Ford Escort (Mk3)

Project "Erika" was launched as the new Ford Escort in September 1980. It was a radical departure from the previous two Escort models, aimed at bringing the car right up-to-date with the current supermini art and directly competing with the Opel Kadett/Vauxhall Astra, Fiat Strada/Ritmo and VW Golf.

Front wheel drive and crisp styling (overseen by Uwe Bahnsen) were prominent features, the shape having a distinctive "bustle" at the rear to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The hot-hatchback market was taken by storm with the high-performance XR3 featuring distinctive and now iconic "clover leaf" alloy wheels, black rubber spoilers front and rear and uprated suspension. The original four-speed carburettor-fed XR3 didn't last long, however. The hot-hatch arms race was a fast-moving one and the XR3 gained a fifth gear in February 1982, but work had already begun on extending the performance and in January 1983 the model was given fuel injection and consequently renamed the XR3i.

In Ford Escort tradition a number of hot models followed. The RS1600i was a limited production run homologation special with 8659 built in order to allow Ford to compete with it in Group A.

Quickest of the Mk3 Escorts though was the original RS Turbo. A Garret T03 turbocharger, lowered compression, a Limited Slip Differential and RS1600i suspension made a huge difference, but the most distinctive feature of all was the all-white paintwork and aggressive bodykit. Production lasted 12 months, from January 1984 to January 1985.

Random Notes

July 1982: Doughertys of Runcorn, Cheshire, launched a World Cup special edition called the D Special. It was coloured red, white and blue. The bodyshell, wheels, grille and wing mirrors were finished in white with deep red and blue side stripes. An XR3-type rear spoiler, sports steering wheel, tailgate wash/wipe and chrome tailpipe were standard equipment. Prices started at £4405 for the 1100 three-door economy, £4713 for the 1300 three-door and £6250 for the 1600 Ghia. Prices were unannounced for the XR3. (source: Autocar w/e 10/July/1982)

Specifications and performance

Model: 1983 Escort 1.1 3-door
Max Speed: 90mph
0-60: 15.2 Seconds
Power: 55bhp
Engine: 1117cc four cylinder

Magazine road tests and mentions

CAR Magazine, April 1979

CAR Magazine, April 1979

Scoop! An Escort called Erika!

Out of the Ford armoury comes the dramatic front-wheel-drive Escort replacement for the '80s

CAR Magazine, June 1980

CAR Magazine, June 1980

'81 Escort : a hemi's welcome

The all-new front-wheel-drive Escort will arrive to a loud beating of (Ford) drums this autumn. In the meantime - as an appetiser - come details of the car's hemispherical-headed transversely-mounted engine

CAR Magazine, September 1980

CAR Magazine, September 1980

Super Ford!

Scoop! This story is a world exclusive. It is the first driving report on Ford's all-new front-wheel-drive Escort. It comes from one of the judges of the international Car Of The Year award who drove the Escort at a special COTY appraisal in Sardinia ahead of the normal press introduction. The Escort goes on sale on September 22

CAR Magazine, October 1980

CAR Magazine, October 1980

Escort the Alfa beater!

Mel Nichols, equipped with an Alfasud, on a confrontation with Ford's best car yet

CAR Magazine, December 1980

CAR Magazine, December 1980

Giant Test

Ford Escort 1.3GL v Opel Kadett 1.3 S v VW Golf 1.3LS

CAR Magazine, January 1981

CAR Magazine, January 1981


Ford Escort meets Mazda 323 in the wind tunnel for a drag coefficient showdown - and an answer to a lot of the hot air talked about aerodynamics

CAR Magazine, January 1981

CAR Magazine, January 1981

Giant Test

VW Golf GTI v Ford Escort XR3 v Alfasud 1.5Ti

Motor Magazine, w/e August 1, 1981

Motor Magazine, w/e 1st August 1981


North Yorkshire Ford dealer Peter Clarke Autos, of Skipton, has introduced a limited edition Escort 1.6 Estate called the 'Dolphin'. Based on the current GL model, Peter Clarke's car has uprated suspension and ventilated front disc brakes as well as 6in Ford 'Sport' ally wheels shod with Pirelli P6 low profile tyres. Also fitted is a glass sunroof, a radio/cassette player and integral roof rack. The car is finished in black paintwork with gold coloured coach lines, and costs £6,940

CAR Magazine, March 1982

CAR Magazine March 1982

Newcomers : Escort XR3: Cured yet?

Ford claim the XR3 at last has the ride quality it deserves - a year after its launch. But can they be believed?

Hot Car, April 1982

Hot Car Magazine, April 1982

Arch Kit

Latest performance pack for the XR3 from Ford Rallye Sport is a complete arch, spoiler, running board kit, designed to accept larger wheels/tyres and further improve aerodynamics

CCC Magazine, May 1982

Cars and Car Conversions (CCC) Magazine, May 1982


Ford Escort XR3 v VW Golf GTi v Fiat Strada 105TC

CAR Magazine, June 1982

No Magazine Cover Yet

The X Factor

Ford Escort XR3 v Fiat X1/9

CCC Magazine, June 1982


TB or not TB?

T&B Motors and Gartrac G3 RWD Mk3 Escorts

CCC Magazine, July 1982

CCC Magazine, July 1982

T's made

A radically revised pair of RS1700T's appeared recently in southern Europe for what turned out to be an encouraging session on regular Rally of Portugal special stages using full pace notes read by Ford contracted co-driver Phil Short. The essential differences between the two cars, as our pictures show, is that one version used a turbocharged 1700cc BDA-type motor, while the other is a Brian Hart built 2.3 litre conventionally aspirated injection engine

CAR Magazine, August 1982

No Magazine Cover Yet

Newcomers : One better than XR3

At last, there's a fast Escort - the RSi - good enough to beat the Golf GTi at its own game. But it costs

Practical Motorist, August 1982

Practical Motorist, August 1982

Double test

Ford Escort 1.6GL v Renault 9 TSE

CAR Magazine, March 1983

CAR Magazine, March 1983

The Duellists

VW Golf GTi 1.8 v Ford Escort XR3i

CAR Magazine, April 1983

No Magazine Cover Yet

Newcomers : Escort for the races

Ford's 5000-build Escort RS1600i might look like the ideal road car, but at heart it's a racer

CAR Magazine, September 1983

No Magazine Cover Yet

Giant Test

Renault 11GTL v Austin Maestro 1.3L v Ford Escort 1.3GL

Performance Car, November 1983

Performance Car Magazine, November 1983

Birth of a KAT

Kat styling Ford Escort

Photos, brochures, adverts and magazine pages

Ford Escort RS Datapost Advert
Ford Escort Mk3 Series-X Advert