A few laps around the famously motorsport-y Goodwood estate during the Revival show weekend, on some lovely back lanes, is surely the perfect way to sample this entirely standard, 1976 Ford Escort RS Mexico…
This 1976 Ford Escort RS Mexico – presented here in pulsating bright red – was built in Britain by British engineers, at the Ford performance garage in Aveley, Essex. Over the years, many a special motor rolled out of this relatively small workshop – staffed by quiet and considered chaps in brown overcoats, no doubt with thick glasses and big brains – brains that burned with a passion for exciting back lane handling engineering. This MK1 Mexico was arguably the car that started Ford of Britain’s fine handling tradition, and as I’m driving it right now, I can feel a chassis that’s alive; ready and willing.
I’m doing back lane laps around the Goodwood estate, just as huge trucks and hundreds of show personnel are making their way to set up the retro-flavoured celebration of cool old cars, bikes and planes – the Goodwood Revival. The sun is shining, the Mexico is growling and those giant trucks seem hell-bent on my destruction.
Sat super-low in the Mexico’s tiny, headrest-less bucket seat – and mindful that a minter like this is worth a good stack of cash, I’m really having to keep the Escort on its toes to avoid these non-stopping trucks. Thinking about it, this is probably how it was designed to be driven – fast and flicking, down rollercoaster British back lanes.
With just 90bhp to be had – about the same as your average small, family yawn mobile – from a 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder engine, carburetted engine, the Mexico needs grip and cornering composure to back up its not-so-heady horsepower. And this rear-driving, quick-steering Escort chassis feels as spunky as the day it was born; one year after the bloke spinning its leather-wrapped ‘RS’ steering wheel today, in fact.
She’s a little softly sprung, if I’m being picky, but the 4-speed ‘box and ninety gee-gees are definitely doing the fast-forward business today, although for real apex-hunting you’d want to fettle the power with brutal carbs, and modernise the brakes. It’ll do around 100mph, but I ain’t man enough for that, especially with these terrorising truck drivers around!
She’s fast enough, so lively feeling under backside and through fingers, and ‘grrrs’ with happiness right through the revs. This Escort loves a back lane blast, and every Revival punter that cannot miss the black vinyl over bright red little beaut looks ‘well jeal’ in my Mexico direction. It’s a shame then that Mexicos go for big money, ‘cos this one’s a keeper.
NB: ‘Well jeal’ – A rhyming truncation to describe extreme covetous envy by some overly orange people from the county of Essex.
By Dan Anslow