Courtesy of Silverstone Auctions
The Ford Escort Mexico was introduced in November 1970 and was so named because of Ford Motor Company’s victory in the World Cup Rally, which started in London on April 19, 1970, and finished some 16,000 miles later in Mexico. Originally, Ford intended to use Escorts with the Twin-Cam or BDA engine, but after some local reconnaissance, it was decided that high speeds and large power outputs were less important than reliability and ease of servicing, and therefore the Kent pushrod engine was used in the Escort shell. It seems likely that Ford already had plans to produce a high-performance Escort to fit in the range between the 1300GT and the Twin-Cam/RS1600, but their victory in Mexico provided an ideal platform to launch such a model. The engineers at the newly formed AVO (Advanced Vehicles Operations) quickly developed the Mexico, marrying the Type 49 bodyshell, as used in the Twin Cam and RS1600, with the 1,600-cc Kent crossflow engine and 2000E gearbox. So, effectively, the Mexico was basically a re-engined Twin-Cam/RS1600. The Mexico became AVO’s most successful and numerous of the Rally Sport Escorts, and had a number of advantages on the road, in that it had excellent performance, was easy to maintain, relatively easy to insure, and above all, it was great to drive, something which is still true today.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1973 Ford Escort 1600 Mexico
Years Produced:1970–74
Number Produced:10,352
SCM Valuation:$45,571
Tune Up Cost:$100
Chassis Number Location:Plate on bonnet slam panel
Engine Number Location:Lower left on block
Club Info:RS Owners’ Club
Alternatives:1972 Hillman Avenger Tiger, 1972–74 Ford Escort RS2000 Mk1, 1966–77 BMW 1600/2/1602

This car, Lot 196, sold for £37,400 ($45,533), including buyer’s premium, at Silverstone’s May Live Online Auction on May 23, 2020.

Silverstone has offered this car twice in the past 14 months, and both times narrowly failed to sell it.

As an interested Mk1 owner, I had a good look around our subject car last summer, and it appeared correct in every detail. These cars have been widely faked — including my own bitsa “RS2000” — but here the Type 49 bodyshell has, as well as the wide-lip front wheelarches, all the correct strengthening pieces, plus the rear-axle radius arms and the row of captive bolts to mount a skid shield under the trunk floor.

Not all cars were fitted with the skid — a Rallye Sport optional extra — but they all have the mounts. In period, lots of these cars were campaigned on rallies, and Ford capitalized on this by offering factory-approved performance parts from a network of Rallye Sport Centres.

Lots of original bits

It’s always been hard to resist “improvements” with the amount of tuning kit available for them, but while many of these have had hop-up parts added, such as adjustable track control arms and/or rear disc brakes, this well-restored car appeared completely standard.

The exceptions are the 60-profile tires which looked slightly too small for it and, last time I saw it, a “rubber band” 50-profile on the spare. This is easy to fix: 13-inch rubber choice has been limited over the past couple of decades, although more sizes are available now. Originally, it would have had 175/70s.

Our subject car even appeared to retain the 4-speed gearbox, where many have had Type 9 5-speeds substituted (they weigh a ton… especially when resting on your chest), and the motor looked completely standard — still with a twin-choke carb.

Many of these cars have grown twin Weber DCOEs, which pushes power from the standard 84 bhp to around 100. For comparison, the 1,558-cc Twin Cam is 105 hp and the “1,601-cc” RS1600’s BDA is 115 hp.

The mostly vinyl interior was all good, either very well-preserved original or repro, and it even has the original Haynes of Maidstone (a Rallye Sport Centre) supplying dealer sticker in the back window.

A fast winner

The Mexico really was a fine stroke of marketing: Fit the strapping RS1600 shell with the much-less-expensive 1,599-cc pushrod “Kent” engine as used in the Cortina 1600E and Ford Capri GT, and ride on the back of that rally success. This is the time-honored formula of “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

The World Cup Rally cars used pushrod engines as well — instead of the Twin Cam or BDA — over fears about the more-complicated engines’ ability to tolerate poor or unknown fuel quality, plus ease of maintenance in the field.

However, the pushrod engines were bored out to 1,850 cc for extra torque. The bottom ends of all three engines are common, and the Twin Cam versions retained the original side-mounted camshaft to drive the oil pump and distributor.

The current market

Silverstone has done well with fast Fords in recent years — and has sold several Mexicos, which have always been desirable among the boy-racer element (guilty…) but are now sought-after collectors’ cars, all helped by that competition heritage.

Our subject car, for some reason, proved harder to shift than most.

I’ll keep the numbers in sterling here for consistency, because in dollars the wavering exchange rate skews the message. Last summer, it twice bid to £35k against a £40k–£46k estimate, initially at Silverstone’s first (and probably only) sale at Heythrop Park in May 2019 (Lot 305), and then the same again at the Silverstone Classic sale in July 2019 (Lot 452), which to me is the market speaking at a time when prices across the board were on a downward slide.

The seller, a Ford collector given to periodic reshuffles, felt otherwise, and both times took it away unsold. This time, the seller accepted a top bid of £34,000, which looked a pragmatic decision at a very fair price today.

Hindsight’s a wonderful thing. ♦

Comments are closed.