My First Car: MK1 Escort 1300XL

It’s 1990 and as an excited teenager who had been watching rallying for the last 10 years I longed for an RS2000 – and I couldn’t wait for my first car. As a surprise my parents bought me a 1971 Escort. Not quite an RS2000, but a 1300XL four-door. It was a wonderful brown colour with Beige ‘pleather’ seats, a wood dash surround, chrome wheel trims, and of course rear-wheel drive.

The car had no MOT and I had no driving license, so what is the best thing for a young lad to do? That’s right; install the stereo and 100 watt speakers. My step dad did not quite understand the need for this as the car wasn’t in a drivable state, but then again what did he know?

We then set about working on the car: welding, sorting the tyres, and completing various other tasks that as a car novice I didn’t understand or car about as all I wanted to do was drive it. A few weeks later we had an MOT, tax, insurance and a red L-plate, and my mum promised to show me how to drive. 

We started learning to drive, feeding the wheel, going up and down the gears nice and slow, going carefully around the bends, and getting more and more confident with every experience. Then one day, while going a little too fast round one of the tighter bends on our learning circuit, the rear end stepped out with a little tyre squeal and a big smile from me. Then I remember being slapped and reprimanded my mother. 

I had learned what a rear-wheel drive car was all about, and it wasn’t soon before my 21-year-old mate was ‘teaching me’ the art of driving a car sideways, while rolling cigarettes on his knee.

Unfortunately one late December evening whilst being ‘taught’ we were driving around our country lanes. It was a little icy but I knew what I was doing, after all I’d been learning for at least two weeks, and I attempted a 90 degree corner on iced cow crap. I dropped my little Escort into the ditch. I don’t know who was more surprised, my cigarette rolling mate, or his dog that was asleep on the rear seat. 

Four hours later I had a tricky conversation with my parents explaining how I had destroyed the car they’d bought and MOT’d for me. I was telling them how it needed to be scrapped (so I could buy my MK2 2-door) but alas they had other ideas, and lent me the money to fix it.  The car was fixed, and had the complete front end repaired, and even came back with upgraded round heap lamps.

Though it was a great workhorse, and got me swiftly through my license and then on through college, as soon as I’d paid my mother back the little 1300 xl was swapped for a Mk2 Escort 1300 popular two-door. The weedy lump was swiftly replaced with a 1760 RS motor, and then the fun really started. 

Since my first car I have always owned rear-wheel drive cars, from Escorts to Mantas, even an old 911, but currently run what I believe to be one of the best rear wheel drive cars: the E36 M3 Evo GT2. 

Had it not been for the little Escort, I would have never wandered down a road that lead me to fall in love with rear-wheel drive, and for this fact the escort lives on in my memory as one of the greatest little cars of all time.  

Comments (73) Join the discussion on the forum

  • OllieWinchester 03 Feb 2009

    Fantastic story. Love those old Escorts, shame they are so expensive nowadays! Long Live RWD!!

  • kuffdam 03 Feb 2009

    Great buzz the first time you go sideways

  • Turbobanana 03 Feb 2009

    My first car too! Mine was green and fitted with crosspies. My dad taught me to drive in the dunes on a beach in North Wales.

    Which had a hairpin... tongue out

  • Targarama 03 Feb 2009

    Wahey! My first car was a 1975 Ford Escort Mk1 1300XL too. Jade Green metallic. Lovely. I had so much fun in that car. I lived in the Isle of Axholme at that time - lots of ditches/drained land + me working in various pubs/bars and driving home late at night + winte weather. I learned how not to fall off the road very quickly. RWD rules!

    Note that the 1300XL had quite a few options - 6 dial dash (RS/Mexico stylee), hazard lights, heated rear screen and some cool chrome bits around the doors/boot which attracted rust. Nice. The standard front drum brakes needed adjustment once a month though...

    I also rebuilt and stuck a 1660 x-flow engine in mine. A month or two later it needed a gearbox too (yes, I should have changed that at the same time ... we all learn). Uprated front struts with disc brakes and new rear leaf springs helped it go rounc corners. Only problem was rust - it died in the end due to rot in the chassis rails, I gave the car to a mate who made valiant attempts to rescue it.

    I'm currently without a RWD car ... handbrake turns in the Panda in the snow aren't quite the same :-(

  • bob1179 03 Feb 2009

    Excellent story! I remember my first rear wheel drive Ford, a 1.8LX Sierra. Every T-junction and roundabout was hilarity as the wheezy old car was thrown about the road with gay abandon! I once overcooked it and drove straight into a tree, but my trusty 'burgundy turd' (as she was affectionately called) was backed out, the branches pulled out of the front, and she kept coming back for more.

    Happy days.


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