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Escort XR3 & XR3i History


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#1 Nick

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Posted 13 October 2010 - 07:33 PM

The Ford Escort XR3 made it's first appearance back in September 1980 the third generation Escort was a state-of-the-art small car. With it's front wheel drive and transverse engine, it was to be one of the best "Hot Hatchbacks" and family car's of the eighties.

Fords were not newcomers when it came to the world of high performance small cars, they adopted the 'Total Performance' policy back in 1962 with the "Lotus" Cortina. A car which started as a normal run of the mill family car which then had "Lotus" modified suspension and a High Powered Twin Cam Engine. So when the Escort appeared to replace the Anglia it was no surprise to find that a models was produced with the "Lotus" powered engine and called the "Escort Twin Cam". This was then followed by the GT's, Mexico's, RS1600, RS1800 and RS2000.

When the second generation Escort appeared in 1975 using the same floorpan and running gear they also had the Sport, Mexico, the famous Rally winning RS1800 and again the RS2000 model. By now everyone was expecting a sports version with every new model. So it really didn't surprise people back in 1980 that again another sports version of the new third generation Escort was to be launched.



The 'Mark 3' Escort was born, with a complete facelift from it's predecessors and using the already tried and tested front wheel drive transverse engine set-up, which was previously used in the Fiesta back in 1976. They were also going to use a different engine called the CVH (Compound Value angle, Hemispherical chamber) which started it's design back in 1974. The general design of the MkIII Escort was headed by Uwe Bahnsen and his team and below is one of the early prototype drawings of the new Escort. So where did the 'XR' badge come from? Fords after all had already used the GT, Ghia, RS and S badge's. In fact the 'XR' badge had been used as long ago as 1967 on an American Mercury Cougar which was the XR7 but no-one really seems to know where it came from. Since then a whole series of XR's have been produced XR2,XR3,XR4,XR6 and the XR8. For those who don't know about the XR6 & XR8 as they aren't spoken about much, they are version of the Ford Sierra built in South Africa. Even now to this day there has never been an XR1 ever made.

The XR3 was made available as soon as the new MkIII Escort went on the market, although it shared the same three door body work it was identified by several differences. The most obvious was the Cloverleaf Alloys fitted with 185/60R14 tyre's which neatly hid the ventilated front discs. A large rubber spoiler on the tailgate went well with the other body trim fitted to the front and at the front edge of the rear arches. The XR3 was nowhere near sluggish, fitted with a 1,597cc CVH engine with a twin choke DFT Weber carburettor, it produced 96bhp at 6,000rpm. This was enough to give the car a top performance of 113mph and a 0-60 time of 9.2 sec's. It was reported that some 11,000 XR3's were sold in the UK in 1981 making it one of Fords best selling cars. The XR3 was made even better in February 1982 when a new five speed synchromesh gearbox was fitted, but there were still some complains about the ride and handling of the XR.

This is when the XR3 was handed over to Ron Mansfield of the SVE (Special Vehicle Engineering) and that's when we got the XR3i.

The XR3i was first released back in January 1983 and was built in Saarlouis, Germany. Work began in October 1981 and took a little over a year to modify and better the cars original design. The ride and handling of the car got an overhaul and we found that the new version had been slightly lowered and new gearing was used. Ford also introduced the Bosch K-Jetronic fuel injection system which then gave 105bhp at 6,000rpm, a top speed of 120mph and had lowered the 0-60 time to 8.5secs. Since then two variations of the XR3 have been built, the RS1600i and the RS Turbo were produced. These were built to satisfy the Group A regulations for racing & rallying. It was in 1986 that the fourth generation Escort XR3i came along with a new engine, facelift and few other improvements such as a new style alloy wheels and anti-lock brakes. The 105bhp engine and five speed gearbox were unchanged making both cars very competitive.


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#2 plasticpenguin

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Posted 02 June 2019 - 11:41 AM

I had a 1982 (Y) XR3 in dark blue. Think it was one of the last made before the injection engines came into being. Very fond memories.

 

The only issue I had was after a few months, it puffed a little blue smoke on start up only, which I think was the valve stem oil seals or valve guides. Otherwise the engine was very strong.

 

I was told that was one of fast Ford foibles at the time.

 

Wonderful little car though.






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