The history of the Ford Escort Twin Cam

   

Right from the start of the Escort range Ford had intended to produce sporting versions of its new baby. The first of this special breed of Escort was the Lotus engined Twin Cam. The Twin Cam used the same 1558cc engine as the Lotus Cortina. This meant 110bhp and a top speed of 115mph.
Externally there was little difference between the Escort Twin Cam and its tamer sister, the Escort GT. A reinforced bodyshell with wider wheel arches and quarter bumpers hid the uprated suspension and front disc brakes were standard equipment. In total, just over 1,200 Escort Twin Cams were built before production ended in 1970 to make way for the RS1600.
While other sporting Ford's could be called sedans capable of being raced or rallied, the Twin-Cam Escort was unashamedly a racing sedan de-tuned for road use.
In production form, with quantity sales needed to justify its homologaation as a Touring Car, the Twin-Cam gave the customer exactly what they expected; a high perrformance competition car that could be converted into a real projectile by spending a little more money on approved Ford equipment.
Allowing for the noise, vibration and harshness, the Twin-Cam was always incredible fun to drive, guaranteed to take years off any jaded motorist who was lucky enough to get one. Apart from the (optional) artillery-style road wheels and the black painted grille the Escort Twin Cam was hardly recognizable as such, often astounding other road users by its remarkable acceleration and handling.
The Escort Twin-Cam was born from a desire of Ford UK to develop a new model for outright successes in racing and rallying, and as a replacement for the Cortina-Lotus, preferably using the well-known twin cam engine and transmission in a much lighter car.
The Escort (code named the 1968 Anglia) had been under development for some time, but it was not until 1967 that the Competitions Department was finally given the go-ahead to develop a road version of their future competition car.
The Twin-Cam was based on the Escort GT's bodyshell, and it was a credit to Ford's forward planning that the only real changes forced upon them were to flare out the wheel arches slightly to accommodate much wider wheels (and to allow for even wider racing wheels to be fitted), and to mount the Twin-Cam engine slightly askew in the shell to improve alignment of the power line and cut down vibrations.
The major drawback of the Escort GT bodyshell was that Ford were stuck with unsatisfactory rectangular headlamps on their competition car, a definite handicap in rallies and long-distance saloon car racing where control of the beam pattern counts. But there were few other concerns, as the Twin-Cam offered startling performance for the time. Mechanically - engine, gearbox, final drive and brakes - the Escort Twin-Cam was identical with the Cortina-Lotus; but as it was obviously lighter than the bigger car the acceleration is very much better throughout.
The bodyshell had less frontal area and was better shape aero-dynamically making for a better maximum speed. The ignition distributor cut-out that Ford always fitted to their Lotus-built engines was a hinderance; set nominally for 6,500 rpm, many found the engine had plenty more lusty breathing still in reserve. Removing the cut-out invalidated the warranty, so new owners were forced to respect the red-line. Nevertheless the Twin-Cam was capable of a very healthy 113 mph.
Many had believed the Cortina-Lotus to be the ultimate in road cars, but the Escort Twin-Cam beats its performance on all counts except initial getaway. The Twin-Cam sprinted to 60 mph in 9.9sec (Cortina-Lotus, 11.0sec), to the quarter-mile in 17.2sec (18:2sec), and to 100 mph in 33.6 (44.0sec). The Cortina-Lotus was good for only 104 mph.
Under the bonnet, the twin-ohc Lotus engine togther with its large air-cleaner filled all the available space. The distributor was masked by the big Weber carburettors, and the oil filler cap (a type that was prone to work loose) was hidden behind the air cleaner tube. An oil cooler was standard, mounted to the right of, and parallel with, the water radiator in the nose. The dipstick was relocated to the back of the engine and was clearly marked.
The battery has had to be moved into the boot because of the bulky twin-ohc engine, but it lived in the left-side rear wing recess and had a protective cover (fitting the optional extra fuel tank would require the battery to be again re-located). It has also displaced the spare wheel which was bolted directly to the boot floor, spoiling what would have otherwise been a roomy boot. The spare wheel was not covered to protect luggage, and suprisingly there was no tool kit included, only a jack, wheelbrace and wheelnut spanner.
Viewed as a potential competition car, the Twin-Cam Escort was well-conceived. As a regular road car it lacked refinement in certain respects but had nothing to be ashamed of. Putting the Cortina-Lotus power plant into a much lighter body-shell gave startling performance for such a small car. Vigorous torque delivery and a wide power range were only dulled by a high rev ignition cut-out. The Twin-Cam had well chosen gear ratios and excellent gear change.

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