Beware: one CC can hide another. It has happened to me a few times now, so when I find a good subject, I know to check the surroundings if I can. That is how, a few weeks ago, I caught two very different RWD Fords in one go – both red in colour.
In this instance, one red Ford was clearly visible – sticking out like a sore thumb, really – but the other one was tucked in, almost hiding. Other than their make and colour, these were about as different as two red Fords can be. One American, the other European. A quintessentially ‘60s shape next to an eminently ‘70s design. Coupé vs. Fordor. Let’s start with the eldest.
What do you do when you see a candy-apple red ‘60s Mustang parked across the street? You cross the street and gawk at it for a bit. Especially if you haven’t seen one up close in ages. So despite the merciless noonday sun and stifling tropical heat, I did some of that.
And there’s a lot to look at. I’m a sucker for Italian ‘50s/’60s designs, French Art Deco classics and ‘30s streamliners, but when the Detroit got it right, they really got it right. With the original Mustang, they managed to hit some sort of golden ratio in the car’s proportions. Not just the profile, with the famous shortened rear end (influential though that particular element turned out to be), but all other angles as well. The restraint shown with chrome trim, especially around the grille an headlamps, was also a styling coup de maître.
Even the roof seems to be at exactly the right height. The width is also perfect – not crazy XXXL like the full-size Fords of the day. This particular Mustang has quite a bit of a rake – some tinkering with the suspension and/or tyres by the owner, as is common around here with performance cars.
So much has been written about this legend of a car that it’s pretty pointless for me to try and write the Mustang’s story – most of you will know it by heart already. But in looking at this particular car, a couple of thoughts came to my head.
First off, what’s with that pressing in the roof? I had never noticed it before, not being as familiar with these as with old European iron. Other cars had this “step-roof” feature – the Renault 12 has an extreme version of this, for one – but I’m slightly mystified to discover this on a car I thought I knew. Maybe it’s a way to get a bit more headroom without affecting the looks too much? Or was it made to add rigidity? Someone will know, I’m sure.
I had also never looked closely at those “vents” ahead of the rear wheels. I knew they were fake, but only when I examined them up close did I realize how obviously fake they were. But they look like they still have a bit of a scoop effect, by which I mean they trap some of the airflow. Aerodynamics be damned, the Mustang’s flanks needed some character.
Finally, having looked at it to my heart’s content, I mused that this Mustang, with its many scratches and tinted windows, was likely a daily driver here in Bangkok. I have no idea whether these were imported in Thailand at the time, but this one was a left-hooker. Just as nature intended, to be sure, but not ideal in a country that drives on the left.
The Mustang was double-parked – but then, that’s the set-up in that area. It was therefore sitting out in the open, chromes gleaming in the midday sun, mad dog style. Sure enough, the Englishman was soon found, not more than ten paces away.
Actually, make that an Anglo-German: it was a late ‘70s Ford Escort Mark II, also of the crimson persuasion (sort of). Compared to its American cousin, this Ford had the sex-appeal of a second-hand SsangYong. Yes, I’m being harsh. But this generation Escort was seen as rather bland even in its day.
Not that this affected sales all that much. These inconspicuous cars were once everywhere in Europe: around 1.8 million came out of Cologne and Dagenham. Some were also assembled in Australia, Israel, New Zealand and South Africa, probably rounding off world production to 2 million units. They were relatively solid, decently equipped and straightforward, though they were also dated compared to many rivals. A rather large variety of 4-cyl. engines were available from 1 to 2 litres. The styling is, in my view, rather downbeat and dull – especially in this four-door, base-level trim guise.
This also applies to the interior. The Ghia-badged versions had better upholstery, extra trinkets and real wood trim on the dash. What a waste of a famous name that all seems to be. This one doesn’t seem to have been given the “Ghia” treatment, but then it also appears to have had a tough life.
The previous generation had bags of character, but the Escort Mark II is a like droopy, melting lump of butter left out in the sun compared to its predecessor. The Mark II’s internal codename was “Brenda” – says it all, really. Even with better trim and square headlamps, “Blander” is the pun that comes to mind.
It was a consequence of the great “Fuselage / Land yacht” period. American cars of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s were designed to be low, flat and wide, which worked on a long wheelbase. But when scaled down to foreign cars, it usually looked pudgy and awkward. These Detroit-infused nightmares were chiefly made by US-owned European carmakers (Ford Dagenham/Köln, Opel/Vauxhall, Simca/Rootes) and the Japanese. This gave us a slew of odd-looking Asian cars and a few boring lookalike Euro-American saloons, such as the Chrysler 180, the Vauxhall Viva HC, the Hillman Avenger or the Ford Taunus TC/Cortina Mk III. This Escort is another example.
This Escort was no looker, but it was also a little behind the times underneath that uninspiring exterior. When it debuted in January 1975, most of its European competitors had gone FWD, while Ford stuck doggedly to the previous generation’s old-school live axle / RWD / leaf spring setup. It still had a small following in the compact saloon segment at the time, although most were leftover ‘60s designs by then.
Of course, this relative technical simplicity may explain why this particular car is still on the road, so there are some undeniable benefits. But still, If memory serves, the only European carmakers who launched “new” live axle / RWD compact saloons from 1975 onward were Chrysler UK, GM, Ford and the dreaded British Leyland with the dreadful Morris Ital.
This generation Escort is not quite BL-level awful, but it’s only a notch or two above it (with the notable exception of the sports coupés). Sure, they sold these Euro Fords by the trainload. As they did the Mustang. That hardly proves anything. It may be old and somewhat familiar, but this Escort just doesn’t speak to me.
The Mustang will remain an icon and the European Escort Mk II will remain in the dark and vague corner of the collective consciousness. It doesn’t seem to have had much luck as a CC find, either: I could be wrong, but I believe this is the first one to grace these pages. Finders’ get dibs, so I’ll take the Mustang. Any takers for a tired red Escort?
CC Capsule: 1965 Ford Mustang Coupe – No Horsing Around, by Chris O’Bryant
eBay Find: 1965 Ford Mustang – Curbside Classic Spec, by Geraldo Solis