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.
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)
Model: 1983 Escort 1.1 3-door
Max Speed: 90mph
0-60: 15.2 Seconds
Engine: 1117cc four cylinder
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
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
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
At last, there's a fast Escort - the RSi - good enough to beat the Golf GTi at its own game. But it costs
Ford's 5000-build Escort RS1600i might look like the ideal road car, but at heart it's a racer