In 1967, upon seeing a Mk1 Escort being tested, Ford motor sport engineer Bill Meade blurted one of the great phrases in the history of the English language. “Blimey, one of those things would go like hell with a Twin Cam in it!” Shakespeare……..stand aside. Meade’s boss, Ford team manager Henry Taylor concurred, and the two decided to install the running gear from a Lotus Cortina into a prototype shell. The conversion was done over a weekend without a detailed plans. The inner wings and gearbox tunnel had be altered or widened. Radial arms were adapted to keep the larger rear axle in check. MacPherson struts and disc brakes, sourced from a Mk1 Capri, along with an anti-roll bar were added up front. All this met the road via wider 13 inch wheels to improve grip. The battery was moved to the trunk, to free up engine space and improve weight distribution. Visually, the hot Escort had a lower stance with a black grille and a split front bumper to improve air flow to the oil cooler. Last but not least, the Harry Mundy designed, Lotus twin-cam four cylinder motor, outfitted with two Weber 40DCOE carburetors, good for 110 hp at 6000 rpms. With only 1700 pounds to lug around, the Twin Cam was good for 60 in 8.7 seconds with a top speed of 111 mph.
Production began in early 1968, and the Escort Twin Cam made its competition debut on live TV in a rally cross event against a Lotus Cortina, Mini Cooper S, and a Hillman Imp Super. With Roger Clark at the wheel, the Escort won. Once homologated, the Twin Cam was introduced to the stages at the 1968 Circuit of Ireland, with Clark guiding it to victory. Within the next eight weeks, the Escort Twin Cam won in the Netherlands at the Tulip Rally, the Scottish Rally, the Acropolis Rally in Greece and the Austrian Alpenfahrt. Later that year, Hannu Mikkola won the 1000 Lakes Rally in an Escort Twin Cam. This allowed Ford to capture the Manufacturer’s title in the European Rally Championship in the Escort’s debut season, a feat they would repeat the following season. In touring cars, Australian Frank Gardner defended his British Saloon Car Championship title with an Alan Mann Escort Twin Cam; Gardner won his class 9 out of eleven rounds and never finished worse than 4th overall in any race.
While the Escort showed winning form on the stages, team manager Henry Taylor knew that Lancia, Alpine and Porsche were all taking steps to improve their cars and close or eliminate their competitive gap with the Twin Cam. This time, Ford turned to Cosworth, who developed an aluminum twin cam head, with four valves per cylinder head, for the Kent 1600 motor. With sturdy, belt driven valve gear, breathing through twin Webers, the Cosworth BDA made 120 horsepower at 6500 rpm, giving the Escort RS1600 a half second faster to 60 with a top speed of 113 mph. The new, improved Escort RS 1600 took 3 consecutive RAC rallies, 2 consecutive wins in Finland at the 1000 Lakes Rally, 1972 and 1974, and the first European team win the 1972 Safari Rally.
With lots of Mk1 Escort related motor sport footage to choose from (which we’ll get to in the future), here’s a clip of the Twin Cam’s first taste of motor sport and a Top Gear clip reuniting Roger Clark and Tony Mason with the Escort RS1600 in which they won the 1972 RAC Rally, the first all British victory in the rally’s history.