desirable, but the very willing, responsive engine and slick gear change coupled to a well balanced rear wheel drive layout which made the Mexico a terrific fun drive. Not only that, but there were masses of post sale modifications and tweaks that could be added or done to the Mexico which meant that virtually every car could be significantly individualised with enhanced performance.
My experience of a Mexico comes from the early eighties when a colleague of mine acquired a second hand one in a rather sorry state. The car lived in the warehouse where we were worked for the next two years as he slowly acquired the bits he needed to get it running and back on the road.
Finally, one sunny summers weekend, he fitted the final piece to the jigsaw and, with a fresh MOT and tax he proudly took myself and another co-worker for a ride in his pride and joy. I must admit that I was a little nervous about going as, although the car had an MOT, it still looked pretty scruffy and worn out from the outside.
To be honest though, it sounded great and appeared to drive really well with my colleague flicking it through a series of twisty bends with great ease and poise. Unfortunately, at least from my point of view, my colleague had hopes of becoming a motor sport megastar and the next part of his project involved stripping out the interior, fitting a roll cage and painting it in a lurid colour scheme emblazoned with sponsorship logos from companies who hadn't paid him a penny to advertise their products.
I know that he felt he was only doing what the car was born for, but I still thought it was a shame - and is probably why today that I prefer to see my classic cars as original as possible rather than as souped up hot rods.