Winning Amount: £ 85,680.00
User ID: W************s
“The GT-style Ford is back – and it’s even better than before!” Car Magazine, July 1979
Along with many manufacturers in the 1960s and 1970s, Ford took advantage of the tax breaks offered by the South African government to cars at least partly manufactured there. To this end Escort shells built in their Halewood factory were shipped to the Ford plant in Silverton, Pretoria for final assembly. Ford, having identified Motor Sport and especially rallying as a great promotional vehicle, made sure they had a strong range of just that – promotional vehicles; the RS 1600/1800/2000 for the full-beans via the Mexico to the slightly milder “Sport” model, though the whole galaxy of sporty Fords were often differentiated by not much more than the engine fitted. While ostensibly to European specification, the “Sport” shells destined for Silverton actually received many of the strengthening goodies otherwise reserved for home market RS models, so a South African Escort Sport is a somewhat superior beast.
This original Factory 1600 Sport, as confirmed by the under-bonnet body plate, was first registered on 29th February 1980 by Broadway Motors of Johannesburg for a Mr J. A. Opperman, hot on the heels of its RS1800 big brother securing Ford’s first World Rally Championship for Makes just a few months earlier. Finished in classic (though running around in an RS 2000 in the same colour back in the early 1980s does undoubtedly make us a little biased here) Olympic (or is it Riviera?) Blue, it is still wearing its original livery and looks suitably purposeful sitting on factory-fit wider steel wheels (again, like that much missed RS 2000). Black trim items, quarter bumpers and auxiliary lights add to the purposeful ‘no frills’ effect and are complimented by the period ‘1600 Sport’ stickers. The sharper lines of the MK2 Escort are accentuated by the ultra slim screen and door pillars which, along with the low waistline, make for an exceptionally light and airy cabin. The simple, uncluttered theme is continued through to the interior with a clean, simple dash refreshingly free from the myriad switches and dials that threaten to bamboozle the driver of a modern-day sports saloon.
While exceptionally original and ‘un-got-at’, down to the supplying dealer’s sticker in the rear window, the Sport does now need some attention and cases could be made for both a T-Cut and vacuum approach or full restoration. While the body is for the most part straight and dent-free, there are some areas of rust particularly on the top of the off-side rear wing as is evident in the photo gallery. On the upside, what appears to be a new boot is fitted.
Some welding to the underside has been carried out in the past and obviously further fresh metal will need to be let in, notably in the forward area of the floor and sills as can be seen in the photo gallery. There is better news higher up the car with, for example, notably solid strut tops. While under the car it was noted that all the major mechanical components seem fairly oil tight.
The all-important, Sport specification ‘711M’ block is in place displaying its apparently original factory blue paint and chrome rocker cover. The ‘Sport’ logo air filter sits atop the twin-choke downdraft Weber. The engine bay is dusty but original and should clean up well though it might be wise to avoid removing the original factory labels regarding tyre pressures and battery polarity.
What immediately hits you about the interior is the non-matching driver’s seat - thought we should point that out! It does a job and is marginally better than sitting on the floor but that is about it and as it was originally a passenger side item the tilt mechanism is not easily reached from outside the car. The balance of the seating is in fair condition though in need of a good clean, much the same as the carpets though the driver’s side foot-well has holed and needs a heel pad repair at the very least. The correct ‘RS’ type three spoke steering wheel is in place but needs repairing where the rim material has started to break down. The ‘Sport’ embossed dash is correct with no additional dials or switches though it has picked up a couple of light scratches as can be seen in the relevant photograph.
Obviously the lack of a current MOT precluded an extensive open road test drive but the Escort runs well and drives nicely enough all be it in a relatively confined space that prevented any V-Max runs.
Documentation with the car comprises the relevant NOVA paperwork, four Republic of South Africa Licence Discs covering 2013 to 2017, the original Service Book and Owner’s Handbook and their appropriate Ford folder. Evidence in the service book shows that the Sport had covered 56,615 KM in 1990 and as the odometer is now showing 6908 KM one can safely assume that there should be at least a 1 and a 0 in front of that; certainly the wear to the pedal rubbers would support this!
From a time when cars, and indeed life in general, seemed so much simpler and perhaps all the better for that, this Sport represents an ideal entry to the Fast Ford fraternity for relatively little up-front expenditure.