HOME > LOT 169 - 1989 Ford Escort Mk 4 XR3i EFi

LOT 169 - 1989 Ford Escort Mk 4 XR3i EFi

LOT 169 - 1989 Ford Escort Mk 4 XR3i EFi

  • Lovely original condition
  • Rare ’one year only’ EFi model
  • Superb body and paintwork
  • Excellent interior
  • Mechanically very good
  • Extensive history
  • Valuable and useful package of new parts
  • MOT tested until August 2023
  • Estimated at £9,000 to £14,000

SOLD for £10,500

ABOUT THIS CAR

“As a driver’s car the SVE developed XR3i rates as a real threat with excellent handling, steering..., brakes and much better ride... Thanks to Special Vehicle Engineering treatment, the Ford XR3i now represents a real threat to the Golf… In other words (RS1600i apart) the XR3i has become the GTi’s only real rival.”. Autocar, 5th February 1983.

Though legend has it Henry Ford coined the phrase, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday”, it was actually one of his dealers, Bob Tasca of Providence, Rhode Island (we clearly need to get out more) though throughout the 1960s and 1970s the FoMoCo were undoubtedly big proponents of this strategy, applying it from high volume bread and butter family saloons right up to halo cars such as the GT40. With a lineage from the Lotus Cortina, Escort Twin Cam and Mexico through to the RS 2000, the pressure was on Ford of Europe to produce a sporting variant of the Mk 3 Escort (or project Erika if you were on first name terms) from the moment it was launched in 1980; something for the family man in the street who was not yet ready to leave his (or at least what he remembered as his) sporty carefree days behind. However, by then the motoring landscape had changed and not necessarily for the better. Niche cars were not popular with the large manufacturers’ bean counters and cars that could sprint to sixty miles an hour in the blink of an eye were often doing so without the cooperation of the legal owner; no matter how much going and comparing you did, insurance premiums seemed to be based on you having to replace your hot hatch four or five times a year.

With their hands tied to a degree the XR3 was possibly something of a disappointment after the above list of heroes from Ford’s back catalogue. Having realised that making something no one even wanted to steal was not the best of marketing plans, Ford called on Rod Mansfield and his talented team at Special Vehicle Engineering (née AVO) in Dunton, Essex to coax some fresh vim out of the sporty Escort and they came up with the XR3i. Launched in October 1982, it was very much more than just a fuel injected XR3; yes, it sported Bosch K-Jetronic injection but with a four pipe and plenum chamber induction system and free flow exhaust it gave not only considerably more power (105 BHP) but also the bonus of better fuel economy. An oil cooler spoke to the thoroughness of the upgrades while the longed for five-speed ‘box was stacked with close ratios rather than an overdrive top gear, favouring real-world acceleration over slightly irrelevant top speed. Crucially they also worked their magic on the 3i’s suspension with neutral camber replacing the previous ‘bow-legged’ geometry of positive front and negative rear. A thicker front anti-roll bar was paired with springs that lowered the front of the Escort by thirty millimetres and the rear by twenty which not only improved the car’s stance but also benefited its aerodynamics and traction. New Girling dampers improved the ride/grip compromise and bigger rear brakes were an effective upgrade pinched from an unlikely source namely that fastest of all Escort variants, the van.

Weighing in at just over 900 kg, the 0-60 benchmark was dispatched in 8.6 seconds, giving the 1800cc Golf GTi a run for its money (which incidentally was some £222 more than the Ford’s) and even outstripping it for both top speed and the time taken to reach it.

In 1986 Ford treated the Escort to a mild facelift, nattily codenamed Erika-86 (which sounds more like some sort of Scandi drama) though it is often referred to as the Mk4. The XR3i benefitted from the model’s improved refinement which made it a more rounded (literally in the case of the front end) machine.

The ‘KK’ element of the chassis number informs us that G344 AVW was built in October 1989 while the V5C tells us it was first registered on 12th December that year. Those of you sitting at the front of the class going ‘Sir, sir’ can put your hands down and take a gold star for recognising that this identifies the Escort as one of the ‘one year only’ EFi models built between September 1989 and September 1990; for the rest of you, it says it on top of the engine, take two hours detention. These relatively few cars retained hemispherical combustion chambers as opposed to the heart-shaped versions of other CVH engine machines and gave a little more power. Visually they sported the optional Lattice alloy wheels as standard along with a slightly different rear wing profile, deeper front bumper and all had the light grey with blue and red fleck ‘Zolda’ trim.

