27th March 2020

The Escort Mexico: as hot as its name suggests

Fifty years after the Mk1 Ford Escort cleaned up in the 1970 London to Mexico World Cup Rally, the iconic everyday saloon is even more of a winner in many people’s eyes. The legendary victory, which saw works Escorts finish first, third, fifth, sixth and eighth after 16,0000 torturous miles through Europe and South America, did wonders for the manufacturer’s image and provided the inspiration for the Escort Mexico.

The earlier, Lotus-powered ‘Twin Cam’ and RS1600 had already introduced motorists to the delights of a sporty Escort, but it was the Mexico that brought affordable fast Ford motoring within reach of the masses. Rumour has it that the Mexico’s DNA was literally drawn up on the back of an envelope during the return flight from the rally. Whether that’s true or not, whoever penned its specification certainly knew how to screw together a car that would be both sporty, yet immensely practical and reliable.

The Mexico formula was in every term, simple – Ford’s Advanced Vehicle Operation (AVO) basically an RS1600 and substituting the well-proven ‘Kent’ 1598cc pushrod in place of the specialised BDA motor.

Debuting the new, stronger 711Mblock with its stiffer crankcase and harder main bearing caps, the Crossflow used a twin-choke Weber carb along with GT-spec, camshaft, manifold and exhaust to produce 86 bhp. On the road it enabled a 100 mph top speed and 0-60 mph in 10.7 seconds.

Add in fun handling and that was the Escort Mexico’s appeal – a rugged, durable performer with the kind of driving experience that belied it’s on-paper performance. What’s more, that’s still true today. Granted, the RS1600, Twin Cam and RS2000 are all quicker, but the Mexico is easy to live with and, in most cases, more affordable.

If you’re lucky enough to be in the market for one, there’s a few things to consider. Body repairs are costlier than mechanical fixes – just a replacement wing can run into four figures – and trim can be hard to source, but above all you must check it’s the genuine article with the proper Type 49 shell. Telltales of the correct AVO shell include a row of bolts coming through the boot floor, anti-tramp bar mounting brackets on the chassis rails, stronger flitch plates surrounding the struts and double top mounting plates for the strut tops. The VIN plate on the slam panel should also start BFAT.

A genuine Mexico is no longer a cheap fast Ford, but when it comes to a fun, reliable ride that sums up the joy that can be had from old Fords, it’s priceless.

Do you have any Mexico memories? Let us know how one of the original fast Fords has had an impact on your motoring.