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Mk1 Twin-Cam 1968 to 1971

Jan 30,2006 Julian

When we discuss the conception of the first major competition Escort, we need to understand that it was not a pre-planned release, well, at least not in the traditional sense! In fact, the whole car was developed in just over 12-months! To understand the emergence of the Twin-Cam Escort in 1968 we first need to take a step back to late 1966 and the awaited arrival of the Mk2 Lotus Cortina.

Escort Twin-Cam (This model has circular headlights)

The Ford Cortina had already been in competitive use for around five years and although the new Mk2 version featured advances over the dated Mk1, its potential for serious advance in terms of competition use was minimal. With the new Escort planned for release in 1968, the team at Ford’s Boreham Competition department seized upon an idea - would it be possible to take the engine and transmission from the Lotus Cortina and insert it into the new Escort bodyshell?

The answer was yes - but only just! The Escort engine bay had only been designed to take thinner pushrod engine, and so much work was needed in order for the Lotus-Ford block to fit, and as extra space was needed for the twin-choke carburettors and inlets, the whole engine had to be moved across to the left. The gearbox mountings remained in roughly the same area however, so viewed from above the engine sits at a slight angle. The clutch and brake fittings were moved around in the engine bay and the battery moved to the boot - a tight fit indeed.

The Twin-Cam engine bay - bit of a tight fit!

Nonetheless, it fitted, and the Twin-Cam was born. Boreham’s mechanics and engineers wasted no time in pushing through the proposed venture; mock-ups were in full swing by late spring, prototypes were built through the summer and the whole project was completed late in the autumn, with the official launch just a few months ahead in January 1968.

As one would expect from a car that had not been planned out in the traditional manner, the early Twin-Cam’s had a few oddities, the main one being the fact that they were equipped with square headlights as apposed to the more effective round headlights on other models.

Bar a few early cars assembled at Boreham, the main assembly line for the Twin-Cam was to be at Ford’s Halewood plant in Liverpool. The strengthened bodyshells (all in white) were equipped as per the Escort ‘Super’ in trim level; however the bodyshell was from the GT, as was the six-dial dash. They sported deep-dish 13” wheels as standard, taken from the Lotus Cortina, although Rostyle wheels from the 1600E Cortina were available as optional extras, as were competition seats to replace those of the Super, which were fitted as standard.

The original Twin-Cam’s main aesthetic differences from other Escorts were the square headlights, black grille, chrome plated quarter-bumpers and boot/front wing badges.

A successful launch saw a waiting list adopted although demand had been catered for by 1969. The model had a slight facelift in the autumn of 1968 which saw circular headlights adopted along with a trim upgrade. The model ceased production in April 1971, after the introduction of the improved RS1600 in 1970.

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