According to the well stamped original Service book, the first owner, Jim Donahue, bought the car from, appropriately, Dagenham Motors in Barking who then serviced it every December until 1992 by which time it had covered 15,000 miles. It then moved to Leeds where Lookers Ford serviced it, again every year, until 1995 (35,888 miles) before Trust Ford of Bradford took it over performing two more annual services to take it to 1997 by which time it had covered just over 48,000 miles. For the next 9,000 miles and five years the same ‘Specialist Service’ company took care of the Ford’s upkeep. The first three changes of ownership are noted as having taken place in 1992, 2000 and 2005.

Today the bodywork looks very good indeed, some would say perfect. The four closing panels all display ‘factory’ fit which is to say very good by 1980s standards even if Audi won’t be losing any sleep today. Looking down the flanks in harsh sunlight the panel work is straight and true and we couldn’t find a spec of rust anywhere; for a 1980s car that wasn’t built in Italy, Escorts certainly can rot. There is no evidence of damage around the door locks, a favourite method of gaining entry with the help of a screwdriver back in the day.

Underneath what looks for the most part to be the factory protective finish is still in pretty good shape with no obvious areas of rust. The odd misplaced jack has compromised this sealant in a few localised areas as shown in the photo gallery and it would be prudent to attend to these sooner rather than later before corrosion can take hold. The suspension components plus associated nuts, bolts and washers all look clean and rust free and judging by notes on file, the rear has benefitted from new springs and lower track arms fitted less than a year ago. The various bushes all look in good condition, newish brake pipes are evident and there are no obvious fluid leaks. The exhaust system looks relatively new, with its paper part number sticker still intact.

The rare and beautifully understated metallic ‘Mercury Grey’ paintwork is in really good condition and aside from the striking lack of stone chips one might even surmise it is its original factory finish. It would certainly turn heads at twenty paces but stands scrutiny up close as well. With some detailing and perhaps a professional polish we feel it would be to Owner’s Club display standard. Nit picking, the owner was able to point out one slight blemish on the off side rear wing and another in the black area of the driver’s door but we were not able to show these in photographs.

As 1980s cars achieve classic status, they present differing sets of issues to those of their forebears. They tend to rust less (at least some of them do) but we have noted interiors tend to be more fragile. Cloth sags and wears quicker than leather or vinyl, hard plastics scratch and their finishes yellow and peel. The surfaces of soft plastics separate from their base material and sag. Spend a little time at car shows or on the web and check out the interiors of even super-low mileage Escorts of this era to appreciate just how good this one is in this respect. Commonly affected areas such as the gear lever and door bins remain virtually free from scrapes and scratches while the soft-touch arm rests are shaped almost exactly as they were when they left the Factory rather than looking like they have melted on a hot day. The seats fabrics tend to suffer badly from stretching and hence go baggy but these are pretty good if not absolutely drum tight. The optional factory glass sunroof works perfectly with an unmarked blind and the headlining just has a couple of marks that could probably be ‘detailed’ into history; please see the photo gallery. The carpets are protected with Ford over-mats. With the Factory radio/cassette (from back when Capital Radio was only available in the capital) still installed, the rear parcel shelf has escaped being butchered to take aftermarket speakers. A chunky steering wheel fronts stubby column stalks R2-D2 would approve of and the ninety-degree dial tachometer that was not universally liked in its day now looks pretty cool. Easy to operate intuitive heating controls are refreshing after modern digital systems; three knobs you can actually find which control temperature, power and direction, done. The numerical, roof mounted clock takes you back to green computer text, Game Boys and house brick car phones. Also very much of its time is the fully functioning Cobra Thatcham 2 immobiliser. The central locking and electric windows - optional extras when the Ford was new – also worked perfectly when we inspected the car, the drivers side window has now become slightly intermittent though the owner is in the process of having this attended to. The instrument binnacle surround has come a little loose but again the owner is having this attended to.

Though there is no chrome-work to speak of, as with the interior, the plastics that took its place present a different set of issues. On an MGB you are worrying about pitting, shine and rust while with this increasingly popular era of classic you are looking at fading, scuffing and cracking, none of which this machine suffers from. The junior Sierra Cosworth rear wing is most important if only because of its size and prominence and it is in perfect condition. All the logos and rubbing strips are present and correct which is not always the case though being hyper-critical, there is some slight fading of red sections of the rubbing strips. This is also true of the twin Ford branded spot lights which in this case are both original and in perfect condition. Trying to find fault, there is a tiny chip to the off-side front indicator lens which is shown in the photo gallery.

