A hugely successful small family car, the Escort was produced for the European market from 1968 to 2004, with Cork among the plants where it was assembled.
Within six years, Ford announced the completion of the two millionth Escort — a milestone then unmatched by any company model outside the US.
The car made its debut at the Brussels Motor Show in January 1968, at a time when the Beatles were No.1 with Hello, Goodbye.
That was rather apt, as while the world said hello to the Escort, it bid goodbye to the car it was replacing — the successful, long-running Anglia.
Initially, the Escorts were two-door saloons, but soon a four-door version was introduced. Early ‘De Luxe’ Escorts had circular front headlights and rubber flooring, while the ‘Super’ model featured rectangular headlights, carpets, a cigar lighter and a water temperature gauge.
From the beginning, the cars also proved popular and successful on the rally circuit.
When the Escort launched in 1968, motoring correspondents were sent off to test drive it across a 300-mile trek in Morocco.
Tom Barker wrote in the Cork Examiner: “A new car presented by Ford is always interesting. A new small car presented by Ford is not only interesting, it is an event of social importance.
“I liked the Escort from the word go — and she went in a highly satisfactory manner. She looks well, particularly to those eyes which favour an upward sweep of the waistline, just behind the doors.”
Other journalists gave similar praise and Irish Times writer, Wesley Boyd, reported: “One experienced salesman I spoke to, Mr Paul Flannagan of Smithfield Motors (in Dublin), predicted that the Escort would be the best-selling Ford on the market."
He wasn’t wrong — a total of 20 million Escorts were sold, making it the fifth best-selling car of all time.
John O’Sullivan, of Youghal, is the proud owner of a 1979 Ford Escort 1.3 GL, which he purchased new from Cavanaghs of Charleville.
He explained: “It all began in 1970 when my uncle in Castlemartyr purchased his first Mark I Escort, having had a Prefect previously.
“As we had no car at home, I was taken by the new car. My uncle then purchased more Mark I Escorts in 1972 and 1975 so I have a long history with the car.”
John, who also owns classic Fiestas and is a member of Youghal Vintage Club, added: “The body shape of the Escort was nicer than other cars of that era and Ford kept it simple but practical and that’s why it was the best-seller in those days and continues to be a eye- catcher whenever you take it out for a spin.
“I think that the Escort was one of the best cars that Ford has produced. I go back to the early Mark I of the ’70s when nearly every family had one, and when the love was passed onto me.”
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