PH HEROES: FORD ESCORT MEXICO
Speed doesn't matter quite so much in an Escort Mexico, finds Ollie Stallwood
The Mexico went on sale between 1970 and 1974 and was built by the freshly created Advanced Vehicle Operations at the Ford Aveley plant in Essex. It was fitted with a 1600cc pushrod ohv engine and was designed to cash in on Ford’s success in the London-Mexico Rally of 1970. The Mexico used the same strenghthened shell that the faster RS1600 used and could reach a heady 99mph.
Inside it has been treated to the ‘custom pack’, which was an option to prospective buyers and includes Recaro seats, carpets, walnut fascia, and clock. This last luxury likes to make itself known, ticking so loudly as I sit at a set of traffic lights you would swear the tappets have gone. Pressing the accelerator fills the car with a throaty four-cylinder thrum but not much else happens.
The gearstick on the four-speed box is a little slack but it clicks into gear without any fuss, leaving you with the task of tentatively increasing your speed. The steering wheel is oddly offset, not just to the side but at an angle, adding to the quirkiness of the driving environment.
Feed in the revs and the back tyres will succumb to the laws of physics easily and the back of the car will easily begin to come round. But the Mexico will oversteer so progressively that it leaves you with the option of holding it as long as you want.
The fact that such a low-powered car can be steered on the throttle if you so choose is a shock and I realise that the balance between grip and bhp is actually pretty near perfect. It turns in neatly too and squezing the throttle mid-corner will nudge the rear out a little more, tightening the line and giving you perfect control. Because you can do all this while feeling like you are in a real-life version of the Professionals is quite frankly a bonus.
For a while I seemed to get stuck on a sequence of deserted roundabouts somewhere just outside of Dagenham, unable to find my way out. The Mexico is pure, honest, good fun. It is incredibly easy to drive and I’m even starting to detect a little bit of shove above 4,000rpm, so as long as you keep the revs up progress can be respectable.
But of course that is not really what the Mexico is all about. Speed is only relative to everything else that is going on with the car. Plus you can have one of the best driving experiences available without even breaking the speed limit. OK, it bobs a bit at the rear if you hit a bump, but it has the kind of steering feel through the three-spoke leather-rimmed wheel that you only get in real exotica these days.
At the same time the satisfaction to be had from hussling the Mexico is far greater than going four times the speed in a modern-day four-wheel drive rally rep. Plus if people catch sight of the little orange Escort, tyres squealing at no more than 20mph, they smile fondly and point it out to their children. Very soon I'm so smitten by the Escort I'm making a mental list in my head of all the modern cars I wouldn't use for a twenty minute blast if I had the choice.