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Ford Escort Merk 1

Deur Daantjie Badenhorst.

Nadat die Anglia 105E een van die top-verkopers van die 1960’s was, het Ford in 1967 besluit om met ‘n splinternuwe model, wat feitlik oral in die wêreld bekendgestel sou word, te vervang.

Die Escort-naam was nie splinternuut nie; dit is reeds gebruik vir ‘n stasiewa wat op die Anglia en Prefect 100E, maar Ford het besluit om dié naam vir sy destyds nuwe intreemotor te laat herleef. Dié motor was op die ou einde só suksesvol dat mense van die oorspronklike een vergeet het. Daar was op die ou einde ses geslagte wat tot in 2004 in verskeie dele van die wêreld vervaardig is.

Die eerste Escort is teen die einde van 1967 vervaardig en die amptelike bekendstelling het by die Brusselse Motorskou in Januarie 1968 plaasgevind. Binne ses maande is hy in Suid-Afrika bekendgestel. Die aanvanklike reeks het bestaan uit die 1100, die 1300 Super en die 1300 GT. Die twee 1300-modelle kon van die 1100 onderskei word deur reghoekige- eerder as ronde kopligte en volle wieldoppe. Die GT se uitstaande kenmerke was kantstrepe en ‘n instrumente-paneel wat ‘n toereteller en ander bykomende meters ingesluit het. Voor die einde van 1968 is twee stasiewaens, met elk van die twee enjins, asook ‘n paneelwa, by die reeks gevoeg.

Nadat die reeks klein veranderinge vir die 1969-modeljaar ondergaan het, is ‘n paar belangrike modelle in 1970 by die Suid-Afrikaanse reeks gevoeg. Die eerste een was die langverwagte vierdeur-model, wat aanvanklik net met die 1300-enjin beskikbaar was. Suid-Afrika was egter ook die eerste land ter wêreld waar die Escort met die 1600 Kent-enjin van die Cortina en Capri toegerus is. Daar was drie modelle met hierdie enjin, naamlik die 1600 GT en die 1600 XL, met die keuse van ‘n hand- of outomatiese ratkas. Hierdie modelle is laat in 1970 in Suid-Afrika bekendgestel. Die GT het veral baie aandag getrek, aangesien hy strepe op die enjinkap en die bakwerk en Rostyle-wiele gehad het, tesame met klein stampertjies in die voorste hoeke, net soos dié van oorsese verrigtings-modelle soos die RS 1600, wat ‘n heeltemal ander enjin as die Suid-Afrikaanse modelle gehad het, en die Mexico, ‘n model wat nooit hier bekendgestel is nie. Die Mexico is bekendgestel ter viering van die Escort se oorwinning in die Londen-na-Mexiko-tydren in 1970. Hannu Mikkola was een van verskeie renjaers wat groot sukses met die Escort behaal het.

In 1967 het Basil Green, die Ford-handelaar in Edenvale aan die Gautengse Oos-Rand, vir die eerste keer ‘n groter enjin vir ‘n bestaande model ingebou toe hy die Cortina Merk 2 V6 Perana bekendgestel het. Dit was net ‘n kwessie van tyd voordat die Escort ook aan die beurt sou kom, en vir die 1972-model jaar het hy die Escort Perana op die mark gebring. Benewens die Perana-kenteken aan weerskante van die bakwerk was dit onmoontlik om  hom van die 1600 GT te onderskei, maar die groot verskil was onder die enjinkap. Met die bekendstelling van die Cortina Merk 3 is ‘n nuwe bonokas-enjin vir die 2000 GT gebruik; dit het heeltemal verskil van die V4-enjin van die 2000 L, en is ook onder die Escort Perana se enjinkap gemonteer. Hierdie model was egter nie lank op die mark nie, want die volgende jaar is die Big Six-modelle van die Cortina Merk 3, met die bekende 2,5- en 3,0 liter V6-enjins op die mark gebring en die bonokasenjin is aan die mark onttrek, hoewel die V4-enjin voortgeleef het.

Vir die 1973-modeljaar het Ford se hele reeks gerasionaliseer en die Escort-reeks het nie die veranderinge vrygespring nie. Die stasiewaens en die GT is aan die mark onttrek, en die reeks sou voortaan bestaan uit die 1300, met twee of vier deure en die 1600 L, weer eens met ‘n hand- of outomatiese ratkas. Hierdie modelle het op die mark gebly totdat die reeks in die middel van 1975 deur die tweede geslag vervang is.

Die Escort Merk 1 het dwarsdeur sy modellewe groot sukses in motorsport behaal, nie net op die renbaan nie, maar ook in tydrenne. Die Escort het gedurende 1968 sy debuut in  die Briste sedan motor-kampioenskap gemaak en die kampioenskap oorheers. Die Australiese renjaer Frank Gardner, wat met die Cortina Lotus Merk 2 deelgeneem het totdat die Escort met die dubbele bonokasenjin gereed was, het die kampioenskap gewen. Die Escort was ook ‘n suksesvolle tydrenmotor, en veral Ove Andersson, Hannu Mikkola en Roger Clark het sukses met hom behaal. Toe die Cortina Merk 3 bekendgestel is, het Ford besluit om net die Escort vir motorsport te gebruik.

Natuurlik was die Escort ook in Suid-Afrika uiters suksesvol. Een van die suksesvolste renjaers wat op die baan met die Escort aan motorsport deelgeneem het, was Peter Gough, wat die plaaslike kampioenskap oorheers het. In tydrenne was dit veral die vyfmalige Suid-Afrikaanse tydren-kampioen Jan Hettema, wat sukses met hom behaal het. Teen die einde van 1974 was die Escort egter ook deel van ‘n hartseer voorval. Die Fekken-broers, Roelof, Herman en Lambert, het al drie met die Escort aan tydrenne deelgeneem. Lambert het in die laaste tydren van die jaar, die Duckhams-tydren, in die Suid-Afrikaanse kampioenskap voorgeloop, maar hy is noodlottig in ‘n ongeluk beseer. Dit het beteken dat hy die titel, soos Jochen Rindt vier jaar tevore in die Formule 1-wêreld kampioenskap, die titel postuum gewen het.

Die Escort Merk 1 is in die middel van 1975 deur die Merk 2, wat net so gewild en suksesvol in motorsport was, vervang.

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