Where does the Ford Escort 1600 GT sit in the pantheon of great Escorts? I ask that as genuine question. I’m familiar with the Twin Cam, RS1600 and RS2000, but the 1600 GT is not one I remember seeing before. Which makes this all the more appealing, because I might learn something from those with more knowledge. But it’s a Mk1 Ford Escort, and even if it were a boggo-spec I’d still be happy as a pig in the proverbial. I love a Mk1 Escort, so this 1600 GT jumped out at me like a mischievous child from behind a pillar. When saw it while scrolling through the PH classifieds this morning, I was compelled to write about it.
There’s something effortlessly pretty about the Mk1 Escort, don’t you think? I saw this even as a kid. My mate’s mum had a metallic purple Mk1 and I marvelled – salivated even – over it back then, in much the same way I did at the jar of cola bottles in my local newsagent. Which is apt, I suppose, bearing in mind the Mk1 Escort’s sexy, Coke bottle hips.
It's not just its haunches, though. The whole design is harmonious. It has barely a straight line anywhere on its pressings; instead, its collection of soft curves creates beauty, but also presence. There’s a substantialness to it, thanks to those rounded sides and protruding arches that give it three-dimensional depth. And more than a little swagger – certainly more than a compact, affordable, family saloon had any right to have.
There’s a ‘get out my way’ quality to the front end, too. Those two, big, round headlights for eyes, joined together by the narrowed ‘dog bone’ grille rather mimics an aggressive stare. Yet it somehow it manages to be friendly and loveable, too. It’s a loveable rogue, if you will, and the fact that it seems to encapsulate these mixed emotions is a sure-fire sign of an interesting design. Or my inability to read body language, perhaps?
Half a century ago, the all-new Escort was hardly a technical tour de force; but it wasn’t without merit in that department as it took the fight to the arch-rival Vauxhall and its Viva HB. It had rack and pinion steering, MacPherson struts and disc braking up front, plus a range of Kent engines in a variety of sizes and outputs. It was quite the antidote to the ageing and angular Anglia it superseded, although rumour has it the Anglia name almost survived until Escort was decided upon.
Anglia was a well-known and loved brand here in the UK, but because the Escort was from the newly merged Ford of Europe and the first passenger car it spawned (the Transit was its first vehicle), the Latin name for England may have seemed like rubbing salt into some German wounds. So they named it after an adult magazine instead.
As you know, the Escort was a huge hit. Just six years after launch, Ford had rolled the two-millionth Escort off the production line, which, until then, was the sort of build numbers only heard of Stateside. Us Brits loved it, and it’s said 60 per cent of those two-million Escorts had been made here.
And what of this 1600 GT, then? Its technical brief is remarkably similar to the Twin Cam, with its twin-cam, crossflow head and two twin-choke carbs. Was this just a re-branded Twin Cam for the Australian market? It appears the 1600 GT was good for 105hp, which is a tidy amount when you have a good deal less than a tonne to move, as demonstrated by a very handy 0-60mph time of around 10 seconds. From what I can tell, the 1600 GT also came with the 2000E’s gearbox but, again, I’m happy to hear more details on that.
Whatever the specifics, this one looks splendid. Apparently it’s had a new shell at some point, so if you’re searching for originality it might not be for you, but in terms of condition it appears to be a zinger. Presented in fabulous shade of metallic blue, with a matching blue vinyl seats, veneered dash, dished three-spoke wheel and, best of all, the sextet of instruments, I’d be in my happy place sat looking at it from within or without. And absolutely beaming if I was driving it, of course.
SPECIFICATION | FORD ESCORT 1600 GT (Mk1)
Engine: 1,558cc, four cylinder, naturally aspirated
Transmission: four-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 106@5,500rpm
Torque (lb ft): 100@4,000rpm
Recorded mileage: 3,000
Year registered: 1971
Price new: N/A
Yours for: £26,950
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