|Cars - Ford|
Historics at Brooklands / Brooklands Museum 2nd June 2010 Car - 02/06/2010 / 1968 Ford Escort AVO Rally / Lot 45
The 110bhp Lotus-powered Escort Twin Cam was conceived and developed by Ford's Boreham based competitions department during 1967 and unleashed on an unsuspecting public during January 1968. It went on to achieve many international race and rally victories during its short production life. The car's first international win was on the 1968 Circuit of Ireland Rally when driven by a certain Roger Albert Clark. The Twin Cam owed much of its ancestry to the Mk1 and Mk2 Lotus Cortinas, in that they all shared many common mechanical components. Although its production might seem a logical step to many of us now, the route to producing the Escort Twin Cam was quite tortuous and would not have taken place without the dedication of some key Ford staff. Near the end of 1966, some very early hand-built standard Escorts were being track tested at Boreham. They were spotted by Henry Taylor (Ford's Competitions Manager) and his Chief Mechanic Bill Meade and it was rumoured that on seeing the cars, Meade uttered the immortal words ""Blimey, one of those things would go like hell with a Twin Cam engine in it!"" Taylor agreed. What happened next was essentially a race against time and Ford's higher authority. Henry Taylor knew he wanted a car that was faster and lighter than a Lotus Cortina but that it would be a nightmare to follow all the company procedures to introduce a performance Escort in the time frames they had available. So in early 1967, after some hasty planning, Taylor and Ford's Public Relations Officer, Walter Hayes managed to convince the Board of Directors that their concept would work. The chiefs agreed that a few prototypes could be built. Unfortunately all the tooling had already been frozen for production of the new Escort, so a standard production Escort shell was all the Twin Cam developers could use. In actual fact, during a Spring weekend in 1967, the only 'vehicle' they could lay their hands on was a plastic mock-up shell. Nevertheless, the candle was burnt at both ends to try and cram in all the Lotus Cortina mechanicals. The authorities at Halewood eventually agreed to produce Twin Cam bodyshells (known as Type 49) at their factory. At a strategic point on the production line, the modified Type 49 shells were whisked off to a side workshop where dedicated staff turned them into Twin Cams. The all-important Lotus engines were shipped in from the Lotus plant at Hethel in Norfolk. For the vast majority of its life, the Twin Cam was only available in White. Also, to simplify production and to keep costs down, Twin Cams were fitted with similar interiors to the Escort GT. To ensure that the Twin Cam was available to ""works"" and other works-supported rally teams as soon as possible, the first 25 models were assembled at Boreham in early 1968. Mainstream production then transferred to Halewood during Spring 1968, with the car's official launch price being £1,162.78. Apart from the headlamp change, only minor revisions took place to the interior trim, although a potential owner could specify competitions-developed items at extra cost. This superb example was a completely correct and well documented car originally supplied at its time of build to a privateer rally driver. It was prepared by the competitions department in 1969 at Chester Ford main agents and went on to compete in the 1969 RAC International Rally of Great Britain eventually won by Hary Kallstrom and Gunnar Haggbom in a Lancia Fulvia HF. One of the most successful rally cars ever built, Ford Escorts won the RAC Rally a total of 8 times from 1972 to 1979 a record only recently beaten by Subaru. The car has been comprehensively restored over a twenty year period to an exacting standard and is eligible to race in any number of high profile events including the MSA British Historic Rally Championship and the Historic Road Rally Championship. It boasts the dry-sump, Vegantune 1760cc Twin Cam engine giving over 180bhp. This engine, built just three years ago has only done around 1000 miles and the cost of the engine alone would today be in the region of £15,000. Presented with a history file containing the original log book, it was taken to a Ford Owners Club meeting where it so impressed one of the judges that he offered to sign the boot. Tony Ponds name can still be found there.