Under the bonnet is another area where the XR scores well against other cars out there. Immaculate is an overused word but do have a look at the photos and come up with your own adjectives. Not overly done after a supermarket sweep through Halfords grabbing every detailing product known to man but rather a measured ‘just rolled off the production line’ effect with the possible exception of the lightest layer of oxidation on some of the bare alloy castings. Not only that but it is absolutely original down to the last clip, clamp and factory applied label. Looking for something to criticise, the paintwork next to the battery is slightly below par.

An extended test drive gave us a good feel for the mechanical condition of the Escort which is taut and responsive yet considerably more user friendly than a fondly recalled RS1600i we covered some miles in back in the day. We actually preferred this car but then we are about forty years older now and in those days we used to go round roundabouts twice, just for fun. First generation injection and electronic ignition systems make for easy starting with maybe a revolution or two of the engine before it fires compared to today’s ECU enabled instant starting. There is just the lightest sound of cogs engaging when hooking reverse which might possibly be reduced by taking a few revs off the idle speed.

Though the XR's MOT certificate is valid until December of this year, the owner will have it re-tested at the end of the auction to provide the new owner with a full twelve months 'ticket'. 

The alloy wheels are virtually perfect and look to have been refinished at some stage while all five of them are wrapped in top quality Pirelli 185/60 R14 tyres with stacks of tread left.

While inspecting the spare wheel it was encouraging to find not only the original tools and jack but also an original manufacturing sticker in wheel well.

Two good sized folders of documentation accompany the XR covering servicing and ownership from new. A complete set of Factory books includes the all-important stamped service book as detailed above and there is a nice summary of the cars original build specification, right down to the key code. Numerous recent bills are present detailing a number of new parts fitted along with confirmation of servicing work carried out in the last couple of years. Old MOT records and a clear Experian Auto Check HPI report are in the files with a few old tax discs and the current V5C. Particularly interesting is a chronological summary sheet covering mileage, changes of ownership, MOT tests, location and road tax status since the car was new. This shows the XR had just five owners up to 2007 and over that time it covered on average some 5,000 miles per year. The summary also mentions that it was featured in the November 14th 2014 issue of Classic Car Mart. Also well documented is that the speedometer was replaced in 2008 or 2009 when the Ford had covered some 91,000 miles and that a second-hand unit was fitted showing just over 30,000 miles giving a total mileage to date of around 95,000. Escort speedometer failures are not uncommon but few have the issue as well documented.

Though we feel the XR3i is competitively reserved, the cherry on the top is a number of valuable new parts that the previous owner looked to have been laying down for a rainy day; presumably he was also building an ark. As can be seen in the photo gallery, there are boxes and boxes of bits and though not a comprehensive list some of the highlights are a pair driveshafts, front coil springs, front bottom arms, strut inserts, a set of Goodridge braided brake lines, brake shoes and an air filter. There is also a range of smaller items such as wheel bearings, Super Flex bushes, tie rod ends, drive belts, relays, a hand brake cable, touch up paint and a MAP sensor. The majority of these are from respected brands such as SKS, QH, Gates and Kilen as well as Ford and Motorcraft. A spare key with alarm/immobiliser fob is also present.

Though the XR3i has from day one been somewhat overshadowed by more obvious machines such as GTi versions of the VW Golf and Peugeot 205, with examples of these now heading rapidly towards £30,000 and beyond, period price parity has now become advantage Ford by something like a factor of three. Add in it being in the 1980s investment sweet spot and this XR3i looks to be a potentially shrewd purchase that has only become available due to the owner realising his impulse purchase is too nice an example to leave in his outside parking space, covered or not.   

  • Registration number: G344 AVW
  • Chassis Number: WFOBXXGCABKK25367
  • Engine Number: KK25367

COMMENTS

newest first / oldest first

r u n n i n g m a n f i s h 

August 23rd at 03:28 PM

Good afternoon Did it sell?

Flag as not constructive

BID OF £7,050.00 PLACED BY JohnSax123

August 22nd at 07 : 57 PM

BID OF £7,000.00 PLACED BY GXRF

August 22nd at 07 : 54 PM

BID OF £6,050.00 PLACED BY JohnSax123

August 22nd at 07 : 28 PM

BID OF £6,000.00 PLACED BY GXRF

August 22nd at 10 : 29 AM

BID OF £5,050.00 PLACED BY JohnSax123

August 20th at 08 : 03 PM

BID OF £5,000.00 PLACED BY GXRF

August 20th at 12 : 00 PM

BID OF £2,000.00 PLACED BY runningmanfish

August 19th at 10 : 38 AM

BID OF £1,050.00 PLACED BY JohnSax123

August 16th at 07 : 54 PM

BID OF £1,000.00 PLACED BY JohnSax123

August 11th at 09 : 18 PM