The Ford Escort Mexico was introduced to the world in November 1970 and was so named because of Ford Motor Company’s victory in the World Cup Rally.
This rally started in London on 19th April 1970 and finished some 16,000 miles later in Mexico. Originally Ford intended to use Escorts with the Twin Cam or BDA engine, but after reconnaissance work it was decided that high speeds and high power were less important than reliability and ease of servicing; therefore the Kent pushrod engine was used in the escort shell – and engine that was once praised by Stuart Turner for “Bombproof Reliability !”
The specification of these cars was a big wing version of the heavy duty “Type 49” bodshell with an extensive roll cage built in. The engine was the familiar 1600cc Kent crossflow unit but bored out to 1834cc to give about 140 bHP. This was then transferred to the road via a ZF five speed gearbox and a 4.4:1 Atlas axle. In all Ford entered a team of 7 cars and finished this gruelling event in 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th place with Hannu Mikkola and Gunnar Palm taking the overall honours. Currently only two of these cars are still known to exist, FEV 1H (Mikkola’s car) is on display in the Ford Heritage Centre at Dagenham and FTW 48H (the car that finished 8th driven by Sobieslaw Zasada) is currently undergoing restoration in private hands.
It seems likely that Ford already had plans to produce a high performance Escort to fit in the range between the 1300GT and the Twin Cam and RS1600, but their victory in Mexico provided an ideal platform to launch such a model. The engineers at the newly formed A.V.O (Advanced Vehicles Operations) quickly developed the Mexico, its specification being the Type 49 bodyshell as used in the Twin Cam and RS1600 with the 1600cc Kent crossflow engine and 2000E gearbox. Hence the Mexico was basically as re-engined Twin Cam/RS1600.
Production of the Mexico lasted until the closure of the AVO factory at Avely, Essex in January 1975. Significant changes occurred to the model during those years, firstly in 1972 the battery was relocated from the boot to the engine bay location as seen in all o the mainstream Escorts. Later, in 1973 the entire Escort range had a revised rear suspension layout to prepare the model for the transition to the Mk2 which was to be introduced in 1975.
The Mexico rapidly became the ideal competition car for the clubman in the race and rally fields. A one make series for Race and rally drivers became very popular (and highly competitive) when introduced in 1971. The Escort Mexico Challenge provided many of the champions of today with the opportunity to develop their driving skills while having cars of similar performance to their competitors. Notable ex-Mexico Challenge racers being Gerry Marshall and Andy Rouse and in the Rally cars Russell Brookes and Tony Pond.
The Mexico was AVO’s most successful and numerous of the Rally Sport Escorts, it provided the motorist with many advantages in that it had good performance, was easy to maintain, relatively easy to insure and above all it was FUN TO DRIVE, something which is still very true today.