We take the chance to spend an hour with a 1974 Escort Mexico MK I for a blast round the Cambridgeshire countryside.
We recently spent a day in the company of Ford blatting around the Cambridgeshire countryside in a selection of their latest metal. We’ve already done a review of the Focus RS and there will be more to come in the next week or two. But Ford very obligingly brought along an original MK I Escort Mexico for us to play with in amongst the modern metal. And how could we resist going to play for a happy hour or two?
The Escort Mexico was an affordable RS in all but name. Based on the same underpinnings as the RS 1600, the car was developed by Ford’s AVO at Aveley in Essex and was powered by a four-pot, pushrod 1.6 litre lump. It developed a massive 86bhp, took almost 11 seconds to get to 60mph and could manage 100mph downhill with a decent wind. But it felt so quick. I had huge fun in a friend’s Mexico back in the mid ’70s and remember it as nimble, quick and fun. A blast.
Perhaps we shouldn’t revisit the things that impressed us in our youth. Disappointment will surely beckon. But the temptation was too much to resist. Parked in a sea of modern Fords the Escort looked from a different era (er, that’s because it is). Dinky and boxy it was still an alluring and appealing prospect. Press the button under the door handle and step inside. No headrests. Wind-up windows. Plastic wood on the dash. A choke! Wow, how soon you forget.
Foot on the throttle to start the car. It leaps in to life with a familiar rattle. Slip in to first and away. Good Lord, how heavy is the steering?! But it lightens as we move off. In to second – a three foot throw! Having come straight out of the Focus RS – where the throw between first and second feels like 3 inches – it comes as a shock. But once we’re on the move it all comes flooding back.
Back roads. Must find some back roads. That’s where the Mexico was fun. And I’m delighted to say it still is. True, it’s no quicker than a Fiesta ECOnetic (and it’s smaller) but the assault on your modern car sensibilities make it seem so much quicker than it is. Remember it’s rear-wheel drive with a very ancient suspension before you go mad in the bends. But instantly remember that actually the Mexico is prone to understeer. It instinctively ploughs on in a corner. With enough room you can control that with the throttle or a bit of handbrake, but not when you’re so out of practice.
But lifting off will tighten the line and get you through the corner. The corner we probably took at 70mph an hour before in the Focus RS feels twice as quick in the Mexico – and we’re only doing 40mph. But this is so much fun. Bends at half the speed of the Focus, but twice the fun. And yes, we did get back in the groove and get the tail out and it’s still as much fun as it was 30 years ago.
The MK I Escort Mexico. As good as the Focus RS? In it’s own way, yes. I wouldn’t want to drive it every day, but what a blast.
For that hour I was 17 again. Full head of hair. Slim of hip. And King of the road in the Escort Mexico.