I can’t remember the last time a car with a top speed of less than 100mph was the star of the evo car park, but that’s just what happened when I arrived in a mk1 Ford Escort Mexico, kindly loaned to me be by the guys at Ford’s Heritage collection.
Built in 1974, and with just over 26,000 miles on the clock, this wonderful old Ford is in time-warp condition. Apparently it was donated by the family of the car's original owner, as it was his dying wish for his pride and joy to be lovingly cared for by Ford.
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The Mexico was a product of the company's famous Advanced Vehicle Operations (AVO), built to capitalise on their success in the 1970 London-Mexico Rally. It used the same strengthened bodyshell as the RS models but was powered by a 1599cc pushrod engine, developing 86bhp and 92lb ft of torque. Top speed? 99mph all-out. Those figures seem pathetic now but still the driving experience remains genuinely special.
There’s always a danger of nostalgia colouring your thoughts with a car like this, but as I was just three years old when this car was built I’ve got no fond memories to look upon. No matter, for the Mexico is terrific fun.
The gearshift is sensationally good, the steering beautifully responsive and the honest rear-drive chassis has a wonderfully threadable feel along twisty roads. The ride is pretty supple, the brakes trustworthy and more than a match for the performance. It even feels nippy enough to be fun, though thoughts of glorious Seventies-style rallying sidewaysness are perhaps beyond the slightly wheezy pushrod motor’s remit – unless you’ve a damp track to play on. Still the Mexico is a legend. Drive one and you’ll know its status is wholly justified.