Old Ford Rally Car cultivated an illustrious rally racing history stretching back to the 1960s. Despite lacking fascinating technology, tough Fords like the Cortina, Escort, and Fiesta scored upsets in major events including Monte Carlo through clever engineering, talent, and perseverance.
Let’s revisit the origins of Ford’s rally success and the everyman models that established Ford as a giant player against more powerful machinery. These early efforts laid the foundation for Ford’s later rally dominance.
The Upstart Cortina
Ford aimed to upset Europe’s rally establishment in the early 1960s using its Cortina family sedan. Lacking performance perceptions, the Cortina seemed an unlikely choice over rivals from Germany and Italy. Undeterred, Ford homologated the Cortina GT for competition rallying, benefiting from its durable Kent pushrod engine.
While down on power, the lightweight Cortina handled nimbly thanks to suspension tweaks. In 1963, Cortina GTs took a historic 1-2-3 class podium sweep at the prestigious Monte Carlo Rally. This giant-killing result put Ford on the international rally map and vindicated their lightweight engineering focus. More rally wins soon followed.
Escort – Old Ford Rally Car Star is Born
Replacing the Cortina, Ford introduced the Escort in 1968. To continue rally success, the more modern Escort MK1 campaigned in modified form featuring an improved twin-cam engine and racing gearbox.
On treacherous gravel and tarmac, the mighty Escort proved nearly unbeatable despite modest 1.6-1.8L power. Ford cemented its reputation for durability and agility.
Fiesta – David Takes on Goliaths
Seeking a nimble rally weapon, Ford again turned to one of its everyday models – the new Fiesta hatchback – as a 1970s competitor. Significantly smaller than its rivals, the 950cc Fiesta relied on handling and momentum conservation to stay competitive against powerful Audis, Lancias, and more.
While lacking podiums, the sprightly Fiesta upheld Ford’s rally reputation and influence into a new compact segment through models like the sporty XR2. Durability again trumped horsepower. Ford maintained ingenuity mattered over budget and displacement across decades of rallying.
Why Old Ford Rally Car Dominated
Several key strengths explain Ford’s early rally success:
Durable pushrod Kent engines are capable of sustained high RPM operation. -Tuned suspension packages maximizing grip and compliant damping.
Excellent weight distribution thanks to rear drive traction and balance.
Priority on build quality ensuring reliability in adverse conditions.
Talented drivers like Mikkola and Vatanen are willing to push to the limit.
Combining smart engineering with persevering build quality and talent outran deeper-pocketed competitors.
Legacy on Later Generations
Ford built on these early achievements evolving into a rally powerhouse by the 1990s with sophisticated turbocharged RS Cosworth Escorts and later the Focus WRC. But Ford’s rally DNA traces directly back to humble 1960s family sedans and the Blue Oval’s commitment to wringing every ounce of potential through ingenuity.
Early competition success became self-reinforcing, as valuable data fed back into production models increasing capabilities. This cycle birthed global rally icons while influencing Ford’s mainstream lineup we still see benefits from today. For enthusiasts, Ford’s early rally underdogs hold an enduring legacy no matter their power rating or cylinder count.