History Lessons #19 – 1983 Ford Escort Turbo GT
Not everyone is a purebred. In fact, if you’re like most of the people on this earth, you come from two separate and distinctive families. The new Ford Focus ST follows a similarly branching family tree. For the first time, the high performance Focus you buy in the US is the same as the one you could buy in the rest of the world. We’ve tasted from the European performance well in the US in the past as recently as the 2002 – 2004 Focus SVT, which was similar to the European Focus ST170. This “World Car” attitude is very present in the current and upcoming Ford vehicle catalog; the Fiesta has been for sale here for some time now and the 2013 Ford Fusion we’ll be seeing here is very much the same as the new Mondeo seen throughout the rest of the world. In this series, we’ll look into the history of compact performance offerings from Ford and how two parallel developments in the US and Europe have evolved into the new 2013 Ford Focus ST.
In 1981 the Ford Escort was launched the United States. While it shared the same basic shape and the CVH engine, it was very different from the European Mk3 Escort. If you’re old enough, you probably saw a million of these in your life. They sold very well for Ford from 1981-1990. One thing you may not have ever seen is the Turbo GT.
In 1983, Ford wanted to get in on the hot hatch craze that was taking over Europe, and launched a turbocharged version of the new Escort and its 1.6L CVH motor. The base Ford Escort already had fully independent suspension, unlike the Omni and Rabbit, so the potential for a competitive hot hatch was there. The GT was offered as both a turbo and non-turbo model. Each offered electronic fuel injection. The non-turbo model made a solid 88hp (up from 68 in the carburetted base Escort), which was in line with the Rabbit GTI (90hp) and just a shade behind the non-turbo Omni GLH (110hp). As it did with the Mustang, when it came to bumping power output Ford looked to turbocharging. Starting with the 1.6L EFI CVH motor from the GT, they installed a turbocharger, oil cooler, and the required manifolds and boosted it to 120bhp. Compared to the ’84 Mustang GT Turbo with 145bhp, the Escort GT Turbo actually posted a better power-to-weight ratio. The GT Turbo was only available with a 5-speed manual and could be had with the TRX handling package that pushed this car past its contemporaries in terms of power and handling – and even with the extra power, the Escort GT still returned fuel economy in the high 30s. The GT was styled like its contemporaries as well, with blackout trim, deep spoilers, dark tail lights, and Recaro-like designed seat fabric.
Unfortunately, the early Escorts weren’t universally loved and that kept them off the review podiums, and by 1985 a refresh was in line and that pretty much led to the end of the GT Turbo after only two scant production years. Finding one of these turbocharged ’83-’84 Escort GTs is a challenge. Even the non-Turbos are hard to find. Check out the Ford Escort Owners of America forum to find traces of these rare beasties, including this ’84 Turbo restoration currently under way. If you’re lucky enough to find one, there’s a lot to be done with them and you’ll have a truly rare car on your hands.
Check back later and we’ll show you how Ford of Europe gave it a try… Next time? A smaller XR!