Buying a Mark 1 or 2 Ford Escort

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Having spent 14 years in the motor trade parts business in the eighties and nineties, I became very familiar with what were run of the mill everday cars like the Ford Escort MK1 and2.

Now these cars are fondly remembered and have rightly deserved their 'classic' status.

I want to point out a few problem areas for first time buyers of these 'work a day cars' from my own experiences.

Don't let any of my points put you off buying one of these cheap to run and normally reliable cars, just use them as a guide for what to be aware of when viewing a potential purchase.

Bodywork.

Oh dear. Ford were like most other manufacturers when it came to rust proofing and seam sealing etc. They paid it little attention. Although the Escort is by no means one of the worst of the 60's and 70's , they certainly weren't the best.
So if looking at an Escort, (and the MK1 and 2 were very similar so I will treat both cars as the same vehicle) start under the bonnet.
First check  the MacPherson strut top mountings, on each front inner wing. A classic Ford weak spot and if not repaired properly the car collapses around its suspension - a repair panel is available – but if this area has been repaired already make sure this panel has been seam welded. A series of tacks ISN'T strong enough.Often the panel is popped over the old one. This is no good as the original panel will distort the repair and the suspension alignment will suffer. The old one should be cut out and the new one inserted for a proper repair.
While the bonnet is up, check the inner wings and make sure the bonnet mountings aren’t riddled with rust. Check the vent at the base of the windscreen - if the rust has taken hold water will be leaking into the car’s footwells. Because of the shape and poor accessibility putting this right is a pain and has been the reason for many a car to be scrapped.
Escorts tend to rust at the 'edges'. So check the rear edge of the front wings, the bonnet front lip, the front valance where it meets the radiator cross member, the sills at each end, lower rear wheel arches and the front floor pans. These rot because of windscreen leaks normally. New seals are available for about 25 to 30 pounds, but you will have to remove the screen to fit them.
The boot floor will also rot, normally at each side in the wheel wells.Also the higher spec models such as the super, had chrome trims fitted. These trapped dirt and water making ideal rust traps.
Nearly ever panel is available for Escorts these days, new or second hand. So repair costs are not too bad. The problem is the amount of labour involved and the costs if you can't do it yourself.

Engines and running gear.

Most Escorts were fitted with OHV engines built in Kent. These are simple, rugged and reliable. Even when they are completely worn out with chain rattle, piston slap, worn big ends etc etc. They will keep going!
If you come across an OHV that refuses to start easily or is very lumpy on start up. Walk away unless the body work is perfect. There are plenty more out there.
Also fitted were the OHC or 'Pinto' engines. These again were reliable and long lasting with few design faults. Two spring to mind though.
The camshaft was supplied with oil from a 'spray bar' that runs along above the shaft. In theory this was fine, however after a few years of late oil changes or poor quality oils. The bar clogs up and starves the shaft of oil leading to cam shaft wear and even snapping! Again shafts are easy to fit and cheap to buy, but beware of an engine that looks neglected with thick dirty oil.
The shaft is driven by a rubber timing belt. This is again a fine idea in theory but has it's problems. The belts are prone to early failure from oil contamination from the camshaft and crank oil seals failing. Make surethe belt has been changed recently, if not change it as soon as you can. Every 15 to 20 thousand miles  is best. They SHOULD last 30 thousand but often fail before that. And in any event they should be changed every 3 years regardless of mileage.
Apart from the above the engines should give little trouble.

Gearboxes.

All the gearboxes fitted (different versions for each engine type) were tough and reliable. They are known to rumble and moan in the first 3 gears when the miles are high. However they will do this for years! If the gears crunch or are sticky, it MAY be worn gears on the synchro. More likely it s the clutch cable needing adjusted or replaced. Again Ford cut corners and the cable design is a bit weedy.

Suspension and steering.

Again simple and rugged. The word ' Carthorse' springs to mind!
Check the rear spring hangers for rust, they have been known to fall clean off! Not fun at 70 mph.
Any knocks and clunks are common and will be a matter of replacing bushes or ball joints. The front ball joints are part of an arm fitted with bushes. The bushes can be replaced without changing the arm. But that is false economy. Just cahnge the whole thing, it's just as quick and easier to do.

Brakes.

It has got them. They're not great, but they do work! Again simple and cheap to fix. Don't worry too much about them when buying. Everything is easy to fix or replace.

The above are just my own observations from years of supplying parts for these cars. I hope you find this helpful.
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