Driven to Despair: Ford Escort Mk5

Mike Humble


Ford spent a colossal amount of money with new state of the art laboratories studying noise, vibration and harshness – or NVH for short. As a result of their findings, their engineers ensured the new Escort featured plenty of it”

Think of a company skilled in the art of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear and it has to go to Ford. In all fairness, their current range of cars and vans pretty much meet the rest of the competition heads on in terms of ability and talent. This reason is simple, no-one is really prepared to put up with half – baked half – cocked cars like we used to a couple of decades back. It was always BL or latterly Austin Rover that used to come in for some proper stick about their motors, but let’s be really fair about this – vehicles from Ford and indeed Vauxhall were not much better.

Mk2 Cavaliers belching out oil burning blue smoke, carmine red Astra’s turning the same colour as a dog’s willy and Sierra’s rusting away quicker than a beer can in a salt mine – these were all common sights. But Ford and Vauxhall got away with more than others because they had a better public perception, not forgetting just how much taxpayers money had shored up BL. Ford back then had a superb marketing team. They knew EXACTLY who their customer was, knew to the penny how much profit could be squeezed from a product and were the sole patent owner of ‘Uncle Henry’s Patented Turd Polish’.

IF there ever was a car that sold remarkably well despite being utterly crud, it had to be the front wheel drive Ford Escort – plain and simple. Total testimony in how to get away with any old shite, so long as it’s good value and looks half decent. The 1980 Mk3 was okay – kind of and the Mk4 that was little more than a styling refresh inside and out sold in silly numbers. Armed with buzz words like Ghia and lettering such as XR3i, it seemed that Ford, in the eyes of their customers at least, couldn’t do anything wrong. It seemed that everyone owned or knew someone that owned an Escort or Orion – even myself succumbed to the blue oval and owned a 1.6i Orion Ghia.

Then came the Mk5 – oh dear. A new but familiar looking body and a totally new dashboard made of the hardest and coarsest plastics Ford could source. Bone hard unsupportive seats, the same and familiar imprecise gearchange and skittish handling in poor weather or road conditions all in the order of giving older model customers some familiarity. In the early `90s Ford spent a colossal amount of money with state of the art laboratories studying noise, vibration and harshness – or NVH for short. As a result of their findings, the engineers ensured the new Escort featured plenty of it. If you drove one in anger, the Escort was possibly one of the least refined cars in its day.

Dismally slow diesels and the horrendously rough CVH engines aside, they were cheap to buy, cheap to run and oh so simple to glue back together again if they went wrong. But as a driving experience? Well, let’s just say they were pretty horrid in almost every area. But it just goes to show that if you package it right, price it keen and advertise it with aplomb* – you can sell any old shite and get away with it. The hugely expensive ‘everything we do is driven by you’ series of adverts was said to be one of the most successful T.V campaigns ever made.

Don’t remember it? then CLICK HERE

Be careful though… you’ll be humming it all day!



*by kind courtesy of K Jones esq

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